Some people worry that using treats during training will cause their horse to become pushy, nippy, and turn them into a horrible food monster!
Unfortunately, this is likely if your horse doesn’t learn how to behave around treats. For most horses, food is their favorite thing and they just want some… NOW!
Thankfully it is easy to teach your horse to have perfect manners around treats!
You just need to do some ‘treat training’ to show your horse how you would like them to behave around food. This includes showing your horse that mugging and pushy behavior doesn’t get treats, but standing still with their nose away from you does!
Even if you’re not in the ‘food as reward’ camp, teaching our four-legged friends good food manners is essential. It transforms a hungry horse into a patient one, waiting calmly when the food arrives.
Imagine a world where feeding your horse is a totally safe and calm experience – that’s what good food manners can do!
TREAT TRAINING TIPS
- Teach your horse that they never get a treat when their nose is near you. Their head must always be facing forward or away from you.
- Only feed your horse treats during training, and after you have asked them to do something. It is very tempting to feed our horses treats at other times, just because we love them. But this can confuse our horses – they won’t know when to expect a treat, which can encourage bad behavior.
- If your horse is stabled or has limited access to feed, give them some hay or some of their usual feed before bringing out the treats and starting training. This will put something in their belly and make them less likely to only focus on the food.
- If your horse is super pushy around food, try doing the initial treat training over a fence or stable door. This will allow you to step back out of the way until they learn to behave better.
Horses learn very quickly to stop behavior that has no benefit for them.
The main goal of treat training is to show your horse that they NEVER get a treat if they try to mug you or push you around.
Try spending a few minutes on ‘Treat Training’ every day, and soon you will have a beautifully behaved horse around food.
FOOD MANNERS TRAINING WITH BELLA
In this video, I discuss the importance of teaching food manners – even if you won’t be using food to train your horse.
The video also shows a short training session with Bella. She used to be very pushy around treats, and I explain why (it’s only natural!). But you will see, she has perfect food manners now!