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How To Give Your Horse A Treat

El Blanco loves grapes, Romanesque likes bananas, Maestro likes apples cut in slices, Toronto goes for carrots, and Prince Elmelund steals the pears in our garden!
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Now our horse can perceive a treat – given by us personally – in two ways:

  • 1. He sees it as a gift from you
  • 2. He is taking it from you

But this is important:

If we use our hands to give our horse a treat, we have to make sure our horse sees it as a gift!

He should not experience it as if he’s taking it from us.

Now, this might look like a slight difference and a tiny detail…

But the devil is in the detail:

It will make a HUGE difference in our horse’s perspective and his mental state!

Therefore, he’s not allowed to demand, take or snatch the treat from you.

So if our horse sees it as a gift and accepts it in a polite and gentle way, it will prevent all kind of begging, grabbing, and mugging issues.  

4 Tips

Here’s how you teach your horse to accept your treat in a respectful way:

  1. When your horse has a pushy attitude and wants to take it from you in a kind of rude way, don’t give it and don’t let him have it.
  1. Just take the food away or keep your hand closed to take away the desired treat, in order to let him know his behavior is undesired.
  1. When he keeps an opposed face or state, back him up until he shows a friendly face, then release, to let him know this is the desired mental state.
  1. Keep protecting your space and only when he’s more friendly and polite and only when he behaves, you reward this desired behavior by giving him the treat.

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3 thoughts on “How To Give Your Horse A Treat

Comment author said

By Keely on 25 August 2018 at 08:27

I couldn’t edit my comment above but on the last line it should read “and will now understand respect”.


Comment author said

By Michelle on 25 August 2018 at 19:12

Horses are already classically conditioned to enjoy food treats, this is not something that needs to be taught. The teaching comes in operant applied learning. Like humans, animals are drawn to pleasant experiences. Food, when associated with a pleasant experience becomes a great training protocol. The key is in the timing and creating positive emotion. Withholding food, can cause great frustration if the handler’s training is slow or mis-timed. Following a protocol of errorless learning allows the horse to enjoy frequent moments of success in small increments of learning. I use food with my horses and they all have been taught good manners without frustration.


Comment author said

By Kelcie's Limited on 5 March 2020 at 06:48

Nice article. Thanks for the tips you shared on How To Give Your Horse A Treat. This one is very useful. Really appreciated.


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