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Are you creating a raving pocket monster by giving treats as a reward?

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 25, 2012 09:11

 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson

 

Treats as a form of reward tends to stir up passionate feelings in the horse training industry.  It seems like there are two sides to the debate, either you love using treats as rewards, or you hate it.  As a professional trick trainer, I use treats as rewards to mold my horses behaviors, where I couldn't otherwise evoke that behavior with a physical touch but, I also realise that a horse should act independent of food as a motivating factor. 

The problem with treats actually isn't the treat...it's how the handler/trainer USES the treats that CREATES the problem.  Left to its own devices, a tidbit of food is just an inanimate object, no different than a blade of grass.  When used in conjunction with training, that same tidbit becomes either a reward, or a dreaded bribe.  You can avoid creating problems with treats if you remember one simple thing....horses EARN their treats, they are NOT owed them.  Earning a treat is the same as earning a paycheque.  If you do your job, and do it well, you get your paycheque - or in the horses case, a treat.  If you fail to do your job, or fail to do it well, then you don't get your paycheque treat.  When a treat is earned, it rarely causes a problem.

So, why do some horses turn into raving pocket monsters at the mere mention of treats, and more importantly, what can you do to avoid that? When food is used as a bribe it becomes a problem, simple as that.  Some examples of bribing a horse include; 'befriending' a horse using treats to make it 'like' you, using treats to redirect a horses misbehaviour, and indiscriminately dolling out treats for lackluster effort during training.  The 'fix' for treat monsters is really quite simple!  If you decide to use food as a motivational reward, decide ahead of time what the horse has to do to EARN the treat reward, and then stick to the plan.  Once your equine friend realises that you are no longer dispensing tasty tidbits like a broken candy machine, they will change their work ethic to earn their just reward.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Getting Out And About

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 24, 2012 07:56

 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson


Oh that dreaded time of year.  That time when you haven't been riding much due to the weather, and your horse is feeling frisky and fresh.  Frisky horses that have been cooped up for any length of time can be a challenge to even the most experienced horseman. If riding a horse in this state of energy seems like an unappealing challenge, consider just taking him for a walk on the lead instead!
 
Taking your horse for a pleasure walk on the lead is not something that people generally think of.  When you think spending time with your horse, that time spent generally equates to riding time.  Going for a walk down the lane, or road is an excellent bonding exercise that gives your horse a change of scenery, and exercises his mind.  These walks also allow you to reinforce your role as the leader, and assess whether or not your horse is respecting you - by walking with his head at your shoulder where it belongs.  The walks can also be 'mini-adventures' where you and your horse investigate the things that he identifies as 'spooky'.  You can gain some serious leadership points when you show your horse that the monster he is deathly afraid of is just a silly old rock, or tree, and that kind of trust, and leadership, on the ground becomes trust, and leadership, in the saddle.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love by Jackie Johnson

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 10, 2012 08:56


Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force.

Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love
We all love our horses but do you give your horse the love that YOU want, or the love that he NEEDS.  Left to their own devices, horses live in a complex social structure with clear rules and consistent discipline.  The horses love for routine and structure is what allows us to practice things like dressage, or reining patterns in the arena on a regular basis!  When rules are not in place, and not enforced, horses often start to develop behavioral problems, and spoiling your horse with affection might only make the problem worse!
 
Rules don't have to be difficult, they can be as simple as not allowing your horse to be rude when you're feeding him from a bucket.  How many times have you experienced a horse plunging his nose into a bucket of feed with complete disregard for you?  Here is a simple exercise; throw a handfull of oats into the bottom of a feed bucket and put it on the ground of the barn isle, or in his stall.  Then go catch your horse and bring him to the bucket, ONLY allowing him to eat the oats after you have removed his halter and said 'OK'.  The rule here, is that he is not allowed access to the bucket until YOU say so.  If he tries to ignore the rule, then correct him - Discipline!  Once your horse follows the rules, THEN he can get the oats from the bucket - Reward!  After he has learned to follow your rules, THEN you can lavish him with praise, and affection. 
 
This is a little exercise that can be done on a daily basis to improve the relationship that you have with your horse.  Although creating and establishing rules may be challenging at the start, over time it will become easier, which is a good habit for both you AND your horse.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam "Deworming"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 10, 2012 07:44

Memoirs of a Horse Owner

 

Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!

 

The articles written for www.Horseownertoday.com  are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.  They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.Horseownertodaycom.com  and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.  They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.

 

 

     I purchased a horse that had a long history of making routine tasks difficult.  He was well practised and he was good at it.  He knew all about how to make people give up and go to the house. 

 

    His greatest performance occurred at deworming time.  As a rule, the deworming paste ended up on his forehead and all over his muzzle, on the ground and in my hair.  It is real hard to aim a deworming syringe at the mouth of a moving target and I believe he knew that.   

 

     Albert Einstein said that there was no point in doing the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again, and expecting a different outcome each time.  I think that applies to horses too.  If you are not getting the results that you want, it would be wise to stop what you are doing and think of a better way to ask the horse to accept the task at hand.

 

     It seemed to me that if I ever wanted to deworm this horse, without a hassle, and maybe even without a halter and rope, I had to stop what I was doing and think of a better way to teach him to accept deworming. 

 

     I knew that one of the few things that he was real good at was eating.  He'd eat his share of the grub and anything else that was left within his reach.  He was like a fat kid after a cupcake.  For the most part his oral fixation was just a nuisance.  However it occurred to me that perhaps I could get it working in my favor.    

 

   Although using treats to train a horse is considered taboo with some folks, I was desperate to find a solution.  The way I saw it, things really couldn't get much worse.  So I decided to give it a try.  

 

   I started giving him a handful of rolled oats with a syringe full of molasses on top of the oats.  After a few days, I left off on the oats and gave him a syringe full of molasses in his feed dish.  He'd lick up the molasses until the dish was perfectly clean and then he'd come back and lick the dish all over again. 

 

   Within a few days he was willing to lick the molasses off of the syringe.  It wasn't long before he came to the idea that he could get to the molasses quicker if I put the syringe in his mouth.  Once he was willing to accept the syringe, deworming became a simple task.  

 

    I know that success at any task depends on my ability to present the task in a way that makes sense to the horse.  I know that I am most likely to succeed when I am able to make my idea seem like it was the horse's idea.  Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to do that.  Learning to work with what the horse offers is what the lifelong journey into what horsemanship is all about.

 

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