Training From the Saddle: Treat Training a Horse

training a horse

Horses are amazing animals that humans have had relationships with for hundreds of years. With proper horse training, your horse can be a great friend and companion.

That said, training a horse can be easier said than done.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” There’s a reason this saying is so popular. At the end of the day, horses can be stubborn animals.

Sometimes, your horse might just need a little nudge to be more cooperative. Training with treats can be an effective way to provide that incentive.

Here’s some of our advice on why and how you should implement treat training

Treat Training Provides Positive Reinforcement

When you are saddle-training your horse, your goal is to get him comfortable with a human riding him.

Giving your horse treats from the saddle can be a great way to help form positives associations with riding.

While negative reinforcement like rein tension and leg pressure are necessary, they work best when combined with positive associations. You don’t want your horse to associate riding with only negative interactions.

That said, it’s important that you don’t cross signals for your horse. Switching back and forth between negative and positive reinforcement can be confusing.

A good rule of thumb is to stick with one form of reinforcement at a time and to rely more on positive than negative cues.

When Training a Horse, Don’t get Taken Advantage of

As is often the case, when it comes to treat training, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

If you rely too heavily on treats, your horse will begin to view you as a food dispenser. Rather than respecting you, your horse will only obey because she believes there’s something in it for her.

For this reason, some horse trainers don’t use treats at all.

Remember that treats aren’t the only form of positive reinforcement.

Praise, pats, and brushing are all great ways to have positive interactions with your horse. If you train your horse to appreciate these forms of affection, treats will become even more special.

Don’t Forget to Communicate

In addition to overusing treats, some trainers expect treats to do the work of training for them.

In order for treat training to work effectively, it must be paired with acoustic cues, like clicks or words of affirmation. Using these strategies together will help your horse to better learn what is expected of him.

Additionally, you can use treat training to help your horse learn to associate certain sounds with food.

This will help you to teach your horse commands that he will obey, even if he is not rewarded with the food immediately.

That said, if you continue to experience difficulty training a horse, don’t lose hope. Hiring a professional trainer can be a great way to get to know your animal better, and learn good training strategies for training a horse.

Have you used treat training with your horse? What made it successful? Let us know in the comments section!

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