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Tricks or Treats - Is your horse training you?


Echo on pedestal waiting for a treat; Photo by Pat Pape
An ongoing controversy - do you give hand-held treats to your horse or is this habit strictly taboo at your barn?  If you find yourself being bullied and pushed around by your equine friend because he knows that you have some goodies that you plan to give him, then it may be that he is training you.  On the other hand, a well-mannered horse can detect the carrots or apples in your pocket by smell, but will patiently wait until you offer the treats and then gently take them with his lips.
One way to gain respect from your horse is to use your treats as a reward and never as a bribe.  In other words, you will ask for a specific type of behavior from your horse and when he complies, then he is given the treat. You do not allow him to have the treat and then decide whether or not to satisfy your request, that is a bribe.
If your horse knows how to play the Parelli yo-yo game, then you can use this game in conjunction with treat training.  In the Parelli yo-yo game, the horse backs up and comes to you, back-and-forth, based upon your cues.  So, you can send your horse back several steps, ask him to come forward just one step, and repeat this.  After a couple of these exercises, and when you feel that your horse is attentive, then give him your treat as a reward.  Do not give the treat until your horse can exhibit some patience with you and will wait until you say that it is ok to eat the treat.
For more info: For another opinion and story about giving treats to horses , see