The value of using positive reinforcement to train your horse is unparalleled. I would even say that rewarding your horse in some way is even more important and powerful than correcting your horse. Positive reinforcement can come in many forms: voice, touch, release of aid, treats and more.
I find that all of these are important but none speak more loudly than rewarding a horse with a treat. While a horse will appreciate a pat, kind word or softening aid, treats have proven to be undeniably beneficial. Rewarding with treats will soften the heart of a horse and encourage them to find their hard work more enjoyable. Horses will understand their improvements and learn more quickly. The practice of giving a horse a treat from your hand is widely controversial. Some say that the horse will become spoiled, mouthy, pushy or learn to bite. Of all the horses that I have trained or worked with, I have never had any of these problems but I have seen horses who have developed these undesirable habits, at no fault of their own. The horse must never be allowed to demand a treat from the handler or rider. It’s important to know when it is appropriate to reward a horse with a treat, if you’re going to use this form of positive reinforcement. The horse must actively earn their treat, even for the smallest effort that shows improvement. Let me be more clear. A horse will not be earning a treat if he is doing something he already knows, such as standing still. A horse may earn a treat after completing a better quality leg yield, listening to a voice command or trying something new, for instance. I always carry a treat with me when I am outside with the horses, whether I am fetching one from the pasture, grooming, lounging or riding because I always want to be ready and encouraging my horses’ success. Happy Treating!
Deanna Corby with Deanna Corby Dressage is a dressage trainer, riding instructor and dressage competition judge based out of Waxhaw, NC, just outside of Charlotte. Deanna offers riding lessons and horse training to students and horses of all ages and experience.
Official Website: www.DeannaCorbyDressage.com