Horse People...Let's talk about giving treats, new issue for me

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by bkreugar, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. bkreugar

    bkreugar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2008
    Asheboro NC
    Hey all, so I am a long time horsewoman but have recently run into an issue I have never had before.

    So You may remember I bought a 7yr old reg paint mare for my 12.5 yr old DD to move up to from the 19yr old morab.
    Have had great luck with the mare, already gone on Judged trail ride and several shows with NO issue. I am definitly the bad cop for DD's mare. Really the bad cop for all the horses. They KNOW and respect my word.

    So we have had new paint mare for 3/4 months. She was "profesionally" trained at some point. Sold at a reg paint sale, and the guy I bought her from had her for about 2 years and rode her like maybe 10 times in 2 years. SO he decide din this economy to sell her. I didn;t ask as I didn't think it important but I don't think she had ever been fed treats by hand. So this last week I went out to deal with an injury My horse has and here comes paint mare. She sees me give my girl treat to put leadshank on her. I tie her to fence post.I push paint mare away and , she insists on getting in and around my way. I keep pushing her away. I finish with my girl and give her another treat, and turn her loose.

    Here comes paint mare, now with ears back and trying to crowd me to fence. I smack her and yell, and she leaves.

    Next day I go to treat my girl, and now paint mare is back and more insistant because she KNOWS I am going to give my girl a treat. Again I push her off and smack her.

    Next day, DD is with me and she plans to ride so she goes to get paint mare, and that is no problem she gives her a treat and OMG she practically gulps that thinkg down and she is lipping DD's fingers, even though she has a FLAT hand.

    Yesterday I go out to deal with my girl and my son goes to mess with the morab (dd's old pony) Paint mare tries to crowd HIM cuz she KNOWS he is going to give morab a treat. Giving a treat was Standard to reward for easy catch till now. I never had an issue with more than 50 different horses. SO because she is trying to crowd son, I go out with dressage whip and tell her NO. SHe sees whip and backs off, but THINKS about going around me. NOT happening.

    This morning I have to catch and tie the 3 because hayman is coming and he drops round bales in pasture. Get my girl first no problem as she is top dog. Go for paint mare next, and GIVE her a treat, Flat hand and STILL she lips my fingers and PINS her ears!!! I tie her and then lastly do the 19 yr old morab. SO I am for the first time ever seeing how it CAN be a problem.

    SO I am torn on what to do. If I stop giving treats, my girl would be fine, but 19 yr old morab, would be MUCH harder to catch. DD at 9 "tricked" her with the have something, opps your bummin". SO I have made sure to ALWAYS give her a treat when I catch her. SO my son and I can catch her but DD can't still to this day. I guess I got to catch paint mare and tie her THEN catch morab and give her treat.

    Would really just like to get Paint mare mellow with the treats. She wasn't this way in the begginning. It happened after she asserted herself to second place. SO do I just give up the treats? Paint mare is aggressive, pins ears pushes and tries to crowd you AND then is snappy/mouthy when taking the treat. I have NEVER had this issue before.

    Any advice?
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Once a horse is obnoxious about treats, IME it is pretty hard (not impossible, just difficult and time-consuming) to get them to be polite about it.

    So even IF you decide to embark on that -- and I am not sure whether it'd be highly worthwhile -- I really, really think you are going to need to *at least for now* work out a way to catch your own mare without flashing food around noticeably. Unless I am misunderstanding, it sounds like you are using the treat as a lure to get your mare to stand for being caught? I would suggest working on converting this to giving the reward AFTER she is caught. You'd benefit from it anyhow -- I just hate having a horse who won't be caught unless I go to the feedroom first, because that is not always convenient or even possible.

    One fairly easy and fast way to do it -- although for the initial stages if your mare is a "hard sell" you might need to have your daughter's horse put away in the stall or etc at the time -- is to use as small and boring a treat as you possibly can for your lure. (as small and boring as will still allow you to CATCH the darn horse, that is). Then as soon as you have the halter on, you go "Oh my, why look at what I happen to have found in my pocket, how strange, an even *dozen* of your favoritest horse cookies or whatever else you especially crave! How fortunate that you are here, why don't you eat them for me?".

    Do this a coupla times a day for a few days, and you are likely to find that the small boring piece of food used to lure her in is no longer necessary. Then you can put just one of the special yummies in your pocket as an immediate reward and have the rest waiting in a bucket at the gate where you will lead her as soon as she is caught. Lather rinse repeat, and in usually-not-*too*-much-time you will have a horse who willingly lets you catch and halter her because she knows that there is something in it for her AFTER you do [​IMG]

    Where in this process you can resume doing it with your daughter's horse present is a judgement call you will have to make, based on how the horses in question act and what type behavior you are comfortable dealing with.

    But the goal is to work towards horses that never get ANY treat shown to them at all until after they have a halter and leadrope on; and ideally do not get any edible reward until you have taken them back to the barn, if edible reward is required at all.

    At the same time, your daughter's mare sounds like she is settling in well :> and could really use a good dose of etiquette lessons, like groundwork on a lead rope or longe. Done intelligently and in depth. If she's being like this about treats now, she may extend her power grab to other subjects in the future, which if nothing else you probably don't want her doing with your daughter.

    Good luck, have fun,

  3. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    Sounds like you got this sort of thing going on:

    You can't always give treats in a herd. Up til now, you just happened to have some unusually laid back horses...really...extremely....laid back horses. Most of the time, you don't want to do what you do. It's a bad habit to get into, because most horses that you would buy will get pushy if there are treats around. Even if one LEAVES, and you never buy another one, it changes the chain of command and things can get...natural.

    I got someone hurt pretty bad once, when I was much younger(10), I'm ashamed to say, because I had been around horses like your others too long and didn't 'get it'. We just walked up with treats, and well, the rest is history. NOT a good idea.

    Treating horses to catch them has a problem - well - it's THIS problem. This is why a lot of people don't.

    You have a couple choices.

    One, stop giving treats to all the horses when they're out together, and teach your son to let the morab graze for 2 minutes after he catches her (you can teach her first if that's easier). 2 minutes of grazing after clipping on the lead shank, is enough to make any horse catchable. Just let the animal graze that long after you walk up and hook them up. I've been doing it for many decades, and it works. None of mine are a problem to catch, and I can usually switch around a messed up hard-to-catch horse within a few weeks. When others take care of them they always get all excited, 'Your horses are SO NICE TO CATCH! We just walk up to them!' Then I have to be SURE they get their 'two minute time' every time when they come home, LOL, so it doesn't all get ruined.

    You CAN give the horse a treat in its stall in its own feed tub, if you like. Letting the horse stand a sec in the stall and eat a snack also tends to make them not associate coming in with being worked. It also makes them easy to catch.

    Two, put the paint mare in her stall before you treat the others. This a little bit avoids the problem, and doesn't really protect someone who might be taking care of your horses while you're out of town, or what have you.

    Three, keep feeding treats and get nasty with the paint mare. It means basically, go after the paint mare with a long stock whip and go hard on her if she pushes for a treat. One person treats the horse they want to catch and one chases off the paint mare a few times so she gets the new program. Hit low on the shoulder and chest, not neck, rump or head, which causes problems - striking her on the chest and low on the shoulder will make her move away rather than kick. If everyone is consistent, she will learn to change her behavior. But one has to be heartless and very consistent.

    This doesn't mean it's a bad horse. It's just something most horses do. Especially in a new group.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  4. WIChookchick

    WIChookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Rural Brooklyn, WI
    A lot of folks do two things.. either they put the treat on the ground for the horse to eat, not in their hand.. OR they give a good scritchie instead of a treat.

    Can you try to put the treat on the ground.. and if the mare continues.. seriously get after her.. have daughter put treat on ground.. if the mare comes to her AFTER the treat is put on the ground.. smack her on the neck.
    OR wave your arm/her arms to tell the mare to respect the space.

    Also try to re work your system.. put halter on horse.. remove horse from pasture, then give treat..
    Maybe this will help.
  5. shadowpaints

    shadowpaints Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 20, 2009
    Rigby, Idaho
    we have never ever ever gave treats to our horses... it can get too dangerous and they get too pushy too fast! so we just dont treat... they get their hay and grain as needed. we train all ours to be caught with no grain or treats..
  6. HopeMissouri

    HopeMissouri Out Of The Brooder

    Ears back, NO TREAT. That's a threat. Ears back, the horse is asked to back up or sent away with energy until they are ready to return politely. I don't smack. But my guys do know that I'll up my energy and phases if they aren't polite to me or amongst themselves.

    We only have four horses, but I expect to be able to stand among them to treat, halter, or pet.

  7. arabianequine

    arabianequine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2010
    Quote:The lady on the horse that would not move was funnier.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  8. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    I have a slightly different "problem" regarding treats and my new mare, Ginger. She adores a certain brand of treat wafers to the point that she can think of nothing else when she even suspects they are in your pocket. I have backed WAY off. Now she gets a treat first thing when I open her stall door in the morning (which I do with each horse in each stall just as a quick check to see how they went through the night.) Then I go ahead and make up feed buckets, etc. That treat is now the only one she gets each day. It took a couple of days but she is finally not looking for them and willing to pay attention.

    She came to me with issues about being caught when out loose. We are finally to the point that when I walk out there, she will come to me for a head scratch. Then I ASK her verbally if I can take her head and then only reach for her. She is fine with that. LOL the first time I tried it, she set back so hard I thought she pulled my shoulder out! But we have gradually worked through this particular issue and it seems to be becoming a non-issue finally. But I have purposely kept a halter on her so we could work on it. She knows she can only come in for her supper IF she allows me to take her head and lead her in. And, I suppose, since only good things happen when I do this, she is finally relaxing about it. This was a BIG issue for her. When I first got her, even a treat would not convince her to allow you to take her by the halter and lead her from the pasture. She'd set back and bolt. I mention this only to point out that treats are not always advantageous when you are trying to teach a horse to be caught. Sometimes there are better ways.


  9. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    In fact sometimes old timers who avoid treats get called 'mean' but avoiding treats avoids a whole lot of problems.

    I have one horse that is so 'treat mad' he will go through a whole series of tricks at top speed, he will even try throwing himself down on the ground, he's like one of those sea world dolphins that will make up completely new 'behaviors' to get a treat. To top it off he starts to get MAD if that treat isn't coming quick, and tries even more desperate efforts at 'what IS IT MAN' to get that little tiny pinkie fingernail size piece of carrot.

    We cannot train him with treats. Not possible. Even a clicker causes too much excitement. But fact is with him he's so easy to train anyway no treats are even needed. Show him how to do something ONCE and he's got it and is 100% solid with it.
  10. michickenwrangler

    michickenwrangler To Finish Is To Win

    Jun 8, 2008
    NE Michigan
    I would give treats, in a bucket in a stall but not by hand for quite a while yet. After a few months, try the hand treats, if she gets obnoxious, go back to the stall method.

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