Adding a reward for a correct response. Something the horse desires. A treat, pat or voice command, for instance. Treats are a highly motivating and are used a lot in the training of marine mammals and dogs, but not as much in horses. Something to consider: Can feeding treats to horses open up a can of worms – a whole new set of problems? Or is it the timing of the treat delivery? Do horses consider patting really rewarding? What about a vocal reward? I’ve got some thoughts on these things that I’ll cover in future discussions.

Next week – negative reinforcement – it’s not what you might think. Until then, let’s be thinking riders!

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I find that the horse has to learn that petting or vocal praise is a reward. 

I don't feed treats, I don't like getting "mugged" by a horse, they are too big.

I'm curious to hear what others say about horses considering a pat as a reward. Seems like if they enjoy it at all they'd like a nice soft pat or a rub better then the wham wham wham that some riders give as rewards. I've seen some flinch but I have to say I've seen some that really seemed to know that their rider hitting them on the neck was a good thing and looked proud for receiving it.

I've been rewarding my horse with treats for 7 years now and he is still very mannerly about receiving them. They seem to learn that the treat is a reward and they better be nice about it. It's just never been a problem with us. He likes his food rewards and performs a little better for me when he knows I have treats for him but he usually performs with or without treats cause I often forget to grab a handful before going to the arena. Cash does do his job with an extra enthusiasm when there are treats involved and I like giving him that joy when he gives me so much. I don't have to give him a treat everytime he does something good...that could get annoying and eventually dangerous..

 

My horse looks at treats or me scratching her favorite spots as a reward.  When whe was young she learned some clicker training, which helped her learn not to mug people for treats and to take them politely when I use them in addition to a few other things.  I also don't think most horses are fond of the "wham wham wham" that many riders seem to think is a reward for a job well done.
What's been really interesting to me is to look into issues like this from the horse's point of view instead of what we believe they're thinking. In my equine behavior class we looked at the studies done by experts who are asking these very questions. Based on heart rate, cortisol levels, time taken to learn a task, what happens naturally in the wild, etc. There's science backing up the positive and negatives of feed rewards, timing, patting/scratching etc. Pairing the science with what I've discovered training a large volume of horses, I've become really convinced of what are the most effective ways to get across the "yes" message to my equine students!  I'll be sharing these in upcoming blogs

http://itsmorethanhorseshows.blogspot.com/

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