Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feeding from a Pan

One of the tips that author Martha Leynes-Selbert gave in her book, Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse, was to always feed a horse off some other surface besides your hand. When I was training the horses to come to a whistle by feeding them treats as an initial reward, I did manage to get bit during the orgy of greedy teeth. I remembered the tip of feeding off some other surface, and pulled the lid off the plastic bin that held the apple bites.

Since I had never fed the horses this way before, they responded by running away from that strange white thing. However, Gabbrielle's curiosity got the best of her and she had to come back to sniff it...

She could smell the apple treat, but bit into the plastic lid, and that confused her...

She then looked at the lid and the treat, noticing that there are two items there...

On her second try, she bit into the correct object.

Yum yum.

11 comments:

Kate said...

Like the photos and the suggestion - I have a mare that I'm doing some clicker training with, and she's fairly dominant/pushy to begin with, so this might work for her. I might also try putting the treat on the ground, having her back off until I ask her to come forward - I do this already with my pushier horses when I feed them their hay or grain.

Katharine Swan said...

I've also heard before that you shouldn't hand-feed horses, because it teaches them to mouth. However, before I started having problems with passersby feeding Panama through the fence, I never had a problem with mouthing -- and I always hand-fed him treats! I suppose the difference was that I scolded and wouldn't give it to him anytime he started acting pushy or mouthy. Even now, when he's acting more mouthy because of the people feeding him through the fence, if I scoldingly say "Use your manners," he backs off and waits for me to bring the treat to him.

All that is just a long-winded way of saying that I think it all depends on your attitude while treating, not necessarily HOW you treat. In any case, I think a horse is smart enough to figure out when there are treats in your pocket, even if you only feed them from a pan!

Lulu said...

That last photo is adorable! Look at those lips!!!

I've always fed treats in a bucket; I value my fingers! ;)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - I usually don't get bit when feeding off my palm because I do it in an orderly manner and each horse understands that it needs to wait its turn and be invited to take the treat. I got bit this time because I was multi-tasking taking pictures, luring them into the water, and whistling all at the same time. All I had to do is swat the air near the horse that bit me (LOSTINE!) and she backed off. I don't like swatting or pinching horses in the head because it makes them head-shy. Like you said, you've got to use your attitude more than anything else. However, I would have been better off not using my hand as a plate since I was distracted.

Katharine Swan said...

Oh! I'm sorry, NM, I totally didn't mean that as any type of critique of you or blaming you for getting bit. I'm sorry if it came across that way. :o(

Yes, I definitely know what you mean about multi-tasking and not paying enough attention! And unfortunately for us, some horses are awfully good at sensing when we're NOT devoting our full attention to them (read: when they can get away with something).

Horseypants said...

That was very cute...you can see the wheels turning!

Laura said...

Cute pictures! Who doesn't love big horse lips??? lol

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good girl! What a smart cookie she is! :)
I think she saw that lid as a flying saucer and was afraid of tiny aliens sitting inside. Whew! Thank goodness it was only apple treats piloting the ship! lol!

I always feed Baby Doll her cookies by hand. She has never bit me, but I think that's because she never uses her teeth to pick up a cookie. Her lips are her fingers and she will grab the cookie and hold them with her lips until she's sure that's all she's got in there.

I can only guess that she's so careful, because of her age. She's probably bitten someone by accident and didn't have such a great experience.

I have fed other other horses by hand, though and have noticed that they are not always so mindful and gentle when it comes to their teeth. So, it's always better to be careful, especially with horses you're not familiar with. :)

~Lisa

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - Oh no, I wasn't assuming you meant anything personal. I was just extending the conversation. Sometimes you say something in a comment that gets me thinking about other things and I want to elaborate on my post.

Lisa - Whether horses use their lips or their teeth makes a huge difference. Bombay and Gabbrielle are very gentle lip pickers, while Lostine is a teeth snatcher. Sometimes I just throw Lostine's treats into her feed trough, because I'm not in the mood to train her to be polite. She needs more reminders than a toddler.

Katharine Swan said...

NM, I'm glad I didn't offend you. I like extending conversations but sometimes it's hard to read one another in blog comments, so I worry about people taking my comments the wrong way.

Lisa, Panama normally uses his lips too, but he opens them really wide and usually manages to slobber on my hand much more than the more delicate lip-pickers I've known. Lately he's also doing this little lunge maneuver, which annoys me to no end because I feel like he's going to take my hand off every time (even though he's only actually bitten it once). I know why he's doing that, though -- when people are feeding him at the fence, he's having to snatch up the treats really quickly, or the alpha horse chases him away!

Ugh -- the bad habits horses learn when inexperienced people feed them! :o(

Andrea said...

I love that last picture, her lips!! I love it!! My kids always put their horse's treats in a bucket, but when they have big carrots, we just feed them by hand. I guess some people don't feed by hand because they don't want horses to think hands will always have treats in them, it makes sense. I bet your mare was thinking, "That is the strangest cookie i have ever bitten into!!" She is too cute!