Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pocketful O' Treats

I don't know why, but I've never really cared to use food as an incentive for a horse. I guess I'm afraid that the horses will get pushy or they'll get to a point where they refuse to respond unless I have food. My Corgi Midge refuses to follow my directions sometimes unless I offer a treat. I'll give her a command, and she'll just repeatedly point toward the location of some food with her eyes, refusing to do what I ask until I put some food in my hand.

However, with these freezing temperatures, I don't care to be outside any longer than necessary. When I ask the horses to get in their stalls, I want them to just do it and do it quickly so that I can get back inside my heated house and climb under several layers of blankets. They usually are pretty good about going straight into their stalls, especially if they know it is time for a flake of hay.

However, on days like today when I ask them to go into their stalls between meals, because the weather is getting ugly in a hurry, they sometimes prefer to run around kicking up their heels or just hanging out in the pouring rain rather than to go into their nice, dry, warm boxes. So, I was standing under the awning looking at my drenched rats standing out in the rain, which was quickly turning to snow, wondering how I could entice them into their stalls when there were no flakes of hay waiting for them.

I had my hands in my pockets and was unconsciously rolling some horse peppermints around between my gloved fingers, then realized that I might be able to lure them each in with a peppermint. First I called to Lostine and held out my hand. She came over to investigate. Once she got a good enough sniff to know I held a treat in my hand, I walked backwards into her stall and she followed. I popped the peppermint into her mouth, stepped outside and shut the door.

Gabbrielle goes nuts over peppermints. As soon as she realized what was going on, she came running. Bombay quickly followed, and I had all three horses locked up tight in no time without having to fuss over finding a halter, chasing each horse down, and leading each one inside.

However, what I think is really exciting is that when I went outside to throw each of the horses a flake of hay for lunch the other day, Gabbrielle ignored the hay and just kept craning her neck over the fence toward me. I walked back to her and said, "What do you need, girl?"

She reached out even further and kissed me on the cheek. I gave her a kiss back on the muzzle, and she watched me walk all the way back into the house before turning toward her flake of hay. I guess I don't have to worry about her getting spoiled by treats. She's one horse who has her priorities straight. She wants her lovin' first, then her "eats."


JeniQ said...

That is one really neat picture!

fernvalley01 said...

Treats can be a great equaliser,but I prefer to reward after the task.I don't blame you at all for using the mints to bring them in! They are obviously not pocket hounds.What a sweetie that Gabrielle!

Shirley said...

Gabrielle is sure your special girl! I'm going to have to try peppermints on Beamer; I know he likes the peppermint flavor on his Likit Tongue Twister.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Lol, that's an Arabian for you. She must be descended from those 5 foundation mares that gave up their needed drinks for a call from their masters.

My horses all LOVE peppermints, even Yalla! although, like you, I don't treat them too often. I usually forget about carrying along treats.

Leah Fry said...

That's so sweet.

My Boyz say: The heck with that mushy stuff. Food is king.

Katharine Swan said...

I don't like using treats for training either, but I think they are good for positive reinforcement. I also used treats with Panama early on to gain trust and turn something scary and unfamiliar (grooming) into a pleasant experience. In any case, as long as you continue to expect good manners, I don't think giving them treats to get them in their stalls will "spoil" them.

TCavanaugh said...

I love those "loving moments". I don't use treats on a regular basis, but do use them once in a while. So far, they haven't tried to bowl me over for what might be in my pocket. :)

Breathe said...

I heard once to use treats as rewards, not bribes. Clicker training works on that principal. You are in the bribe mode with the pup, if you can move her to reward, it could help.

'course I have no idea how you do that. :)

Personally, I think a peppermint in a rainstorm is just perfect. And Gabby gets it, she knows it's all about every reward - including the affection!

Laura said...

Rusty loves mints too - he would prefer the mint over the lovin' though. Or he'll tolerate a hug to get a mint... You can almost see him sigh and roll his eyes at me...

Glad the treats worked well for you!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Baby Doll never liked peppermints. She'd spit them right out. But carrots, apples and cookies were a great incentive for her to do anything I asked.

Some horses seem to be very food motivated and I don't see anything wrong with using treats to reward them after doing what is asked.
If you worked a job and were never paid, you'd probably decide to stop working.

But some horses, like your sweet beautiful Gabbrielle seem to love the praise and attention even more than treats, and that's even better!
Love the image of your getting a horsie kiss, too.