Horse treats are anything from apples and carrots to peppermints and ready-made cookies. Your horse may have a favorite treat or a flavor of treat that he enjoys more than others—and as horse owners we generally make sure we always have our horse’s favorite snack in stock.
However, some horse owners fear turning his or her horse into a cookie monster and don’t give any treats at all. The key is knowing how to give treats and giving treats sparingly, rather than over pampering and giving a cookie every time your horse looks at you with his twinkling eyes—yes, we know it can be hard to resist!
Knowing the relationship between horses and food will allow you to feed treats effectively. Since horse’s are programmed the eat small amounts of food continuously, your horse will constantly want another treat. For his well-being you must learn that only one or two treats are enough.
[MORE PAMPERING: 5 CHEAP & EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR HORSE'S HEALTH]
Treats for Training
Offering treats in your training program can allow you to reap the benefits of positive reinforcement. Likewise, it’s also important to remember that your horse must perform the correct maneuver before offering a treat. Offering a treat when your horse only does something partially correct can lead to the cookie-monster mentality that we want to avoid. Once your horse accomplishes what you’ve sought out to teach him, it’s time to refrain from offering treats every time the maneuver is performed correctly.
Similarly, in our training programs we want to avoid rewarding negative behavior with treats. If your horse begins to beg for a treat by pawing or nosing your pocket, it’s time to navigate away from offering a reward of that kind and switch to a different kind of reward, such as hand grazing.
A situation that seems like it may be rewarding negative behavior but is actually a form of mitigating bad experiences is feeding a treat before and after a vet or farrier appointment. Offering a treat before and after a stressful procedure can help a horse get through the event and associate it with something positive rather than scary.
Nutrients in the Nuggets
While only offering a treat or two will help your horse understand that he can’t have a treat every time he asks for one, it is also a health concern to offer several treats.
No matter what kind of treat you feed, it will account for some part of your horse’s diet. Manufactured treats are a suitable option for feeding because equine nutritionists are involved in the development process and the ingredients are listed on the package.
Some manufactured treats such as Manna Pro’s Nutrigood Senior Snax offer additional health benefits such as glucosamine for joint support and omega-3 fatty acids for a coat health. The labels on the packages allow you to better understand how you’re supplementing your horse’s diet by feeding a treat and how to use the treat properly.
The message to remember about feeding treats is to feed in moderation and don’t give in to negative rewards. Your horse’s well-being and your training program will be better off with the motto “less is more.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the TLC blog, sponsored by Manna Pro, where we’ll share tips about the extra, pampering things you can do for your horse…just because you love him. Our pointers will help you foster your horse’s wellbeing by boosting his health…or just making him happy.
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