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Training with treats - do you?

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  • Back to the OP: I have a horse right now who is crazed about carrots. I am not a treat-feeder, so he didn't get it from me. I think it got it from being in a h/j show barn where students, jr.'s, etc., always show up with carrots and indiscriminately feed them to any horse walking by. It's a horrible habit.

    I've been doing carrot stretches and other stretches after each ride (now that the fly season has passed and holding up a leg isn't a pointless battle with the flies), so the carrot issue has just become evident to me. I'll have to teach him how to differentiate, but it's hard in a barn where not very experienced people think carrots = caring and feed carrots whenever to whomever.

    My other horse has 0 problems with treats. I walk him, post-ride, from the grooming stall to his stall holding carrots in my other hand, and he never bugs me for him. We have a routine of returning to the stall, the halter comes off, the carrots go in his tub, and we would stand together while he enjoys his treat out of the tub (not my hand). I never get mugged or bothered.

    My point? It is going to be difficult in a non-private stable to teach a horse the association between good behavior and a treat if there are other people indiscriminately feeding your horse treats and, therefore, muddying the waters. Even more difficult if if the horse already comes with the baggage of indiscriminate treat-feeding?

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
      meup, I noticed something interesting in that video that I also experienced while working with my horse at liberty the other day . . . and it goes along with what kande04 was saying about sequencing.

      If you notice the handler's hand positioning while doing the small circles around him, you'll see he keeps it in a position similar to that of holding a lead rope. I noticed this when working at liberty with my horse. If I held my one hand as if I were holding the lead rope, he "followed" and would tip his nose toward me or move forward - basically, the same type of movement he would do were I actually holding the lead rope. It was a real a-ha moment for me in body language. It isn't just the halter/rope that leads the horse, it is our bodies and how the horse perceives our positioning as well (which, I know, is a "duh" thing, but when you do it sans mechanical tools it is really interesting).

      This also came into play while working on a circle. My arena is a bit bigger than a small court and I don't have a round pen. But I could take my horse's halter off and lunge him in a circle without any additional barriers. Very interesting.
      My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

      "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Ticker View Post
        That was lovely...thanks for posting it. I thought your video on self-loading ( I think it was yours) was well done as well.
        Haha. No. It is very nice. Inspiring even. Thank you.
        My background, my biggest inspiration when I started 35 years ago was Ray Hunt, and Tom Dorrance. The similarities was in something the woman said. There is no negative consequence for the horse if he choose to leave. The horse is ok, whatever he needs to do. We try and instill in him the desire to be with us. That is very compelling. I wholeheartedly believe in that. At the time Ray started doing demonstrations, it rocked the western world. We just never used clickers or treats to get it done. What I object to, and has been suggested in many arguments presented here, is that if you are not using reward based training, and clickers or treats, that everything else is harsh whips and spurs and punishment. That is just an intellectually poor and dishonest argument.
        But I have also seen videos of liberty demonstrations, and the horse is pinning is ears and wringing his tail. And I have seen dressage horses that might as well have been trained monkeys. So there is a fine line. As beautiful as that video is to watch, and the best one I have seen in a while, I think we should be careful of when the art turns into circus. That is all I have been trying to say. Please do not misunderstand my intentions. I wish to preserve true principles of horsemanship as an art as much as some other people here do.

        Comment


        • I was a solid treats-only-at-specific-times rider for many years. (Catch and release. )

          I had a horse who couldn't connect his actions with the treat. Couldn't even connect the clicker with the treat. (No it wasn't my training skill or lack thereof - see next example.)

          I had a horse who did connect his actions with the treat. He just didn't care enough about the treat.

          I had a horse who connected his actions with food when I wasn't even trying to use food as a reward. I noticed and deliberately experimented with using food after that. I used tiny bits of carrot to teach him many things on the ground and under saddle. I did not run into any of the problems people have expressed concern about - at least not long term. This particular horse DID slam on the brakes and turn his head for the carrot when I said "good boy." But it DIDN'T become a long term problem because as the horse came to understand what I was asking, the "good boy!" produced a little extra bounce and self carriage with an "I know! I'm so clever!" sort of attitude, and if I actually halted him and offered the treat he didn't want it. When he was thinking and asking "is this it? is this what you want?" he wanted the treats as reassurance that he was on the right track.

          The use of treats is the same as the use of pressure release, vocal praise, pats or whatever. As long as you are looking for better and rewarding the better attempt then whatever it is you are training is going to get better. If you reward/release/praise/whatever at exactly the same point every time then it never gets better.

          The use of treats no more affects "horsemanship as an art" than the use of spurs, bits, rope halters, etc do. "Horsemanship as an art" comes from the hands of the horseman (or woman) involved.

          This kind of training with treats won't work with every horse. But it makes things so much easier and quicker (for the horse!) when it will work for that horse. And FWIW I do think horse training should be as easy and fast (for THAT horse) as possible.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by RedHorses View Post
            I was a solid treats-only-at-specific-times rider for many years. (Catch and release. )

            I had a horse who couldn't connect his actions with the treat. Couldn't even connect the clicker with the treat. (No it wasn't my training skill or lack thereof - see next example.)

            I had a horse who did connect his actions with the treat. He just didn't care enough about the treat.

            I had a horse who connected his actions with food when I wasn't even trying to use food as a reward. I noticed and deliberately experimented with using food after that. I used tiny bits of carrot to teach him many things on the ground and under saddle. I did not run into any of the problems people have expressed concern about - at least not long term. This particular horse DID slam on the brakes and turn his head for the carrot when I said "good boy." But it DIDN'T become a long term problem because as the horse came to understand what I was asking, the "good boy!" produced a little extra bounce and self carriage with an "I know! I'm so clever!" sort of attitude, and if I actually halted him and offered the treat he didn't want it. When he was thinking and asking "is this it? is this what you want?" he wanted the treats as reassurance that he was on the right track.

            The use of treats is the same as the use of pressure release, vocal praise, pats or whatever. As long as you are looking for better and rewarding the better attempt then whatever it is you are training is going to get better. If you reward/release/praise/whatever at exactly the same point every time then it never gets better.

            The use of treats no more affects "horsemanship as an art" than the use of spurs, bits, rope halters, etc do. "Horsemanship as an art" comes from the hands of the horseman (or woman) involved.

            This kind of training with treats won't work with every horse. But it makes things so much easier and quicker (for the horse!) when it will work for that horse. And FWIW I do think horse training should be as easy and fast (for THAT horse) as possible.
            Nice post. Thank you for not being confrontational. Not sure about the fast and easy part thought.
            But something does separate the circus training from classical form. What is it?

            Comment


            • The person who worries about the word "circus" or "trick" and applies it to the training of those they don't agree with.
              “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
              ? Albert Einstein

              Comment


              • Just an interesting aside.

                I have a pony who ikea treats well enough because she is a pony! However, she is more impressed with scritches, preferably performed with a Unigroom! Will do ANYTHING to obtain them.

                Is extremely concerned with what she needs to learn to get them. Never saw anything like it.

                I wonder what else would work to train these little monkies!
                “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
                ? Albert Einstein

                Comment


                • Originally posted by horsefaerie View Post
                  The person who worries about the word "circus" or "trick" and applies it to the training of those they don't agree with.
                  Is it impossible to have an intelligent discussion on this board? Is it possible we can apply critical thinking to what we are doing? Isn't there any intellectual curiosity?
                  This is not my idea, and it is not new. If you were to read about the works and thoughts of the old masters such as Gueriniere, Fillis, d'Aure, Holbein to name a few, (google search is a start)there was a separation between what was considered "circus" and what was considered correct. So it is not a new argument. This is why I ask the question. I don't know the answer, but I know it has something to do with a the difference of a horse simply performing by rote, and a horse that is performing by actively taking part, having learned the meaning of the aids, hands, seat, legs, and lastly, voice. It is a grey area for sure. But in the nineteenth century, there was concern about the difference. It was evidently an important disticntion. One was just circus, one was classical. perhaps it doesn't even matter?

                  Comment


                  • fwiw, i think "trick" and "circus" have different meanings....

                    altho now that i am trying to write down why i feel that way - i cant articulate it!

                    i will say that trick/circus usually denote horses not trained in the classical manner of progressive and athletic development of the whole horse to create a riding horse that is a joy to ride......

                    usually circus/trick is for the audience - not the horse.... whatever means will produce the desired results will be used.....

                    which isnt to say they aren't masters of circus training - there are....but it is different that pure dressage training which is done purely for the development of the horse.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by mbm View Post
                      fwiw, i think "trick" and "circus" have different meanings....

                      altho now that i am trying to write down why i feel that way - i cant articulate it!

                      i will say that trick/circus usually denote horses not trained in the classical manner of progressive and athletic development of the whole horse to create a riding horse that is a joy to ride......

                      usually circus/trick is for the audience - not the horse.... whatever means will produce the desired results will be used.....

                      which isnt to say they aren't masters of circus training - there are....but it is different that pure dressage training which is done purely for the development of the horse.
                      That's a good start!

                      Comment


                      • I just want to say I am so happy to read that others here use clicker training with their horses. As a long time dog trainer and horse owner, I watched the canine world slowly grow from negative reinforcement to positive several years ago. I was using a clicker with my horse 20 years ago and horse people were appauled. I heard the same arguments back then that I hear now. Personally, I don't care if people choose to use clickers, treats, or any training method on their own horse, but it's a shame that some aren't open to new methods, new options, to train. I have a few thoughts below based on this thread that I'd love to have people reply to.

                        1) For those that only use treats for "tricks" but not training...how does the horse know the difference? I mean, how does he know the difference in "taking a bow" and "standing for mounting"? If you ask for less exactness in tricks because they aren't "formal training" what does that teach the horse? If tricks aren't life saving and training is, how does the horse know the difference? To the horse a trick and training are the same thing. If you use treats or a clicker only for "fun" stuff and scratches or release from pressure for "real" stuff, please explain the rationale for differenciating these things.

                        2) If treats aren't used because your horse can't focus when you use them, how do you handle regualr feeding times? Does the horse/pony just run around like a jerk and you tollerate because he can't learn to focus when food is around? Is he not expected to stay out of your space, avoid biting you, etc at feeding time? Isn't that training as well? Personally, if I had a horse that was THAT food motivated I'd be teaching him patience and focus using food SOOOO quickly that it would stun other people. Simply charging of the clicker and the basic exercise of teaching him not to mug would make him focus. Why, if food is such a huge motivator would you not want to harness that?

                        3) The thought that treats encourage a dependency on food to perform has been disproven for years. Why do some people accept advances in hoof care, vet care, tack, and then dismiss it in training? We expect our farriers and vets to spend the time, and be open-minded enough to learn new things in their chosen fields. Why aren't trainers/owners doing the same thing? I'm not talking about those that have researched training methods and decided it doesn't work for a particular horse, but to just dismiss a training method because "that's the way we''ve always done it" seems awfully closed-minded.

                        I'm don't want to start an argument, I'd like an open, honest, well thought through conversation on this. It's not about who's right or wrong, it's just open thought...hopefully.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by lv4running View Post
                          2) If treats aren't used because your horse can't focus when you use them, how do you handle regualr feeding times? Does the horse/pony just run around like a jerk and you tollerate because he can't learn to focus when food is around? Is he not expected to stay out of your space, avoid biting you, etc at feeding time? Isn't that training as well? Personally, if I had a horse that was THAT food motivated I'd be teaching him patience and focus using food SOOOO quickly that it would stun other people. Simply charging of the clicker and the basic exercise of teaching him not to mug would make him focus. Why, if food is such a huge motivator would you not want to harness that?
                          I just want to address this, as it seems sometimes on these boards people make assumptions about other people's situations. My pony is obnoxious at feeding time, unfortunately I am not there during her 3 times a day feeding - the food truck is that goes around feeding the 100 horses on the property. It would be wonderful if I could choose not to spend 12 hours of my day every day doing my job that pays for my horse, but sadly my life doesn't work that way.

                          I do the best that I can given the limited time I have. For my pony at this moment in time she is being taught that I am not a treat dispenser, and happily that means she no longer tries to attack and sometime bite me in her never ending quest for food.

                          I have successfully used treats, and now I am learning that not all horses are good candidates. I don't know why this is such a big controversy. I may very well from time to time try to introduce them over the next 20 years with this pony. But seriously, choosing not to use treats or clicker training or whatever treat training is out there is not some failing on the part of others to "do it correctly".
                          On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by lv4running View Post
                            I just want to say I am so happy to read that others here use clicker training with their horses. As a long time dog trainer and horse owner, I watched the canine world slowly grow from negative reinforcement to positive several years ago. I was using a clicker with my horse 20 years ago and horse people were appauled. I heard the same arguments back then that I hear now. Personally, I don't care if people choose to use clickers, treats, or any training method on their own horse, but it's a shame that some aren't open to new methods, new options, to train. I have a few thoughts below based on this thread that I'd love to have people reply to.

                            1) For those that only use treats for "tricks" but not training...how does the horse know the difference? I mean, how does he know the difference in "taking a bow" and "standing for mounting"? If you ask for less exactness in tricks because they aren't "formal training" what does that teach the horse? If tricks aren't life saving and training is, how does the horse know the difference? To the horse a trick and training are the same thing. If you use treats or a clicker only for "fun" stuff and scratches or release from pressure for "real" stuff, please explain the rationale for differenciating these things.

                            2) If treats aren't used because your horse can't focus when you use them, how do you handle regualr feeding times? Does the horse/pony just run around like a jerk and you tollerate because he can't learn to focus when food is around? Is he not expected to stay out of your space, avoid biting you, etc at feeding time? Isn't that training as well? Personally, if I had a horse that was THAT food motivated I'd be teaching him patience and focus using food SOOOO quickly that it would stun other people. Simply charging of the clicker and the basic exercise of teaching him not to mug would make him focus. Why, if food is such a huge motivator would you not want to harness that?

                            3) The thought that treats encourage a dependency on food to perform has been disproven for years. Why do some people accept advances in hoof care, vet care, tack, and then dismiss it in training? We expect our farriers and vets to spend the time, and be open-minded enough to learn new things in their chosen fields. Why aren't trainers/owners doing the same thing? I'm not talking about those that have researched training methods and decided it doesn't work for a particular horse, but to just dismiss a training method because "that's the way we''ve always done it" seems awfully closed-minded.

                            I'm don't want to start an argument, I'd like an open, honest, well thought through conversation on this. It's not about who's right or wrong, it's just open thought...hopefully.
                            Good points. There is a difference between operant conditioning and classical conditioning. Operant using pressure/release, reward/punishment, or negative stimuli with reward. Classical conditioning is more akin to Pavlov's dogs. The dog is by nature going to salivate when presented with food. The bell rings every time, pretty soon he will salivate when the bell rings. People are the same way, with sights and sounds and smells, triggering memories and corresponding actions. The idea in training this way, is that you use what the horse does naturally, and time your cues with that, eliciting the action and timing the cue. This can be body position, leg position, voice, and I assume, the clicker. So the advancement is in the application of classical conditioning versus operant conditioning. The advancement is not necessarily the clicker. The clicker could be used with either approach.
                            Does it make a difference to the horse? Well, he gets trained either way. But I think it might make a difference. The difference is the element of choice and freedom from any pressure. We just "get with the horse", without an expectation of performance, and try to build consitant responses to consistent position. The position and actions become the cue. Position for canter, position for halt, etc. and the little aids that consistently go with those things.. All these miniscule things the horse can perceive and differentiate, I think. So I am trying to get with those things and at least look for them and be aware of them. It is not easy, it is not fast. Not the only way. But it becomes silent and non verbal. Maybe. It seems so far that a combination of methods is justified. But I think the two methods, operant vs classical, works on different parts of the horse's brain. I can't prove it.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by horsehand View Post
                              Good points. There is a difference between operant conditioning and classical conditioning.
                              The operant part is the training, or shaping part. Whether the trainer uses positive reinforcement (clicker training) and/or negative reinforcement (pressure and release) and/or punishment the subject learns to "operate" the trainer by producing the behaviors that earn the rewards.

                              Classical conditioning is just simply associating a stimulus with a behavior. Sometimes that's done right along with the training (an aid can both facilitate getting a behavior and serve as a cue for it).

                              Sometimes the cue is added after the behavior is shaped (I teach my horse to bow and then associate a cue by classically conditioning the cue to the behavior).

                              Comment


                              • N0 - the only place my horses eat, is out of their feeders, or grazing. I HATE treat hounds.
                                ... _. ._ .._. .._

                                Comment


                                • Stepping aside the normal arguments for this of which have already participated.

                                  What about the additional reason?

                                  Some times treating the horse is a nice break that the rider would not have given if they had not ingrained the treat giving into themselves.

                                  Example: We started to work on more self carriage recently and some of it is not exactly brilliant because of the added workload and new muscles.

                                  If things go negative and I take a walk break to regroup that is not a treat time, but maybe if I used treats for those extra special moments of carriage when I know this is way over and above what was required before maybe a couple of treats are in order? Mayhap I would take advantage of the horses offer of more work? I would forget to break and push for more untraining in that moment in an attempt to push the envelope.

                                  But no, I have treats to give out and my mind rememberst them LOL

                                  Maybe this will structure me to focus on more of a plan? Get in get out and praise?

                                  I do not support feeding a horse for doing its job as is. If he/she can wtc without it then you dont need to stop and feed poopsie, but the video above with the Piaffe? There is nothing further then that under saddle that requires more collection maybe other than pirouette. I think that work can merit a friggin tap dance if you should so feel inclined. Treats raining from the sky if you can get it, but always be looking to improve.
                                  ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
                                  http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

                                  Comment


                                  • Perfect Pony, I wasn't attacking your choice. I was merely asking why you, or anyone with a highly food motivated horse, decided not to use such a great motivator in your training. For 21 years I worked 12 hrs a day 5-6 days a week, raised two kids, and went to for some of those years. I DO understand being busy and having to pick what you spend your time on. I am fortunate enough to have made plans that now allow me, financially, to work three 12 hr shifts and I have the other four day to do as I please. Not having enough time is totally understandable. I really just wanted people's thoughts on these things. Again, I wasn't attacking your decision, I was asking for more information on the choice you made.

                                    Comment


                                    • Originally posted by mbm View Post
                                      fwiw, i think "trick" and "circus" have different meanings....

                                      altho now that i am trying to write down why i feel that way - i cant articulate it!

                                      i will say that trick/circus usually denote horses not trained in the classical manner of progressive and athletic development of the whole horse to create a riding horse that is a joy to ride......

                                      usually circus/trick is for the audience - not the horse.... whatever means will produce the desired results will be used.....

                                      which isnt to say they aren't masters of circus training - there are....but it is different that pure dressage training which is done purely for the development of the horse.
                                      Good job, mbm. Thomas Ritter has a good article explaining the difference between a "trick" and a "movement" in dressage. http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/means.html

                                      A quote from the longer article: "If someone treats a movement as an end in itself and teaches it to the horse without the necessary preparation and without any analysis of its effect on the horse’s posture and gait under saddle, then the movement becomes a mere circus trick that has no value for the horse’s physical and mental development. The old German and Austrian riders used to refer to this contemptuously as “Pudeldressur” – poodle dressage, a “stupid pet trick”, so to speak."
                                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                                      Comment


                                      • re: pony turning themselves inside out for treats... this is what my Connemara used to do when we first backed him. The issue was that he did not understand what produced the food.

                                        So i have tried to be very careful about when i give a food reward and relate it to some action on his part.

                                        Once he understood the connection (ie he gets a piece of carrot or a mint after i get on, or he gets a mint after opening wide for the bit, etc) he stopped turning himself inside out.

                                        he can still be a land shark so i am very careful with food... and so far the benefits out weight the drawbacks.... however i only use them in certain circumstances... with a different horse I might do it differently.

                                        Comment


                                        • Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                                          Good job, mbm. Thomas Ritter has a good article explaining the difference between a "trick" and a "movement" in dressage. http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/means.html

                                          A quote from the longer article: "If someone treats a movement as an end in itself and teaches it to the horse without the necessary preparation and without any analysis of its effect on the horse’s posture and gait under saddle, then the movement becomes a mere circus trick that has no value for the horse’s physical and mental development. The old German and Austrian riders used to refer to this contemptuously as “Pudeldressur” – poodle dressage, a “stupid pet trick”, so to speak."
                                          Well, at least that gives some credence to what I have been trying to say.

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