Using treats as a means of positive reinforcement during training. I am all for it, but I have been struggling with it myself. Even having had good training in how to use treats properly as a positive reinforcement during training and seeing the results did not warm me to the concept. Working with horses of clients who would “search” for treats actively and single minded did not help me revise my point of view.
But I decided I needed this to get to a horse who is very locked up in his world. We have been working together for two years now. He has become far more balanced and supple and stronger than he ever was. No more on and of unsoundness, no more consistent gut issues. His mind on the other hand is still stuck in NO and there is no forward thinking, no curiosity. This is making a true connection really hard. A little example would be having him tacked up in the stable. When I want to go out of the stable with him I still need to physically give a tug on the reins … it is so sad.
So after putting in all the work to get him moving freely and balanced he just does not go for it!
Working with treats as positive reinforcement to get his mind searching and looking to me will help me get the connection that is still lacking. BUT because of his years of gut issues and deprivation of essential nutrients he is very into food – as he will go and get it himself. The first stage of the training will be me having treats on me and him not digging them out of me. Softly explaining the new rules because I know where he is coming from. Sometimes asking to take a step and rewarding with a YES and a treat I give to him, away from my pockets and body. Also rewarding if he starts exploring softly by scratching, kissing and listening to him. Putting his mind at rest. Taking an interest in me and exploring is good and will get my attention and my love. Responding, even with just a little try, to an ask will get him a treat. But if he just goes for a treat, ignoring my boundaries that is not acceptable. I think after two weeks we have got this first stage in really nicely.
Phase two is to weave it into the training. Not as the single way of asking, but as a way of rewarding. I want his attention so we can build up our connection. I would love to see him exploring and offering actions. So I will friendly ignore anything he comes up with that I do not want. No punishment, no reprimanding words basically no negative reaction what so ever.
The coming months we will explore lateral movement from the ground. A course given by Lucie Klaassen (https://trueconnection.lucieklaassen.com). Laying down groundwork for working in liberty is on my mind. For that having a horse that still only thinks of how to get away is not working. Getting him interested and engaged with me, having a true connection is essential. That’s why in this particular case I am introducing working with treats. A learning experience for me and for the horse.