Treats for horses - an overview

The use of treats as rewards for horses is a controversial topic among horse owners. While some horse owners swear by this method, there are others who are strictly against it. Still, the market for horse rewards is huge, and there are tons of different products that serve as supplements to natural treats like carrots. But which treats are useful? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of horse treats?

The absolute classic among the rewards are sugar cubes. However, they are not the optimal choice. Sugar cubes can lead to tartar formation, while tooth decay plays a minor role in horses. Therefore, molasses-free rewards should be preferred.

There are a few important things to consider when purchasing and administering industrially produced horse treats:

  1. Energy content: Treats contain energy, so feeding them should be in moderation.

  2. Additional substances: Many commercial treats are enriched with additional substances such as minerals. If such substances are already fed separately, the amount must be adjusted accordingly.

  3. Shelf life and transportation: Dried fruit treats have a longer shelf life and are easy to transport, making them a practical choice.

Natural rewards in the form of fruits and vegetables are a healthy alternative. They contain many vitamins and minerals that contribute to the horse's health.

Bread is often used as a treat, but care should be taken to only feed dry bread in small quantities as it has a high energy content.

The question of food praise is also controversial. Proponents argue that this motivates horses to learn and makes faster progress. Critics, however, are concerned that horses could beg and become naughty. To prevent unwanted behavior, the following tips can help:

    1. Reward Tone: Use a specific tone of voice to signal to the horse that it deserves a reward. Rewarding should occur immediately after the desired behavior to establish the connection between tone of voice, reward, and correct behavior.

    2. Don't reward naughty behavior: Never give treats to naughty or impudent horses, otherwise they may learn that their bad behavior is rewarded.

    3. Outstretched arm: Always give treats with your arm outstretched and not directly next to the bag containing the treats. This prevents the horse from starting to rummage through the bag.

    4. Clicker Training: Using a clicker has been proven to be an effective method. An immediate click signals to the horse that he is receiving a reward, which leads to conditioning. Even though some horse owners strictly reject food praise, there are situations in which it can be used sensibly. Horses that learn more slowly can be given additional support through targeted food praise. In addition, food praise can serve as special recognition for excellent performance. It can also help calm nervous or stressed horses, as chewing promotes the transition from escape to digestion mode.

      Please note that the use of feed praise should always be done carefully and in appropriate quantities to ensure a balanced diet and appropriate behavior for the horse.