Whether you want to round off a successful training session or to confirm a behavior and encourage it: Treats are used quite often in horse training. But do you actually know how to properly praise? And which little bites are really suitable? You can read here why homemade horse treats might be a good idea and what you generally need to look out for when it comes to ingredients!
Treats as a Reward: Always a Good Idea?
Whether you make horse treats yourself, have a purchased variant on hand, or give a piece of apple: Most horse owners use these in one form or the other. But does that really make sense? And what behavior should really be rewarded? Is there something like too many treats? We clarify!
Advantages and Disadvantages of Horse Treats
The principle of a treat is probably known to everyone. There is a “well done,” a “super” and a “that’s the way it is right.” So give a signal and your horse will act according to your expectations and it will be rewarded. The small snack in between enables particularly easy and clear communication. After all, it’s tasty and something to work for.
Sounds good so far? Then what speaks against this form of praise? Actually, it mainly depends on the horse’s mood. Because some animals simply tend to become blind to food. Exercise with them, pulling off every trick they can do in a row just to get a treat. Often there is either not the right answer to the command or it cannot be rewarded in a targeted manner.
It becomes even more extreme when the horses start constantly searching for the rewards. You nibble on your pockets, eat almost your entire hand and become restless. That is not the purpose of positive reinforcement. In such cases, voice and affection are often better. Appropriate politeness training and the right treat can also make a difference.
Use Feed Praise Correctly
If you are just starting out with your training, it is above all a process of getting to know each other. Watch your horse carefully: How does it react when you offer a treat? Which varieties does it like to eat, which ones are viewed rather frowned upon? It is best to choose a variant that tastes good but does not make it restless and over-focused on the food. If the four-legged friend snaps at your hand, you can also give the reward from a bowl or directly on the floor.
Have you established an initial relationship and explained to your pet what the treat is about – namely a reward that it can only expect after a successful action? Then you just have to use them in a targeted manner. Sounds easy? Unfortunately, this step often fails. Because the right time is crucial so that the connection between the behavior and the praise becomes clear.
Specifically, this means: Do not give random treats in between, but really only to reinforce the desired behavior. Also, pay attention to the quantity – too many small snacks cram up and lose their appeal over time. Are you devoting yourself to a particularly complex lesson or are you working on clicker training? Then take advantage of smaller rewards. In this case, it can definitely be interesting to try the homemade treat.
Horse Treats: What to Look Out For
They are in almost every stable, can be found in every pet shop, and are usually given in pellet form. But not only those products that are directly identified as horse treats are suitable as a reward. On the contrary, some of these ready-made varieties are not all that good for your horse because they contain too much sugar. This means that the animals often like to feed them, but an excess can put a strain on the organism. You will notice this in the long term, especially on your teeth and hooves, but also on your weight.
Therefore, on the one hand, make sure to adjust the feed ration accordingly when working with this form of praise. Calculate roughly how many treats you give a day and calculate them out of the mineral feed accordingly. Also, take a close look at the list of ingredients: Sugar and starch content should be low. Artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives do not belong in the rewards.
Unsure which species are really good? Then it is definitely worth making horse treats yourself. Do you not necessarily have the time and/or experience for this either? Then resort to fruits and vegetables. Apples, pears, bananas, carrots, beetroot, watermelon, and celery can be used as a reward. But only in moderation, please, because they also contain a lot of glucose, i.e. fructose that can attack the teeth.
How Do You Make Horse Treats Yourself?
Do you want to determine what is included in the reward and how big the portions are? Then, for better or worse, you will not be able to avoid making horse treats yourself. So you can determine yourself and individualize your rewards. However, there are a few things to consider when baking – we will explain!
What is Allowed in the Homemade Horse Treats?
First of all, let’s take a look at the list of ingredients. Because a lot can go wrong with the selection of these. In general: Always use high-quality products. Because the horse is not a garbage can. Fruit, vegetables, and herbs should therefore be fresh or well dried. Mold, rot, and bad spots are an absolute no-go.
We also recommend using organic quality ingredients. Here you have to worry less about pesticides, fertilizers, and preservatives. Ideally, of course, these come from our own cultivation – but of course, that is not a must. We have listed a small selection of ingredients that are generally welcome in small bites:
- Grains: e.g. oat flakes, millet, amaranth, and flaxseed
- Fruit: e.g. apple, banana, and pear
- Herbs: e.g. nettle, rosemary, peppermint, ribwort, and dandelion
- Other ingredients: rosehip, ginger, garlic, birch leaves
While these ingredients can certainly be used in making horse delicacies yourself, there are also some that have no place in them. These are large amounts of sugar – whether pure, in the form of honey or syrup. Glutinous proteins from types of flour containing gluten, such as wheat, should also be avoided. Preservatives, colors, and artificial flavors are another no-go.
Make Horse Treats Yourself: This is How It Works
Making horse treats yourself is actually a simple task. Because the basic recipe only consists of water and oat flakes. Take as much of the grain as you like and mix it with some liquid – the result should be a very dry batter. Shape it into balls or roll it out thinly and cut bars into shape. Now bake for about an hour at 100 ° C and then let it air out for a day.
Does the recipe still sound very boring or will the little bites not be accepted by your pet? No problem, because that’s the great thing about making horse delicacies yourself: They can be refined as desired. For example, you can use some (unsweetened!) Carrot or banana juice instead of the water. Applesauce – also without additional sugar – is also suitable. Or you can brew a tea from fresh herbs and use it as a liquid.
You can also add herbs, dried fruits and vegetables, and all the other ingredients listed above to the dough as you wish. It is best to use a maximum of three different flavors, otherwise, the taste will be completely lost. Test yourself and just let your horse taste once – this is sure to find the perfect reward!
Tips and Tricks for Horse Treats
Once you have mastered the basic recipe, you can adapt it accordingly. Just try our list of ingredients and find the perfect composition for your darling. Add a few herbs or vary the fruits, vegetables, and grains. If you make horse treats yourself, you can also adapt them to your animal or the season. So it is worthwhile to use some nettle for detoxification in the spring, use peppermint for coughs and ginger can support the metabolism.
By the way: If you make horse treats yourself, they won’t keep for too long. This is simply because you are not using any preservatives in the process. As a rule, they should be fed within a week. Meanwhile, store them in a cool, dry place. In addition, always bake only small portions. On the one hand, nothing goes bad, on the other hand, you can always add a bit of variety to the bites.
Make or Buy Horse Treats Yourself?
Even if the homemade horse treats are not difficult to repeat every week, it takes time. As nice as the individual snack is, sometimes the purchased version is also a good alternative – especially if you pay attention to the list of ingredients. Be careful to choose healthy variants, nothing speaks against them. Here, too, there is now a gigantic selection of flavors and areas of application. So you can adapt the small bites to your horse, the season, or the current situation.