Can I use food to train my horse or is it considered a bribe?

Can I use food to train my horse or is it considered a bribe?

Can I use food to train my horse or is it considered a bribe?

Food is a primary reinforcer. By which I mean it’s something that horses require to survive. Other primary reinforcers are things like water, sleep and safety. While it would be rather unethical to use sleep or safety as a reinforcer, food is a very valuable tool when working with your horse.

Adding food into your training plan is best done with positive reinforcement. “But isn’t that just bribery? I want my horse to work for ME!” No living animal is intrinsically motivated by a desire to please us. 

Like dogs, the horse’s brain also learns mainly by ‘association’ – linking an action to a consequence. So, success with food treats, such as a yummy apple or tasty sugar cube, depends on exactly what your horse is doing at that moment, and on which behaviours you want to encourage.

Providing the right food rewards at the right time, and only for behaviour you want to encourage, is a positive way to train your galloping friend.

For more questions, please contact Madi Holmes @ PPGA

 

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