Or hugging a horse.
One of those two.
Photo's in this post by Sarah
But really it's just your horse squashing you with it's head and neck. Or maybe like Indigo they are wanting to smell you all over and investigate what you are all about. Not really affection.
It makes you feel good anyway.
Indigo has always been a really touchy-feely horse. Shes gotta have her nose sniffing all over, licking your shirt and pants and turning her head around to see what you are doing. Last week she surprised me by reaching all the way around and squishing me with her neck. I was at her withers and she sandwiched me for a second before she realized the bug she wanted to bite was out of her reach due to me standing in the way. I moved, she shooed it off her side.
This got me thinking about all sorts of new things I would like to teach her.
I love to feed horses treats, who doesn't?
I do not want to feed horses treats without a purpose because they will indeed become grabby and risk starting the habit of biting.By giving a treat for an asked behaviour (emphasis on the asked part) I have yet to create a nippy horse. The key here is to reward when you ask not when the horse offers a behaviour. I can have a whole huge carrot or handful of horse treats in my hands wile around Indigo and she will not take it or even touch it. She does however beg like mad.
Indigo is a very smart, quick learning, food motivated horse. If theres some sort of morsels involved she will try her darndest to get them from me. This usually starts with her first walking forward a step or two, then she curls her lip up in a flehmen response or "smile" as she has been conditioned to respond to. Then she will turn her head to the left, look back at me, smile again, back up a few steps, hold up her leg to see if I want to shake and probably add a few more smiles in there just for good measure. She goes through a whole routine before standing still and waiting to see what I REALLY want her to do. After a horse knows a trick I never, ever, ever reward a horse for a trick that has been offered without me asking first. This is begging and I look at it like the kid that cleans the whole house and demands double allowance without being asked to do so. Sure it's apreceated but you need to look at how you give your horse treats like how you would give allowance to a kid. Every treat is a dollar. I only reward when I ask for a behaviour the horse knows and get it. This right here is the key to preventing a nippy horse.
Back to Indigo. She learns so fast when it comes to using positive reinforcement I taught her how to give hugs with the cue of me wrapping both arms around her neck and hugging. First I lured her with a treat then conditioned it with the squeeze of my arms around her neck. Of course she tried to cheat and turned her head around when I did not hug her neck and she got nothing out of it but my elbow to block her from actually doing the behaviour because I did not ask for it. She learned this so quickly and very willingly she does it perfectly every time just like her other tricks. Shes a smart cookie.
This brings us to the sort of hiatus Science VS tradition posts. Look in the next couple days for a post on positive and negative reinforcement in horse training. I have used both and have come to some interesting conclusions. For other posts on scientific views of horsekeeping and horsemanship type "science vs tradition" into the blog search bar.
So to get this topic going why do you treat your horses, when, what kind and where (ground or on their back etc)? Do you treat them immediately after they have done something good? Just for the heck of it? Or because if you don't they will bowl you down in the paddock demanding treats? I want to know, it gives me good blog fodder for the next science vs traiditon post on reinforcements.