Only for the treats?
He only does it for the treats. He only does it because he knows he will have a treat. He only does it because he has been taught to do so. He is only doing it to please you.
Just a few days ago I had a lovely experience with Alvaro who by himself went to a stool I had placed in the arena, parked by it and allowed my to climb onto his back. I was over the moon due to this experience and of course I choose to share it online as I do with so many things. I had loads of amazing respones from kind people who wanted to share my joy and happiness from this moment of beauty. Yet there always has to be someone who needs to ruin the good atmosphere with their ‘wisdom’ and that made me wonder… Why is it that we think so low of our horses? Isn’t there any chance that our horses actually can take a decision for themselves whether they want to do something or not?
What some of the people claimed was that he only did what he did to get a treat. That he only did it because he had been taught to do it. Yet what neither of these persons seemed to acknowledge was the fact that ‘yes, he knows how to park by the stool, but he always knows that he can go a few steps away afterwards to avoid me climbing onto his back’. The importance of this fact is that just because he knows he can receive treats, it doesn’t mean that he will necessarily do whatever it takes to get it. If the horse does not want to participate in what it takes to get the treat then he CAN SAY NO EVEN THOUGH HE KNOWS IT WOULD HAVE GOTTEN HIM A TREAT!
Maybe some of you have experience or seen a horse who refused to park by a stool and thereby allow its rider to get onboard? Isn’t it very likely that this same horse knew he would get a treat from parking by the stool, but yet refused because it didn’t wanted to be ridden? Isn’t it likely that this same horse knows that if he parks by the stool, he will have a rider on his back and maybe be asked to do something he doesn’t want to?
I don’t think that is too much faith to have in a horse. Not at all actually. Of course treats are a good motivator for a horse and that is obviously why so many people use them. Either way I think it is time to also accept the fact that horses actually can make a choice of their own when they are with their humans – treats or not. They are able to know that one thing might lead to another and say ‘no thank you’ if they doesn’t like the outcome of what they are asked to.
That is exactly what Alvaro does when he comes to collect his treat by the stool and then moves into ‘safety’ to let me know that riding is not an option on this particular day. He acts that way even though he KNOWS that he would in theory receive one more treat when I got onboard as well, but he would rather tell me to stay away from his back than to get his treat. This is one of the reasons why I believe that horses does not always only do it for the treats. This is one of the reasons why I think people should stop thinking so low of their horses.
Horses are brilliant and they are wise, but we tend to compromise them into animals who does not have a thought of their own and only do whatever they do to earn treats. Also I believe that our horses can offer or perform things simply from making them feel good. It will always be a bonus that a treat is given, but I really believe in my heart that they also do some of the things they do because they like it or feel good about it. Either because it makes their body feel nice or because they share the joy with their human companion.