Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do you hand feed your horse?

I want to put a question to anyone who reads this and I really hope to get some responses. ( Of course someone would have to read it first)        Is it okay to hand feed your horse?  

Here is the story behind this question. 
We were in AZ looking at houses to buy and we were at boarding stable that was up for sale. (yes that is my dream job right there!)  A gentleman there who was the "trainer on sight" was giving us his life story and credentials and told a story about how a lady wanted to give his horse a treat.  He told her in no uncertain terms "No", which of course is his perogative, and went on to explain that his reasons were because hand feeding horses makes them disrespecful.

I am wondering how many other people feel the same way?  

I personally watch alot of Dennis Reis video's and am a big advocate of the "I can touch you but you can't touch me" rule.  All my horses are trained to walk on a loose lead rope, and know to keep a fair distance between us, and to watch me closely incase I stop.  If I stop they stop.  If I back up so do they.   I also hand feed my horses every day.  Everytime I feed they are waiting for me with my bucket of hay cubes.  Every body gets one from my hand.  They wait patiently for their turn, and they do not push on me.  They also get treats after a long ride, especially if they have done very well.   They do not get treats as a bribe to be good. 

Sometimes, Danny gets impatient for his grain.  (He is the only one who gets any) he paws at the ground and sometimes gets a little pushy.  I don't like it when he does that, so we have a new exersize we do.  When he gets pushy I put the grain in his dish and then I stand in front of it.  He tries to go around me, and I step in his way.  When, and only when, he stand patiently without pushing and without pawing, then I will step out of the way and let him eat.   He has to respect me and my space and my rules.

I would really like to hear about your horse and your opinion on hand feeding.


  1. Hey Cindy - It's MeridethinWyoming. We ain't too far apart. HorsePatch, Wyoming is 60 miles north of where you live! Email me at!

  2. Some treats tend to make a horse 'more' pushy than other I think. Sugar cubes are certain to cause nipping. My DIL calls the pellet treats like at Murdoch's - horse crack! Ha - we had one gelding who was a literal crackhead. On the homestead, grain (usually COB) is the preferred 'treat' and yeah, we feed it by hand sometimes.

  3. I like the carrot flavored ones, and yeah the ponies love them for sure. But they also like fresh carrots, and apples.

  4. I do not generally hand feed my horses, mostly because I don't usually use food as a reward. Not for any specific reason, I just never remember to put treats in my pockets! I use a scratch on the whither and my voice as a reward, because I always have those with me ;). I will give a sugar cube (or hard candy) after bitting to help a horse relax his jaw and encourage him to work the bit in his mouth if the horse has an issue with bitting.

    Although, after a hot day's ride, I do share my beer with my horse. I suppose that counts as hand feeding and giving treats. He's never been pushy with me about it, but he did once reach over a gate to grab a beer out of a friend of mine's hand!

    1. "Wither", not whither... darned homonyms!

  5. whither, wither, whether, weather....I knew what you meant.
    I am not sure if beer counts as hand feeding or not?

    I guess I should clarify, when I say I give treats as a reward, I mean more like this...been on a long ride, and back at the trailer un-tacking, one the headstall and saddle are off, while I am brushing and picking and such, that is when they get their rewards.
    During training, the only reward they get is turning off the pressure.
    Once in a while just out in the pasture, is when they might get a carrot.
    Thank you for responding it is good to hear others opinions.

  6. I think that hand feeding horses has to do with training, and personality.

    For instance, any horse is going to get nippy if you let them. Just like any horse can get pushy if you let them! If you establish boundaries, you shouldn't have a problem hand feeding!

    However, I do know that there are some horses that I would never hand feed, simply because they have the type of personality that they will undress you to get another treat, or that they will get very nippy. I think its important to know the difference between your horses natural personality, and what you have let them know is ok!