"Nothing" is as Good as a Carrot
Updated: Feb 16, 2020
I am often asked if I use treats as a reward when training horses. Although I am not against giving treats, I have been able to train behaviors effectively without them. The sequence is: I communicate by giving a cue, followed by the initiation of “noise” (smooching, waving an object, etc.) to motivate the try, followed by the removal of “noise” the instant there’s an approximation of the desired behavior. That removal of “noise” creates a sweet spot. In that sweet spot, there is no need to do anything to motivate them; they are already doing the thing you want. In this way, NOTHING is the reward—and NOTHING is as good as a carrot. Through repetition they learn what different cues mean and what behaviors will result in no noise, and they begin to seek it. They begin to seek the invisible carrot; they begin to seek NOTHING.
Be safe and enjoy!