The Large Plush Horse and Training Horses with Sweets

You would be hard pressed to find a child that has not asked to have a horse or pony as a pet. With the enormous costs associated with keeping a horse, however, the reality is, the child will likely have to settle for a large plush horse instead. As far as toys go, a child could do much worse than having a large plush horse – some of them are so lifelike in fact, they won’t ever feel like they have missed out on having the real thing.

In 2008, a study was conducted on twelve, two year old quarter horses, to determine whether or not training them when they were fed sweet food, made any difference in the animal. The horses wore pedometers, wristwatch-heart monitors hanging from their saddles, and Ace bandages attached to their left front leg above the knee so as to measure heart rate and the number of steps the horses took while being trained.

The study, conducted by Montana State University, found that horses fed a mix of corn, oats, barley, and molasses (called “sweet grain” or “sweet feed”) disobeyed more and were more fearful as compared to horses fed only hay. Horses that ate the grain mixed food, resisted the saddle more, startled easier, and bucked and ran more while in training. While early training of horses usually lasts just 30 days, trainers are under time constraints to give young horses the foundation they need to go on to more advanced training. As is the case, so as to maximize the time spent training, the study suggests that trainers may want to refrain from feeding horses a diet that will increase their energy.

For the study, horse trainer Wade Black, trained the animals five days a week for a period of three weeks. Half the horses being trained were only given hay to eat which was a mixture of alfalfa and grass. The other horses, were not only given hay daily, but also five pounds of sweet grain. Both groups of horses ate as much hay and drank as much water as they wanted. During the 30 to 40 minute a day training sessions, Black had no idea which horse had eaten grain and which had only eaten hay. Along with the recording of heart rate and the number of steps the horses took, the study also measured get-up-and-go, obedience, and separation anxiety. According to animal nutritionist Jan Bowman, when separated from the herd, the horses that had been eating both grain and hay were more upset than the horses that had been eating only hay. They were also more lively, whinnied more and were less submissive.

As Bowman pointed out “we don’t want to give the impression that you should starve the horses in order to enhance their good behavior – that’s not the point of it. But, you might want to consider withholding [grain] it during the early weeks of training.”

Amongst other things, a large plush horse won’t require training of any kind, nor will there be a ‘worry’ about what kind of food it should or shouldn’t eat. A large plush horse, will however, require as much love and attention you can possibly shower on it for as long as you own it.

large plush horse

large plush horse

Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


Shelley Vassall is a writer an collector of the large plush horse

large plush horse

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