I have no problem admitting that I spoil my horses. Besides raining praise down on them when they are doing the right thing, I also like to give them treats to reward good behavior. I also do think that treats can strengthen your relationship with a horse, helping them to view you as a source of pleasure rather than strictly work.
I have a personal no-peppermint, no-sweeties rule when it comes to treats. My own experience has been that sugary rewards turn polite horses into treat hounds, rudely searching pockets and fingers and sometimes even pushing a human over looking for a minty morsel (which some days, I get it- cravings are real, yo).
Instead I try to buy treats with more natural flavors, like carrot or apple or oats. The reward is still there, but the rooting and shoving tendencies are less so. A friend gave me these low-sugar, apple based treats as a yay-new-pony gift and both Smitty and I liked them so much (him for the taste, me for the texture) I ordered more all the way from Florida.
Even with the low sugar rule, I have to be careful about how I reward the babysaurus. With his incredibly mouthy tendencies, I can’t just stuff cookies in his mouth anytime. Typically, he gets a treat for standing still while I mount, and occasionally when I turn him out [if he’s behaved that day]. It’s meant I’ve had to learn some self restraint from the days of hello-cookies, washbay-cookies, goodbye-cookies, and well, you get the jist. But slowly, Smitty is starting to understand when he gets a treat and more glacially, when things do and do not go in his mouth.
One day I hope that he will grow out of this orally-obsessed phase and I can start to treat him and reward with food more often, but for now I have to be the restrained Scrooge of treats, stowing them away out of sight until he’s adult enough to earn them.
Do you have any treat preferences? Any rules about when ponykins gets a treat, or is your barn a reward free for all?