I use treats to reward (and yes, I am not above bribery) my horses during training. Gabe's favorite treat are peppermints ( buy him sugar-free peppermints. No need to rot his teeth out!) When he first came to live with us he was quite rude about his treats: Pushy and demanding and had zero respect for my personal space. The other two are very polite about it because I refuse to have a rude horse. Period. Ever.
Gabe still comes running when he hears the peppermint wrapper crinkling, but he now respects my space and waits patiently for his treat. No pushiness, no crowding. He knows it's coming but he has learned that if he doesn't stand back and wait for me to offer, he doesn't get it. He also doesn't get it if he is nippy. He must take it gently and slowly from my hand, no teeth allowed. I had to do the same "rehabilitation" with him for feeding time. He came to us pushy and rude and even charged me from behind a few times while I was walking out to dump his grain in his feed tub. He learned quickly that if he didn't walk quietly beside me (no stealing bites from the bucket) or stand waiting patiently at his feed tub, I left and fed everyone else on the farm before he got his. The other two have also learned this and stand waiting at their feed tubs and won't put their heads in to eat until I empty my bucket and step away. Then, and only then, are they allowed to begin eating. I think this insistence of food politeness on my part has also translated to food politeness to each other. Chief and Calypso eat in the same paddock and there is never an issue of fighting over the feed. I have to feed Gabe separately because he's a super slow eater and would probably never be able to finish his meal if he was fed in the company of others. He likes to take a bite or two...walk around the paddock, come back to take another bite, walk around a little more. Eat some hay. Eat some more grain. Wander on over to the water tank for a sip and head back to the ground. He takes a good half an hour to finish about a pound and a half of pelleted feed and oats.
I know there are quite a few horse people who think treats are the devil and won't give their horses treats at any time, some won't give treats any where but in the feed tub. I guess I can kind of understand why some won't, especially if they have a rude horse, but I've never come across one that can't be rehabilitated to be "treat polite."
My horses appreciate a pat and a "good job!" when they've done something right, but the treat gives a little extra incentive, I think. And it makes me feel good about rewarding them with a little bit extra. I occasionally give treats from the saddle for a job extra well done and to encourage lateral flexion. Calypso especially benefits from the treat-inspired lateral flexions because she is so stiff through her neck and shoulder and quite hesitant to just bend her neck without moving her whole body.
Thoughts on treats? Does any one not give treats? Why or why not?