I used to think it was okay to feed treats. Then one of our horses got pushy and dangerous and I read that feeding treats could encourage that behavior so we stopped feeding treats.
Recently, I read about Clicker Training. I got clickers and a good book and started the training. In the training, immediately after getting the horse to associate the sound of the click with a good thing, you start training the horse to "be a good citizen." At the beginning, the horse is in the stall behind a stall guard. This allows you to step back out of reach if he gets too pushy. I have been rewarding him for looking forward and standing stll, attentive, and also backing out if my space. You ignore the seeking behaviors. You always give the treat in the place you want your horses head to be, away from your body. If the horse is rough taking treats, you close your hand, wait a few seconds for a "time out" and make him try again until he is calm and gentle.
I am pleased so far with the results. My horses are learning self control and respect for me, some faster than others. They seem to enjoy the training very much. One mare who lacked confidence seems to be growing more confident. Another who is usually grumpy is learning to look forward with her ears up, and enjoying her training.
I would say, however, that I am being very cautious and careful. I must be very attentive to details and procedures. I am only working at liberty with the horses who have learned how to be good citizens. If you feed treats, you must be very careful and I wouldn't let anyone else do it without me training them on procedures and rules.
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