So rewards can come in different forms, including scratches in just the right place, and simple praise. Food can be used too, just like you might make your child their favorite meal for their birthday, but you wouldn't give them candy every time they get a good grade, or pick up their room.
I think this comparison is a bit of a stretch because humans have the capacity to understand "obligation" and "responsibility", whereas horses do not. A horse will never be intrinsically motivated to "please" you, just like you never take it personal when the horse is acting like a doofus. If the horse gets corrected every.single.time.he makes a mistake, how is it problematic to reward him every single time he goes out of his way to do the right thing?
In general, take some of the arguments against rewards, and flip them into arguments against corrections.
"Giving treats turns them into monsters!" - "Correcting them traumatizes them!"
"They should earn their treats by working hard!" - "They should really have to mess up before you apply any kind of correction!"
"Expecting treats may give them an eating disorder!" - "Expecting corrections may make them neurotic!"
I use treats that the horse considers "food slightly upgraded from hay": When we get to the barn, I bite two or three carrots into 2-3 cm pieces and put them in my pocket. Moreover, he really likes his mane and tail supplement, so that serves as treat as well. He would get it anyway, only now I'm giving it to him in smaller amounts more frequently for figuring out what I want him to do when we do ground work. Since horses don't have a sense of quantity, he gets to enjoy his little morsels over a half hour or so instead of the entire portion at once. In the process, I get to interact with him, and he gets a change of pace from the not-so-exciting life on the frozen pasture. The thing is: He knows that I have treats, and I know that he knows. The one thing that doesn't
get him a treat is begging for them.
Yes, horses like cookies, but I think from a nutritional point of view, they are ill suited to be used in training, because you want to reward frequently. If, on the other hand, they live on the same hay all day every day, any change of pace in this nutritional tedium is a welcome reward for the horse, even the grain they'd be getting anyway.
You wouldn't tie your child's getting anything
but broccoli and tofu to whether he cleaned his room, would you? Wouldn't you give him a little more
dessert as reward for doing a good job with his chore, though? How do you imagine the child feels, knowing that you noticed
the room is cleaned and the effort is appreciated by you? Do you think it would create more or less motivation for future room cleaning?
My horse gets his first piece of carrot as soon as the halter is fastened. How hard do you think he's to catch when I approach him with halter and lead rope? Yes, it's his job to get caught and go to work, but he neither knows nor cares. What he does know is that I'll appreciate his sticking his nose into that halter.
As for the "strength of the bond" argument - well, unless you do a placebo-controlled study with two groups of randomly selected horses, we won't know whether that assertion is true. Most people don't have enough horses to play the numbers on this.
So in summary:
- Pay attention to the nutritional content of the treat.
- Whatever the horse likes to eat can be used as treat, even if he's entitled to it anyway based on this nutritional regime.
- Just pay attention not to inadvertently reinforce undesired behavior. That doesn't just apply to actually forking over the treat, but also to inadvertently yielding your space when the horse comes in to see what you've got.
- Horses have much more fun trying to figure out what you want them to do to get a treat than trying to figure out how to get out of the pressure you put on. (I'm not seeing how this can be detrimental to "creating a bond.")
- To solidify the desired, newly learned behavior, wean them off the treats by first treating intermittently: skip a few treats, then only treats every other time, every third time, then even more rarely, etc. Every gambler knows that intermittent
rewards are the most powerful.