Oberon LOVES his treats. He takes them from our hands gingerly (they don't usually fall on the dirt like above). My daughters and I love the cute look he gets in his eye and he obviously enjoys the apples and carrots we bring him. I mix it up as to when we give them to him. It might be when we get him from the field or dry-paddock, or after a great effort during ground work, and maybe after a day's ride. But I have wondered lately, if he is approaching us from the field BECAUSE he is hoping for a treat. I noticed he is sniffing and looking and once my daughters said they felt a slight nip at their pockets. Hmm.. I don't like that.
It's not as if they don't often nibble on good grass all day and when they don't, they get grain and plenty of hay. I would say they are plenty filled out for the winter ahead.
I have read extensively on this topic and realize people's approaches are across the board and obviously depends upon their horse. But let's say we have "average" horses. What is the best way to approach this. These are my thoughts:
1) Don't feed the treat by hand anymore. Put it into a feeding dish or bucket.
2) Rewarding a horse with food during training sets up the head and body rubs and "good boy!" to be a bit disappointing. It also distracts them every time I approach as they can smell the food on me. I don't want a pocket robber and a nipper... or worse, a biter.
3) Give the treats to them after the day's ride. What I'm trying to decide is should I do it every time? I notice my horse looks toward the tack room door after every ride (the treats are kept in the refrigerator). Are we not ending the day on a "bad" note if we leave in our horses mind that he didn't get his "snack"?
When I see my horse approaching me from afar, I want to KNOW it isn't primarily for an immediate snack, but to see me. And that takes bonding and time, I know. Sebastian, above, was approaching me quickly as he saw me giving an apple to Oberon, and this is not what I'm after.
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Ever wondered how to figure out if your horse is fat? Or too skinny? I found this helpful video link at the blog: "New Horse Owners". If you watch it, did you find it helpful?
The Horse | What's Your Horse's Body Condition Score? (video)