As I jogged up the path from the ring to the barn so I could get the treats I forgot (scandal!), I realized that there is one area where Theo and I are well educated and can make a strong recommendation: treats. My positive reinforcement pony goes through a lot of treats.
So here they are, all of the cookies Theo has seen fit to try in no coherent order.
Applezz N' Oats
I have a weak spot for any treat the comes in a jug. I got these at the local consignment shop for cheap based entirely on the fact that they came in a big jug. Theo is pretty ho hum on these. I tried them and they're really not strongly flavored. They're fine, but not something that's really going to get a horse's attention.
PS of Sweden Clicker Candy
Flavor wise, Theo is a fan. They smell really nice. Downside is that they're very small. Yes, small treats are good for clicker training, but these are small enough to make feeding them to my horse a bit complicated. I got a little pinch from him trying to find the tiny, flat treat on my hand. Forget handling them in gloves. But we discovered they were magic for getting Miss Thang to eat at away shows, so they're clearly very tasty. I got my bag for free with an order and we happily used them up, but Theo needed three or four at a time to get anywhere.
The German Horse Muffins
These are called the crack cookies at the barn because we have seen pupils dilate when this bag comes out. Even horses that aren't treat motivated suddenly turn into beggars with these things. I have no idea why. They're a fairly standard muffin style treat, lots of molasses and oats, but the horses lose their minds over these. Theo can get hard to handle if these are out, so I don't use them for training. These are his good night turn out cookies ONLY. He gets one when he gets turned out and he prances to his pasture, trying to fit his nose in my pocket. You have been warned, horses find these ridiculously addictive. These are Theo's favorites, hands down.
I grabbed a handful of these from another rider at a show. They are the closest I've gotten to Theo refusing something. He looked rather disappointed when he started chewing on them. Healthy? Maybe, but certainly not motivating for Theo. Can't recommend these. If Theo is turning his nose up, they can't be that good.
Mana Pro Nuggets
These are my go to treats for training and riding. They're a great size for pockets, are rock hard, and have a strong enough flavor that Theo has not yet gotten bored of them. They're also cheap which is important with the number I go through. Downside, they're dyed so Theo's drool turns interesting colors. Since he prefers the apple flavored, his drool is usually red. Not for show use! But at home, these are what I stuff in my pockets and clean out of my dryer. Our standard treat for day to day use. The apple ones give Theo licorice breath, it's kind of weird.
These are the leaser's go to treats. She doesn't treat much from the saddle, so she doesn't carry nearly as many treats as I do. These are bigger which Theo appreciates. It takes him a little longer to woof one of these down. He likes them about the same as the Mana Pro, they're just slower for him to eat and much messier in my pockets (or his leaser's bra when she doesn't have pockets, that lady is very committed to keeping him happy).
These are close to the crack cookies, but not quite. They're missing something and that takes his reaction from obsession to very interested. They're a great treat, but the same problems as any muffin style treat. It's a big mouthful and you can't stick them in your pockets. They're good for a bed time treat, but not good for any kind of training.
Another one I got for the jug the first time. These are about equivalent to the Mana Pros in terms of size and Theo's interest in them. They have two advantages, though. One, they make his breath smell fantastic. Two, they are slightly softer and I can break them in half, making my treats stretch further. My local shops don't carry them or they'd probably take the place of Mana Pro treats on a day to day basis. They're slightly softer so messier in my pockets, but it's nice to be able to make the exact size I want.
These are on the expensive side for treats, but entirely worth it for show days. Rock hard, about the size of a quarter, melt almost as fast as a sugar cube in Theo's mouth, and no dyes to make his spit look alarming. They're also delicious in Theo's opinion. He will try to turn himself inside out for the ginger flavored ones. The marshmallow flavor was Fiona's favorite cookie. The strong flavored ones are hit and miss for different horses (many didn't like the marshmallow), but their base flavor is well loved by every horse I've tried. They also have an insulin resistant recipe. I keep a big bag of these on hand for show days. They're too expensive for every day use, but are otherwise perfect for training. Find the right flavor and horses suddenly get very motivated.