While some people are anti-treats, I personally do not fall into that category. My horses love treats, and I love giving them! If you are like me, your horse is probably more than happy to gobble up whatever you have to offer. Most barn go-ers have their own ideas on what is the best treat. I’ll leave that up for discussion. But, more importantly I want to offer a list of safe and non-safe foods for horses.
Kentucky Equine Research says, “Horses are programmed to eat small amounts of food on a continuous basis, so your horse will ALWAYS want another treat, but for his well-being, learn to say no.”
Safe Treats for Horses
Most fruits and vegetables are safe treats for healthy horses. The traditional treats are apples and carrots. However, for those wanting to mix things up. feel free to add the following to the list:
- cantaloupe or other melons
- snow peas
Horses are usually pretty good about chewing up food before swallowing. However, if they take a large gulp, there is always risk of chocking. So be cautious when feeding and make sure to break into small pieces. Sugar cubes and peppermints are also fairly common treats to give.
What is not safe for Horses to eat?
- Brussels sprouts
- and any other food that tends to produce intestinal gas or belongs to the nightshade family.
Some horses like chocolate and a small piece won’t hurt anything, but avoid it if your horse competes in events where drug testing is a possibility, as substances in the chocolate can cause a positive test.
Treats: How Much Is Too Much?
For any treat really, the answer is “not a lot.” This would mean that one or two pieces of any treat is plenty. While your horse may seem like he wants more, and more, and more, for his well being, you need to learn to say no. As we are well aware, treats contain calories that most horses do not need. But, most importantly, a horse’s digestive tract contains a specific balance of bacteria and other microbes that are key to intestinal function. Feeding things that are not normal to your horse’s diet can upset the intestinal function. So, feeding too many treats could start a snowball of events that could lead to colic or another illness.
More Information About Treats:
Have you ever heard the term “treat-monster”? It is when your horse starts behaving badly when he does not get treats. This could be nippy or worse. To avoid bad behavior, don’t feed treats every day, and don’t give your horse a treat on a regular basis – like after each lesson in the ring. When he begins to expect a treat and doesn’t get it, you could be asking for bad behavior.
Final Words On Horse Treats
Remember to feed in small pieces and not regularly. Don’t give in to the hungry eyes and risk a treat monster. In the end, your horse will be healthier because you have fed treats only in moderation.