The Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Treats to your Horse
We all enjoy a treat once in a while – a nice warm brownie fresh out of the oven, a cool slice of watermelon on a hot summer day – and our horses are no different. They will enjoy a treat from us every now and then, or even on a daily basis in small amounts . We share treats with our horses to say thanks for a job well done, as a reward when training, or just to spoil them. And let’s admit it – feeding treats to our horses makes us feel good too.
There are some guidelines we can use when selecting the type of treat, as well as the feeding frequency and amount.
Select healthy vegetables and fruits as treats – these taste good to your horse and are usually close to foods they eat in their normal diet, so chances of digestive upset are reduced.
Feed only a small amount. Feeding your horse 15 large carrots at a time may create more of a meal than a treat. For an average size horse, one or two carrots is sufficient. Feeding too much of any treat can have negative effects on a balanced diet like lowering protein content, raising starch levels and diluting vitamins and minerals. In addition, too much of certain treats can lead to severe digestive upsets and even colic or laminitis.
Feed sparingly. Treats are only special when they are not available all the time; feeding treats free choice defeats the purpose.
What are Good Treats?
Healthy snacks like apple slices, carrots, and hay cubes are good places to start for a treat. Many horses will even enjoy a banana. My horse even enjoyed Fijeoas (New Zealand fruit).
Commercially made horse treats can be a favourite for many horses and they may store and travel better than fresh fruit or vegetables when you’re on the road.
Sugar cubes are a very traditional treat for horses, but in my opinion have gone out of fashion, as it is not very healthy.
More popular are peppermints, which are good for the digestive system. Most horses love the taste and there are many “recipes” online to make your own peppermint treats for your horse.
What Treats Should I Not Feed?
Don’t feed lawn clippings – these can contain poisonous plants, can cause choke, and can drastically change the pH of the hindgut.
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can cause severe gas if fed in large amounts.
Potatoes and Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family and while some people report feeding these with no issues it is best to avoid them.
Don’t feed unpitted stone fruits, as the pits can cause choke.
Chocolate – you may have already heard that chocolate is toxic for dogs. It is just as dangerous for horses. Chocolate contains the alkaloid theobromine that horses, dogs, and cats are unable to efficiently metabolize. In sufficient amounts, theobromine can not only cause a positive drug test for horses engaged in competition, but also epileptic seizures, heart attacks and internal bleeding
Fresh bread, donuts, etc. – these items can become a doughy mass in the digestive tract and cause a blockage.
When feeding treats, remember the acronym A.I.M. – Always In Moderation. Keep your treats as close as possible to the natural diet and enjoy being your horse’s best friend!
(Ref: Horsefeedblog.com and petparents.com)
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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.