All of us appreciate an occasional treat – a warm brownie right out of the oven, a slice of watermelon on a warm summer day – and a horse isn’t any different. He’ll like a treat from you every once and a while, or even on a regular basis in small quantities. We’ll share treats with horses to say thank you for a task well done, because a reward while training, and let us admit it – feeding these treats to our animals makes us also feel great.
There isn’t anything wrong with treating a horse, as he deserves it, and you do too. However, there are a few guidelines to use while choosing the kind of treats for your horse, as well as the feeding amount and frequency.
Choose healthy fruits and vegetables as treats
Those taste good to the horse and usually are close to food sources they consume in their regular diet, so odds of digestive upset are decreased.
Only feed a small quantity. Feeding the horse fifteen large carrots at one time might make more of a meal than a treat. For the average-sized horse, a couple of carrots are enough. Feeding an overabundance of any treat may have poor effects on a balanced diet such as reducing protein content, increasing starch levels and diluting minerals and vitamins. Additionally, too much of specific treats may cause serious digestive upset and even laminitis or colic.
Feed sparingly, as treats only are special when they aren’t available all of the time; feeding treats by free choice will defeat the purpose.
Good Treats: What do they consist of?
Healthy snacks such as carrots, apple slices, and hay cubes are great places to begin for a treat. Most horses even enjoy bananas.
Commercially designed horse treats may be a favorite for most horses and they might travel and store better than fresh vegetables or fruit while you are on the road.
A sugar cube is a traditional (though not healthy) horse treat.
What Treats to Avoid
Do not feed lawn clippings (they may contain poisonous plants, may cause choking, and drastically can change the hindgut’s pH)
- Cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage may cause serious gas if fed in larger quantities
- Tomatoes and potatoes are nightshade family members and while a few individuals report feeding them without any issues it’s better to avoid them.
- Do not feed unpitted stone fruits, as their pits may cause choking.
- Chocolate – while the horse might love it, chocolate may produce a positive result within a drug test.
- Donuts, fresh bread, etc. – they may become a doughy mass inside the digestive tract and lead to a blockage.
- Sweet Feed (COB and unfortified sweet grains) quickly can unbalance the diet as enough is given as a “treat”.
Do not offer treats to strange horses. The horse might have a medical problem which disallows specific food types. Some owners do not believe in giving treats at all. Dispose of all food wrappings out of reach of the horse. A bag that smells of sticky peppermints might be eaten and produce a deadly blockage.
Horses will consume surprisingly odd foods-from ice cream to roast beef sandwiches. Horses historically have been given some weird things to survive—such as fish. But, they’re herbivores-animals whose system of digestion is geared to digesting soft plant matter and grass. Even though some may consume those things without any apparent ill effects, it always is best to stick with treats similar to their natural food sources.
While feeding treats, keep in mind the acronym A.I.M. – that is, Always In Moderation. Keep the treats as close as possible to their natural food sources.