It’s hard to resist those big, doleful, eyes who are looking at you with such longing, especially after a long day of work. You want to reward your partner who put forth such effort, and let’s face it, we also sometimes just want to spoil our horse with a treat. But what makes a suitable treat and how should you be giving it and how much?
Not all treats are considered equal. Almost all fruits are safe for a healthy horse alongside many vegetables. Apples and carrots, for example, are a traditional favorite. You can also safely offer raisins, grapes, bananas, melons, celery, pumpkin and even snow peas. Just be sure if you have a gulper instead of a chewer to cut them up small enough for your horse not to choke on. A sugar cube or a peppermint candy is okay for a healthy horse, but be sure not to over do it! Moderation is key; one carrot is certainly better than five! You don’t want to overload your horse’s stomach, and vegetables have more sugar than you may think.
Sugar & Spice and all things Nice
We all know licorice as that black, rubbery candy that some people love and some people hate… the flavor is certainly distinctive. What you may not know is that licorice can keep your horse’s digestive track happy and healthy. And a happy, healthy gut can directly affect your horse’s attitude, hoof health, circulation and immune system.
Vegetables that are gas causers, such as cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes or basically any member of the nightshade family should be avoided at all costs. You don’t want to be dealing with an extremely gassy horse! You should also not feed bread or dairy products. Bread products, in particular, can become a doughy lump in your horse’s digestive tract and become a nasty blockage. Chocolate is iffy, it’s very sugar full and can have dairy, it’s better to skip it entirely.
How you give your treats also depends on the horse. Some horses can become pushy and nippy if you hand feed treats, which can cause trouble and injury. If your horse starts to develop these bad habits, it’s best to start giving treats from a bucket or withhold them entirely until your horse can be taught some manners.
In moderation, feeding a healthy horse a small treat is unlikely to cause a glucose spike or weight gain, but for a horse with insulin resistance (IR), laminitis, polysaccharide storage myopathies (PSSM), or equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) you should skip the treats entirely. If your horse has a “cresty neck” it’s also best to withhold the sugary goodies. While it’s tempting to spoil your hooved baby, we have to be strong and resist when it causes them more harm than good in the long run; no matter how hard that may be!
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