What’s your favorite treat for your horses? Is it healthy? Finding healthy treats for horses can be challenging. Commercial treats might look pretty and fun to share, but they might also be loaded with sugar, or even allergens that upset your horse’s stomach. As a follow up to our posts Refreshing and Entertaining Horse Treats, and Healthy Treats for Horses, we have some additional tips on finding the best healthy treats for your horse.
If you have good storage options for fresh fruits and vegetables, why not stick with natural treats? Horses are prone to digestive upset when new items are introduced to their diet, and natural treats such as carrots, apples, and bananas are closest to the items their digestive systems are naturally evolved to handle efficiently. You can also offer something as simple as a hay cube and your horse will lap it up as a tasty treat just as quickly as he would a sugary snack from the tack shop. Some natural treats most horses love include watermelon, grapes, and pears. Since some fruits and vegetables can be toxic to horses, ask your vet or look it up online before trying something new!
If you’re going on the road, hitting the horse show circuit, or taking a long trail ride, fruits and vegetables might not be the most efficient, mold-resistant horse treat on the market. This is a good time to introduce commercially produced treats, like cookies or pellets, which travel well.
It might sound odd, since most horses eat some sort of grain-based ration every day, but bread, cookies, and other flour-based goods are not good treats. Baked goods have the potential to build into a doughy mass in the gut, which could cause a blockage and colic. We’re not going to count how many donuts you have on a horse show morning, but keep them for yourself — no sharing with your horse!
Watch Out for Sugar and Other Sneaky Dangers
Is your horse insulin-resistant, or living with a metabolic disorder such as Cushing’s disease? You’ll have to watch out for sugar in treats, whether it’s a piece of fruit or a packaged horse cookie. Horses with HYPP shouldn’t be given treats high in potassium, such as bananas or pumpkin. If your horse has any health concerns outside of the norm, call your vet and ask what treats they recommend for your horse.
Treat in Moderation
Every treat, from carrots to commercially produced horse cookies, have a nutritional profile to consider. Chances are, your horse’s diet has been carefully crafted to ensure he’s receiving the right ratios of vitamins and minerals, proteins and carbohydrates, even fats and sugars. If you’re going through half a bag of horse cookies every time you go to the barn, you are probably throwing that balance out the window. Feeding more than one or two treats in a day creates the risk you are diluting mineral absorption and undermining your horse’s fortified diet.
For a helpful infographic showcasing safe and unsafe treats for horses, visit HorseChannel.com.