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It’s that time of year again when peppermint is popular – candy canes, lattes, brownies… you name it! During my youth, I was not a fan of peppermint candy so I would break up candy canes into smaller pieces as a treat for the horses. It made for some great bonding moments, even when my horse would follow me around and softly maneuver his muzzle into my jacket’s kangaroo pocket. Yes, he had freedom around the barn when we were working.
Today with all the concerns with “NO SUGAR,” it’s perhaps a good time to lessen some worries and promote a little holiday bonding. According to Brach’s website, one piece of their Peppermint Star Brites candy is 0.2 oz, contains 20 calories, and has 3.7 grams of sugar (about one teaspoon). Candy canes, on the other hand, vary in size and heavier generally means more sugar.
I understand the concerns for horses that have been clinically diagnosed with IR, Cushing, laminitis and PSSM, so let’s put the peppermint treat in perspective to the sugars and starches in a typical forage diet only. As a reminder, all plant feeds, except oils, contain sugars and starches. Sugars and starches are major components of the non-structural carbohydrate family and are important in nourishing/fueling animals.
Eighteen lbs of a typical grass hay fed daily to a 1000 lb horse contains approximately 981 g of sugar and starch. That’s 2.16 lbs of sugar/starch, assuming the average sugar/starch content of the hay is 12%. If the hay is more mature and lower in sugars/starches, such as 10% level, then the sugar/starch content would be less and approximate 871 g.
So based on those numbers, one Peppermint Brite treat has less than half of one percent (0.38%) of the 981 g sugar/starch from our hay example. This comparison is only with hay and does not include any other feeds fed. Even if you are feeding a low starch/sugar balanced formula with the hay, there would be sugar and starch that adds to the diet’s total, making the peppermints an even smaller percentage of the total sugars and starches consumed.
The reason sugars and starches are lumped together for this comparison is that for enzymatic digestion the end production for absorption is a simple sugar, like glucose and fructose. So if you decide to share your peppermint stash with your horse, keep in mind moderation and enjoy treating your horse during the holidays.