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Many horse owners love offering a tasty treat to their horse as a reward or during a “bonding moment”. Just keep in mind that treats are just that – a treat – and they’re perfectly fine as long as you go about it the right way.
- Only feed a small amount.
- Be frugal with the frequency of treating your horse.
- Be mindful of the size and texture of the treat. Horses may be more aggressive when consuming pleasant-smelling treats, causing them to chew less and increase the risk of choke.
Carrots: I do not recommend feeding carrots to horses. Carrots are solid, stiff foods that break off into chunks and do not soften very well with saliva. If the horse is an aggressive eater or has dental issues, the carrot’s texture provides a risk for choke. If you do feed carrots, please keep a close eye on the horse during consumption.
Apple: Instead of feeding the whole apple, cut it into slices instead. An apple corer used for forming small wedges is about the right size. One medium size apple contains approximately 19 grams of sugar.
Orange peel: During my years packing in the Sierra Mountains and the Montgomery Wild Horse Pass, feeding leftover orange peel was popular with my horses. Orange peel is mostly fiber and a few other nutrients. You are feeding a very small amount so the nutrient profile is insignificant anyway.
Sugar cubes: Perhaps the oldest treat of the horse world, sugar cubes are a great treat when fed sparingly. One sugar cube has about 4 grams of sugar (one teaspoon). Keep in mind that all feeds (except oil & water) have sugars and starches. One medium apple has 19 grams of sugar, equivalent to almost 5 sugar cubes. To have a better perspective of foods and sugar you may want to read Is Molasses Unhealthy? in Dr. Bray’s Corner.
Peppermint candy: Yes they made the list and Star Brite has only 3.7 grams of sugar. See Peppermint Treats Are Ok for Your Horse for more info.
Cookie: Grocery store cookies are perhaps the most expensive choice and have more sugar and other additives than a single sugar cube (sugar cookie: 9 grams of sugar / Oreo: 14g / ginger snap: 7g / sugar cube: 4g). Ginger snaps were not popular at my house, so any homemade holiday gift of ginger snaps would go into the trash or sometimes with me to the barn. The only problem was that they always crumbled in my jacket pocket!
Horse treat: There are horse treats available at feed stores. As with any feed, make sure to take a look at the ingredient list before purchasing.
Integrity Horse Feed: Of course Integrity can be used as a treat! A small handful of the Integrity product that you are currently feeding will accomplish the same benefits as any other treat: reward and bonding. Plus they are getting a balanced feed!