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Safe Treats for Horses

Safe treats for horses and ponies

  If you like to give your horse/pony a  treat for a little variety, or just to lure them in for being caught or as training rewards, you may find that many commercial horse cookies are high most things they shouldn't have; molasses, corn and other processed ingredients.  While I personally do not condone hand fed treats, I do like to give cookies in their buckets as a treat. Some horses don't need grain, and a daily cookie may be what you use to get them in from the field to check them over, etc. 

  I find that a single carrot or apple is usually "treat" enough for many horses. Fresh food is always a nice addition to the diet. You can experiement with fruits and veggies to see what they like. I have a couple of banana lovers. Sweet potatoe chunks seem to have a lot of appeal, as well. Just cut into maneageble sized chunks if your horse has trouble biting thorugh any whole fruits/veggies. Fresh foods add vitamins and minerals and if given in moderation, (as any treat should be) should not cause health problems. One fruit or vegetable is fine. Horses do not understand quantity, so a single carrot is just a pleasing to them as a whole bag.

Now, if you are more of a "cookie" person, check your cookie label for sugar, corn syrup, MOLASSES and other sugar additives. Horses DO NOT need any added sugar to appreciate a treat and it's bad for them.Small amounts of grain is acceptable, if your horse does not already have IR or EMS or is not morbidly obese.

I have found a cookie that I like, though it does contain a small amount of molasses, but I have been giving them to my 2 (previously chronic laminitis cases) that are on a NSC restricted diet with zero problems, but they get 1-2 cookies a day at most. K9 Granola factory makes baked dog treats that are organic and made from strictly good for your horse ingredients, aside from the small amount of molasses. Not only does my dog love them, but my horses love the unusual flavors you don't find in horse treats. No, there are NO animal/meat based ingredients. No soy, corn or other junk. Flavors range from Apple and Cranberry to Pumpkin and some other off-the wall flavors. My horses love them all.  Plus, with real fruit, they are tasty, healthy goodness!

If you like to make your own treats, try making a flavored bran mash. Using wheat bran, (you can include oat meal if your horses aren't on a strict diet), peanut oil (or olive) and water to make a nice sticky mash, you can flavor with herbs in your pantry. I use mint leaves on occasion. 1 tablespoon will add flavor and interest. Or, use some real vanilla flavor. I sometimes use oregano and basil with the olive oil. Sort of like I'm cooking for my horses. They appreciate the flavor variety and clean up every scrap. Horses like variety and herbs do not add sugar, so are safe to add to restricted diets.

  Some herbs, like paprika, could test positive for show horses (contains capsacian) but is also commonly found in coat supplements marketed to keep coats dark. Turmeric is used in "Navicular" supplements for joint health. Garlic may discourage biting insects. You can have a little fun with it.

To recap, for commercial horse cookies, check for and avoid excess molasses and grains. Look for organic and those designed to be part of a low NSC diet. You can give whole fruits and veggies, or even make your own cookies and mashes. Then be sure to dole out moderately. Sudden diet changes with large amounts of new ingredients can cause colic, so keep it to a couple of treats a day or less. All treats should be few in number, but your horses will still feel loved with a kind pat and verbal praise. Simply spending time with them goes a long way in strengthening your bond.