Passions & Pursuits

Equine Sweet Tooth

Many of us are already aware of the snacks horses like to eat. They have a sweet tooth just like we do! Some of the most common snacks are apples, carrots, peppermints and sugar cubes. And just as we have to watch what we snack on, all horses must be given treats in moderation and with guidelines. Here at Blackberry Farm, we do occasionally reward our horses after a good lesson or particularly challenging day with a treat.

Let's look at the basics! Apples and carrots are generally pretty healthy snacks for horses or ponies. These treats are best fed cut into bite size pieces, as a greedy equine can bolt them without chewing properly, which can cause choking issues. Sugar cubes and peppermints are very sweet, so one or two are plenty for a treat. Upset tummies happen in horses too!

There are some things you may want to feed a horse that can actually be dangerous, such as:
  • Lawn, hedge, or garden clippings – They can be poisonous depending on the species of plant and could harm or even kill a horse in very small quantities. Don't throw these over the fence!
  • Chocolate – While not as dangerous as feeding to dogs, in show horses it can cause a positive drug test.
  • Anything from the cole family like broccoli, cabbage leaves, kale or cauliflower.
  • Potatoes, tomatoes and acorns.
Some of our horses at the stables enjoy stranger snacks. Cooper famously loves rice crispy treats. If you crinkle the wrapper he will come galloping to the gate. We had a guest in the past that would regularly mail entire boxes of his favorite sugary treat to the stables addressed personally to Cooper. Skyrocket came to us with a note from his previous owner...he loves blue Gatorade! One of our guides has a mare that goes crazy for Smarties candy and Cheetos, and comes running when she hears the cellophane wrapper. Dakota is fond of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Sometimes when we see a horse, our first instinct is to give it a treat to say hi! This seems like the nice thing to do, but there are a few rules about how and when to give a treat. If you give a horse a treat as a “bribe” when he is misbehaving, it only serves to reinforce the naughty behavior. This is why we only give a horse a treat if he has earned it. Some general feeding rules are as follows:
  • Never feed a horse you don’t know. It could have a medical condition that disallows certain types of food.
  • Never greet a horse by reaching for his face or muzzle. They may assume you have a treat and nip or bite, which is an unacceptable learned behavior from hand feeding treats.
  • Never hand feed treats. Outstretched fingers can resemble certain snacks such as carrots. Instead, we feed our horses out of small feed pans or treat buckets.
What you CAN do: If you’ve enjoyed your ride and want to reward your horse, give him a good hard neck rub after you’ve dismounted. This is a sign of affection and appreciation in the horse world. If he has earned a treat, a member of our equestrian team will provide you with a treat bucket and a special horse cookie that we keep on hand for such occasions. Just be sure you don’t come smelling like a rice crispy treat, or Cooper may follow you back to the Farm!

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