Many people enjoy feeding their horses treats. Treats are a nice way to reward your horse after a ride and can be useful as a training tool. Here are some tips to treat your horse safely.
What to Treat
First, make sure the treats you feed are healthy for horses. Some popular choices for horse treats include carrots, apples, peppermints, or horse cookies. Most fruits and many vegetables are safe for horses to eat, but do your research first.
Cut carrots and apples into bite-sized pieces to reduce the risk of choking. Never feed grass or yard clippings to a horse. These can cause colic.
Feed treats in moderation to avoid upsetting your horse’s digestive system.
Always ask permission before feeding a treat to someone else’s horse. The horse might be on a special diet or have other health issues.
Horses with health conditions such as insulin resistance, Cushing’s disease (PPID), or that are prone to founder need to be careful about sugar and starch. Horses with HYPP have to watch out for foods containing potassium. Senior horses may have trouble chewing hard or crunchy treats and are more at risk for choke. If you have any concerns about incorporating treats into your horse’s diet, be sure to check with your vet.
Some horses can get “pushy” about treats. For horses that can’t mind their manners around treats, it’s safest to give treats in their feed bucket.
It’s also not a good idea to feed treats to a horse wearing a bit. The bit can make it hard to chew properly, and it will make a mess of your bit.
Don’t take grain or treats out into a herd of horses—you could get hurt if the horses rush at you or start fighting to get to the treats.
Also be aware of your timing with treats, so that you are not accidentally rewarding bad behavior, such as pawing in the cross-ties.
Some people simply don’t feed their horses treats, and that’s OK too. Keep in mind there are other ways to reward your horse without using food, such as a pleasant grooming session (if he enjoys that), scratching his favorite itchy spots, or taking him out to hand graze.
Treat Safely (Please Don’t Feed Your Fingers to the Horse!)
For polite ponies, there is a technique to feed treats safely by hand. Follow these tips from the United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship: Basics for Beginners – D Level:
- Put the treat in the middle of your flat hand with your fingers together and your thumb tucked in.
- Hold your hand firm, as the pony may push hard against it to get the treat.
- If you hold the treat in your fingers, the pony might get your fingers along with the treat by mistake.
- If you get nervous at the last minute and snatch the treat away, the horse might try to grab it.
Here are some reminders to feed treats safely that you can download and share: