When it’s feeding time around the barn, most of us know about the grain and hay that make up our horse’s typical meal. But what about when we want to feed them treats? What are some foods horses can eat?
From fruits and vegetables to store bought and homemade treats, we all want to find ways to reward our horses while meeting their nutritional needs as well.
Foods Horses Can Eat
Apples— Horses love apples, of course! Just be sure to cut them up into smaller pieces and remove the core.
Bananas— Bananas are high in potassium and are a horse favorite! They can eat them with or without the skin.
Pineapple— Cut pineapple into small pieces or chunks and remove the skin.
Watermelon— Most horses love watermelon! It is okay if they eat the rind, too.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries— Berries are high in fiber and antioxidants and are great for humans and horses alike!
Grapes— Seeds or no seeds, grapes are often a favorite horse treat! Unlike apples and pears, grape seeds are small and are fine for horses to eat.
Cantaloupe— Always a favorite, cantaloupe flesh is both a tasty treat and it’s packed with vitamins. The rind won’t hurt them but could contain mold that is hard to see, so it is probably best to avoid giving them the rind.
Pears— Pears are a yummy treat for horses. Similar to apples, cut them into pieces and remove the core and seeds.
Oranges and other citrus fruit— Oranges and citrus fruits are a safe and delicious treat for our horses. Cut them up to avoid risking choke. Feeding the peel is okay, too, just in small amounts.
Mango— Many horses love mango! The pit does pose a choking hazard, so remove the peel and the pit and cut the flesh into chunks.
Carrots— Carrots are high in vitamins A and C as well as fiber and most horses love them. They are a traditional horse favorite!
Celery— You may be surprised to see that your horse loves celery! It is safe for them to eat the stalks and the leaves. Just cut them up into bite size pieces.
Lettuce— While not very high in nutritional value, lettuce is still a great treat for your horse. It is high in water content and easily digestible.
Sweet potatoes-– Horses love their sweet flavor, and sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A and beta carotene. This is a great treat that is high in vitamins and nutrients, too!
Squash— Yellow squash and zucchini can be fed cut up into bite sized pieces. It is fine if you feed it to your horse raw.
Beets— Just like beets are healthy for humans, they are healthy for horses, too. Many people feed their horses beet pulp as a supplement to add additional forage to the horse’s diet. It is commonly fed to older horses who have trouble chewing hay. You can also feed peeled beets cut up into bite sized pieces.
Other Treats Your Horse May Love
Oats—Many horses love treats made with oats.
Peanut butter— Natural peanut butter made without any added sugars is a great addition to many horse treat recipes.
Peppermints— Peppermints are always a favorite of horses! They love the flavor, and they are inexpensive and easy to store. The peppermint oil in the treats is soothing to the digestive system. Only feed one or two at a time, as they do have sugar in them. You can also stock up on candy canes during the Holiday season when they go on sale.
Applesauce— Choose applesauce with no added sugar. This is a great binder in horse treat recipes. It is also a great treat for older horses who may have difficulty chewing. It is also a great additive to many homemade treat recipes.
Sugar cubes— A traditional favorite, horses love sugar cubes! Just feed one or two as a treat. Too much refined sugar isn’t good for horses, but one or two is okay and they will love you for it!
Limiting Human Foods
Our natural inclination may be to give our horses treats. We love them and want to show them our appreciation for all they do for us. One way to our horse’s heart may be through their stomachs, but giving horses human food must be done in moderation.
Horses will happily eat whatever we offer them. They are often very interested in our snacks, and some will pull off some pretty cute antics to get our attention for food. However, it is important to limit the amount of human food we are giving our horses.
Horses have delicate and complex digestive systems. Their systems are designed to eat small amounts of food throughout the day. This is the reason you will see them graze a little, walk a little, graze again, take a rest, and graze again. Their digestive systems aren’t designed to handle large amounts of food at once; especially human food. One or two pieces of a treat is enough, especially when introducing something new to their systems.
When we feed too much of a treat, we risk upsetting the horse’s delicate balance of microbes and bacteria that live in their gut. This could lead to colic or other stomach issues. So even if your horse begs for more, which he inevitably will, it’s important that we don’t give in no matter how cute he may be. His health depends on it.
Can Horses Have Food Allergies?
Horses can certainly have food allergies. Common food allergies may include specific grains, grasses, or food additives. The reaction your horse has may be gastrointestinal, it may be a skin reaction, or both.
Some symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
Itchy or scaly skin
Swelling included with skin irritation
Diarrhea or very loose stools
If you suspect a food allergy, you may need to eliminate anything new that has been added to their diet to try to determine the cause. For more severe reactions, contact your veterinarian, of course.
Healthy Horse Treat Recipes to Try
Ultimate Horse Cookies
These horse cookies are sure to please:
- 1 carrot
- 2 ½ cups of oats
- 1 cup molasses or honey
- 1 Apple
- 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Grate the carrot and apple.
- Mix together all of the ingredients.
- Place large spoonfuls on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Recipe courtesy of Tanya Davenport
Organic Apple Oatmeal Horse Treats
1 cup organic applesauce
¼ cup organic molasses
½ cup organic flour
(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)
- Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Next, add the molasses and applesauce and stir until well-incorporated.
- Once mixed, form the thick batter into teaspoon-sized balls and place them close together (but not touching) on a sprayed* cookie tray.
- Bake the treats for 15 to 20 minutes and then remove from oven.
- Leave the treats on the tray for 5 minutes to allow time for the treats to cool and harden.
- Once completely cool, store the treats in an airtight container.
*When making treats, spray the cookie trays with coconut oil, a substitute of your choice, or grease the pans with butter.
Recipe courtesy of Mother Earth News.
Homemade Horse Treat Recipe
This convenient recipe allows you to use a combination of ingredients that you have in your pantry.
Use any combination of the following:
- Rolled Oats
- Whole Oats
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Chia Seeds
- Apple Sauce
- Brown Sugar
- Peanut Butter
- Crushed Peppermints (or Candy Canes)
- Salt ( such as Himalayan Salt)
- Oil (such as Coconut Oil)
Mix your chosen ingredients together
Ideally, the mix should be wet enough to form into balls, but not soupy (adjust accordingly)
- Bake at around 350 until they’re slightly browned
- Store in an airtight container
Recipe courtesy of Savvy Horsewoman
No matter what treats you make or what fruits and vegetables you choose to feed your horse, remember that all treats should be fed in moderation. Your horse will appreciate their sweet reward, and you will feel good knowing that you are giving them the right foods horses can eat.