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The care of horses can be opinionated and there is a lot of varying ideas about what is safe for horses to have as treats and the quantities.

So the question is:

What treats are safe for horses and in what amounts? Are there any considerations that we need to be aware of when feeding horses treats?

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I feed my horse only with grass, hay, oats if I trained him and supplementary minerals adapted to his blood tests. As a treat I use pressed flax pellets (what remains when pressing flax oil) or for special occasions small parts of organic carrots.

I don't feed apples or bananas because they contain huge amounts of sugar. Apples are also very acidic which is not good for your horse's digestion (max 1-2 per day). Bananas contain a lot of potassium which horses cannot metabolize very well (max 1 banana per month). Bread contains a lot of phosphate which is also not good for your horse's metabolism (max 1-2 slices per day)

In general one can say, that "the dose makes the poison". If you feed your horse correctly in 99% of the time, the odd sugar-loaded treat does not harm it. However be aware, that the horse's digestion works different than ours and most of the fodder you can buy has mostly junk in it.

  • thanks for this, it's a very good answer and I agree. I restrict apples for the same reason. I use carrots and also actual wet pellet feed, which they view as a treat. – Nobody Oct 18 '16 at 20:26
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Treats

There are countless treats which are safe for horses. The majority of fruits and vegetables are safe, along with some foods you might not expect, like candy. In general, as long as you aren't feeding them more than a little at a time, they'll be fine. It's hard to list every single food you could ever consider feeding a horse, so here are the most common ones.

Do feed

  • Hard candy (usually peppermints but also butterscotch and other flavored candies) Don't feed huge amounts of these, since they're so sweet. I usually stick to a maximum of 3 candies at once, and they're best if not fed every day.
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Granola
  • Melons
  • Grapes
  • Corn
  • This is a bit political, but current research gives no indication that GMOs and non-organic foods are unsafe for horses

Don't feed

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and other foods which might give your horse gas. There's a slight colic risk.
  • Anything from a package, like something you bought frozen or something that isn't obviously a derivative of a fruit. For example, applesauce is safe, but frozen vegetables are risky.
  • Anything very sour/spicy; for example, onions
  • Spinach
  • Dairy
  • Meat

But for the most part, horses can handle a lot more food than you might expect. Just Google ahead of time if you're worried about a particular treat. Also, don't panic too much if your horse accidentally eats something they shouldn't. I've seen horses eat potato chips, ham, and mayo (note that I do NOT recommend any of those) and be totally fine. Of course, if you're concerned, do call the vet.

Amounts

In terms of the amounts you can feed, I usually limit treats for horses to what I would be willing to eat. For example, I wouldn't eat more than one apple in a sitting, but I might eat a handful of baby carrots at once, so that's all I'll feed. This isn't very precise, but there aren't amounts that're widely accepted for all horses. Since this does vary depending on a horse's size, dietary needs, etc., you should ask your vet if you want precise limits for how many treats you can feed your horse.

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