By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.
I have a forum on my website where I respond to questions from horse owners. There was this one question that I’ll never forget:
“I have a very fat horse. I only feed him hay, but he is still fat. Oh… since he’s only getting hay, I do give French fries for treats. When I go to McDonalds, I get him a large fries. Is that okay?”
The next day, I found out that it was a practical joke from my son and his friend! But you know, it got me thinking. There may be a reader or two out there who actually does feed French fries! And while one or two won’t hurt, they certainly won’t help.
So what’s safe to feed?
Apricots (without pit)
Bananas (with the peel)
Grapes (and raisins)
Peanuts (roasted, never raw)
Watermelon (with rind)
And now, what NOT to feed!
WHAT NOT TO FEED:
For some horses, starch and sugar make bad sense
Fat deposits along the crest of the neck, rump, shoulders, or back, indicate insulin resistance. Starchy or sugary treats will raise insulin to dangerous levels, increasing laminitis risk. Horses with Cushing’s disease also require a low starch/low sugar diet. AVOID the following in horses like these:
Commercial treats made with cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, rice, wheat) and molasses
Better low sugar/low starch choices:
Alfalfa cubes or pellets (surprisingly low in sugar)
Commercial products that are low in starch/sugar
Avoid these foods for ALL horses:
Chocolate. You know about not giving it to your dog, but your horse is also sensitive to the toxic chemical found in chocolate called theobromine.
Stay away from milk products — ice cream, cheese, and even yogurt. I know — you’ve perhaps heard that yogurt is good for your horse because it’s a probiotic but it also contains lactose and grown horses are lactose intolerant. Your horse will get diarrhea.
Other potentially toxic fruits and vegetables include:
Treats with “something extra”? Not worth feeding
Some commercial treats have added vitamins and minerals. You run the risk of either feeding too many nutrients (if your horse already gets a fortified feed), or not feeding enough (if you’re relying on the treats to act as a nutritional supplement).
Probiotics are added to some treats. But their microbial concentration is too low to make a difference, unless you were to feed the whole bag.
Horses trust us to take care of them. Choose wisely.
This article was reprinted with permission from Colorado Horse Contact the official publication of the Colorado Horse Council.
About the Author: Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is a consultant, speaker, and writer in equine nutrition. Dr. Getty’s book, Feed Your Horse Like A Horse: Optimize your horse’s nutrition for a lifetime of vibrant health, can be pre-ordered at her website, www.gettyequinenutrition.com and is available through Amazon.com. Reach Dr. Getty at (970) 884-7187 or Drgetty@gettyequinenutrition.biz