There are two conflicting schools of thought when it comes to horse treats being used as rewards during training. Some trainers will not condone the practice at all while others find them to be an effective method of positive behavioural reinforcement.
As long as the treat is consistently offered directly following correct behaviour, this system of reward is likely to have the desired effect.
Treats can also be used to express appreciation to horses for a job well done and, if bestowed considerately and responsibly, can be a way of bonding with your horse.
It should come as no surprise that healthy fruits and vegetables can make a good treat for your horse. The right natural horse treats can closely mirror their natural diet which is good news for your horse’s digestive system. This can mean that the risk of digestive upset and even colic is substantially reduced.
Some good natural treat options include:
- Carrots: remove all the leaves and always cut them lengthways before feeding
- Bananas: a great source of potassium, they can even be fed with the peel left on
- Grapes: a great handy treat on the go, some horses prefer the skin to be taken off
- Apples: very popular but packed full of sugar so they should not be given regularly
- Black oil sunflower seeds: a great supplement that also makes a handy treat in small doses (do not to buy striped sunflower seeds as their thicker husks are harder to digest)
Manufactured horse treats can be just as nutritional as natural options and may even include specific amounts of nutrients to support your horse’s healthy. They can also be a more convenient and boast a longer shelf-life. Some great options to try are:
- Snack balls: doubling as horse toys, these food delivery systems dispense small amount of dry foods to promote foraging behaviour and keep horses stimulated
- Hay cubes: high in natural fibre and available in a variety of different flavours, these hard little biscuits are handy treat options
Make your own treats
For those who want to give their horses a great treat that uses natural ingredients but don’t just want to hand over a whole piece of fruit, home-made treats can be the perfect solution.
You can make a variety of special treats for your horses and the best bit is you’ll know exactly what goes into them. Horse cookies are a particularly popular choice and a simple recipe typically includes oatmeal and shredded carrots. You can find full recipes online
What shouldn’t I give my horse?
When choosing treats for your horse it’s just as important to know what you shouldn’t give them as it is to know what you should. Some animal owners can be tempted to share treats amongst their animals but you should always buy specific treats for each animal where you can – that means dog treats for dogs and horse treats for horses.
Like other pets, horses can become unwell if they ingest certain foods. Here is a list of foods you should never feed your horse:
- Dairy (ice cream, cheese, yoghurt)
- Some fruit and vegetables including: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, raw potatoes, onions, raw garlic, spinach and avocados