The best way to let your horse know it's done a good job is by providing it with a healthy treat after a session of training or practice. But there certainly are some guidelines to abide by when it comes to giving horses human foods. While nutrition is obviously one of the more larger concerns for proper snacking for your horse, there are also other factors to consider. Some treats will not sit right within the digestive system of an animal, while others could also potentially be a choking hazard. Here's a quick guide into the safer, more nutritious snack options for horses, as well as which ones trainers should stay away from:
A popular snack amongst both humans and horses are apples, and because of the nutrition associated with this fruit, it's easy to see why. The abundance of vitamins and minerals in one apple help make it a completely nutritious food for horses, as well as serving as a tasty treat. For starters, apples are packed with potassium, an essential mineral for horses because its electrolyte properties allow for efficient muscle contraction as well as enhanced nerve function.
Another one of the more commonly provided snacks for horses are carrots, primarily because of their nutritional content as well as the fact that carrots posses many water-soluble vitamins. Carrots have substantial amounts of antioxidants in them, meaning that feeding your horse a few carrot snacks a day can provide tremendous benefits for its immune system. Vitamin A especially plays a big role in defending a horse's body against dangerous free radical chemicals, and because it's a fat-soluble vitamin, it will remain in your horse's system for months, being stored in the liver. Carrots may be sliced before giving to your horse, just because it's easier to break down in their stomachs.
Sunflower seeds have always been a favorite snack for humans, and many horses love chewing on these extremely nutritious snacks. Black oil sunflower seeds in particular have been noted for their beneficial nutritional content. This type of seed has significant amounts of protein and fiber within them, so providing your horse with a few handfuls of these can help boost muscle function and tissue strength. You can typically buy sunflower seeds for horses in bulk, and black oil sunflower seeds in particular have high calorie counts, which can help horses that need to pack on a few extra pounds.
While horses tend to be unable to resist the sweetness of a sugar cube, it's important to note that these types of snacks should be used sparingly. Just as humans shouldn't constantly reach for cookies or brownies, sugar cubes need to be used as a special treat here and there, or whenever your horse is acting and behaving like a true professional.
Foods to avoid
Trainers and owners certainly have their own treats and snacks they like to give to their horses, but there are many types of healthy foods that should be avoided when it comes to feeding your animal. While vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower seem like healthy snacks for a horse, they've actually been known to occasionally lead to digestive difficulties and in some cases severe gas. Any foods comprised of yeast or dough will result in your horse experiencing poor digestion, and can potentially lead to blockage within the digestive tracts. Adult horses are also lactose intolerant, so make sure you're never feeding your horse snacks that are milk-based products. Remember, even treats that are deemed healthy for horses should only be served in moderation, and should never replace the designated meals and supplements your veterinarian has recommended for your animal.