Feeding Treats or Snacks to Horses: Moderation Is Key

By Kentucky Equine Research

Most horse owners gladly fess up when asked if they feed their horses treats. Researchers recently examined the ins and outs of treat-feeding, especially the motivation behind meting out morsels.

In a presentation entitled “The Role of Hand Fed Treats in Horse Feeding Practice” delivered at the Seventh European Workshop on Equine Nutrition, researchers revealed some interesting facts.

Of 452 people who responded to a survey, 86% fed some type of treat to their horses. Treats were given more or less frequently by different owners, and reasons or occasions ranged from before or after riding to every so often to celebrate a holiday or birthday. Owners used treats to reinforce lessons, reward behavior, and strengthen perceived bonds between humans and their horses.

While feeding a large number of treats daily to small horses or ponies could eventually contribute to obesity, according to the researchers, giving a few treats to full-sized horses added negligible calories. They concluded that this popular behavior is generally not harmful, stating, “Feeding an animal is an important social factor due to the human-animal relationship, and the survey also shows that in horse-keeping, the feeding of treats is an important factor of this relationship.”