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Are Horse Treats Beneficial?
Ginger A. Rich, Ph.D.
Horse cookies are often shunned as gimmicks by professional trainers. I used to feel the same way, until I thought about the logic. Other animal trainers, whether they are working with seals or elephants, almost always use treats as enticement. Maybe horse people have some things to learn.
Snacks for horses are becoming as popular as treats for dogs and cats. The number of companies manufacturing equine epicurean delights has reached an all-time high. The decision to give treats is a personal one.
Most people who buy treats for their dogs and cats naturally begin buying them for their equine pets. Some horse owners use treats as a reward for completing a challenging task or as a bribe to make catching the elusive equine easier.
A treat is anything that a horse craves or that is pleasing to its discriminating taste buds. It can be a specially formulated, high-tech nugget, or something as simple as a cup of grain rattling around in a bucket.
If the animal has a craving for a particular feedstuff, it can be a treat. The difference is in the way it is given -- usually by hand -- and the time it is given -- other than at normal meal times.
Check your local feed store shelf. You'll either find handmade horse cookies and candy, or manufactured apple- and carrot-flavored nuggets, sugar cubes, and hay and grain cubes. The most common ingredients are oats, hay, bran, sucrose, sugar or molasses and flavoring agents like carrots or apples.
Nutritionally speaking, look for treats that satisfy a horse's craving for a tasty morsel but are not drastically different from its main diet. The horse's digestive tract does not like change, so give snacks that mimic the regular diet.