~ What do horses normally eat?

Although there are horses who will eat anything, equines are generally herbivores and will thrive on a natural diet consisting of grasses, clover, timothy and alfalfa hay. Good quality fodder will provide all the proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber that a horse needs, however, they will also enjoy grains such as oats, barley and wheat.

In addition, all horses, just like people, have preferences - especially when it comes to snacks. A good snack for a horse is something healthy, that the horse enjoys. Regular grain, if given outside of the horse’s regular feeding time, can be a treat, particularly when it’s hand fed. For those horses with a sweet tooth, traditional treats are usually sugar cubes, apples or carrots. But what else might your horse enjoy? Optimum treats include fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains.

Treats can be a commercially-prepared, nutritionally-balanced snack or something as simple as a carrot stick. Commercially-prepared treats should be comparable to your horse’s regular diet, and be given sparingly with regard to the individual horse’s digestive system.

The ideal snack should be firm yet easily chewable. Horses enjoy fruit (apples, watermelon, pitted dates, raisins and strawberries) and vegetables (peas, carrots and corn). Some horses will eat the entire plant – stalks and all! Other treats might include sunflower seeds, granola bars or stale bread.

If your horse has a sweet tooth, sugar cubes, peppermints and Fig Newtons are favorites. Just be sure that any treat is large enough for the horse to lip from your hand to prevent nipped fingers, yet small enough to avoid a choking hazard. If possible, slice treats lengthwise. Note that sugar may not be appropriate for all horses and if given, should be done so in moderation.

~ Unacceptable treats ...

Some things that should never been given to horses include:  lawn, hedge or garden clippings that may have been chemically treated or that have gasoline or oil residue on them, vegetables from the cabbage family (including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts), tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, nuts and chocolate.

~ Make your own snacks ... 

Horse “biscuits” are relatively easy to make at home and can include as many or as few ingredients as you, or your horse, determine.

Easy Horse Biscuits 

1. To ½ cup of grain (corn, barley, wheat, oats),
add small amounts of any dry ingredients (flour, bran, oatmeal, sweet feed, wheat bran, chaff).

2. Mix in ¼ cup of water,
then add small amounts of liquid ingredients (water, corn oil, and applesauce). 

3. Add molasses, fruit and/or vegetable chunks.

4. Add spices and/or herbs (garlic, ginger, rosehip, nettle or barley grass powder, parsley, chamomile, flax seed and sugar). 

5. If the mix is too dry, add more liquid ingredients (and vice versa).
The Ideal consistency will contain nearly equal amounts of dry and liquid ingredients. 

6. Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, and flatten the biscuits.

7. Sprinkle with grain, sugar or molasses.

8. Bake at 200 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


~ Safety First ...

Horses have extremely large and powerful jaws. For safety reasons, the best way to offer treats is by placing the treat in the center of an open, downwardly arched palm with fingers close together. Small children should place their flattened and arched hand into an adult’s palm. Don’t ever attempt to feed a strange horse and remember to dispose properly of any wrappers.

Information courtesy of Pet Sitters International (PSI).

date Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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