Nutrition is far from our thoughts when we choose a treat for our horses. We want something yummy, maybe something good enough to make him nuzzle us in an attempt to beg for a few more. After all, cookies are supposed to be special, like candy. We’ll leave vitamins and minerals for meals.
That doesn’t mean we don’t want to know what we’re feeding our horses, especially in light of the pet-food poisonings and accidents at feed mills.
Plus, there are instances when we must know a complete ingredients list, as we might have a horse with a wheat-flour allergy or an insulin-resistant horse that needs to stay away from the sweets.
We’re going to bypass any company that won’t tell us what’s in a treat. We prefer that the ingredients are human-grade quality, so we know they’re safe for our horses and not leftovers swept up from the feed-mill floor.
A guaranteed analysis on the label is a good thing, because it assures us that the company is paying attention to a specific criteria and level of ingredients. However, we don’t want to see a treat company boasting that it has significant levels of nutrients or nutraceuticals in it, especially those with the potential to grossly throw off our nutritional balances. In other words, if we need to raise our horse’s selenium level or add glucosamine to his diet, we’re going to incorporate a regular supplement into our horse’s diet, not feed treats.
Actually, the more ”benign” the nutrients in the treat, the better (remember, we’re talking candy). We want to be able to safely feed several treats a day without thinking about nutritional imbalances. Note: No treats should be fed to insulin-resistant horses or Cushing’s horses without your veterinarian’s approval.
We also need to be assured that there are no substances in the treats that might be on the ”forbidden drugs” list of our governing show/competition body. With drug tests becoming increasingly sensitive every day, some obscure ingredient might cause us a heap of trouble at a random drug test.
Be aware, too, that feeding your horse a treat that might cause a pink foam around the muzzle could be mistaken for bleeding and cause you to be eliminated.
It’s also important to us that the company’s phone number is easily available either on the package or on the company’s website. Odd emergency situations do occur, and we want to be able to reach the manufacturer. We frown on websites and labels that don’t list a phone number and a brick-and-mortar street address for the manufacturer.
One of the reasons we’re willing to pay for treats over less-expensive choices like carrots and apples is a longer shelf life. We don’t want to worry about a treat spoiling in the tack room because we don’t have a refrigerator or we can only buy it in a five-pound container and have one Shetland Pony to give it to. We want an expiration date or ”best if used by” date on the package.
The number of expired products still on shelves in grocery stores is at an all-time high in many areas. This can happen in your local tack store, too. It can also happen in your own barn.Time goes by quickly, so while it may seem like you just purchased a box of treats, in reality you’ll see that it was over six months ago.
Once a bag of treats is opened, we want to be able to rely on its freshness for at least 90 days. We appreciate being able to buy bigger containers at once in order to save money, but we noticed that you need to do the math. As you can see on our chart, the largest containers being sold aren’t always the best deal.
Our testers said they like treats that come in its own sealable container, but they agreed that being able to buy larger quantities at a lower cost was worth providing your own air-tight storage container.
We also want treats that are neat enough to stick in your pocket. Apples, carrots and sugar cubes aren’t great in a pocket — you need a treat bag if you want to carry them around. Peppermint candy disks will work in your pocket, though, and some horses perk their ears at just the sound of the paper opening.
Some of our test horses were certifiable cookie monsters — the type that liked to eat anything. Others were more discriminating, eagerly gobbling down some cookies and dutifully consuming others, as if they were required to do so. Then there were the really choosy ones, like Mo, who disliked one of the treats so much he spit it out, right back at his owner, amusing her so much she offered him some more! Gee became very picky once he found a favorite, making it clear that it was the only treat he wanted, and crunchy cookies suited Celtic best. Aroma was important to Bonnet, who would reach for Mrs. Pastures as soon as the jar was opened.
Our testers were unanimous that they were not going to routinely bake for their horses (many noting that they don’t bake for their human families either). Everyone preferred cookies that didn’t crumble and weren’t sticky. And everyone wanted to know what was in the treats, but no one was concerned about the nutrient levels.
Our test horses consumed all available treats, although some were clearly more popular choices than others. Molasses and apple were the top two favorite treat ingredients.
With this trial, Mrs. Pastures’ Cookies For Horses retains its title as Horse Journal’s recommended treat. We’ve yet to see a horse who didn’t like these treats. Best of all, it’s reasonably priced and has a very long shelf life.
For best buy, it’s tough to beat the Omega Nibblers. They’re flaxseed-based with molasses, and the horses clearly enjoyed the taste.
We give special mention to the Silver Leaf Cookies. They were too sticky and pricey to be a top pick, but our horses loved them, and you could hide a small pill in them and get the horse to consume the whole kit and caboodle. They’re that good.
Article by Horse Journal staff.