Give Your Horse A Treat

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Happy National Chocolate Day!

Chocolate is everyone’s favorite treat! (Or maybe it’s just me.) I hardly let a day go by without having a piece of chocolate myself… some days the piece is bigger than others. Between the caffeine and sugar, chocolate always makes me feel better, especially now since I read that it can prevent some kinds of cancer, YAY! Chocolate is amazing! Well, maybe not for everyone, like our equine friends.

We give treats to our dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, actually all our pets. So, there is a danger when young children, who are beginning to get acquainted with horses, want to give their favorite horse a treat, too. Horses eat and digest very differently than most of our other pets. If you give a dog something that doesn’t agree with his system, he throws it up.

Horses cannot vomit. They have a band of muscle around their esophagus which acts as a one-way valve keeping food in their stomach. This muscle is so strong that even if a horse gets an upset stomach from eating something that doesn’t agree with him, he is incapable of vomiting it up. Horses who get upset stomachs get colic instead, and you do not want your horse to colic!

Since horses cannot vomit, we, as human caretakers, have to make sure everything we give them to eat, including treats, is safe for them. Unfortunately, chocolate is not on the list of safe treats for horses. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine. This substance acts like a diuretic and stimulant, which, in horses, builds up over time and can cause health issues like heart attacks.

I am not a vet, nor do I pretend to be. But as an EM, I have long known about the danger we can inadvertently put horses in when we give them something to eat that doesn’t agree with them, or worse, is toxic to them. This is why I thought it was important to raise the no-chocolate issue to new EMs and their kids. What better day to do that than on National Chocolate Day! Chocolate and horses don’t mix. Better treats for horses are peppermint candies, apple slices, carrots and horse treats you can buy at your local tack store.

For more information on what treats are best for horses ask your trainer or vet. If you Google anything, make sure it comes from a reputable website like a veterinarian office. You might be surprised at what other things you may discover.

Happy National Chocolate Day!

– Sue, Equestrian Mom