I’ve given my horses lots of treats over the years. One thing I have learned is that not all horses like all treats. Pickiness is not limited to little kids. Horses develop taste preferences too and our goal as riders and owners is to strike a balance between taste and nutrition when spoiling our equine friends.
You can spend a lot of money and time trying all sorts of treats for your horse but truthfully, there are only a handful actually worth feeding your horse. Some you can buy and others you can make but they all have several things in common. First, they are delicious enough to incentivize good behavior for training purposes. Second, good treats provide some nutritional benefits for your horse. And finally, they don’t cost a fortune.
To save you the hassle of finding the best treats by trial and error, I’ve made a list of my 5 all time favorite horse treats that any horse will actually love.
1. MannaPro Nuggets
2. MannaPro Wafers
3. Purina Carb Conscious Treats
4. Stud Muffins
5. Homemade Carrot Oat Bars
But before you load up your shopping cart with gobs of horse treats, let’s dive a little deeper to see what makes each of these treats ideal for your horse.
5 Best horse treats worth using
Carrots and apples are usually the first items I reach for when I want to give a treat to my horse. However, keeping wet apple slices in my pocket during a training session isn’t practical. And not to mention, vegetables only stay fresh and appetizing for so long. Commercial and handmade horse treats last longer so you don’t have to worry about running out when you need them.
Take a look at these yummy horse treats and select the ones that suit your needs the best. Some are absolutely delicious, others are soft for those aging or sensitive mouths and most are perfect for packing into a pocket or belt cup.
1. MannaPro Nuggets (Perfect for training sessions)
When you need a delicious, small and inexpensive horse treat, look no further than MannaPro Nuggets. You can get over 300 treats in a 4 pound bag for less than $7. Choose from four flavors: apple, carrot & spice, alfalfa & molasses, and butterscotch.
2. MannaPro Wafers (Great for daily treats)
MannaPro also offers crunchy wafer style horse treats which are slightly bigger than the nuggets and are not as dense. You can put these treats in your pocket but they tend to crumble more and leave crumbs behind. Sold in 20 pound bags, which equals over 700 treats, this is a great bargain and will last you a long time. Let your horse decide between apple or peppermint flavor. Or better yet, get him both!
3. Purina Carb Conscious Treats (Best for horses on a diet)
Purina’s Carb Conscious Treats for horses can be given guilt-free to horses that are working on weight issues or have dietary restrictions. With less than 5% starch and 4% sugar, it would take 19 Purina treats to equal the same amount of sugar found in 1 medium carrot!
4. Stud Muffins (Softest treat for older horses)
Stud Muffins are a chewy, muffin style horse treat that is perfect for older horses with sensitive or missing teeth. They are also great for administering medication. Simply push the pill(s) into the center of the muffin and feed. These cookies are larger than pellet styles so you probably won’t use them during training when several treats are rewarded. But your horse would appreciate and anticipate this yummy treat once a day.
5. Homemade Carrot Oat Bars (Freshest and least expensive)
There are tons of homemade horse treat recipes out there. Most of them contain some combination of oats, molasses and carrots. Here is a super simple recipe by littlehouseliving.com with only 5 ingredients that you can bake for your horse in no time. Be warned, once your horse tastes these, he will definitely want more!
1 large carrot
1 large apple
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Shred carrot and apple in bowl. Add the molasses, oil and oats. Mix well until oats are completely covered with molasses. Press into a greased 9×13 baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees or until crispy. Allow to cool then cut into bite sized pieces.
I love how quick I can whip up a batch of these yummy morsels but they are a bit crumbly and you should try to use them up within a couple weeks. If your horse even makes them last that long.
Best horse treats for training
When it comes to training horses, positive reinforcement for a job well done works much better than harsh disciplining when they don’t perform correctly. A few pats on the neck and a “good boy” works most of the time but sometimes a tasty treat really hammers home the lesson.
Training with food does not cause pushy behaviors or horses that bite when done correctly. Using good feeding mechanics to reward nice manners actually keeps many horses calmer, more motivated and engaged.
It’s important to give the right type of treat when training your horse though. Consider these four factors when selecting the best reward.
Does your horse have any diet restrictions or limitations? Horses with metabolic issues should stay away from high sugar treats. This includes natural sugars found in carrots and apples and also commercial treats. Use what’s in your horse’s normal diet. For example, some of their grain or hay.
How often are you going to be giving treats? If you are rewarding frequently, choose small treats so you don’t overfeed. Especially, if they are a rich food like grain.
How long do you want your horse to focus on chewing? If you are working on something that requires quick repetition, choose a small treat like grain or small pellets that they can quickly chew, swallow and return to focus. Giving a handful of hay is going to make your horse chew slower and longer which is good for when you are working on things that require them to stand still and be calm.
How excited do you want your horse to be? The tastier the treat, the more excited your horse will be to receive it and then to get another after the next repetition. If you have a horse that isn’t normally motivated by hay, a sweeter treat (like carrots, grain or cookies) will better capture their attention. If you don’t want your horse to get too excited but you still want to give a reward, use hay or something less sweet.
Use a belt tote or small shoulder strap bag to carry the treats (and no these aren’t just for dog trainers). This allows quick and easy access when you need to get a treat. This only works for grain, pellets, cookies and other small goodies. If you are rewarding with regular hay, just put a few handfuls in a bucket on the ground.
These are my go-to treats while training and they all fit into my belt tote.
- The grain my horse regularly eats
- Carrot chunks
- MannaPro Nuggets
- MannaPro Wafers
How often should I give my horse treats
The word “treat” in itself should signify its low frequency and quantity. Horse treats should make up only a tiny fraction of the food your horse eats. Remember, just like when we eat too much candy, your horse can get an upset stomach from too many sweet treats.
Most horse owners and trainers say that giving your horse a couple treats a day is perfectly fine and I agree. It gives them something different to munch on and gives you a nice interaction with your horse.
The number of treats you give during a training session depends on how many repetitions you need to reward for. Give one or two small pieces each time to keep the overall total amount low.
Should I even give my horse treats
Some people argue that giving treats to horses is unnecessary and a bad idea. When given the wrong way, treats can encourage bad habits like nipping, pushing and other aggressive behaviors. This becomes dangerous not only for you but for anyone who doesn’t know your horse’s expectation for treats when they approach.
Biting is a habit that should not be tolerated. Make sure to check out this article where I explain 5 ways to instantly stop a horse from biting if you have a problem horse at home.
Using the proper mechanics to hand feed a horse does not encourage biting. However, if having your horse eat directly from your hand makes you nervous, place the treats in their feed bucket.
Treats given appropriately are a nice way to show your horse some extra love. When used correctly during training, tasty tidbits help enforce good behavior and speed up the learning process. Let your horse try out a few of these treats and you will quickly discover his favorite!