Feeding horse treats in moderation keeps horses happy to see us, as long as they don’t get nippy, lippy or just plain rude.

I love treats. Danishes, almond croissants, warm chocolate chip cookies and anything else along these lines makes any day a little more special. Although I try to keep my sugar intake at a modest or moderate level, I can’t deny that even though I pass right by them most of the time at the gas station, I’m have a secret weakness for anything Hostess. It makes me think of feeding horse treats.

We have people visit from time to time, which is something I enjoy and really appreciate. Yes, some days are better “visiting days” than others, but I’m generally happy to have guests. Often, they’re folks who have an interest in learning more about riding young horses or actually have one in training at our place. Sometimes in conversation, the subject of feeding horse treats comes up. It’s surprising how strongly some people feel about feeding their horses a little snack or treat in between feedings. Some folks feel that it’s a basic and key part of horse ownership, while others are completely against the idea of “treating” their horses for any reason. 

I completely understand why there’s stigma attached to giving your horse treats. It’s not necessary, it can become a way for a horse to form bad habits and manners, and for some, it’s even detrimental to keeping a healthy weight. A lot of people don’t train horses, they just own them. So, when a horse gets smart about treats, it’s a gateway for them to become nippy, lippy and just plain rude to its handler. I don’t condone that. However, for our program, with young horses that are often skeptical of people when they arrive, it’s a great way for us to make friends with them. Also, because they’re ridden six days a week, they can get a little tired of seeing us, so having a handful of grain or a horse treat keeps them happy to see us day in and day out. 

Feeding an apple to a hors

On another note, I don’t understand why it is that everyone else’s horses seem to love apples and carrots, while mine have an aversion to anything related to a fruit or vegetable. The only creatures on the whole place that will even consider a Granny Smith or Red Delicious are my daughter’s ponies. I suppose it’s because I never feed anything carrots and apples, so they don’t know what they are. As a kid, it seemed that my horses always ate these things. But now it’s tough to get these young colts to even accept grain out of my hand, much less a baby carrot that’s a little wilted. 

Anyway, I’m not saying that treats and cookies are right or wrong. I think that each and every person has their own beat when it comes to horse ownership and we all have to do what works for ourselves. For me, I find that having treats handy, presented properly and in moderation are extremely helpful with keeping the horses in our care happy to see us. 

I mean, if more guests showed up at my address with cellophane wrapped cupcakes, I might be more inclined to meet them at the gate too. Just sayin’. 



  1. Carla Perry Reply

    Thank you for this. I ride a mule mostly and the treats bring joy into our lives. The neighbor gave me a 9 month old colt last year. He hadnt been touched. He is a great beginning liberty horse now. It wouldnt have been near as much fun without treats. He is such a willing soul.

  2. Kenneth James Reply

    My only gelding was a workn’ cowhorse with two different ranch brands for certification. Owner only sold because of medical expenses in family. He was tied when we came to try him.. put through his paces. My beloved tacked him english and with a snaffle he collected and looked positively “Andelusian”. So we loaded him and took him home. At which point I discovered why he was tied when we came. To catch for a ride you had to litterally corner him and then he’d stand and nod at you until you got a lead over his neck. Then he was yours once the halter was on it was time to go to work. He didn’t speak treats at all. Apples , carrot’s , pressed alfalfa. None of it was known to this guy. My guess is anytime he saw a saddle he was putting in long hours workn’ stock or fence or something with a lot of sweat equity. Finally got him to go for pressed alfafa (Trail Mix for packers) A month of that and pleasure riding without breaking sweat and he was 16hnd Pocket Pet. litterally following me around when doing chores. Jurassic Park had a good rein turn of speed, and was a great roping horse, who went on to second career as Training Level Eventer.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post titled “What a Treat” on the Western Horseman website. Treating our horses is not only a delightful way to bond with them but also an opportunity to show our appreciation and reinforce positive behavior.

    Feeding horse treats can be a fun and rewarding experience for both horse and rider. It’s important to remember that treats should be given in moderation and with caution to maintain a balanced diet for our equine companions. Your emphasis on using treats as a form of positive reinforcement is commendable, as it can aid in training and strengthen the horse-rider relationship.

    When it comes to hot horses, providing appropriate treats becomes even more crucial. Some horses have a higher sensitivity to certain ingredients or may become excitable when fed sugary or high-starch treats. Opting for healthier alternatives like carrots, apples, or homemade treats using natural ingredients can be a great choice for hot horse

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