If you enjoy buying store-bought treats for your horses, you're probably already well aware of how expensive they can be. The cute, specialty cookies are usually double to quadruple the price of the giant 50lb bags of bulk treats. Aside from cost alone, many commercially made horse treats and cookies are loaded with sugars and fillers. Too much sugar is obviously bad for our mounts and fillers (such as molasses, rice bran and soy) add no nutritional value.
Dangers of Fillers
Molasses is a common additive in commercial and homemade horse treats. The best option for horses is unsulphured, black strap molasses. This type is high in B vitamins, iron and folate. Unfortunately, many commercial treats use plain table molasses which is nothing but the waste product from processed sugar cane or beets. This does nothing for our horse's health and instead creates instability in their blood sugar. Studies have also shown that excessive amounts of this type of molasses can even pull minerals and other nutrients out of the body.
Rice brain is a favorite filler because of its texture and cheap cost. Natural rice bran, in its true form, is actually rich in Vitamin E. However this isn't the case with the rice bran in our horse's treats. It's safe to say that vast majority of the rice bran in our horse treats have been heat processed, which removes the healthy vitamins. They are then "fortified" with vitamins. This may not seem like a big deal but synthetically applying vitamins and minerals back into a food makes it more difficult to digest and it will never be as healthy as the natural, whole product.
Soy is another common filler and may be the worst of them all. Humans and horses share the similarity of not being able to process soy properly. Fermented soy (like tofu) can be digested but this isn't the type used in horse treats. Soy is a genetically modified "food" and has been known to cause allergic reactions in horses. Sadly, since soy is cheap many commercial treats and sometimes even grains contain soy and soy products.
Creating Your Own Horse Treats
Making your own horse treats is a rewarding process that doesn't take much time and your horses will thank you. You can purchase all of the ingredients from your grocery store or feed store. These treats are also for children to help with.
Try out a few of these easy recipes!
Oatmeal Cookie Balls
- 1 cup of whole oats or oatmeal
- 1 cup whole bran (unfortified)
- 1 cup grated carrots -or- ½ cup grated carrot and ½ cup grated apple
- 1 tsp natural sea salt or table salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup black strap molasses
Begin by preheating your oven to 350F. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray or equivalent. Add all of your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and combine by hand. Once everything is well mixed roll them into small balls, 1 inch usually works best. Place them on your cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. They will be done when golden brown so keep an eye on them. Keep any treats in an air-tight Ziploc bag or container.
Apple Chewie Squares
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce (you may add a small amount of grated apple for texture)
- 1 cup ground oatmeal
- ½ all purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a 9"x9" pan. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until combined. Spread this mix into your pan evenly. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on how chewy you want your treats to be. This mixture will shrink a bit as the moisture evaporates. Be sure its firm to the touch before removing. Cut your squares while the dough is still warm. These treats will need to be refrigerated in an air-tight container.
Sweet Minty Cookies
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup whole oats or oatmeal
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup finely diced carrots
- ½ cup finely diced apples
- 1 tsp salt, table or sea salt
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 4 finely chopped or ground peppermints
- 1/3 cup black strap molasses
Preheat your oven to 325F and lightly grease a cookie sheet. Mix all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and roll into one inch balls. Place these balls on the cookie sheet and press them down with your palm to flatten them a bit. Bake for 20 minutes. Keep in air-tight container when stored.
Let us know in the comments below if you make homemade horse treats for your guys and gals or if you try any of the three recipes above. Feel free to share recipes!