Like humans, our horses perform best when working from a nutritious diet. BUT...also like us humans, many of our barn-based friends also appreciate a fun treat or two….or a maybe a few. Many varieties of horse treats have cropped up lately and made their way into feed stores, tack shops and breech pockets – and with Valentine’s Day coming soon – let’s take a look at some options for some seasonal sweets.
First – what makes a good treat? Again, like humans, our “engine” works well when it is fueled by “real food”. For horses that would be oats or some kind of grain and a natural flavor (honey or molasses) – that may or may not need an additional element to bind it together. There are a slew of recipes out there, some have added carrots, apples, peppermint, even peanut butter for both bake and no-bake options. Fine tuning ingredients allows adjustments to key factors like portability, smell, and chewiness (I don’t like my treats too dry or crumbly, I am messy enough already). For those of us that are culinarily challenged and maybe a bit burnt out from the banana bread/sourdough baking bonanza of 2020, there are some really fun options to shop for.
Iced Delights aka Etsy Edibles: Creative folks have crafted storefronts on Etsy with some remarkable beautiful bites for the barn. Check out Your Horse Treats, which has delicious designs for Valentine’s Day and even create cute looks for gifting all year round. This young horse woman behind these cute creations is one to watch!
Be sure to check out their stories and their goodies:
About Your Horse Treats
Power Purchase: Horse D’Oeuvres (www.hdhorsetreats.com or shop them at Tried!) is another “home grown” enterprise with treats that took over a decade in development. The mother/daughter duo behind Horse D’oeuvres creates a stable staple for many riders looking to add a nutritious nosh for their horse. The team worked to develop a process that provides optimal crunch without removing the nutrients in their wholesome treats. Horse D'Oeuvres even has the treats analyzed by a lab and nutritionist to confirm the quality and ratio of ingredients. Of course the cute heart shaped cookies were carefully crafted to also please the palate (some riders like them!) AND fit easily in a pocket with minimal mess. These goodies have grown from being the bakers’ barn basic to a traveling treat, used by many riders to reward their horses after a good showing (a cookie for a class?).
Big Brands in Big Bags: Mrs. Pasture’s products seem to be almost everywhere and almost universally well liked since “mama made them” back in the 1980’s. This family owned brand sticks to their “all natural” formula of seriously crunchy oat based discs. (Editor’s note: The plastic tub is great to reuse for snack storage. It lets you see how much you have and it doesn’t allow stuff to spill out in your trunk!). Even Purina is in the game with a fairly a suite of flavors, including butterscotch pellet-shaped treats.
Top Tips: Chocolate looking treats are OK. Real chocolate treats are not. Keep the list of things that you feed your horse small and safe. Chocolate may be a more obvious no-no but just because something grows in the ground, that does not mean it is safe for horses. (no cabbage, no broccoli, no brussel sprouts, no cauliflower, no kale, no onions, no avocados, etc. )
Skip the spices. Somewhere someone thought that if apple flavor was good, then a apple-cinnamon option would be better. Maybe that is a yes for humans but many riders have given cinnamon and other “enhancers” the big neigh-ga-tive for horses (that’s a no).
Try a taste test. One drawback to the supersized pouches is that some flavors are not universally adored. Test first if you can. I have a finicky filly who turned up her nose at one really big bag that I bought….
Keep a tight rein on ingredients. Always check to be sure that a treat is made with ingredients that are compatible with your horse – equine allergies do exist!
Behind the Scenes Scoop:
More About Your Horse Treats. McKenna knew she wanted to ride more and took it upon herself to Google “equestrian boarding schools” to help chart her next step. During a “go home for Pandemic” pause from her studies at Stone Leigh Burnham, an equestrian school, McKenna had the chance to turn something that was kind of a hobby into a business. McKenna thinks that no one knows your horse as well as you do, so she created the idea to sell “Your Horse Treats” as a way to help subsidize her education and give back to the equine community. 50% of the profits from Your Horse Treats go directly to equine related charitable endeavors, with a different recipient selected each season. McKenna started her business at school with a casual “dorm room delivery” system and expanded when people coming to the property for shows started requesting the cute cookies. In order to support her commitments, McKenna keeps a tight schedule of developing new designs, baking and packing. Due in part to her philanthropic work and the fact that she is a positive picture of a young entrepreneur, McKenna has also been asked to speak at multiple events. Now that the icing schedule and packing procedure are nailed, McKenna finds fun in “cookie cutter shopping” and creating novel ideas for her treats like her PacMan, Pizza, or Peanut Butter and Banana Packs.
More about Horse D’oeuvres. Horse D’oeuvres was essentially “born” in the early 2000’s when Lisa was a young rider traveling to the barn with a healthy lunch made by her mom. They thought, why don’t we treat our horse the way we treat ourselves and give him (Sox was the test pony) treats made from wholesome ingredients. Sox was a picky eater so there was quite a bit of experimentation until the right recipe was chosen. Years later a multi-state move separated Lisa and her horse for 6 weeks. It seems like Lisa consoled herself by baking – she really got into it – stockpiling treats and gifting them here and there until she got a few orders, with people wanting to buy her treats. Now the team holds true to a strict schedule of cookie creation, popping out about 5,000 treats a day during “cooking days” in a rented commercial kitchen. Packing and shipping have their own days on the calendar, a system that allows the team to efficiently allow you to “treat your horse with love”.