chunky pony grazing in field

Q: My daughter has a show pony she loves to spoil with the fancy treats from the tack store, but I think they seem very unhealthy for him. Should I be concerned about her feeding him these almost daily? Is there a better treat option I can recommend?

A:  Many of us, no matter our age, tend to have a soft spot for giving treats to our horses, myself included. It makes us feel good to see them look at us so lovingly. While the reality is a couple of sugary treats a day are unlikely to harm most horses, safer options exist.

The amount of sugar in a regular sized treat is a tiny portion of the pony’s total diet and likely a very small portion of the total sugar being consumed. Therefore, I would not be overly concerned. However, I would feel differently if the pony had a history of laminitis or was actively laminitic because in these situations, we try to remove all unwanted sugar from the diet.

Given that ponies are often prone to becoming insulin dysregulated, obese, and metabolic, the smart choice would be to find treats that have a lower sugar content. Luckily, a number of what appear to be yummy-looking treats have low nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) levels and would be safer choices.

Try to find treats that have an NSC value of less than 12%. Be careful though, because many treat manufacturers use words in their names or descriptions that would lead you to believe they are low in NSC when, in fact, they are not. Look for treats with guaranteed NSC levels.

At the end of the day, if we do right by our horses, they will love us whether we feed them treats or not. What treats often give us is a moment of connection with our horse that perhaps we don’t have at other times. Acknowledging this can be a step toward creating meaningful relationships with our horses.

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