A Beer for Our Horses

With Oktoberfest in full swing, we started to wonder: Is the racetrack tradition of giving horses beer a good idea?

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It is the latter part of September, which means that Munich’s beer halls are in full swing celebrating Oktoberfest. You might think that your Oktoberfest is just for humans, but then why does Willie Nelson have a song titled “Beer For My Horses”? It turns out that giving horses beer has been a practice amongst equestrians for many years, especially racehorse trainers. Famous horses Tapit and Zenyatta are known to have enjoyed a Guinness on occasion. But other than wanting to celebrate Oktoberfest with your equine partner, what are the reasons for giving your horse a “cold one,” and is it safe? Let’s take a look, starting with why you might want to share a beer with your horse.


Giving horses beer as a traditional treatment for anhidrosis isn’t uncommon, with the thought that beer provides as a source of yeast and B vitamins. Anhidrosis is a condition that causes horses not to sweat properly, and some stop sweating all together. This can lead to overheating, which has dangerous consequences.

Anhidrosis is most common in hot climates, especially where humidity is high. No medication or supplement has been shown effective in research trials. However, some people believe that giving the affected horse a can of beer every day solves the issue. Certainly, if this works it’s a relatively easy solution and worth trying. If you suspect your horse has anhidrosis, have him checked by a veterinarian before attempting any treatment on your own.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are vital for the correct functioning of metabolic pathways. The eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, B6. and B12) are involved in everything from building blood cells, maintaining nerve cells, generating cellular energy, and metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat. A quick search online unearths large volumes written about beer as a rich source of these vital nutrients for people, as well as other nutrients, including nonessential amino acids and some minerals. While no longer recommended due to the negative effects of alcohol on fetal development, doctors used to prescribe Guinness to pregnant women for its high vitamin B content

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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