Economical Horse Treats

Want to find a cheap and healthy horse treat that is also easy to store?

Like many others I like giving a treat to a horse for a job well done, for coming in from pasture, or for tolerating something unpleasant. Sometimes more than that when training for specific things, although I am very stingy with them in horse training, as opposed to dog training.

Even so, it’s not easy to find something that fits the description of a cheap, healthy, easy to store, palatable, portable, easy to feed, and without the requirement of baking it up at home. Really, with two young children in soccer, baseball, basketball, scouts in two different packs, 2nd language school – which I run together with 5 other moms, two athletic dogs, three secret backyard animals, a pestering long distance running passion that needs to be tended to daily, a gluten and dairy free diet that unfortunately has to be adhered to, and a wonderful husband thrown in the mix – I do not have time to make my own horse treats.

Looking at the shelves of local stores there’s definitely no shortage in horse cookies, but what about something healthier than that?
There’s plenty of other options that fit within Dressage On A Dime.

Pros: Cheap, portable, most horses like them (not mine), no color in the mouth-froth after eating them, easy to carry
Cons: Melts in wrapper in heat (which we have half the year here), NOT healthy – this is just a pure candy, current horse will not eat them

Sugar Cubes
Pros:  Cheap, stores well, easy to carry (unless you ride with them because they crumble up), leaves no color in mouth when ridden, really easy and small treat to deal with
Cons: Ahhhhh, it’s pure SUGAR (think bad for teeth, ulcers, everything)

Pros: Palatable – most horses love ’em, sort of healthy, not too pricy
Cons: Freeze in the cold, go soft in the fridge and mold (if you have a fridge at the stable), too unfashionable to ride with an “orange mustache” when fed right before bridling 🙂

Pros: Most horses heat them (unfortunately not mine), healthy, cheap – sort of.
Cons: Should be cut up (if you’ve got time to deal with this, you are not on my team), spoils, difficult to tote around, and if you’re like me, always hungry, you end up eating them your self (shamefully carrying on now to next topic.).

Store Bought Horse Treats
Pros: Most look and feel nice in the horse’s mouth, fun to shop for, highly palatable, and wonderful to both give and receive as gifts.
Cons: Not recommended for Dressage On A Dime because of the price, no way of knowing how fresh it is – most products on the market have no preservatives or expiration dates, often packed with neutraceuticals such as chondroitin sulfate, methionine, biotin etc – I prefer to feed these in standardized doses in a supplement to know exactly how much they get.

What? How did these make this list? Now we’re just weird. OK cheap, but so is feeding Twinkies for dinner to your kids, which I do not do.

Enter Alfalfa Cubes – the perfect, healthy treat that will not spoil, have to be cut up, doled out from a wrapper, hand-made, or overpaid for.
My friend Rachel Englund feeds them to her horse, Black, and that’s what got me started on this.
They are extremely affordable, palatable – most horses will gobble this type of feed up before hitting their grain, will not spoil in heat or cold, will not attract mice or other pests, and can be doled out without “sugar guilt.”

This is what they look like; very dry, very hard. They should be broken down into smaller pieces when fed.  So far I have never had a problem with horses choking on these.
This is what they look like; very dry, very hard. They should be broken down into smaller pieces when fed. So far I have never had a problem with horses choking on these.

Some may be concerned about enteroliths, but this is nothing to worry about in all horses and especially not when fed in small treat rations.

Here is the lowdown on equine enteroliths – they come about when the diet consists almost entirely of alfalfa. This leads to more alkaline conditions in the colon. A combination of less fiber, and higher concentrations of minerals, will then lead to enteroliths, especially if predisposed.

To some extent, including and acidifier such as vinegar, or feeding grain plus including grass hay or pasture in addition to the alfalfa can be of help.

Huge 50 lb bag of Harlan Feed Alfalfa cubes - a great economical treat.
Huge 50 lb bag of Harlan Feed Alfalfa cubes – a great economical treat.

Feeding a few alfalfa cubes as a treat should not be a problem at all. For the small percentage where laminitis or being “hot” is an issue, this will still be a safe treat. Horses should never be over-fed, or over-treated, a small amount goes a long way. These hard textured, low sugared cubes have been great for La Prima and I.

I bought them locally, these are by Harlan Feed in Woodland. (And no, they didn’t pay me to write this)
You can find Harlan Feed here.