The Horse

NOV 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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TheHorse.com | The Horse November 2018 71 the procedure more easily," Foster says. "If people did this before and after every injection, there would be fewer needle- shy horses." Conversely, feeding a horse treats at the wrong time can accidentally reinforce behaviors the owner would prefer to discourage. For example, a horse that is pawing, begging, nosing human pockets for hidden treats, or mugging—getting pushy around humans and other horses— in anticipation of a treat can be danger- ous. That kind of behavior can not only annoy humans but also negatively affect the horse displaying it, Foster says. "Horses can become aggressive and demanding over food," she says. "And horses that are pawing or begging for a treat are actually feeling aroused and driven in anticipation of food, and that's often not a feel-good experience for the horse." Treats as Part of the Diet Meanwhile, because food is directly connected to equine well-being, it is powerful in another way, too, says Burt Staniar, PhD, equine nutritionist in Penn- sylvania State University's Department of Animal Sciences, in University Park. That's why it's just as important to know how treats affect a healthy horse's diet. "Nutrition is complicated and not straightforward, but there is some com- mon sense to the way it works," Staniar says. "The simplest rule is 'everything in moderation.' " Staniar says a 1,000-pound horse should consume about 20 pounds of food every day. "Most of that is in forage—hay and pasture grass—and the rest is in grain and then in supplements, including treats," he says. "So no matter what they are, treats are only going to account for a small percentage of horses' diets." But that's not to say owners should downplay the nutritional value of the treats they do feed, especially in light of what those items contribute to a horse's overall diet. "I go to the barn to visit my horse a couple of times a week, and I always bring an apple or a carrot," Staniar says. "But actually there is no differ- ence between an apple or a carrot or a peppermint—the nutritional value is in the sugar, and they all contribute sugar to a horse's diet." As a result, upping a horse's sugar intake by overfeeding treats can promote unhealthy conditions such as obesity and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), a condition characterized by general obesity, regional adiposity (fat accumulation in certain areas of a horse's body, such as in the neck), insulin resistance (a reduction in insulin sensitivity that makes it more difficult for cells to take up blood sugar, or glucose, for metabolism or storage), and laminitis, a painful foot condition that causes inflammation and weakening of the tissues that attach the coffin bone to the hoof wall. So it is important for owners to pay attention to how many treats and what kind they feed their horses at any one time. "If you give the horse 10 carrots, you should be giving them over the course of the day," Staniar says. "If you give them all 10 carrots at once, you have complications in the glucose-insulin response." If your horse has one of the abovementioned conditions, ask your veterinarian if you should be feeding a special low-sugar and -starch treat product instead. Choosing Treats The good news is, when it comes to treats, there isn't one that owners should absolutely never feed their horses. "Horses are picky eaters, and often they turn their noses up at something new," Staniar says. "So we experiment with fla- vors such as molasses and anise because horses like them." And though apples, carrots, and pep- permints might be common favorites, some owners prefer to feed their horses homemade treats because they believe they are healthier. Staniar reminds us, however, that treats from the kitchen might not be more beneficial than those bought off the feed store's shelf. "I'd rather have a homemade cookie than a commercial one, too, but I have some concerns about homemade cookies (for horses) because I don't know what ingredients are used to make them," he says. "I'll bet that a nutritionist has worked on the ingredients for the com- mercial cookies." Indeed, manufacturers involve nutritionists in treat development and testing, and product packaging designers make sure each bag provides information to help consumers use the treat properly, says Katie Young, PhD, senior nutritionist and product manager for equine technical When done properly, positive-reinforcement-based training programs, such as clicker-training, reward horses with food for performing desired behaviors. ARND BRONKHORST If you give the horse 10 carrots, you should be giving them over the course of the day." DR. BURT STANIAR

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