Photo Credit to Kim Pratt

In most race horse barns, rumple the cellophane wrapper from a peppermint candy and heads appear and pawing begins. Horses love treats, especially sweets, and trainers and owners pamper their race horses and spare no expense to make them happy and content.

Horses in the wild spend their days grazing and moving about, usually in a herd. Domesticated horses, especially race horses, are confined to a stall by themselves for most of the day therefore some horses develop vices like cribbing or stall walking to relieve their boredom. Horse toys and treats relieve boredom and stimulate their senses.

Safe natural snacks for horses include most fruits like apples, pears, raisins, grapes, and bananas, and many vegetables such as celery, carrots, pumpkin, and snow peas. Huge companies like Purina and Manna Pro manufacture commercial horse treats shaped like cookies, nuggets, wafers, and doughnuts and are flavored with apple, molasses, carrot, and peppermint. Smaller companies like Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses bake all natural treats made with apples, oats, and molasses and are staples in many barns. Trainer Butch Reid at Parx feeds Mrs. Pastures Cookies to his horses along with peppermints and carrots, and retired champion and Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome devoured Mrs. Pastures Cookies.

Photo Credit to Jessica Paquette

Treats are used as enticements for picky eaters and as rewards for good behavior and winning races. This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mage feasted on carrots and peppermints after the race, and champion and 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones munched on carrots every day. Now at Equistar, a breeding farm, Smarty developed a liking for peppermints and cookies. John Servis, Smarty Jones trainer during his racing career, uses peppermints as a barometer to gauge his horses’ moods and attitudes in the morning. “If they eat their treat in the morning, they must be feeling good,” said John. Another horse trained by Servis at Parx, Jaywalk, two year old champion filly of 2018, loved peppermints and cocked her head whenever she heard cellophane rustle.

 According to Jessica Paquette, track announcer at Parx Race Track, “I go into the barns, and I see most trainers feed some kind of treats, and many of them have horse toys in their barns. I’m an ambassador for Lazy Dog Cookies, and they just introduced a new biscuit for horses. The biscuits are all natural ingredients and the flavor is cherry vanilla peppermint. My horse seems to enjoy them. The sales benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation which is based in Saratoga Springs, NY. The non-profit foundation saves race horses that can’t compete on the track anymore and that are unable to have second careers. They have a program located in 8 correctional facilities where inmates take care of the horses and learn about horse nutrition and health care. They receive a certificate after they complete the course, and some go on to work with horses after their release. It’s a good program for both horses and prisoners.”

Photo Credit to Kim Pratt

“Whenever I walk into Eddie Coletti’s barn, I feel like I’m in a children’s daycare because he has toys for all the horses. Also several trainers have squeaky toys and stuffed animals for their horses too,” said Jessica. Great stress relievers, horse toys keep horses occupied and simulate playtime. Popular toys include carrot balls, snack dispensers, Jolly Balls, hanging salt licks, and molasses balls. In the wild, horses socialize and interact with each other, so some trainers hang shatterproof mirrors in horses’ stalls so they think they have company. Popular at farms, Jolly Balls are large balls made of heavy duty rubber that horses can bite and kick and push around a paddock or stall. In stalls, people hang treat holders that contain carrots or other goodies that horses have to retrieve. Also a favorite are flavored and scented pacifier type toys that horses can chew and bite, and horses enjoy hanging molasses balls that keep them busy and entertained. Like dogs and children, some horses enjoy squeaky toys and teddy bears.

Horses are naturally curious, and horse toys and treats enrich their lives by engaging their senses and stimulating their minds. A happy horse is a winning horse.


Cover Photo Credit to Jessica Paquette

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