The 20 Best Horse Treats

Jelena Woehr
By Jelena Woehr. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM on Mar. 21, 2024
Horse eating from hand

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When your horse stretches his neck across the stall door or paddock fence, whinnying softly and bobbing his head, you can almost hear the words out loud: “Where’s my cookie?”

Treats are more than just fun for horses. When used as part of a positive reinforcement training program, food rewards reinforce desirable behaviors. Many horse owners also use treats as part of a stretching routine prior to exercise.

However, too many horse treats, or the wrong kind of treats, may contribute to health and behavior problems. It’s up to horse owners to select the best horse treats for their horse, and to feed them in moderation alongside a nutritionally balanced diet.

Choosing the Best Horse Treats

Once upon a time, choosing the right treat for your horse just meant chopping up an apple or unwrapping a peppermint. Today, there are hundreds of horse treat options formulated to meet horses’ taste preferences, nutritional needs, and training requirements. Selecting the best option starts with understanding common horse treat ingredients.


The first ingredient in many manufactured horse treats is usually a grain product, such as barley flour, corn meal, or wheat. These ground-up grains provide protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential lipids. Horses generally like the flavor of grain products, and cooked grains tend to be shelf-stable for a long time.


Some treats include ground or chopped alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, or other hays. Just like hay that comes in bales, hay in horse treats can be a source of protein, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients.

Hay-based treats are less stimulating than grain-based treats for most horses, which reduces pushy behavior when training with food rewards.

Soy Products

Some horse treats include soybean hulls or soybean meal. Soy contains lysine, an essential amino acid that helps horses build muscle tissue and supports a healthy coat and joints.

Some horse owners avoid soy due to a slight risk of allergies in horses, but most horses can safely enjoy soy products and even benefit from their essential fatty acid content.


Flaxseed is about 40% fat and packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which may promote skin and coat health. It is often fed for weight gain and can have potential anti-inflammatory benefits.

The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds are not digestible when the seeds are fed whole, but degrade quickly after seeds are ground. Therefore, commercial horse treats may be the best way to feed flaxseed if you can’t grind it fresh for your horse.

Beet Pulp

Beet pulp is a highly digestible source of soluble fiber. It is commonly used to keep weight on senior horses.

Beet pulp is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds beneficial digestive bacteria. Beet pulp pellets are typically fed soaked, but horse treats that include beet pulp can be fed dry.

Brewer’s Yeast

Yeast supplementation can help some horses digest fiber, which may allow them to get more nutrition out of their hay.

Equine athletes are sometimes supplemented with brewer’s yeast to counteract potentially  negative digestive effects of a grain-heavy diet used to support an intensive exercise program.  Hard or prolonged workouts burn excessive calories, so they may require extra grain to support caloric and electrolyte loss.


Common horse treat ingredients added solely for flavor include:

  • Molasses

  • Peppermint

  • Vanilla

  • Dried berries

  • Artificial flavorings

Artificial flavor may not be appropriate for all horses in high amounts, particularly those that need low-starch and sugar diets due to metabolic concerns. If you are unsure about what may be an appropriate treat ingredient for your horse, consult your veterinarian.

Vitamins and Minerals

Ingredients like calcium, zinc, niacin, vitamin E, copper, and manganese help meet horses’ vitamin and mineral needs. Your horse’s daily meals should provide their minimum daily nutritional requirements, but a few treats here and there can offer an extra vitamin boost.

Functional Supplements

Some horse treats are formulated to double as nutritional supplements with a specific purpose. For example, joint health treats might include ingredients like MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Probiotic treats may include live microorganisms important for equine digestion.

Always consult with your veterinarian to determine if a nutritional supplement is right for your horse.

Best Treats for Horses

Apple Horse Treats

Apples are a classic snack for horses, but you can’t carry a pocketful of whole apples on a trail ride … which is where apple-flavored treats come in. Try these:

Peppermint Horse Treats

Many horses love minty tastes and react with excitement to the sound of a peppermint candy being unwrapped. Try these peppermint-flavored treats:

Carrot Horse Treats

Carrots are the french fries of the equine world: almost everyone likes them—even picky eaters. These carrot-flavored crowd pleasers will be a hit with the whole herd:

Molasses Horse Treats

Many horse trainers have a bottle of molasses tucked away in the barn, used for drizzling on bits to entice a young or reluctant horse to help them get used to the feel of a bit in their mouths. For all the flavor of molasses without the sticky mess, feed these molasses-flavored horse treats:

Other Flavored Horse Treats

If you have a finicky gourmand in the barn, try an off-the-beaten-path flavor, like banana, cherry, or cinnamon horse treats. Here are a few unusual treats that might please your horse’s palate:

Low Starch/Sugar Horse Treats

Some of our equine partners need to cut down on sugars and starches due to a high body condition score, or they are dealing with a metabolic issue like Cushing's disease. If your horse has dietary restrictions, try these healthier treat options:

Tips for Choosing Treats for Horses

The right treat for your horse depends on why you feed treats to your horse.

  • If you’re using treats to hide a bitter-tasting pill, choose a soft, sweet treat with a strong flavor like molasses or peppermint.

  • For positive reinforcement training, try small, hard horse treats with a mild flavor like carrot or alfalfa, treats that can be easily carried in a pocket or treat bag.

  • When using treats as a source of mental stimulation and enrichment, go for a variety of unusual flavors, stuffed inside an enrichment toy or scattered on an equine snuffle mat.

  • For horses with dietary restrictions, you may need to select a low-starch and/or sugar-free treat.

Individual horses’ tastes vary. Many horses raised in a pasture setting find commercial horse treats baffling at first and may more eagerly eat treats that contain chopped hay than treats with peppermint pieces or banana bits. Horses with experience on the racetrack or in the show ring are often more adventurous eaters, and may enjoy sampling novel flavors.

You know your horse best. Choose a treat that meets both their needs and yours. You’ll know you’ve found the right horse treats when you see your horse’s head pop up and their lips start quivering with anticipation the moment you crinkle the bag!


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Red Mare Running: PNER Convention Notes – “10 Things You Can Do Better” by Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, MS. Red Mare Running. Published February 4, 2016. Accessed March 6, 2024.

Balancing Your Horse’s Diet to Achieve an Ideal Weight. Horse Illustrated. Published April 4, 2006. Accessed March 6, 2024.

5 Facts About Flax. The Horse. Published July 15, 2019. Accessed March 6, 2024.

What’s So Special About Lysine? The Horse. Published February 3, 2020. Accessed March 6, 2024.

Debunking Myths About Soy in Equine Diets. Tribute Equine Nutrition. Accessed March 6, 2024.

Benefits of Beet Pulp for Horses. Kentucky Equine Research. Published March 19, 2018. Accessed March 6, 2024.


Jelena Woehr


Jelena Woehr

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