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What flavors do horses like best?

A scientific study revealed unexpected results in horse flavor preferences.

24-Nov-11

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Horse eating carrotThis Thanksgiving, you might be thinking about giving your horse a special treat before enjoying your own holiday feast. You could go the traditional route with carrots, apples or peppermints, but if you really want to give your horse something special, go with…fenugreek?

In 2005, researchers at Southampton University’s Equine Behavior Centre in Great Britain conducted a study to determine horse flavor preferences. They started with 15 different flavors, but eliminated Echinacea, coriander and nutmeg when some of the eight horses in the study refused to eat food flavored with those spices.

Another four flavors were eliminated because, while the horses did eat them, they were not eaten as quickly as the remaining eight flavors. The flavors that received this lukewarm reaction from the horses were ginger, garlic, turmeric and—most surprisingly—the beloved apple.

In the second part of the study, the remaining eight flavors were offered in pairs to determine which flavors horses preferred over the others. This was done until each horse had been offered every possible pairing of flavors. The final results, in order of preference were:

  1. Fenugreek
  2. Banana*
  3. Cherry**
  4. Rosemary
  5. Cumin
  6. Carrot
  7. Peppermint
  8. Oregano

In the third phase of the study, researchers added fenugreek and banana to unflavored mineral pellets, which on their own, horses found unpalatable. It took the horses an average of 195 seconds to eat the pellets, and in some cases, they did not finish them. The banana and fenugreek flavored pellets were consumed in an average of 52 and 66 seconds, respectively.

Wondering where you can get some fenugreek for your horse? You may be able to find it at specialty food stores. It’s a spice often used in curries and other dishes from Indian and North African cuisine. The flavor is described as bitter, but with a smoky, sugary flavor that has caused it to be used as a base for imitation maple flavoring.

So if you’re looking for a way to include your horse in the Thanksgiving and holiday-season festivities this year, think outside the apple and try one of these flavors.

*Because of the high potassium content, bananas should not be fed to horses that have or may have HYPP.
**While horses may enjoy artificial cherry flavor, actual cherries are toxic to horses. Click here to learn more about horse poison prevention.

Source: Goodwin, D., Selection and acceptance of flavours in concentrate diets for stabled horses Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 95, Issue 3 , Pages 223-232, December 2005

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What flavors do horses like best?

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Reader Comments

Pat    Great Falls, MT

11/26/2011 11:45:26 AM

Our horse's just aren't picky, they like everything!

Maggie    northern, WI

11/26/2011 6:14:24 AM

My horse loves watermelon and coffee. If I come in with a coffee and set it near him, he'll either knock it off the fence and grab it drink stright from the cup.

p    p, PW

11/25/2011 3:55:49 PM

I'll have to try some of those flavours and see what my horse thinks.

Haley    Alabaster, AL

11/25/2011 11:43:51 AM

Pretty cool! My horse loves the classic carrot, but refuses to eat peppermints.

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