What Horse Owners Must Pay Attention To

Horses who share a sweet tooth with their riders or trainers may have a problem, especially if they have a weakness for candies like M&Ms. Theobromine and caffeine (both found in chocolate) were detected in urine samples collected from research horses given 20 peanut M&M chocolates daily for eight days. These studies were conducted because a trainer claimed this must have been the source of the caffeine in his horse’s sample.

Horse owners view with some humor their animals strange eating habits such as loving residue from organic winemaking and take delight in a horse that will eat candy from their hand or drink from their soft drink can, but are dismayed later when the horse is tested only to find their innocent act resulted in a positive drug test due to some substance present in the snack or drink.

It is now known that feeding your horse chocolate can cause him to register positive for the presence of caffeine. Chocolate also contains theobromine, which is a stimulant that will show positive in a drug test. Aside from a positive drug test, these may affect the horse himself, in enough quantity.

Then there was the case of the horse who had a taste for licorice and jellybeans and one day was not well after a lesson. A few hours later he was being rushed to surgery for colic. The veterinarian explained that these treats can cause a lot of gas, and with the increase of gases, the bowel became twisted.

Horses can eat small amounts of milk protein found in some dairy products, but not much, so you may be giving your horse a severe case of scours if you feed chocolate. This may cause its body to accumulate fat and become less efficient in energy production, especially Peruvian horses. 

Ditto for sugar. If the horse is very Insulin Resistant or Cushinoid it might cause a problem! Horses do not have the enzymes to deal with it so it is difficult for them to metabolize and break it down in the hindgut. The bacteria needed to deal with these foods don’t exist and this can lead to imbalances over time such as:

  • low-grade infections
  • higher sensitivity to antibiotics
  • irregular bowel movements
  • lowered immune system after long-term feeding of sugar treats even in horses that are not insulin resistant or Cushinoid.


The hairs just inside the horse’s ears are for protection. They stop insects, seeds, and dust particles going into the ear and causing damage. Avoid trimming these hairs since they have an important part to play.  If you have to clip your horse’s ears for shows put a ball of cotton inside the ear to catch the clippings.

Why Your Horse Does NOT Need A Rug–Ever!!, except in Vancouver, BC CANADA (my little joke)

The internal core temperature of a horse must be kept within a very narrow range (38 degrees C). Chemical biological reactions can occur at the cellular level when the body temperature exceeds or falls below this limit causing health problems and even death.

When cold, a horse can, through muscular action, raise the hairs on the skin creating a thermal blanket to protect itself. When hot, the horse can, through muscular action, dilate blood vessels near the surface of the skin to cool off. Interesting is also how Chinese traditions look at horses in a different way.

Additionally, it can raise the hairs and even point them in the direction of a breeze to cool down. If you put a blanket or rug over a horse for any length of time…then like all muscles–after awhile they will atrophy, making it impossible for the horse to raise or lower the hair on its skin. In such circumstances, a rugged horse is then “stripped” of its only protection and urged to go out on a crisp cold day and work. It no longer has the capacity to warm itself and the core body temperature is lowered.

Rugs prevent the natural cleaning of the horse when it rains.

Rugs prevent a horse receiving the benefits of a good roll on the ground, getting dirt on the skin and hair which are methods of cleaning from sweat and grime as well as protection from flies and other insects and this is also the case with Quarter Horses. Read more here.

Vital Statistics

Heart Rate ~ 30-40 beats a minute at rest. If the horse is younger the beats per minute will be higher. The heart rate can be found on the left side of the chest near the elbow. Did you know that properly trimmed feet will aid in the heart’s performance at rest and work?

Respiratory Rate ~ 12-20 beats per minutes at rest. It should never exceed heart pulse rate.

Capillary Refill Time ~ press horse’s gum tissue. The color should come back in 2 seconds or less.

Internal Body Temperature ~ 37.5 degrees Celsius. If above 39, call the vet. immediately.

Equine Teeth

Along with 12 incisors–six up and six down–the adult horse has double that number of cheek teeth. Thus, all normal mature horse mouths contain at least 36 teeth, but the count can rise to 44.

Male horses generally have four canine teeth, one in each bar–the toothless span between the incisors and premolars–and there are mares that also produce a pair of canine teeth. Up to four “wolf” teeth may also appear in the bars of both sexes.