Can Horses Eat Candy Canes?

Horses should not eat candy canes or any sugary treats as part of their regular diet. While a small amount of candy cane may not be harmful, feeding horses sugary foods can lead to various health issues, such as obesity, dental problems, and digestive disturbances. It is important to prioritize a horse’s nutritional needs and provide them with a balanced diet consisting of hay, grass, and horse-specific feeds. Always consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist for proper dietary recommendations for your horse’s well-being.

can horses eat candy canes

The Potential Risks of Feeding Candy Canes to Horses

While candy canes may be a popular treat during the holiday season, it is important to remember that not all foods are safe for our animal friends. Horses, in particular, have specific dietary needs that must be met in order to ensure their health and well-being. Feeding candy canes to horses can pose several potential risks, which we will explore in this section.

1. Sugar Overload

Candy canes are primarily made of sugar and artificial flavorings. Horses have a unique digestive system that is designed to process large amounts of fibrous plant material. Unlike humans, horses do not have the necessary enzymes to break down sugars efficiently. Feeding candy canes to horses can result in a sugar overload, which can lead to various health issues.

2. Digestive Problems

The high sugar content in candy canes can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in a horse’s gut. This can cause digestive upset, such as diarrhea or colic. Colic is a serious condition that can be life-threatening for horses and requires immediate veterinary attention.

3. Dental Issues

The hard texture of candy canes can be damaging to a horse’s teeth. Horses have continuously growing teeth that are designed to chew on fibrous plant material. Eating hard candy canes can potentially cause tooth fractures or other dental problems, which may require veterinary treatment.

4. Weight Gain and Obesity

Feeding candy canes to horses can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Excessive sugar intake can lead to increased calorie consumption without providing the necessary nutrients. This can result in weight gain, which can put strain on a horse’s joints and increase the risk of other health issues, such as laminitis.

5. Choking Hazard

Horses have a sensitive esophagus and are at risk of choking on large or hard food items. The shape and size of candy canes make them a potential choking hazard, especially if a horse tries to swallow a whole or partially broken piece.

6. Toxic Ingredients

Certain ingredients commonly found in candy canes, such as artificial sweeteners like xylitol, can be toxic to horses. Xylitol, in particular, can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels, liver damage, and other serious health issues. It is important to read the ingredient labels carefully before feeding any treats to horses.


Feeding candy canes to horses can pose significant risks to their health. The high sugar content can lead to sugar overload, digestive problems, and weight gain. The hard texture can cause dental issues and increase the risk of choking. Additionally, certain ingredients found in candy canes can be toxic to horses. It is always best to stick to a horse’s regular diet and consult with a veterinarian for appropriate and safe treat options.

Alternative Treats for Horses Instead of Candy Canes

When it comes to treating our horses, many of us automatically reach for the traditional candy cane. However, it’s important to remember that candy canes are high in sugar and may not be the most suitable choice for our equine friends. Luckily, there are plenty of alternative treats available that horses can enjoy without compromising their health. In this section, we will explore some of the best options for treating your horse, ensuring their well-being and satisfaction.

1. Carrots and Apples

Nature has provided us with some fantastic alternatives to candy canes that horses absolutely love – carrots and apples. These treats are not only tasty but also packed with essential nutrients. Carrots, in particular, are a great source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the horse’s body and helps improve their eye health. Apples, on the other hand, provide vitamins and antioxidants that boost the immune system. Both fruits are low in sugar, making them a healthier choice for your horse’s snack time.

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2. Peppermint Patties

If you want to give your horse a minty treat without the excess sugar, consider peppermint patties specifically made for horses. These treats are designed to provide the refreshing taste of mint while being sugar-free. Peppermint patties are a great option for horses with insulin resistance or those on a low-sugar diet. Just make sure to check the ingredients to ensure they are safe and suitable for your horse’s dietary needs.

3. Herbal Treats

Herbal treats are another excellent alternative to candy canes for horses. These treats are made from a blend of herbs and natural ingredients that offer various health benefits. For example, chamomile can help calm anxious horses, while fenugreek can improve digestion. Herbal treats can be found in a range of flavors and textures, allowing you to choose the ones your horse enjoys the most. They are a great way to indulge your horse while providing them with additional nutrition.

4. Homemade Treats

If you prefer to have full control over the ingredients in your horse’s treats, consider making homemade treats. There are countless recipes available online that use horse-friendly ingredients like oats, molasses, and fruits. Homemade treats allow you to customize the flavors and adjust the sugar content to suit your horse’s specific needs. It’s also a fun activity that can involve the whole family, ensuring your horse gets a special treat made with love.

5. Hay Cubes

For horses that need to watch their weight or have limited access to grazing, hay cubes can be a great alternative to candy canes. These compressed cubes are made from high-quality hay and come in various flavors such as alfalfa or timothy. Hay cubes are not only a tasty treat but also provide horses with essential fiber, promoting healthy digestion. They can be fed as a snack or used as a training reward, making them a versatile option for horse owners.

6. Vegetable Sticks

Just like humans, horses can benefit from consuming more vegetables in their diet. Vegetable sticks, such as celery or cucumber, can provide a crunchy and refreshing treat for your equine companion. These low-sugar options are a great choice for horses on a restricted diet or those prone to metabolic issues. To make the treat even more enticing, you can add a smear of peanut butter or molasses to the vegetable sticks.

7. Commercial Horse Treats

If you’re short on time or prefer the convenience of store-bought treats, there are plenty of commercial options available specifically made for horses. These treats come in various flavors, shapes, and sizes, catering to different preferences. When choosing commercial treats, it’s essential to read the ingredients list and opt for products that are low in sugar and free from any harmful additives. Look for treats made from natural ingredients that prioritize your horse’s health and well-being.

In summary, while candy canes may be a traditional treat for horses, there are numerous alternatives that are healthier and equally enjoyable. Carrots and apples, peppermint patties, herbal treats, homemade treats, hay cubes, vegetable sticks, and commercial horse treats all provide a range of options to keep your horse happy and satisfied. By opting for these alternatives, you can treat your horse without compromising their health and ensure their snack time is both delicious and nutritious.

Considerations for Offering Treats to Horses

When it comes to interacting with horses, offering treats can be a rewarding experience for both the horse and the handler. Treats can be used as a form of positive reinforcement during training or simply as a way to bond with your equine companion. However, it is important to approach treat-giving with caution and consider certain factors to ensure the safety and well-being of the horse.

1. Nutritional Balance

Before offering treats to your horse, it is essential to consider their nutritional balance. Horses have specific dietary requirements, and feeding them excessive amounts of treats can lead to imbalances or health issues. Treats should be seen as an addition to their regular diet, rather than a substitute for it.

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Ensure that the treats you offer are appropriate for horses and do not contain any harmful ingredients. Avoid giving them sugary or high-fat treats, as these can contribute to weight gain, metabolic disorders, and dental problems.

2. Proper Portion Sizes

Portion control is crucial when giving treats to horses. Overfeeding treats can lead to weight gain, digestive issues, and even behavioral problems. It is recommended to offer treats in small quantities, as a reward for desired behavior or as a special treat during training sessions.

Divide the treats into smaller pieces to make them last longer and avoid overindulgence. This also gives you the opportunity to reward the horse multiple times during a training session, keeping their motivation high.

3. Health and Allergies

Consider the horse’s health and any potential allergies they may have before offering treats. Some horses may be sensitive or allergic to certain ingredients, such as grains, soy, or specific herbs. Always check the packaging of treats for any allergens and consult with a veterinarian if you are unsure.

If you notice any adverse reactions, such as itching, swelling, or gastrointestinal upset after giving treats, discontinue use immediately and seek veterinary advice. It is better to be cautious and prioritize the horse’s well-being over offering treats.

4. Training Implications

When using treats as a form of positive reinforcement during training, it is important to consider the potential implications. Treats should be given as a reward for desired behavior rather than a bribe, and they should be gradually phased out as the horse becomes more proficient in the trained task.

Using treats in training can be a powerful tool, but it is important to strike a balance and not rely solely on treats to elicit the desired response. Incorporate a variety of rewards, such as praise and physical contact, to maintain a well-rounded training approach.

5. Safety Precautions

When offering treats to horses, it is crucial to follow safety precautions to avoid accidents or injuries. Always approach the horse calmly and respectfully, and present the treat in a flat hand to prevent accidental biting or grabbing.

Avoid feeding treats through fences or bars, as this can encourage aggressive behavior or accidental entrapment. Instead, find a suitable area where you can safely interact with the horse and provide treats without any potential hazards.

Furthermore, teach the horse to take treats gently from your hand and discourage any aggressive or pushy behavior. This helps maintain a respectful and safe dynamic between the horse and the handler.


Offering treats to horses can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to consider various factors to ensure the safety and well-being of the horse. Pay attention to their nutritional balance, offer treats in proper portion sizes, consider any health issues or allergies, and be mindful of the training implications. Take necessary safety precautions to avoid accidents and injuries. By approaching treat-giving with caution and consideration, you can enhance your relationship with your equine companion while keeping them healthy and happy.

Safe and Healthy Treats for Horses to Enjoy

Horses, like any other animal, enjoy receiving treats as a form of rewards and affection. However, it is important to choose treats that are safe and healthy for them. Giving inappropriate treats or feeding them in excessive amounts can lead to health issues such as obesity or digestive problems. In this section, we will discuss some safe and healthy treats that horses can enjoy.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a great choice for horse treats as they provide essential vitamins and minerals. However, not all fruits and vegetables are safe for horses to consume. Some safe options include:

  • Carrots: Carrots are a favorite among horses and are an excellent source of beta-carotene.
  • Apples: Apples are another popular choice and are rich in fiber.
  • Bananas: Horses can also enjoy bananas in moderation as a sweet treat.
  • Celery: Celery is a low-calorie option and can be given as a refreshing snack.
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When giving fruits and vegetables, it is important to wash them thoroughly and remove any seeds or pits before feeding them to your horse.

Grains and Seeds

Grains and seeds can serve as healthy treats for horses, but they should be given in moderation. Some safe options include:

  • Oats: Oats are a common treat for horses and are a good source of energy.
  • Sunflower Seeds: Horses can enjoy sunflower seeds in small quantities as a tasty snack.
  • Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can be given as a supplement treat.
  • Barley: Barley can be fed to horses as a healthy and digestible treat.

It is important to remember that grains and seeds should not be the main component of a horse’s diet and should only be given as occasional treats.

Herbs and Hay Cubes

Herbs and hay cubes can be a nutritious and flavorful treat for horses. Some safe options include:

  • Peppermint: Peppermint leaves or candies can be given as a refreshing treat.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile flowers can have a calming effect on horses and can be enjoyed as a treat.
  • Hay Cubes: Hay cubes can serve as a healthier alternative to processed treats and provide essential fiber.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley can be given in small amounts as a tasty treat.

When introducing new herbs or hay cubes to your horse, it is important to start with small quantities and observe for any adverse reactions.

Avoid These Treats

While it is important to provide treats for horses, there are certain foods that should be avoided as they can be harmful to their health. Some treats to avoid include:

  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to horses.
  • Avocado: Avocado contains a substance called persin, which can be harmful to horses.
  • Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic can cause anemia in horses if consumed in large amounts.
  • Sweet Treats: Avoid giving horses sugary treats such as candies or sugary cereals, as they can lead to obesity and dental issues.

In summary, it is important to choose safe and healthy treats for horses to enjoy. Fruits and vegetables, grains and seeds, herbs and hay cubes can all serve as nutritious options. However, it is crucial to feed treats in moderation and avoid foods that can be harmful to their health. By providing the right treats, you can reward your horse while also ensuring their well-being.


Can horses eat candy canes?

No, horses should not eat candy canes or any kind of candy. Candy contains high amounts of sugar, which can be harmful to horses and lead to digestive issues, weight gain, and dental problems. It’s best to stick to a horse’s natural diet of hay, grass, and appropriate horse feed.


In conclusion, while horses may be attracted to the sweet aroma of candy canes, it is not recommended to feed them such treats. Horses have sensitive digestive systems and consuming sugary foods like candy canes can disrupt their natural balance. It may lead to health issues such as colic, laminitis, or weight gain. Therefore, it is important to prioritize a horse’s well-being by providing them with a balanced diet consisting of hay, grass, and appropriate horse feed. Always consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist for guidance on the best diet for your horse’s specific needs.

Remember, a healthy diet is essential for a horse’s overall health and performance. By focusing on nutritious and suitable food options, you can ensure that your horse remains happy, healthy, and free from any digestive complications. So, avoid the temptation to share candy canes with your equine friend and instead provide them with the appropriate nutrition they require.