Q: I recently received a gift of two horses, a Percheron and a Quarter Horse. These two horses grew up eating anything, including banana and potato peels, even if they've started to decay. The original owner continues to bring these "treats" over for the horses. The horses are in good health, but are overweight. Is this good for them?
A: I'd suggest your neighbor bring more typical horse treats to the horses, such as apples, carrots, or manufactured horse treats. Anything novel or not normally found in the horses diet can cause problems. If the food is slightly decayed, the possibility of the horses ingesting mold or a mycotoxin is real and could be deadly, even in small amounts.
Equally important, the risk of laminitis and other metabolic issues is greater in over-weight horses (especially the breeds you have), so for the health of the horses, the treats should be eliminated. Once your horses weight is reduced, the treats, if given in small quantities, could be reintroduced.
If the well-intended original owner understands the risk, hopefully they'll be willing to bring different treats or stop all together.
By Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota