Sweet Feed For Your Horse

September 21, 2022
horse eating sweet food

On some level, horses and humans are alike. We both like a sweet treat now and again. Although the sweet treat for humans and horses differ widely (no chocolate for a horse, please), horses can also enjoy something sweet. What sweet feed can you give your horse?

Sweet feed for your horse is mixed grains readily available in packaging, tastes sweeter, and adds nutrients and energy to your horse’s feeding schedule. Molasses are usually part of sweet feed to give the sweet taste. A variety is available in stores, or you can make your own.

As horse people, we all know that most horses enjoy sweet feed. There are, however, limitations to what to feed as sweet feed, how much to feed, and when the ideal time would be to give sweet feed.

What Is Sweet Feed That You Can Give Horses?

Horses usually have access to hay or pasture, which is what they eat and need access to most of their day, but this lacks some essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that horses need to keep them healthy.

Sweet feeds are perfect to supplement the forage the horses eat all day. The reason for sweet feed is usually to add nutrition to performance or workhorse for their extra energy expenditure and loss of minerals during work.

The newly improved sweet foods include additional nutrients and vitamins to supplement a horse for optimal health. Sweet foods usually include oats, corn, and molasses. Sweet feed is only mixed and not controlled like horse feed pellets.

 Sweet feeds have changed immensely over the last couple of years to better the combination of the feed, decrease the sugar levels, and add in necessary minerals. Some even add biotin to improve the condition of the horse’s hooves.

sweet feed for horses

Ingredients Of Sweet Feed For Horses

All sweet foods differ in the percentages of the ingredients that they contain. Most sweet feeds would include some or all of the following ingredients in different amounts:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Soybean meal
  • Sugars
  • Molasses
  • Starch
  • Minerals and vitamins

Nowadays, the concentration of sugars is lower to make the sweet feed more acceptable for a variety of horses.

hors eating food

What Is The Difference Between Pellets And Sweet Feed?

Horse pellets are usually more focused on the nutrition index, keeping the fats and sugar under the correct levels and not exceeding a certain percentage to place the horse’s health at risk. 

The sweet feed has a sweet taste and higher sugar levels; horses usually like it more than pellets. Pellets are also more expensive than sweet feed as it is more concentrated. The manufacturers make pellet mixtures for certain groups of horses, like seniors, obese, performance horses, or foals. 

Why Would You Give Sweet Feed To A Horse?

Some horses need sweet feed more than others. Some horses are picky eaters and need a taste change to ensure they get the nutrients they need for their health. 

Another reason some horses may need a sweet feed is performance horses and working horses . They expend much more energy than other horses, and a sweet feed has the minerals they lose during hard work and a higher energy index that these horses need. 

Sweet feed is also ideal for senior horses. When chewing hay or grass, they form a ball in their mouth, and instead of the teeth helping the ball to move to the back of the throat for swallowing, it falls out because of missing teeth.

The finer, stickier texture of sweet feed will ensure they chew and get the appropriate nutrients and keep the horses as healthy as possible in their old age.

There are many other benefits of sweet feed and why you should give it to your horse:

  • Sweet feed is excellent for preventing ulcers in the horse’s mouth . The name of the specific ulcers is aphthous ulcers which occur because of a lack of saliva. The sweet ingredients in sweet feed encourage saliva production.
  • More saliva production also aids in regulating the pH levels of the gut.
  • Improve the gut health of horses. The sweet feed needs more chewing and, in turn, increases the metabolism.
  • Sweet feed is readily available and usually bought in packaging. Thus, you can always have it available for your horses as soon as they need it and won’t have to go through the trouble of making it or mixing it. 
  • When horses need medication, sweet feed is the perfect medium to use to help them ingest the medication. Mix it with the sweet feed, and they won’t even know they took a pill.
horse eating snack

When Should You Not Give Sweet Feed To A Horse?

You should avoid giving your horse sweet feed when they suffer from certain diseases or ailments:

  • Obesity in horses is real, and the sugar won’t do them good. Refrain from giving your obese horse any sweet feed and opt for a treat here and there instead and some nutritious horse feed specifically for obese horses.
  • Growing horses should not ingest any sweet feed. The high calories and sugar will spike their blood sugar levels leading to skeletal deformities – not average growth of the bones.
  • Horses with the ailment called Equine Metabolic Syndrome should not get sweet feed as this ailment causes the horse to struggle with insulin regulation, and the sweet part in the feed will cause problems.
  • Some horses would like it, and others won’t. Don’t force them to eat it if they don’t like it. The molasses in the mix can go bad quickly because of the stickiness and wetness, leading to you only wasting your money which you could spend on food they like instead.

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How Much Sweet Feed For Your Horse Is Enough

There is a rule of thumb regarding sweet feed and how much your horse needs or can have. First, you will have to determine the specific horse’s needs; you can determine it by measuring your horse with a weight tape to figure out how much it weighs. 

You can ask a vet to come out to do it for you, do it yourself, or do a general overview by looking at your horse. Protruding ribs mean that it is undoubtedly underweight, and no ribs visible might be that they are obese. 

The next consideration you need is in which phase of life your horse is. Are they mature, a foal, young, or working? You can then divide these categories into lactating horses, growing horses, if they do little work, or if they are hard workers.

After determining in what category your horse falls, you can give between 0.5 to 3 percent of their body weight daily. Bear in mind that horses working and needing the higher calories will typically get the higher end of the percentage (thus between 2,5% and 3%). 

Growing and obese horses should get no sweet feed or the lower end of the range (0,5%). Lactating mares need extra calories to feed their foal and can get sweet feed between 0,5% and 2%

horse eating snack

Can You Give Too Much Sweet Feed To A Horse?

Unfortunately, you can give your horse too much sweet feed. Too much sweet feed will lead to horses getting lazy to eat. Sweet feed is easier to eat and they get enough calories through the sweet feed, but need to eat and chew 17 hours a day to keep all their systems working correctly.

Too much sweet feed can cause a lack of other nutrients found in forage and other foods. A lack of nutrients can cause your horse’s health to decrease, and they can develop all kinds of sicknesses and ailments like increased blood sugar, laminitis, insulin resistance, gastric ulcers, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, and obesity.

When Is The Best Time To Give Sweet Feed To Your Horse?

The best time to give your horse sweet feed, after you have established that they qualify to have it, should be once daily. Measure it according to the horse’s weight and don’t guess; this way, you can be sure not to feed them too much.

If you do not give your horse sweet feed, as a rule, you can add it during the winter months. It helps them to generate more heat to keep them warm against the cold. 

Think about eating a hot cup of creamy soup in winter. Horses get the same effect with sweet feed. Suppose you give your horses sweet feed throughout the year; you can increase it by 0,5% during winter. 

There is no specific time to give sweet feed, but some owners listed hyperactivity as one of the consequences of sweet feed. Suppose your horse is one of these; instead, give it in the morning, so they have the rest of the day to get rid of the extra energy.

Stick to a routine when feeding horses. Horses thrive on routine, especially those prone to colic episodes. If you give sweet feed at 10 am, do so every other day. 

Do not give any feed directly before or after training. A full stomach gives the lungs less space to breathe. During exercise, the blood flow prioritizes the muscles and respiratory system above the digestive system; thus, a full stomach during exercise can lead to colic.

You can give sweet feed two to three hours before exercise to ensure they digest most of it before they start. If you want to feed them after exercise, wait until they cool down, their heart rates and breathing are down, and they don’t have hot or sweaty skin.

kids giving sweet to horse

What Are The Costs Of Sweet Feed For Horses?

You can buy sweet feed at many different places, and they are readily available in packed bags. The prices are pretty low when you buy it from a local farmer, and you might get away with paying less than $30. Some farmers also sell it as mixed leftover grains they had left from harvest.

Experts advise that you rather stick to a sweet feed that is measured and worked out strategically to have the correct index for a sweet feed. These include sweet foods like Purina and Tribute between $20 and $40 per bag of 50 pounds.


There are many ways to incorporate sweet feed into your horse’s feeding routine, leading to many benefits. You can also make your sweet feed and save more money. Just be cautious about which horses you give sweet feed and how much to eliminate any bad experiences they might have.


I'm Bo, the owner of Smarter Horse. Helping horses be smarter by educating their people.  To find out more about me, click here

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