Like most people you probably know that horses love apples as treats. Did you know they also love lots of other fruits and even some people food you’d never expect? Although horses have delicate digestive systems and can colic easily, they will eat a surprising variety of things.
I discovered these unusual horse appetites when I was a kid. One house we lived in had two mini-orchards. One contained citrus trees—three orange, a lemon, grapefruit, tangelo and tangerine. The other had apricot, plum, apple and peach trees. We planted pasture grass under the traditional fruit trees, but for some reason, the area under the citrus trees was left bare—except for after the winter rains when the weeds popped up. Then we’d let our three horses into the area to enjoy the fresh greenery.
However, we soon found that they liked the oranges and tangelos almost as much as the weeds. They’d search for fallen fruit we hadn’t picked up yet and eat them, rind and all, making a slobbery mess. The one exception was the grapefruit. For some reason they were horribly bitter and totally inedible. One day my horse Star discovered this fact, to her regret. She bit into a downed grapefruit, quickly spit it out and spent the next few minutes with her head in the air and her upper lip curled up, telling the world how bad it tasted.
The fruit in the pasture area proved just as much of an attraction. We always enjoyed watching them deal with the pitted fruits. They’d pick up an apricot or plum, carefully roll it around in their mouths until they’d gotten all the soft flesh removed and then spit out perfectly clean pits. (We made sure they only got a few. Didn’t need sick horses.)
I’ve been told horses often like watermelon, bananas and other tropical fruits, but I couldn’t prove it by any of my horses. But I can testify that they like sodas and beer. I would frequently share an orange soda with Star. She’d raise her head up while I poured some in her mouth. (This only worked for sugar sweetened soda. I haven’t encountered any horse that will touch diet drinks.) My brother would occasionally give his horse some beer, just for the fun of it. This affinity for beer was well known. They even featured a drunk horse in the old, silly movie Cat Ballou.
Of course, the favorite treat of all time is any form of sugar. Sugar cubes, lifesavers, peppermints are all to be found in horsemen’s pockets. I used to take handfuls of sugar cubes from restaurants when I was a kid. The famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna even has sugar pockets in their formal riding coats!
Writing this post made me realize that I haven’t included any treat fiends in my books as yet. I’ll have to remedy that. I lost more than one jean pocket to a horse looking for a treat. That definitely belongs in a story.
Do you have any animals with unusual appetites or behaviors? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen an animal eat?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/italintheheart/3808887607/”>leoncillo sabino</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>