Apples, Apricots and Appetites

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small_3808887607Like 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?

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/italintheheart/3808887607/”>leoncillo sabino</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Apples, Apricots and Appetites

  1. All my racehorses were Peppermint addicts! Those big round crunchy Scottish Mints. I used to buy the huge (gallon) jar of them at Costco, and always have a pocket full.
    I knew a pony-horse at the track who ate hamburgers, or anything else he was offered by racegoers leaning over the fence…
    And I had a black lab who would have been drunk all the time if she’d had access to beer.
    Gee, all kinds of stories coming to mind, but I’ll stop there 🙂

  2. The most unusual thing my horse ever tried to eat? The toe of my sneaker–with my foot still in it. And I once saw him scratching his eye on the point end of an exposed nail. I nearly had a heart attack.

    • I would have freaked too! But they seem to know what they’re doing.

      I’ve had my toes nibbled on too, and just about every other part of my body.

  3. I just found out the other day that Maximus likes bananas, peel and all. He also enjoyed a Modelo beer my husband once gave him! His all-time favorite is the apple, as you noted, but I have yet to see him turn his nose up at anything except once – a frozen popsicle. He spit it right out onto the ground. It was hysterical.

    • I’ve never been able to talk my horses into a banana. Different tastes, I guess. I’ll bet the cold of the popsicle really surprised him!

  4. Kate, our horses ate watermelon rind. They loved them!

    • Mine have all turned their noses up at watermelon. Wouldn’t touch it. Would have been a great way to “recycle” the rinds. 🙂

  5. I’ve seen dogs in the park eat the grass — which always makes me shiver and go “yuck!”

    • I’ve always heard that the dogs were getting something they needed when they did that. Since they often upchuck afterwards, I agree “yuck.”

  6. Kate, no horse experience, but our Jack Russell would eat any and everything except lettuce. She used to jump up and swipe a snack we were eating out of our hand! We learned to hold our hands higher. LOL
    Entertaining post!

  7. One of my son Caleb’s cats loves hot, highly spiced food and goes crazy over just the smell of it. Caleb is an excellent cook and makes chili and other spicy dishes which he shares a small sampling with the cat.

  8. Oh, this was a fun post! I loved reading what other people’s pets and loved animals have eaten. I have a cat who loves licking plastic bags. He doesn’t eat them, thank God, but he could lick plastic bags all day, if I let him. We’re looking into cat psychologists. Hee-hee!

  9. No horse stories, but one of my cats used to love Heinz tomato soup! He also loved bolognese sauce.

  10. Claire

    We bird-sat for a friend for a few weeks. Philbert (parrot) liked to drink! One day he was sitting on the back of the recliner near my shoulder and as I raised a can beer to drink it, I discovered him in the way! He had his beak in the opening and wouldn’t let go until I poured a little in a dish. We found out later from our friend that he liked hard liquor and was a mean drunk (he’d bite). He was a weird bird – and it was hard to wash the dishes with him around because he’d jump in with them and try to “help.”

    • A mean drunk parrot. Hard to top that. And he liked to do dishes too. Funny.

      We had a cockatiel that liked butter and would sit on our dog’s head. He liked beer too, but didn’t get mean. 😉

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