The study team from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland has discovered that horses’ flavor preferences are influenced by gender and breed. The study used 48 adult horses — stallions and mares in equal numbers — for their research. They were Arabian, Anglo-Arabian, Polish Konik and Polish cold-blooded horses, all aged over 5.
To assess flavor preferences, each horse was offered a pelletized feed that was combined with either dried sour apples, dried sweet dessert apples, dried carrots, dried sugarbeet molasses, or barley with 2% added salt.
- The sequence in which each horse ate the pellets
- How long it took for the horse to become interested in each bucket
- Behaviors that showed their preferences such as, sniffing at the buckets; whether the food was fully eaten; drooling or rejecting food; and whether the horse returned to the bucket after eating all the food.
No surprise that feed that contained apples or carrots was the most popular. However, researchers noticed that there was a difference between which feeds were eaten first and which were eaten fastest. They also noticed a distinct preference by gender: mares ate pellets with molasses or which had carrots added to it more willingly; stallions preferred sour apple.
“The fact that sugar was consumed more willingly by mares than by stallions should not be surprising,” they wrote, pointing to research linking it to hormonal balance in females, with estrogen influencing the amount and type of feed consumed.
In terms of breed preferences, while all horses in the study were less interested in the sugar beet molasses and the salted the Polish horses were the least interested in sugar beet molasses pellets and the salted cereal pellets. Arabians were less willing to eat sugar beet and sweet-apple pellets and Anglo-Arabs showed the least interest in the beet and cereal pellets.
In my own small study group I can report that Zelda will eat almost anything, but definitely loves a sweet snack – including apples, carrots and candy canes. While she loves alfalfa cubes as treats, she will not always finish them when they are soaked. Curly is happy to eat anything that Zelda leaves behind. She doesn’t always get the chance to voice her preferences first. And Freedom? He loves his soaked cubes more than most hay and is always interested in carrots or apples.
I guess you can’t go wrong with apples, carrots or peppermint.