Carrots are popular treats for horses, and many owners purchase large nets of “horse carrots” which are perfectly edible, as Mum used to use them for dinner when the garden stopped providing them.
However, recently I’ve heard that carrots have been linked to behavioural problems in horses. Nuts, right?
I do remember when Otis saw a nutritionist she recommended his carrots be kept to a minimum to help reduce his sweet itch. He never really had many carrots, only on special occasions, so I didn’t pay that much attention to this fact. Apparently the sugar (level or type, I think it’s ambiguous as to which is to blame) can increase the sweet itch. I was also told to use molasses free sugar beet and chaff, to keep his sugar content to a minimum.
So perhaps there is something in this rumour that carrots can affect the behaviour of some horses – a bit like kids on blue smarties!
So I’ve had a quick look online, and whilst the percentage of sugar in carrot is not actually that high – an average carrot contains 6g of sugar – and the carrot predominately consisting of water with a low calorific value, many people have reported that reducing the carrot intake of their horse improves their behaviour. The horse is less nappy, less highly strung, less spooky, and more biddable.
There hasn’t been any scientific research into this theory yet, but perhaps it’s something to consider if you are having problems with your horse; particularly as hard feed increases going into winter and you add a couple of extra carrots to bulk it out.
On one forum I saw a suggestion that perhaps the behaviour problems are caused by inorganic carrots being fed rather than organic carrots; which could explain why some horses react and not others, but also why horses fed buckets of carrots in the 1950s were seemingly unaffected by them.
Has anyone noticed a change in their horse’s behaviour when they’ve altered the quantity of carrots given? I think it would be a really interesting study to do. Even if it did mean I could never catch one mare ever again!