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!

Oh Otis!

Last week Otis’s chauffeur gave him a net of carrots. Well, half a net because Otis had to share it with Mum’s pony. So I took the net of carrots and my tack out of the car and halfway to the yard, before taking a slight diversion to catch Otis from his field. Because I’m lazy really.

Lugging my tack in my left arm, with the carrots safely grasped in my left fist, hidden by the saddle, I held Otis in my right hand. We reached my stable where I had the predicament of needing a third hand. So I put the carrots down to my right, and as I put the saddle on the door before opening it Otis gave a tug on the lead role, loosely held, and reached down to take a great bite into the net of carrots!

Unfortunately he’d grasped the bottom of the net so lifted it up with his teeth and shook it about as he tried to disentangle the carrot from the netting. Carrots bounced everywhere while I wrestled with him to remove the contents from his mouth.

Very reluctantly Otis let go, so I quickly shoved him in the stable and put the bar across. He stood by the door and craned his head and neck, trying to reach the closest carrots. It was a fast and furious fight between us. Me picking up carrots as quickly as possible whilst he snaffled as many as he could reach!

And then he had the cheek to frisk me for carrots when I went to take his rug off!