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Wrangling on the Range #118

Table Scraps? Stall Messing Gelding?



Should horses be given table scraps? Plus, can a messy gelding
change his ways?


I have two Paints, 15-year-old Buddy and 13-year-old Comanhe. Is
it OK to feed them corncobs and/or rinds from watermelon,
honeydew, and cantaloupe? My boys love them, but is there any
reason not to feed them these table leftovers? DEBORAH
GISSENDANER, Pennsylvania


This excellent question concerns many horse owners. None of the
things you mentioned is toxic, and all are excellent sources of
fiber and minerals. Before offering these and other foods as
equine treats, however, consider these important points.
Some horses need to avoid foods high in sugar and starch. If your
horses have any regional fat deposits along the crest of the
neck, shoulders, back, or rump, this indicates insulin
resistance. Starchy or sugary treats can raise insulin to
dangerous levels, increasing laminitis risk. Moreover, as horses
age, they can develop equine Cushing's disease, for which you'd
want to maintain a low-starch/low-sugar diet.
In the above cases, avoid feeding corn (and other cereal grains
such as oats, wheat, and barley), as they contain mostly starch.
Bread and cooked rice fall into this category as well. You don't
mention feeding non-melon fruits and carrots, but these are high
in sugar, and should be avoided as well.

Melon rinds, on the other hand (as from watermelon, honeydew, and
cantaloupe), are high in fiber and water, and are actually good
treats for horses that need to reduce sugar intake. Corncobs
without the corn - are also acceptable. But two cautions
regarding feeding these as treats: First, they can be difficult
to chew. Cutting them into small pieces will help with this.
Second, they're extremely high in indigestible fiber, so feed
only small amounts at a time. A whole bucketful could increase
the risk of colic. Also, especially in the case of the corncobs,
always have fresh water close by.

Some fruits and vegetables are potentially toxic to horses. These
include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers,
avocados, raw potatoes and their peels, and raw onions and

If your horses are healthy, of normal weight, and active, they
can enjoy just about any fruit in moderation, including bananas
(including the peel), berries, apples, grapes, peaches,
grapefruit, oranges, melons, pears, and pineapple, as well as
carrots, celery, lettuce, and roasted peanuts (never raw
peanuts). Be sure to remove any pits first.

Though you didn't mention meat leftovers, it's worth noting that
hamburgers, steak scraps, and chicken skin are out of the
question. Horses are herbivores (plant-eating) and are not de-
signed to metabolize animal products. Finally, there's chocolate
- you probably already know it's toxic for dogs; the same holds
true for horses.

Horses trust us to take care of them. Choose wisely.

JULIET M. GETTY, Ph.D. Getty Equine Nutrition, LLC Bayfield,

For more information on feeding horses safely, enter those words
into the search box at


I board my 9-year-old gelding in a 12'-x-12' box stall with an
outdoor paddock attached. He makes a sloppy mess of his
wood-shavings-bedded stall, while leaving his paddock spotless.
Sometimes he even drops manure into his water bucket, a health
and hydration risk. The problem is especially bad during winter.
I know he goes into his paddock-I've seen him relaxing there. My
only previous horse was a mare. Is this a gelding thing? Why does
he do it, and can I train him to use his paddock to do his


Your gelding shows a couple of behaviors common to many horses,
males and females. First, he tends to eliminate anywhere in his
stall rather than in a small area of it. This behavior is even
more common in males because it's harder for them to urinate in a
corner, though some mares are equally messy.

Second, he likes the stall better than the paddock for
elimination. Horses learn where to eliminate and develop
preferences for certain types of surfaces or locations. In a
pasture, horses tend to eliminate in specific locations, areas
where they will not eat. It is nature's way of keeping them away
from parasite eggs.

Your horse probably favors his stall for the same reason many
geldings dothey don't like urine splashing on their legs. A hard,
bare surface (as in a paddock) accentuates splashing; stall
bedding pretty much eliminates it.

I once had a gelding that refused to urinate when tied to the
trailer. He learned to get my attention when he had to relieve
himself, and I'd take him to a grassy area of the showgrounds.
The only way to retrain your horse would be to keep him totally
off of shavings and out of the stall until he established a new
preferred location. Unfortunately, that could take a long time,
and any access to the stall until that lesson was completely
learned would reinforce the use of the shavings and stall and
torpedo your efforts at retraining.

Keeping him outside in a pasture or paddock with a covered
windbreak for shelter might be the best alternative.

BONNIE BEAVER, DVM, MS, DPNAP, DACVB Professor, College of
Veterinary Medicine Texas A&M University, College Station

Send your horse health, behavior, and hoof-care questions to
jfmeyer@aim Please include your horse's age, breed,
and gender.


To be continued from time to time

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