Why it’s ok to give your overweight, laminitic, EMS, tying-up or PSSM horse or pony a few polos, a small apple or a carrot occasionally!
Many owners are told that they can’t feed horses or ponies that are overweight, prone to laminitis or tying-up or have EMS, treats such as Polos, carrots and apples.
It’s easy to see why Polos are popular with horse owners as a treat. Most horses like them, they are cheap, they are dry and not messy, they don’t contain any ingredients likely to cause allergic reactions and they come in convenient packaging.
Yes, it’s true that regular Polo mints are loaded with carbohydrates. In fact, every Polo mint consists of 98% carbohydrate of which 96% is sugar – a combination of sucrose and glucose. So does this mean that Polos are bad for horses that are prone to tying-up, laminitis, etc? In principle yes. But of course, the key factor here is how many Polos or packs of Polos a day are you feeding your horse or pony?
One pack of Polos contains 1707KJ of energy or 1.707 MJ and 96g of sugar. A single tube weighs 34g. Therefore one tube supplies 1.707/100*34 = 0.58MJ of energy. This equates to around 1/100th of your horse’s daily energy intake so a few Polos are not going to make your horse or pony fat. Similarly, one tube supplies 96/100*34 = 33g of sugar. A pack/roll of Polo mints contains 25 mints, so each mint will be the equivalent of 1.3g sugar.
To put this in context, 5 Polos or 6.5g of sugar will have no impact on a horse’s or pony’s blood sugar level! If you fed your horse or pony a whole pack (33g of sugar) you might start to get to a level that would cause a small increase in blood sugar in animals at risk for such as tying-up or laminitis.
If you are still concerned by the sugar content but want to feed your horse mints, then sugar-free mints are of course an alternative. However, many people are concerned that the artificial sweetener sorbitol used in sugar-free mints might be harmful to horses. Sorbitol may sound like a synthetic compound but it’s actually found naturally in apples, peaches, pears, plums and dates, to name a few. If your horse or pony has had apples before, they have had sorbitol before. Mints that use xylitol as a sweetener are, however, TOXIC to dogs. Whilst horses don’t appear to be affected by xylitol it is not currently recommended to feed horses mints with xylitol as a sweetener.
An “average” medium-size 6″-7″ carrot weighs around 100g and will provide around 10g of carbohydrate of which 5g will be sugar. So giving 1-2 carrots a day is also not an issue.
A medium-sized apple will weigh around 200g and contain around 28g of carbohydrates of which around 21g is sugar. Therefore apples should be fed sparingly to horses or ponies affected by or prone to laminitis, EMS, tying-up, PSSM or weight gain. A quarter of an apple twice a day would provide around 14g carbohydrate of which 11g would be sugar.
A few Polo mints a day or a few carrots a day or half an apple a day as a treat is OK for any horse or pony.