Everyone seems to have holiday traditions. While we’re busy baking Christmas hams and pies and eating figgy pudding, our horses are left to eat the same old hay they get all year. Don’t think their super-sensitive nostrils aren’t picking up on all that yummy holiday food. And while they may not crave ham (horses are thankfully herbivores, after all), there’s no reason why we can’t share with them some of our sweet treats.
Here’s a very simple recipe for a horse treat that smells good, tastes good and is actually good for them. It’s very similar to our horse birthday cake recipe. Measurements are approximate; this isn’t science here. No baking involved. It’s pretty much just throwing together a bunch of stuff horses like. The amounts below made enough for four horses (about 1 cup each) and one burro-sized mule (about 1/2 cup).
Christmas Figgy Pudding Horse Cake
2 1/2 cups oats (we had 5 packets of plain instant oatmeal, so we used that) 1 large apple, chopped into small pieces 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded 1/4 cup molasses 6 dried figs, chopped
Mix all the ingredients until well blended. Press into ramekins or other small dishes and freeze until firm. Unmold and serve!
So while we might think buying reindeer antler hats for our horses constitutes a good Christmas present, I’ll bet you an apple they would prefer Christmas Figgy Pudding Horse Cake.
You may recall we decided to garden this year with special attention being paid to food horses would like. That was months ago so it’s time for an update. Until the heatwave that is gripping the south started a few weeks ago, our garden was loaded with fruit and vegetables and I’d be kidding you if I said they were all for horses. This year we mostly planted carrots for them but since we learned how much our horses love watermelon, we’ve saved some of those for them, too. All these things take time, lots of weeding and sweat. Buying vegetables at the store is so much easier, though less satisfying. But I did find one thing that’s easy to grow in our garden and VERY low maintenance:
I’m here to tell ya, the easiest horse-friendly garden crop is…GRASS. This time last year, our garden was part of our lawn. One of our neighbors had mercy on us and brought his tractor over to turn the garden this spring, saving us a heap of manual labor. The tractor dug in deep and turned the soil up nicely but months later that grass figured out which end was up and thrived in our little garden. We didn’t weed for a week and the grass and weeds took over! I cut some of the grass with some hand clippers and gave the horses some and they seemed to like it as much as the carrots. Why the heck are we working so hard to produce veggies for them when they love the grass so much and it’s so easy to grow?
Seriously though, we have a tub of carrots we’ve harvested and they love them. I wish they were a little faster growing but we’ll be planting them again next year. Watermelon, too. The heatwave and lack of rain have all but killed our garden now so I guess the summer gardening season is over but we’re already planning for next year and our horses will continue to influence what we plant.
Did you grow some things for your horse this year?
Our garden is doing so well this year! A little too well, in fact, at least as far as the melon goes. We’re kind of newbies to the gardening thing as well as the horse thing (I did grow up in the Arizona desert, after all), so we’re making mistakes. Here’s one: when the seed packet says to thin the seedlings once they sprout, you really ought to follow that instruction. Bill thought the new watermelon and cantaloupe plants looked a little puny, so he left all five of them. On each mound of plants. All four of them. That’s right, we have 10 watermelon plants and 10 cantaloupe plants – in a garden that’s about 20′ by 25′. It’s now actually a melon patch with a few other plants struggling to maintain a foothold. Our pastor described it best when he compared it to kudzu.
Luckily for us, our friends like melon, and so does my horse. We learned that watermelon is a safe and fun treat for horses, so of course we had to try it. We found out that Moonshine isn’t that crazy about it, but Valentine LOVES it. He ate all we brought, and wanted more (we decided that moderation is probably the safest way to go – too much of anything, especially something new, isn’t a good idea).
So now we know about the watermelon. I haven’t been able to find anything on cantaloupe, though – do any of you know? Hurry, we have a zillion cantaloupe ready to ripen, and not nearly that many friends.
First of all…HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOONSHINE! My beautiful horse just turned 9 years old. Sniff, sniff, they grow up so fast. Mikki made a birthday “cake” and I dragged everyone up to the barn to sing Happy Birthday to my favorite horse. She made a mess but ate it all. Mikki also made one for her horse Valentine because, she figured, he wouldn’t understand why he didn’t get any treats, too. He pretty much inhaled his. We missed both of their birthdays last year but wanted to make sure we made it a tradition of it, much like we do our own birthdays. After all, at our house, our animals are pretty much part of the family and we love any opportunity to do something fun.
If you’re like that, why not celebrate your horse’s birthday? If you don’t know the exact date, make one up. I’m sure there are other recipes out there but Mikki came up with a simple recipe for a do-it-yourself horse birthday cake using oats, carrots, molasses and a sugar cube. No horse can resist this treat and there’s no reason why you can’t make your own in 3 minutes or less.
3 Minute Horse Birthday Cake Recipe
1 cup quick oats (we used Quaker Oats) 2 carrots, shredded 1/4 cup of molasses 1 sugar cube (optional)
Mix ingredients well by hand and place mixture into a small dessert dish to give the “cake” its form. Stuff the sugar cube into the mix, if desired. Flip dessert dish over until the cake releases onto a plate and refrigerate until hardened.
When it’s time to celebrate, put on a party hat, light a candle and sing happy birthday to your horse. Those neighbors that point and giggle are only jealous so never mind them. Just make sure to remove the candle before handing over the cake.
Yes, those are carrots and I am happy to see you. When Mikki and I let our horses out of their stalls each morning, we use a few carrots to coax them out of the barn and into the pasture. I don’t know if we’re helping them develop a bad habit but I often don’t have the time or patience to wait 10 minutes while they inhale leftover hay bits from the barn floor before moseying on out to pasture for the day. Our horses just don’t seem to care if we’re in a hurry or not. But they do care about carrots. So our daily routine has me shoving a pair of carrots in my back pocket and heading for the fence and Mikki heading for the barn where she opens up the gate and horse stalls while I shout tempting statements about how yummy these carrots are and how I’m gonna start eating them myself if the horses don’t come to the fence soon (I’m usually bluffing). This works every time, of course. Carrots disposed of, I sneak a kiss onto Moonshine’s long face while she’s still chewing and head off to do whatever I do each day. And I am not surprised when animals I sometimes encounter follow me and show a keen interest in my rear. This would embarrass some but I know they’re just looking for carrots.
By the way, horses seem to have a good memory. One a few occasions when I’ve had to let them out on my own, they both know exactly where those carrots are sitting. I’ll turn around to open a gate or something and a half-second later feel a carrot or two leaving my back pocket. They really like carrots.
A little side note – we were recently watching Iron Chef on Food Network and the “secret ingredient” was citrus. One of the citrus fruits was something called “Buddha fingers”, a strange little food that actually looked like a small hand with fingers. And you can eat the whole thing. This is one fruit we will never introduce to our horses. Finger-shaped carrots are bad enough but goodies shaped like an entire hand would be going too far.
We like bringing treats to our horses and usually that means an apple or some carrots we buy in bulk. But one treat they’ve been craving is something I just refuse to give them…my fingers. Well actually there is a list: fingers, hands, arms, ears and sometimes feet/shoes. My horse, Moonshine, is very gentle and uses her tongue a lot so it seems like she’s kissing you. “Aw, how sweet…HEY stop that!” I’ve found that keeping my palm open towards her keeps her from being able to vacuum my fingers into her mouth but I keep thinking, horses are herbivores, right? I mean they don’t stalk and eat small animals, that I’ve observed. Come to think of it, I almost never notice any small animals in our pasture. Oh well, I suppose my fingers are so interesting because they just held an apple or carrot. But since when did apples and carrots wiggle and move around so much, huh? So if you end up with your own horse, watch those fingers! Those of you with horses already know this I’m sure.
And as a side note, carrots this time of year can be purchased from Costco for about $5 per 10 pound bag!
Remember NickerMakers? Well, believe it or not, there’s a dumber name than that. I just got Valentine some horse treats called Stud Muffins. No joke. He LOVES them! They smell pretty good to me, but they look an awful lot like what I shovel out of his stall every morning, so I’m not tempted to try them. Yet.
In case you didn’t know, horses love to eat. It’s what they do all day. In fact, they are made that way – they are so big, and their diet is so low in calories, that they pretty much need to eat constantly. Valentine is no exception. For his regular diet, his favorite thing is oats, followed by fresh grass, followed by hay (since the grass started growing again, he’s not too keen on the hay). His favorite treats are apples, carrots, NickerMakers and Stud Muffins. My next experiment, treat-wise, will be homemade horse treats. I’m not making that up. I’ll post recipes here after the results are in.
Tonight we attended a workshop presented by Purina (Purina Horse Owner’s Workshop: http://horse.purinamills.com/). We were pretty sure it was going to be a live infomercial for Purina Horse Chow – and they pushed their horse feed pretty hard – but we got a lot of good information from the presentation. The best part was at the end, when they had a guest speaker to talk about horse behavior and answer our questions about horses. He was a guy who has been around horses all his life and now makes his living by using his experience with horses to show corporations how to apply the principles of horse leadership to people leadership. It sounds kind of crazy, I admit, but it sounds like it might work. He was really common-sense and down to earth, and gave us some really good advice. His name is Sam Powell (www.asksampowell.com). They also gave out free samples of horse treats, which Valentine loves. Unfortunately, they chose to call them “NickerMakers.” Do real horse people buy things called NickerMakers, or will we have to sneak into the feed store to buy them without being seen?