Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
A reader asked if her horse can drink beer.
Q A racehorse trainer in Ireland once said to me that horses are traditionally fed Guinness(r), beer, after they win a competition. Do you think this is a good idea? Can horses get drunk? What amount of beer can I allow my horse to drink? To compensate for the added calories, should I reduce the amount of grain he eats?
It is safe to pour beer into a bucket to feed your horse. (c) Kate Light
Sarah Ralston VMD, PhD and Dipl. ACVN
A Horses love beer because it contains ingredients like barley and hops that resemble horse feed grains. Horses are not likely to consume alcohol, so it is not an issue. Horses have a fast metabolism of alcohol due to the large amount of alcohol dehydrogenase they naturally produce. This enzyme breaks down products of fermentation that occur in horses’ large intestines during normal digestion. It converts quickly all forms of alcohol into carbohydrates that can be used to provide energy.
A 12-ounce beer serving can have between 55 and 250 calories depending on whether it is a light or heavy beer. My husband’s horse, RU Sigalad, prefers Samuel Adams(r), Lager. It is 160 calories per bottle. Once, he was offered Coors Light(r), but he spit it out. An average horse of 1,200 pounds needs to consume approximately 17,000 calories daily just for maintenance. A standard grain mix of one pound provides over 2,000 calories. You don’t have to reduce the horse’s daily intake if you offer him a bottle after a ride. The extra calories will help him burn more calories.
A horse’s needs are so vast that the amount of water and carbohydrates in one can or bottle of beer is negligible. Beer does contain minerals such as niacin and some B vitamins (B1,B3 and B6), folate, flavonoids and other nutrients that horses require. Although there are no nutritional benefits, a high-quality feed program provides sufficient nutrients to provide these nutrients in adequate quantities. You can also add beer to your horse’s water if dehydration is a problem, such as when you are traveling. You can encourage your horse to drink more beer if he enjoys the taste.
Beer will not cause horses to test positive for drugs, according to my knowledge. However, you may want double-check your sport’s governing body before giving your horse beer before any competition. Other competitors might be alarmed if they see you giving your horse beer prior to a class. There is no evidence that it would alter performance.
You can give your horse beer by pouring it into a bucket.
If your horse is happy after a good ride, there is no harm in giving him a beer. Even though it does add a small amount of calories to horses’ overall diet, an overweight horse should not be given a constant beer intake. However, a few beers per week won’t cause any harm.
Sarah Ralston, a veterinarian and equine nutrition specialist, is a professor at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences’ Department of Animal Sciences. Her current research is focused on young horses and their glucose/insulin metabolism. She is a board-certified nutritionist by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and provides over 200 nutritional consultations annually to horse owners across the country. Dr. Ralston is a consultant for many horse feed and pharmaceutical companies, such as Nutrena, Blue Seal Feeds, Purina Mills, Inc., and Nutrena. She also served on several committees, including those of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ABVN) and the American Board of Veterinary Specialties.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!