Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Allison Price
This is the time of year when peppermint is back in fashion – chocolate canes and brownies, lattes, and brownies… In my youth, peppermint candy was not something I liked so I used to break up candy canes into smaller pieces for the horses. This made for great bonding moments. Even when my horse followed me around, he would softly maneuver his muzzle in my jacket’s pocket. He was allowed to roam the barn while we were working.
With all the worries about “NO SUGAR”, it might be a good idea to ease some fears and encourage holiday bonding. Brach’s website states that one piece of Peppermint Star Brites candy contains 0.2 oz and 20 calories. It also has 3.7 grams sugar (about one teaspoon). Candy canes on the other side are larger and more dense, which means they contain more sugar.
I can understand the concern for horses who have been diagnosed with IR or Cushing, laminitis, PSSM or IR. Let’s compare the peppermint treats to the sugars in a typical forage food. All plant feeds, other than oils, contain sugars or starches. Starches and sugars are key components of the non-structural carbohydrates family. They are essential in feeding and nourishing animals.
A typical grass hay that is fed daily to a horse of 1000 lb contains 18 lbs. It also contains 981 grams of sugar and starch. This is 2.16 lbs sugar/starch assuming that the average sugar/starch level of the hay was 12%. If the hay was older and more sugary/starch-rich, like 10%, the sugar/starch content would be lower at 871 g.
Based on these numbers, one Peppermint Brite candy has less that half of one percent (0.38%) of the 981g sugar/starch in our hay example. This is only a comparison with hay, and does not include other feeds. Even if the hay is low in sugar, the diet will still contain sugar and starch. This would make peppermints a smaller portion of total sugars and starches.
This is because sugars and starches have been lumped together to make it easier to compare. Enzymatic digestion is where sugars are broken down into simple sugars like glucose and fructose. If you do decide to share your peppermint stash, be mindful of moderation and have fun with your horse during holidays.