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Can Horses Eat Candy Canes?

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Horses love to eat treats, that’s a given, but many of them especially love to eat sugary sweet treats.  With candy canes in abundance during the holidays, have you wondered if they are safe for horses?

Can Horses Eat Candy Canes?

Most horses can safely eat candy canes in moderation, but there are some exceptions. Candy canes are not considered a healthy treat and special precautions should be taken with horses that suffer from certain illnesses. Candy canes are not safe for all horses.

a piece of a candy cane inside a box of shredded paper bed

Candy canes are a classic sign of the holiday season and horse owners may want to see if their horse enjoys them as much as they do.

The more you learn about what exactly is in a candy cane and how it affects horses, the better prepared you will be when deciding if it is an acceptable treat for your favorite equine.

Are Red and White Candy Canes Safe for Horses?

Red and white candy canes are considered safe treat options for horses, although they are not necessarily healthy ones. The primary ingredients in them are corn syrup, sugar, and peppermint. They also contain red food coloring.

None of the ingredients in red and white candy canes are considered dangerous for horses. As long as they are fed in moderation, red and white candy canes are safe for healthy horses.

Are Multi-colored Candy Canes Safe for Horses?

Like red and white candy canes, multi-colored candy canes are safe for horses to eat. They contain the same ingredients as the red and white ones, although they contain different food coloring.

Can Horses Eat Peppermints?

Horses can eat peppermints because they contain basically the same ingredients as candy canes. Just like candy canes, peppermints do not contain any ingredients that are thought to be toxic to horses.

Many horses love to eat peppermints!

Can Horses Eat Lifesaver Mints?

individually packed life saver mint candies

Lifesaver mints are safe for most horses to eat as treats.

They contain the same basic ingredients as candy canes including corn syrup and sugar. There are no ingredients in Lifesaver mints that are considered dangerous for the majority of horses. 

How Many Hard Candy Treats Can a Horse Have?

While hard candy treats are not really the healthiest treat option for horses, they are not dangerous for most healthy horses.

Apart from a horse suffering from diseases that are worsened or exacerbated by sugar, most horses can have a few hard candy treats each day.

All treats should be fed in moderation, especially those with sugar like candy canes, mints, or other hard candies. Sugary treats should be limited to no more than four per day for an adult horse.

Treats of any kind, including hard candy, should never interfere with or take the place of any food in a horse’s normal daily diet. 

5 Other Candies Horses Like to Eat

Besides Lifesaver mints, peppermints, and candy canes, there are several other candies that many horses enjoy eating.

Keep in mind, total daily sugary treats like these should be fed in limited amounts, usually about 4 or less each day.

  • Smarties – Smarties are small chewable candies that most horses enjoy eating as treats. They are safe for horses to eat in moderation.
  • Skittles – Skittles are also safe for horses to eat in limited amounts; just a few pieces per day are more than enough for a horse.
  • Jolly Ranchers – Jolly ranchers are a hard candy that many horses enjoy, although you should always monitor your horses when they eat them. Four or less per day are considered a safe amount for a healthy adult horse.
  • Butterscotch – Butterscotch hard candies are another sugary treat option for horses. Many horse owners enjoy giving their horses a couple of butterscotch candies each day.
  • Sugar Cubes – Sugar cubes have been a staple treat option in many barns across the country for decades. While many horse owners opt for healthier, nutritious treat options, sugar cubes are still a safe option for most horses when fed in limited amounts.
variety of candies

Candy to Not Feed Horses

You should never feed a horse chocolate candies.

Chocolate contains an ingredient that is harmful to horses called theobromine. It can cause severe central nervous issues in horses.

Are Candy Canes, Peppermints, and Hard Candies Safe for All Horses?

Unfortunately, sweet treats like candy canes and peppermints are not safe for all horses. Some horses suffer from insulin-resistance and sugar of any kind can be extremely dangerous for them.

If your horse suffers from an insulin-resistant disease, do not feed them sugary treats including peppermints, candy canes, or mints of any kind.

Horses that suffer from polysaccharide storage myopathy, insulin-resistance, equine metabolic disorder, or Cushing’s disease should not eat candy canes, peppermints, or other candy.

Final Thoughts

Most horses can safely eat candy canes, mints, and other tasty hard candies in limited amounts. Unfortunately, not every horses can safely eat sugary treats like these.

As long as your horse is healthy and does not suffer from any sugar-related disorders, then you should be perfectly fine to give them a few candy treats each day.


Researching candy canes and their impact on horses is an exciting, albeit odd, adventure, but as horse owners, we do whatever it takes to give them a happy and fulfilling life. Here are the sources used to write this article.