Last Updated on April 18, 2023
It might sound a bit far-fetched, but have you ever wondered if can horses drink beer? And what about other alcoholic drinks? Let’s find out!
Can Horses Drink Beer?
OK, so this is quite likely something that never crossed your mind until now, but can horses drink beer? This idea is not quite as crazy as it sounds, and historically horses were often given alcoholic drinks to consume!
One example of this is an old horseman’s tale from Ireland, where it was said to be commonplace to give a horse a drink of Irish stout. This is a very dark beer, almost completely black. The stories vary slightly, with some saying that it was tradition to give a horse a drink of stout when it won a race, and others prefer to give their horse this beverage regularly.
As it turns out, beer is not harmful to horses, and there are some benefits to giving a horse an occasional drink of beer.
Do Horses Like Beer?
Many horses do enjoy the taste of beer, and it seems they can even be quite the connoisseur when it comes to what beer they like!
Anecdotal evidence reports that horses are more likely to enjoy the flavor of dark ales and beer, and are not so keen on light-colored beers and lagers. The reason for this is thought to be that darker ale are brewed using barley and hops, and these are similar in flavor to the foods that horses enjoy. The lighter beers taste unfamiliar to the horse, and they are less likely to try drinking them.
Not all horses will enjoy drinking beer, but the ones that get the taste for it certainly seem to enjoy a can of the cold stuff once in a while!
Horse Alcohol Consumption – Do Horses Get Drunk?
The interesting thing about horses drinking beer is that it is highly unlikely that your horse will get drunk. There are two good reasons for this unusual phenomenon.
Firstly, the gastrointestinal system of the horse can digest and metabolize alcohol very quickly, turning it into carbohydrates to be used as energy. The liver can process alcohol so quickly that the horse will feel no intoxicating effects whatsoever from a can of beer.
You would need to consume around 20 times more alcohol than a human to become drunk, and this is a dangerous experiment that we highly recommend you should never attempt!
The second reason that horses do not get drunk easily is their large body weight. Again, this means the alcohol in beer is quickly metabolized and dissipated, without causing the horse to become intoxicated.
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Why Would You Give Your Horse Beer? Can Horses Drink Beer?
So, are there any benefits to giving beer to horses? Well, this is a relatively low-calorie treat for horses, which can be cold and refreshing. Your horse may well enjoy a cold beer after a long ride, so there is no harm in sharing a beer with him!
Humans tend to worry about the additional calories consumed when we drink beer, but luckily this is not such a problem for horses. An average-sized horse will need to consume 17,000 calories per day, and a medium beer is around 170 calories per bottle. This represents just 1% of his daily calorie intake, so it is unlikely that he would gain weight from drinking the occasional beer.
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If your horse likes the taste of beer, this can also be a great way to encourage him to drink more water. Try adding a splash of beer to his water bucket in hot weather or after exercise, to tempt him to increase his water intake.
If you’re trying beer with your horse for the first time, he might be wary of drinking it at first. You can add a small amount of beer to his bucket of food to get him accustomed to the taste, gradually increasing the amount over time. Some horses never get used to the flavor of beer, no matter how hard you try!
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Is Treating Colic in Horses With Beer a Good Idea?
Treating colic in horses with beer is an old wives’ tale, and is never a good idea. When a horse has colic, his digestive system is already under considerable strain. Giving him beer may make this even worse, and is unlikely to resolve the cause of the gastrointestinal pain.
If you suspect that your horse has colic, seek veterinary advice immediately. Colic is a major emergency in horses, and the sooner it is treated the greater chance your horse has of a full recovery.
And when he is completely better, you can both enjoy a cold beer together!
Is beer good for horses with ulcers?
In the horse world, you will come across plenty of myths and old wives’ tales – treatments that people have used for years, but without any scientific or medical basis. But can horses drink beer to help cure ulcers?
Using beer for horses with ulcers is one of these remedies; many people swear by it and claim it helps to cure ulcers in horses, but research has never been done to prove if it works or not.
The theory is that beer made from hops can help to soothe the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, helping to prevent and heal gastric ulcers. Certain types of beer, such as Irish stout – known as Guinness – also contain nutrients that have antioxidant properties.
However, whether horses benefit from these nutrients is unknown, and there could be risks associated with giving beer horses with ulcers. Beer could potentially disrupt the bacterial population of the gut, leading to an increase in ‘bad’ bacteria and fewer ‘good’ bacteria. It may also alter acidity levels in the stomach and small intestine, leading to an increased risk of ulcers.
So, if your horse suffers from ulcers, it would be better to stick to veterinary-approved treatment options rather than unproven remedies such as beer. Ulcers can be very painful for horses, and attempting to treat them yourself may only make matters worse.
Does Beer Help Horses Sweat?
Some horses suffer from a condition called anhidrosis, where they no longer produce sweat. This can cause an increase in body temperature, leading to fatigue, collapse, and even heat stroke. But can horses drink beer to help them sweat?
Some veterinarians will recommend a can of beer a day for horses suffering from mild anhidrosis. It is thought that alcohol stimulates the capillaries near the surface of the skin to widen, increasing blood flow and heat loss.
As well as giving beer to horses that do not sweat normally, it is important to keep them cool and avoid over-exertion, particularly during hot weather. Electrolyte supplementation will help to stimulate sweat production and keep your horse’s body temperature within normal ranges.
Can Horses Drink Wine?
A small amount of wine on an occasional basis will not harm your horse, but there are other treats they would definitely prefer! Most horses don’t mind the flavor of alcoholic beverages, but would rather eat tasty snacks like apples and carrots. So, keep the wine for yourself, and give your horse some nutritious treats instead!
Due to the way horses metabolize alcohol, they would need to drink a vast amount of wine to feel the effects – it is very difficult to get a horse drunk! However, it would be a bad idea to even try, as horses are large animals and could potentially be very dangerous if they exhibited any drunken behavior. Large amounts of any abnormal food or drink can also cause gastrointestinal problems for horses such as colic.
Summary – Can Horses Drink Beer?
So, as we have learned, horses can drink beer in moderation, and many horses enjoy a cold beer as a treat. The alcohol in beer is metabolized very quickly in the horse’s liver, so it is highly unlikely that a horse would get intoxicated from drinking a moderate amount of beer. Beer should never be given to horses with colic, as it may make any gastrointestinal disruption even worse.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether can horses drink beer! Does your horse enjoy a cold beer with you every now and again? Or maybe you’ve found that your horse doesn’t enjoy the taste of beer? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Is Beer Good For Horses?
Beer is not bad for horses, but it is not particularly beneficial to them either. The amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in beer are so low that they would have very little impact on the health and well-being of the horse. Beer is best considered to be a special treat for a horse, rather than a part of his everyday diet.
Which Beer Is Best For Horses?
No beer will provide your horse with any significant nutritional benefits, but there are some things to avoid. Look for one that is low in or free from artificial additives, colorings, and flavorings. Most horses prefer the flavor of dark beer over light beer.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE