As a country bumpkin and trail riding enthusiast, I really like beer and I really like horses. This combined interest in beer and horses inevitably lead to one of my horses licking up some spilled beer. Which has lead me to ask the question “Can Horses Drink Beer?”
Yes, horses can drink beer. In fact, many horses actually enjoy the taste of beer. This is because the primary ingredients, hops, and barley, are both closely related to oats, a natural food source for horses.
But this raises a few questions like Why would I waste beer on my horse? What beer should I give my horse? Can prolonged drinking turn them into alcoholics? Can they get drunk? How much does it take for them to get drunk? I decided that I had to dig in a little further to answer all of this sudden curiosity.
What Beers are Okay?
You can give your horse almost any beer. My horse, Blackjack actually prefers darker beers to lighter ones. One day after a long trail ride, and perhaps one too many cold ones, I tried to give him a popular light beer in a blue can and he actually spit it back out. I was very disappointed in his blatant alcohol abuse, although an argument could be made that it was actually my fault.
I would speculate, without any hard evidence, that this is again due to the ingredients of each particular beer. Most light beers sold on the market today use rice as a substitute for some of the hops and barley. Whereas many of the darker beers are the opposite, filled with fermented hops and barley, Yum.
Based on this I would say that almost any beer should be safe to drink by your horse. But what about wine coolers and other alcoholic beverages? According to several articles I’ve read during my research on the topic, most of which were written by veterinarians, there is no known issue with allowing your horse to consume alcohol! A lot of this comes down to that fancy intestinal system that the horses have as well as their sheer weight. All of this being said, I would still exercise some level of caution as there hasn’t been a ton of, scientific, research into the benefits or dangers that can be caused by your horse drinking alcohol.
In Ireland, it is actually a tradition to give your racehorses Guinness stout beer. Before, or after a big race or show jump, it is believed that this beer will provide your horse with an extra boost of energy either to help win the day or to replace lost energy after the competition.
Can horses get drunk?
According to a study done by London university, the typical human weighs 137lbs. This sounds very light to me, but I’m no researcher. The number of beers it takes for a person to get drunk seems to be a highly debated subject; however, for the sake of argument lets say two beers per hour will keep you perfectly sober, three gets you drunk. I say this a lot, but horses are big animals, on average a horse weighs about 1000 lbs or about seven times the weight of an average human. Given this number, we can speculate that the average horse can consume about 21 beers per hour on weight alone to be drunk.
However, they have extraordinary metabolisms, this means that they are able to process alcohol far better than us measly humans can. This is due to the fact that grass and other greenery ferments, during which large amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase are produced within their stomach as they digest their regular food source. They actually have special organs designed to handle this fermentation process that clearly are not going to be found in our own anatomy.
These organs evolved as a way to rapidly convert this alcohol byproduct into carbohydrates for energy. They then use these alcohol-based carbohydrates in much the same way that humans use simple sugars. It is also because of this that horses cannot easily get drunk.
How much beer can I give my horse?
As we mentioned above, horses are large animals. Let’s look at calories. Horses need on average 20,000 calories during a typical day. A light beer is a measly 95 calories with but the highest calorie beer is actually just under 200. That would mean for your horse to gain weight from drinking beer alone they would need at least 100 of the heaviest beers every day!
Therefore from a calorie standpoint, I’d say your safe to give your horse as much as you are willing to buy without compensating grain or any other intake at all. You will likely break the bank before your horse starts to gain weight from beer alone.
We have already established that a horse can consume a huge amount of beer from the standpoint of calories; but what about other reasons? Thankfully due to your horse’s digestive system they are actually capable of consuming far more alcohol than you will reasonably be able to procure due to cost alone. That being said I wouldn’t go too crazy here, at some point it’s just wasteful.
Beer as a treatment for a disease?
Beer has actually been prescribed as a treatment plan for horses with a disease known as anhidrosis. Anhidrosis is a relatively rare disease in which the horse loses either all or part of its ability to sweat. For horses sweating is one of the primary ways to lose body heat. In fact, horses lose 65 to 70% of their body heat through sweating alone. One commonly known supplement to help this disease is a dark, stout. Although, in this case, there is no real scientific evidence to support this.
What’s the best way to feed my horse beer?
Now that we have established that it’s relatively safe for you to give our horse beer or other alcoholic drink of choice you might find yourself wondering what the best method of consumption might be. For obvious reasons, horses and glass bottles are not really going to be best friends. To me, that sounds like a very embarrassing vet call. Additionally, from experience, I have learned that a horse doesn’t really have the coordination to drink from a can without wasting a large portion of the beverage. Many of those Irish horse owners like to mix their dark lager in with the horse’s grain. But for just the drink alone, the solution is very simple, pour out the drink into a bucket for the horse to use.
In conclusion, it’s perfectly okay to give your horse as much beer as your heart and wallet desire. Although, personally I’d like to have the alcohol myself instead of wasting it on an animal that can’t really even get drunk during this process.