“Fully one-half of the horses used by the brewers,” said a fat and ruddy driver of one of the big wagons, “are beer drinkers, and there are horses belonging to the company which will not leave the delivery yards without having had their bucket of beer in the morning and at lunch time. They have acquired a taste for the beverage, and they refuse to do their work until they have been supplied. Now, I say the horses acquired a taste for beer, but I guess I am wrong about that, for it is my candid opinion that horses love beer.
“Our horses fatten on beer, and it is a noticeable fact that the ones drinking the most beer keep in the best physical condition and can do the most hard driving. Drivers and horses are allowed a liberal supply of the fluid by the company, and I would go without my mugs before I would see my horses go thirsty.”
– American Carbonator and American Bottler; January 15, 1905.
A beer for your horse? Absolutely! We learned about the health-giving qualities of beer ten years ago when one of our goats got sick. He was off-color, mopey, with no appetite, so I posted about him to a sheep group that I moderated at the time. A Welsh member said, “Give him dark beer.” An elderly Welsh shepherdess turned them on to the digestive benefits of beer quite some time ago, with great results. So we gave our goat 2 beers, 1 in the morning and the other that evening. The next day he was eating again. Since then we’ve dosed sick sheep and goats with beer and we concur with that old Welsh shepherdess: beer works!
Then I started seeing references to beer in old-time horse books, mostly as an appetite booster but also as an all-around tonic. So I ran a Google search with surprising results.
• Horses don’t get drunk from drinking beer because their livers metabolize alcohol much faster than ours do. Also, a pint or so of beer is a comparative drop in the bucket given to a 1200 pound horse (feed less if you’re dosing a mini).
• Many leading racehorse trainers and competition riders in Ireland and Great Britain treat their charges to a pint of Guinness stout after races and competitions to revitalize them. They also feed it to stimulate picky eaters.
• Arkle, the great English Thoroughbred steeplechaser, enjoyed 2 pints of Guinness daily. His trainer used it to soak Arkle’s oats.
• The yeast in Guinness, Saccharomyces cervisia, is a component in better-quality probiotic supplements. Hops are used as a digestive aid and a treatment for intestinal ailments in traditional Chinese medicine; one of the phytochemicals in hops, quercitin, is a powerful, anti-inflammatory antioxidant. The malted barley in Guinness is a fine source of B-vitamins and of the minerals iron, copper, manganese, and selenium.
• Recommended amounts to feed on an ongoing basis, according to Guinness:
High performance horses: 12 ounces (1 bottle) once a day
Moderately active horses: ½ cup once a day
It can also be fed after a hard training session, after a competition, or during periods of high heat or high humidity.
• Trainers also feed a pint of dark beer a day to horses with anhydrosis (anhydrosis means they can’t sweat). If you suspect anydrosis, call your vet, don’t assume a beer will do the trick.
• Not sure how to introduce beer to your horse? You could try this ploy from The Simple Ailments of Horses; Their Nature and Treatment, W.F. (1882):
“Place a quart of ale in the bottom of a pail, then place a whole loaf, with the crust pared off, in the ale leaving the upper side dry. The horse eats the bread down to the beer, and eventually takes the whole, beer also; and will henceforth take kindly to the beer given alone. Beer and loaf is capital in long, tedious cases of extreme weakness, such as continued fevers.”
• In the olden days, folks dosed their horses using a specially made, very thick and strong, long-necked glass bottle. But don’t try to give your horse beer straight from any bottle unless you pad the neck really well and are very, very careful. To give him a taste you could syringe flat beer (fresh beer foams too much to draw into a syringe) into his mouth using a dose syringe or a 60cc or 120cc catheter-tip veterinary syringe. Once he’s tasted it and knows he likes it, he’ll drink it from a bowl or pail.
• Another good way to give your horse beer is in bran mash.
• 8 cups of bran
• 8 cups of oats
• a pinch of sea salt
• hot water
• 1 can of dark beer
Add enough water to thoroughly moisten the ingredients, add salt, mix and let the mixture steep until cool enough to feed.
• Dark beer is the preferred type of beer to give to animals for medicinal purposes. Dark ale is a British type beer combining hops, yeast, and a blend of malts; it’s a chestnut brown color, with a fruity smell and robust character. Stouts, like Guinness, are a type of porter. Stout means strong; enough said. Guinness, the favorite of Irish horse trainers, is made using water, barley, yeast, hops, and roasted malt; it’s the malt that gives stout its dark color. We gave our first sick goat extra-dark bock (German) beer because bock means buck, as in a goat buck. Being non-drinkers, we didn’t know what to choose, so ‘goat beer’ seemed just right. Whatever, it worked, so we’ve dosed using bock beer ever since.
– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver