The Influence of Topically Applied Oil-Based Palatants on Eating Behavior in Horses

J Equine Vet Sci. 2020 Aug;91:102995. doi: 10.1016/j.jevs.2020.102995. Epub 2020 Apr 9.


Palatants may be added to equine feed and medication either during or after manufacturing to enhance product acceptance. Prior studies have examined a variety of palatants but results have been limited and inconsistent. Therefore, the objective of this research was to evaluate topically applied oil-based palatants on feeding preferences in horses. Stock-type horses (n = 10) were used in this paired preference test across a two-phase study. Phase one compared six palatants (banana, anise, peppermint, apple, spearmint, and orange) to a control (corn oil), whereas phase two compared preference among palatants (anise, apple, and peppermint). Feeding stocks were utilized and horses were allowed 15 seconds for olfaction followed by 3 minutes for consumption. Variables recorded included first diet sniffed and consumed, first action, aversive behaviors, excessive salivation, and consumption. Each trial was also video-recorded and number of chews were counted. Data were analyzed using chi-square and t tests in SAS version 9.4 with P < .05 established as significant. Findings from phase one reveal excessive salivation was observed less frequently (P < .05) for most palatants with the exception of peppermint and orange. Orange negatively impacted palatability indicated by less consumption when compared with the control (P = .02), although there was no impact on chews per gram. No difference between control and treatment diets for first sniff or first consumed was observed when analyzed individually in either phase one or two, although there was a moderate positive correlation (ф = 0.39, P = .04) between olfaction and consumption during the peppermint and anise comparison. Consumption as the first action was consistent across all trials (P < .05). Anise was preferred over apple and peppermint as indicated by higher total consumption (P < .05) in phase two. These data indicate that oil-based palatants can affect feed preferences in horses with increased palatability from anise and decreased palatability from orange flavors.

Keywords: Eating behavior; Flavoring; Gustation; Horses; Olfaction; Palatability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Candy
  • Corn Oil
  • Diet
  • Eating*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Horses


  • Corn Oil