Is it safe to feed fruits, vegetables and certain treats to horses? Horses will usually eat anything we offer them, so safety is a concern when feeding treats to horses.
Many fruits and vegetables are safe to feed to your horse as long as you take the necessary precautions.
While it seems like anything a person can eat is natural and should be safe for your horse, there are some things the sensitive digestive system of a horse is not made to tolerate.
If you have any question over whether or not a treat is safe to feed to your horse, check with a trusted professional, such as your veterinarian, before feeding it to your horse.
Here is a comprehensive list of common fruits and vegetables most people have around, whether or not they are safe to feed to your horse, and how to feed them safely to your horse.
Just keep in mind that too much of anything can be harmful, so use moderation. Also, please read the important safety notes section at the bottom of the article.
Vegetables Horse Can Eat
Like people, horses may have different preferences when it comes to treats. Most horses will enjoy some, if not all, of the following vegetables as treats.
Turnips, swede, parsnips, beetroot, corn, and radishes are popular with most horses. These treats provide a tasty crunch that horses enjoy.
Some horses will also enjoy things like celery, lettuce, kale, collard greens, spinach, and chard for their leafy green crunch. These treats are easy to feed since they are similar to the horse’s natural diets of greens, leaves, and soft stems.
Some less popular acceptable options include snow peas, cucumber, green beans, squash, and broccoli. You might find your horse doesn’t really care for the taste of some of these options, but they are safe to feed him if he does.
Fruits Horses Can Eat
Much like vegetables, horses will have their own opinion about fruits they enjoy, although many horses prefer fruits to vegetables over all. The favorite fruits of most horses include the ever-popular apples, pears, peaches, and watermelon.
Depending on the region you are from, any of these may be frequently fed to horses as treats.
Other treats that most horses enjoy include fruits such as bananas, cherries, grapes, cantaloupe, apricots, plums, blackberries, strawberries, raisins, and mangoes.
Be sure to remove pits and seeds from these fruits before feeding them to avoid choking hazards.
Citrus fruits and other fruits high in vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines are also safe for horses, and if your horse has a taste for the tropical, pineapples and coconut can safely be fed to horses as well.
A few notes about fruits
- Bananas can be fed with the peel, provided you remove any woody stems that might become a choking hazard.
- Pinapples can be fed to horses, but remove the core and skin and feed pineapple in small pieces.
- Oranges, grapefruits & other citrus fruits should be fed in small chunks with the peel removed.
- Coconut flesh can be fed in small pieces but no husk should be fed to the horse.
- Cherries can be fed to horses, but be sure to cut cherries in half and remove the pit and stem before feeding.
- Pumpkin meat and the seeds can be fed to horses, but not the skin.
Fruits are naturally high in sugar and calories, so horses prone to weight gain should be limited to small amounts of fruit treats. Also, feeding sweets to horses often can cause tooth decay. Also, please read our important notes section at the bottom of the article.
Do NOT feed the following fruits and vegetables to horses
Because horses have more sensitive digestive systems than humans, some fruits and vegetables can be toxic to horses.
If you have a question or concern about feeding something to your horse, you should always check with a veterinarian first.
- Other gas-producing vegetables or other foods in the nightshade family
What other Treats Can Horses Eat?
Many people like to feed their horses the treats that they have on hand, but you can also purchase many different types of treats specially made for horses at your local feed store or any of your favorite online retail shopping venues, such as Amazon or State Line Tack.
Pre-made horse treats, such as Mrs. Pasture’s Cookies for Horses (see the link) offer a delicious natural and safe treat for your horse. You can also purchase treats in many flavors, such as peppermint, apple and oat, and carrot, and molasses.
Check the ingredient list to be sure you are making a good choice and choose all-natural treats to ensure you are giving your horse the best option.
You can also make homemade treats for your horse, allowing you to control the ingredients and the amount of sugar that goes into the snack.
If you like cooking and baking, this is a fun thing you can do for your horse with friends or family members. For more information, see our guide on easy homemade horse treats you can make.
Some Treats to Avoid
There are some things it is just not wise to feed to your horse, however, and no matter how interesting your horse finds your chocolate bar or potato chips, you should never feed them to him.
First of all, sugary treats like chocolate are bad for your horse’s teeth. While you might brush several times daily, he does not, so plaque and cavities will be more likely to form from small amounts.
Also, as mentioned with some of the fruits and vegetables, sometimes a horse cannot properly digest the same foods humans can, and it can cause colic or other digestive issues when you feed them foods not meant for horses.
Chips can also pose a choking hazard because of their shape and texture. Keeping your horse healthy should be a priority, and candy, crackers, and chips are not healthy for your horse.
Important Safety Notes
Any changes to your horse’s diet should be made gradually and problems should be discussed with your veterinarian. It’s important to understand that feeding horses treats too frequently can lead to weight gain.
High sugar treats can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Fruits especially should be fed only in small quantities because of the possibility of colic.
An imbalance can occur in a horse’s sensitive digestive system with too much variation from their normal diet, which can lead to colic.
Remember that horses cannot throw up or vomit, as humans do, so any large chunks of food that become lodged in the esophagus can be dangerous and may lead to the need for veterinary care.
Be careful about turning your horse out near fruit trees that might dump fruit on the ground as it becomes ripe. They will quickly overeat and put themselves in danger of colic or founder.
Persimmons are a particular concern with horses. If any existing persimmon trees cannot be removed from your horse’s pasture, avoid turning them out in that area during the fall when the fruit is dropping.
We all want to make our horses happy and treats seem like an easy way to please them. But horses do not have the ability to make good choices about what and how much they eat as humans do.
It is important that horse owners make good choices in what to offer their horses.
What do you think? Do you like to give your horse treats? Let us know what they like in the comments!