Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Last Updated on October 1, 2022

Sunflower seeds are a tasty snack that many people enjoy eating. But can horses eat sunflower seeds, or are they toxic to horses? Let’s find out!

Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds?

When it comes to the human diet, sunflower seeds are regarded as a healthy and nutritious snack. These little seeds are packed full of beneficial oils and can be enjoyed on a regular basis. But can horses eat sunflower seeds too?

The great news is that yes, horses can eat sunflower seeds! Most horses enjoy the taste of sunflower seeds and will happily eat them out of your hand as a snack. In fact, you may have noticed that sunflower seeds are commonly included in commercial horse feeds and treats.

Most of us normally associate horses with eating grass, but in fact, their diet is naturally much more varied than this. In the wild, the bulk of the horses’ diet would be grass, but they would also eat herbs, plants, bushes, and seeds. This helps provide the horse with the full range of nutrients it needs to survive and thrive.

You may not have realized it, but there are actually two different types of sunflower seeds. The ones sold in snack bags for human consumption are striped sunflower seeds. The other type is black oil sunflower seeds, normally included in animal feed.

Both types can be fed to horses, but it is better to stick to black oil sunflower seeds if you can find them. Striped sunflower seeds are much more expensive and do not have the same nutritional benefits as black oil sunflower seeds.

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Are Sunflower Seeds Good For Horses?

Sunflower seeds are a healthy snack that most horses will enjoy eating. Not only do horses enjoy the flavor of sunflower seeds, but these little snacks are also highly nutritious and bring many health benefits. Sunflower seeds are perfectly safe for the vast majority of horses to eat, although we do have to be cautious in horses that are prone to weight gain.

The main health benefit of sunflower seeds to horses is their high protein and fat content. Both of these are essential for cellular growth and repair. Sunflower seeds contain exceptionally high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which help to regenerate skin cells.

Adding sunflower seeds to your horse’s ration on regular basis will help to develop a shiny, lustrous coat. This can be particularly beneficial for horses that suffer from skin conditions.

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Sunflower seeds are also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and magnesium. These help to maintain many different body systems and are vital to keeping the body functioning normally.

Whilst most horses will benefit from being fed a small amount of sunflower seeds as part of their daily ration, caution should be taken in some cases. Due to that high-fat content, sunflower seeds contain many more calories per gram than other types of horse feed. If fed in large amounts, they may cause weight gain and obesity.

So, if your horse is overweight or prone to weight gain, it may be best to avoid feeding sunflower seeds.

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How Many Sunflower Seeds Can Horses Eat?

Feeding too many sunflower seeds to your horse can lead to a dietary imbalance, as they are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain virtually no omega-3 fatty acids. Depending on the size of the horse, it should be fed between 100 and 450 grams of black oil sunflower seeds per day. This is enough to give a healthy shine to the coat without causing a dietary imbalance.

It is also a good idea to add a different type of seed to the diet to increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Seeds that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds and flax seeds. Two cups of either of these types of seeds will be sufficient to balance out the lack of omega-3 fatty acids in sunflower seeds.

Remember to stick to black oil sunflower seeds and not striped sunflower seeds for your horse. These contain much higher levels of fatty acids and are also easier for the horse to chew and digest.

How Many Sunflower Seeds Can Horses Eat

Summary – Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds?

So, as we have learned, horses can eat sunflower seeds and they are commonly included as part of pre-mixed commercial horse feeds. Sunflower seeds have many nutritional benefits to horses, as they are packed full of healthy oils, vitamins, and minerals. Veterinarians often recommend feeding sunflower seeds to horses with skin problems, as the beneficial oils can help promote a healthy and shiny coat.

We would love to hear your thoughts on whether can horses eat sunflower seeds? Does your horse enjoy snacking on different nuts and seeds as a treat? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best type of sunflower seeds to feed to your horse. Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!


What kind of sunflower seeds can horses eat?

The best type of sunflower seeds to feed the horses are black oil sunflower seeds. Striped sunflower seeds should be avoided as these can be difficult for horses to chew and digest. Black oil sunflower seeds also have higher levels of fatty acids, which helped give the horse a shiny coat.

Can horses have roasted sunflower seeds?

When feeding sunflower seeds to horses, it is best to avoid roasted sunflower seeds. Stick to black oil sunflower seeds, which are intended for animal consumption.

What nuts and seeds can horses eat?

Horses can eat many different types of nuts and seeds, including chia seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds. If you look at a commercial feed mix intended for horses, you will see that it contains many different types of nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are generally high in energy and also packed full of vitamins and minerals.

What foods are toxic to horses?

Horses generally have a natural instinct which will help them detect foods which are toxic to them. They should never be fed potatoes, garlic, tomatoes or onion. You should also ensure that their grazing land is free from poisonous herbs and plants such as ragwort.