Last Updated on January 8, 2022
We all love to give our horses some delicious treats every now and again, but how do you know which ones are safe for them to eat? Let’s take a look, at our list of what horses can eat!
What Do Horses Eat?
The digestive system of a horse is highly specialized to enable them to consume certain types of food. This is the result of thousands of years of evolution. The equine digestive system consists of a very complex and intricate series of organs and processes, and feeding the incorrect diet can cause this system to malfunction.
Horses are herbivores, meaning that they feed only on plant matter, also known as vegetation. As we all know, the main form of vegetation that horses eat is grass and hay, but they also enjoy other foods too.
All equines are classed as non-ruminant herbivores. This means that, unlike other herbivores such as cattle, horses digest most of their plant-based diet in the large intestine. The large intestine of the horse contains a complex balance of bacteria that can ferment and digest the horse’s natural diet.
In the natural world, horses spend at least 12 hours every day grazing and foraging for tasty plants. This means that the digestive system is designed to cope with a continuous flow of small amounts of food, rather than large meals that are eaten quickly. This type of eating is called trickle grazing.
So, from this, we can deduce that the natural diet for horses consists entirely of plant matter. Their digestive system cannot cope with many of the foods that humans eat, such as meat and dairy products. This means that we can immediately rule out any food that contains meat from our list, as well as many dairy products!
Now that we know that horses only eat plant matter, let’s find out what is not safe for them to eat!
Read more information What Not To Feed A Horse – Equine Diet Top Tips!
A-List Of What Horses Can Not Eat
As we’ve already figured out, horses are herbivores and should not eat meat or dairy products. They are herbivores and should only be fed plant matter. However, this doesn’t mean that all types of plants are safe for horses to eat!
There are many trees and plants that grow naturally in the wild that are poisonous to horses. There are too many to write a full list here, but luckily your horse will instinctively know what they are. These are some of the most common poisonous plants to horses:
- Poison Hemlock
There are also many foods that humans enjoy that are not safe for horses to eat:
- Brassica vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts
- Caffeine – Coffee, chocolate
- Dairy products – milk, eggs, yogurt
- Onions, garlic, and leeks
Can Horses Eat Fruit?
Most people know that horses love to eat apples, and this is one of their favorite snacks! However, many other types of fruit can be fed as a treat for horses. You might be surprised to see what is on our list of fruits that horses can eat!
When it comes to horses eating fruit, there are a few important rules to follow. Firstly, any sugary fruits should be fed in small quantities. A large amount of sugar may lead to health problems such as laminitis and insulin resistance.
Secondly, hard fruits should be sliced into bitesize pieces to reduce the risk of choke. Any stone fruits should have the hard central stone removed. It is also advisable to wash or peel fruit to remove any residue of chemicals.
Learn more about Do Horses Like Apples?
Can Horses Eat Peaches?
Many horses love eating peaches, and these juicy fruits are a healthy and refreshing snack! Peaches contain high levels of sugar, so do not feed more than one peach per day. The skin of the peach should be washed and the hard inner stone removed as it is a choking hazard.
Do Horses Eat Bananas?
Most horse owners will not realize it, but many horses love to eat bananas! And the whole banana is safe for horses to eat, even the skin!
To introduce your horse to this tasty treat, peel a banana and slice it into small chunks. You may need to feed them by hand at first to tempt your horse to eat them. Your horse will be pestering you for his banana treats before you know it!
Can Horses Eat Cherries?
Most horses will enjoy eating cherries, but the stones must be removed first. This can be a time-consuming task, but your horse will appreciate your efforts!
Can Horses Eat Raisins?
Most horses will enjoy eating raisins, and they can be fed to horses without any prior preparation. These little dried fruits are packed full of sugar and can give a good energy boost. A little snack of raisins is a great treat for you and your horse to share on a long trail ride!
What Other Foods Do Horses Like To Eat?
Here are some other fruits and vegetables that your horse may enjoy eating:
- Green beans
- Melon & Watermelon
- Pineapple (with the skin and core removed)
- Plums (remove the stone first)
As you can see, there are many other vegetables that your horse might enjoy eating! Some horses have more adventurous tastes than others, so don’t be disappointed if your equine friend turns his nose up at new things.
With any new food, feed only a tiny amount to start with to allow your horse’s sensitive digestive system to get used to it. Watch your horse carefully for any signs of discomfort, such as colic or diarrhea. Nutritionists advise that a maximum of one cup of treats is fed per day to a horse.
So, as we have learned, there is a long list of food that horses can eat! They especially enjoy different types of fruit such as peaches and bananas. Fruit must be prepared carefully to make sure it is safe for horses to eat, and sugary food should only be fed in small amounts.
We’d love to hear what you think about our list of foods that horses can eat! Does your horse enjoy eating unusual snacks? Or maybe your pony is a very fussy eater? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE