What is it about pets that make them irresistible when it comes to treats? I’m pretty sure it has something to do with big, pouty eyes and a cute face. Every time I walk past the pasture and my horse has his head hanging over the fence, I feel the urge to give him something tasty to nibble on.
The classic apple and carrot are great but who enjoys eating the same thing over and over? I started wondering what other vegetables and fruit are safe for horses to eat and I discovered there is a long list of healthy and tasty options that horses crave.
If you are like me and want to spruce up your horse’s diet, then take a look at the following list showing 40 healthy fruits and vegetables that horses actually love. Many, but not all, of these fruits and vegetable can be fed whole. This chart also highlights the parts you should remove before feeding to your horse.
Fruits and vegetables safe for horses
Please remember, that horses can have allergies to food just like us so expose them to new treats slowly. Horses are also prone to colic when given large amounts of one type of food. Especially, when it’s a tasty new treat and they want to gobble it up fast. Your horse will always want another treat, so for his sake, only give small amounts.
Fruits Safe for Horses
- Apples (no core)
- Appricots (no pit)
- Bananas (cut up peel)
- Cantaloupe (no rind or seeds)
- Cherries (no pit)
- Coconut (no shell)
- Dates (no pit)
- Honeydew (no rind or seeds)
- Mango (no pit)
- Nectarine (no pit)
- Peaches (not pit)
- Pears (no core)
- Pineapple (no skin)
- Plums (no pit)
Vegetables Safe for Horses
- Beet Roots
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
- Pumpkin (no seeds)
- Snow Peas
- Soybean Hulls
- Squash (no seeds)
- Sweet Potato
- Swiss Chard
Most fresh fruits and vegetable are palatable to horses yet yours may not enjoy some listed above. Keep trying until you find their favorite and just remember to give any treat in moderation and never as a reward for bad behavior.
What fruit can horses not eat
As mentioned above, there are many fruits that are safe for horses to eat. However, there is also a few which are toxic to horses. Refrain from giving your equine friends a taste of the following fruit.
- Avocados – Guatemalan avocados are sudden death-inducing plants for horses. The leaves, fruit and seeds are toxic. Dyspnea induced death follows less than two days after eating in most cases due to excessive edema of the neck, head and lungs. The toxin in the plant is unknown but it is not found in the ripe fruits flesh. Symptoms from eating include diarrhea, colic, and congestive heart failure. Mexican or smooth-skinned avocado varieties are not toxic but it is better to be safe and refrain from feeding any avocado to your horse.
- Persimmons – Persimmon are a sweet and sticky fruit that horses love and will gorge on if they gain access to a tree. The fruit itself isn’t poisonous yet impaction colic and death can occur when large quantities of the fruit causes a sticky mass of fibers and seeds called a phytobezoar to block the gastric tract. This obstruction must be treated by a veterinarian and survival rates depend greatly on the location of the mass (stomach vs. intestine).
- Fruits with pits should not be fed unless the pit or seed has been removed to prevent choking.
What vegetables should horses not eat
Along with toxic fruit, there are several vegetables and vegetable families that should not be fed to horses. The major ones to recognize and avoid are as follows.
- Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale & Brussel Sprouts – These vegetables are well known to cause excessive gas and bloating. Horses can suffer from extreme gas-related colic. Prevent intestinal pain in your horse by avoiding all members of the Brassica family which contain raffinose, the sugar that induces large amount of intestinal gas.
- Onions & Garlic – Part of the Allium family, onions and garlic, along with chives, leeks and shallots, cause intoxication in horses and sometimes anemia, which if untreated can lead to death. The onion family contains the toxin N-propyl disulfide. This destroys red blood cells which the body promptly removes and causes a decrease in the amount of viable blood circulating in the body. Thus, less oxygen can be delivered throughout the body. There is no antidote for onion poisoning; only supportive therapies. Quick action should be taken to get your horse checked by a vet if you suspect consumption.
- Potatoes – Potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, more commonly known as the nightshade family, all of which contain toxic solanine alkaloids. These toxins cause diarrhea, colic and if large amounts are eaten, cardiac arrest induced death. Green, sprouting, and rotting potatoes and the leafy plant itself should remain out of a horse’s diet. As a practical note, potatoes are also the perfect sized choking hazard for horses if eaten whole and especially if frozen.
There is one exception in the potato family but personally, I would still refrain from feeding any to my horse. Up to 20 pounds per day of Irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) can safely be used as a feed for horses and mules fresh, raw or cooked.
- Rhubarb – Rhubarb plants cause kidney issues in many animals. High concentrations of oxalic acid in the plant combines with calcium in the blood to form insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals then deposit in the kidneys which leads to renal stones and kidney damage.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes are also part of the nightshade family and as such, both the leafy plant and the tomato fruit contain solanine alkaloids which are poisonous. These toxins affect the central nervous system and decrease heart and respiratory rates, dilate pupils, cause colic, muscle weakness, and diarrhea. When large amounts are ingested, death results from cardiac arrest. There is no specific treatment for tomato poisoning but activated charcoal and a saline cathartic may help if given right away.
How to know what foods are safe
Before feeding your horse a new food, it is always important to check that it is, in-fact, safe for horses to consume. Just because it’s grows naturally and we can eat it, doesn’t mean they can too. Checking with your local veterinarian is important and will give you the professional confirmation you need.
Another thing to consider is choking hazards. Foods that are delectable to horses might still cause problems if you don’t process them correctly first. Long, skinny vegetables like carrots and celery are the perfect size to get stuck in their throat if they are overzealous and excited to gobble down their treat. Make sure to cut them into bite sized chunks before feeding.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are also huge choking hazards because they are extra slippery and can’t be chewed. Never feed or allow your horse access to frozen foods.
Other safe treats for horses
The above chart of 40 fruits and vegetables is only a small list of safe, natural treats for your horse. Feel free to see if your horse likes some of these non-plant based treats as well.
- Sugar cubes
- Peppermint candy
- Sunflower seeds
- Sugar beet pulp
- Fruit or citrus pulp
- Clean and fresh lawn clippings
- Raw maccaroni
- Commercial horse treats
Giving snacks on a daily basis in small quantities is fine with feed. It changes up the boring doldrums of dry hay. Add snacks to their feed bucket to discourage behavioral problems associated with hand feeding treats like nipping or grabbing.