If you are new to managing your equestrian friend, you might be looking for a “what can horses eat” list. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered as we list down what foods are safe for horses to chow down (and which ones are not).
Feeding a horse with proper food is important because if you don’t give them nutritional value, they won’t be effective in the field or the competition. What’s more, since horses are animals, they have a different digestive system so they might not do well with certain foods that are only suitable for humans.
To check and double-check that what your horse eats is just fine for their health and tummy, you should consult online guides such as this one. In the long run, you’ll save yourself some trips to the vet by choosing carefully what to feed your horse and what not to feed them.
What can horses eat?
So, are you ready to find out which foods are safe for horses? Here’s a list of major foods that they can safely consume:
Grass for horses
As one of the farm animals, you’ll find in a barn or ranch, horses and pasture grass go together very well, especially in the spring or summer. Pasture grass is sometimes accompanied by soft and tender plants, which are okay for a horse to consume. That’s because their tummies are accustomed to gaining nutrients from grass.
Among what makes pasture grass nutritious and important for horses is silica, which will also strengthen their teeth. In the past, horses have lived off pasture grass – even if the conditions aren’t so good.
With that said, the grass is one of the biggest soft spots of a horse keeper that’s a risk for obesity. Whether you have a large lawn or a whole hacienda for your equestrian friend to consume, overfeeding grass is a common problem among horses and should be remedied or lessened through the following:
- Use a horse grazing muzzle. You might be thinking that horse grazing muzzles are cruel, but they’re not! They are merely devices that are used to limit your horse from chewing and grazing too much in the green season. You are doing a favor for your horse if you limit their access to pasture because it will save them from being overweight and getting many uncomfortable health issues.
- Feed the horse frequently but in small amounts. One mistake that most beginner caretakers make is that they feed the horse in bulk. Just as humans have separate meals throughout the day, the horse should be fed in the same manner so that they won’t feel bloated or incapable of moving too much. This is especially true for horses that work on the field.
- Watch over your horse as much as possible. A problem that horses will encounter if their owners don’t watch over them is that they’ll chew on anything they see. Horses are not like us so they can’t make decisions on their own. They can’t always tell if they’re already full if we keep spoiling them with lots of green pastures. Pay attention to what your horse eats and they’ll eat healthily.
- Set up their body clock for feeding. When feeding your horse grass from the pasture, make sure you set it up as a scheduled routine. If they get used to this and that, they’ll automatically stop when they don’t need to feed anymore. When the winter season arrives, learn to gradually minimize their access to the grass so that they won’t get shocked during the cold months.
Hay for horses
The next best food for horses is hay, which will be a sufficient source of vitamins and minerals even if the pastures aren’t green (such as in the winter). However, when you do choose hay, make sure that it is made from quality ingredients. Here are some common types of hay that are meant for horses:
Rich in calcium and energy, this type of hay is best for the draft horse or the equine friend that always works hard in the field. They also tend to be tastier to horses when compared to regular grass hay. However, if you do feed your horse legume hay, make sure that they are fed carefully because too many nutrients in the legumes are possible risks for obesity.
This type of hay is richer in fiber so it is a generally-acceptable food for nearly any horse. It will help horses from starving between activities since horses need constant access to food. If field grazing is not applicable at the time of the year, grass hay is a good choice.
Can horses eat grains?
Yes, horses are okay with grains – provided that they’re the right type. In the past, grains have been fed to horses as a supplemental diet to their main course, which can either be hay or grass. Among the safe grains that you can feed to your horse include the following:
- Oatmeal. This includes nearly any kind of oat, such as Irish oats, quick oats, and the like. The 13% fiber content is what makes oats the most popular grain for horses to consume, which will do justice for their tummies. With that in mind, keep your horse’s consumption of oatmeal to a balanced level to avoid colic.
- Corn. In little amounts, corn is okay to feed to your horse, especially if they are lacking in energy and they need all the power they can get to perform their farm tasks. When buying and feeding corn for your horse, consider less moisture from the corn and always check for any insect damage.
- Barley. If your horse is a big breed and they need a heavier meal, barley will do the trick. Barley is typically rolled instead of crushed so that it will avoid your horse from getting colic and similar digestive upsets. Compared to oats, barley has a lower fiber content.
Which treats are safe for horses?
Occasional treats can be given to your horse but make sure that they are not overfed as the main diet of your equestrian friend. If you want your horse to try out different kinds of foods, these treats are safe for them:
- Peanut butter. If your dog likes peanut butter, then surely, your horse will like it too, right? That depends, but peanut butter is generally safe for your horse in moderation. It can be fed from time to time to give them a bit of nutrient.
- Cinnamon. While cinnamon is a sweet treat for humans, is it safe for horses? The answer is yes – in little amounts. Too much cinnamon can spike up your horse’s blood sugar levels so always treat it as a treat.
- Honey. Yet another sweet treat is honey, which is most people’s healthier alternative to sugar due to the vitamin C content. Honey is safe for horses to consume and it is even beneficial due to its antibiotic properties. Just make sure you watch how much the horse consumes.
- Orange pumpkin. Although we’re not saying that all pumpkins and squashes are okay for horses, the orange pumpkin is just fine, so long as it is not fed too much.
- Raisins. A sweet and slightly sour combination that your horse might like as a treat would be raisins. They make great sources of sugar and energy for your horse
- Bananas. Rich in potassium, bananas are ideal for horses that live in tropical areas. If you own a horse that’s meant for competition or horse racing, picking up a banana from your tree or pouch and feeding it to your equine companion will give them just the right energy boost.
- Pineapple. Yet another source of vitamin C that’s okay for horses is pineapple. When prepared properly and in moderation, pineapples are fruits that can be an additional source of nutrients for your horse to feed on from time to time. Make sure pineapples are served without the skin.
- Oranges. If your area has a lot of oranges, giving your horse an occasional citrus treat will be just fine. Aside from vitamin C, oranges also have antioxidants that will relieve your horse of stress. However, since oranges are sugary, make sure they take them in moderation.
- Peaches. A source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin A, peaches are okay for horses as well, as long as you cut them into small chunks. Too much of a rich fruit would cause a horse to feel bloated or choked.
- Cherries. A fun and colorful treat you can give to your horse is cherry, which is filled with vitamins A and C – a great addition to their healthy diet. Make sure that the cherry is cut in half without the stem and pit when giving it to your horse as a treat.
Are commercial mixes safe for my horse?
Yes, but it depends on your horse’s condition. These commercial mixes are more ideal for homes and farms that have a lot of horses to feed. They eliminate the trouble of having to mix this and that for creating a good diet plan for your horse(s).
The most common ingredients in a concentrate mix include beet pulp, grains, and flaxseed. They are filled with horse-safe ingredients but they are only suitable for horses that work hard all day, as well as nursing mares and those horses that need a lot of energy sources.
Is a salt block safe for a horse?
Salt blocks are okay because they maintain the cravings of your equine friend. In a farm where greenery is not always available in some seasons, salt blocks help keep them busy while also giving them good amounts of minerals.
We think that salt blocks are much better than concentrates because they’re less messy, creating less likelihood of sneezing and respiratory blockage for your friend. There are many salt blocks in the market but make sure to get from a reputable source to ensure that it is authentic.
Which foods are bad for horses?
Now that we’ve listed down which foods are okay for a horse, what exactly are foods that are not ideal for them? Let’s check them out:
- Wheat and rice. These grains are not suitable for horses because they cause an imbalance inside your horse’s digestive system, specifically in their mineral intake.
- Chocolate. It is common knowledge that chocolate is not suitable for nearly any pet (dog, cat, bird) so it’s a likelihood that horses can’t take them. That’s because of theobromine, which is a possible source of seizures and colic.
- Fruit seeds. If you do want to feed your horse fruit, that’s just fine, but make sure you take out the seed! This is especially the case when feeding apples, peaches, and apricots. They may also become a choking hazard to your horse.
- Tomatoes. Did you know that tomatoes can also cause colic in horses? That’s because of the atropine content. It may also cause diarrhea and an irregular heart rate. Alongside tomatoes, similar plant foods, such as eggplants and chili, are not advisable for horses.
- Onions and garlic. The N-propyl disulfide is an anemia-causing chemical that’s found in onions and garlic, as well as other similar veggies such as leeks and chives. However, garlic can be fed in very little amounts, if needed.
- Dog and cat food. Although it is tempting to feed your horse with kibble, the by-products found in commercial or grocery dog or cat food might not do so well inside your horse’s digestive system. Many pet stores nowadays will have horse-specific food, so why not stick to those instead?
- Potatoes. The general reason why potatoes aren’t meant for horses is due to being very heavy, which could lead to choking or digestive problems. If you do want to feed potatoes, make sure they are cut in the smallest way possible. Also, consider looking for potatoes without a green color to avoid causing digestive upset for your horse.