Halloween is coming up on October 31st in the U.S. and I’m enjoying the festivities…putting up decorations, getting the Halloween candy ready, designing costumes, and pumpkin carving. Well, while I was carving my first pumpkin I wondered if I could feed my horse pumpkin.
I feed my horse frozen watermelon in the summer and he loves it. It is cool, refreshing, and tasty. Plus it is another good way to add more water to his diet in the summer. So I researched if the pumpkin was also good for my horse.
I found quite a few fruits and vegetables that are good for horses. So I thought I would pass the information on to you.
Being natural herbivores, horses love a variety of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Pumpkins are definitely on this list. This delicious fruit (because they carry their seeds on the inside) is a sweet treat for your horse. It’s not only good for your horse, but it’s also healthy.
Pumpkins contain a large variety of essential vitamins and minerals, including fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, protein, and Vitamins A, B12, C, and E. Because of this pumpkins can help your horse’s health in a variety of ways.
The fiber found in pumpkins promotes good digestive health. Vitamin A is good for your horse’s eyes, bones, and cell health, and vitamin E is good for building strong muscles. Horses can safely consume pumpkin flesh, rind, and seeds. But not the stem.
The minerals found in pumpkins, including calcium, potassium, copper, and phosphorus can all aid in keeping your horse healthy. Additionally, the high-water content in pumpkins can help keep your horse properly hydrated.
Pumpkin seeds even have anti-parasite properties that help keep your horses clean and clear of unwanted guests.
However, just like anything – too much of a good thing can be bad. So, always feed in moderation and make sure the pumpkin pieces, or any other fruit or vegetable, are small enough not to cause a choking hazard. Plus always make sure they are clean, organic, and fresh. Never feed any rotting, moldy, or mushy fruits or vegetables.
Of course, lots of people go for the standard treats – Apples and Carrots:
Apple slices are good for horses if they are green or red. Sometimes you can even mix it up. If your horse is used to pieces of red apple, try a green one. But don’t feed the seeds. Cut the core out and throw it away.
Apples contain potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants that help destroy damaged molecules in your horse’s body that often cause inflammation and other issues.
Carrot slices are probably the number one treat I see people give their horses. My horses love them too.
Carrots have vitamin C and vitamin A, both antioxidants that support your horse’s immune system. The fiber in carrots is essential in helping horses maintain a healthy digestive system and they are full of nutrients that are all beneficial for your horse. The only issue with carrots is that they are high in sugar, so be careful if you have an insulin-resistant horse.
Here are another 10 good choices for healthy treats for your horse:
1. Watermelons are one of my horse’s favorites. The flesh and the rind are good for horses.
Watermelon rinds are a rich source of fiber, potassium, and amino acids. Plus they provide Vitamins A, B6, and C. So they are a heart-healthy snack for your horse. The watermelon flesh is high in water content and is good for hydration.
Fiber is the energy source for a horse’s ordinary body functions like breathing, walking, grazing, and sleeping. Fiber is a necessary part of a horse’s well-being. Horses need potassium for their physiological well-being. Muscle weakness, fatigue, decreased appetite, and exercise intolerance are indications a horse has a deficiency in potassium. The best remedy for horses with low potassium is access to fresh grass, electrolytes, and watermelon rind.
2. Oranges are another one of my horse’s favorites. Apollo used to only want the actual orange slices and would eat them whole. Jazz would take parts of the orange from my hand, chew it, suck the juice from the orange and then spit the skin back into my hand.
The entire orange is safe for your horse to eat, peel, and all. Oranges contain several healthy nutrients including vitamin C, a strong antioxidant that helps boost immune systems in people as well as horses. Oranges also contain folate, potassium, and vitamin B as well as fiber. Folic acid helps maintain healthy red blood cells and supports optimal oxygen levels supplied to your horse’s muscles. All good stuff. Plus they are low in calories and high in water content.
3. Bananas were also a favorite of my horse Jazz. He didn’t care for the inside of the banana but he loved the peel.
Bananas are high in sugar like carrots so treat in moderation and only if your horse can have sugar. However, the peel is a good low-sugar treat that is good for horses who are insulin resistant.
Bananas contain potassium which is good for a healthy nervous system and the development of strong muscles including the heart. They also contain vitamin B6 which helps your horse’s body turn carbohydrates and fats into energy.
4. Pears are one fruit I haven’t tried. But I hear that they are good mixed in with their grain for a tasty treat. Just slice them up with the peel but take out the core with the seeds. No seeds, just like with the apple.
Most pears have high amounts of fiber and low amounts of protein and these are two things that are beneficial for horses. Pears are also packed full of needed nutrients in your horse’s diet such as vitamins C, K, and A, plus copper, potassium, niacin, and antioxidants. They are 80% water for hydration and contain a significant amount of carbohydrates.
Their high fiber and potassium levels make them a good choice for good digestive health and muscle development. They also feed the good bacteria in your horse’s stomach which results in improved immunity, better aging, and less constipation. Did I mention they also have anti-inflammatory properties too? Oh, yeah.
5. Grapes are a treat I hear that you can feed a horse as a training tool since they are small and easy to carry. Better for your horse than carrots. The sweeter they are, the better your horse may like them. They can eat red or green grapes.
Grapes contain vitamins B-complex, C, E, and K. Plus they are packed with minerals – zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. These are good for hoof health, skin and joint health, and balancing insulin levels.
They are 82% water so they are great for hydration and they provide needed fiber. However, they too are high in sugar so be careful if your horse is insulin resistant. You can even use raisins. I used to bake my own oatmeal horse cookies and I added raisins for a sweeter taste. They loved those!
6. Mangos are also edible for your horse, but NOT the pit. So you would have to cut the mango up into slices and throw away the pit.
Mangos are low-calorie stone fruits that are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Vitamin A helps maintain your horse’s vision, particularly his night vision. Your horse will also get a lot of fiber from consuming mangos.
Vitamin C can help keep your horse stay healthy in times of stress as it is an antioxidant that fights against free radicals and neutralizes them.
7. Celery is a great treat. One of D’Artagnan’s favorite vegetables was celery. He loved it and so did Apollo. It was better than fresh green grass to them. Horses can eat the stalk and the leaves. Apollo would eat it like a carrot and it was better for him than a carrot as it was sugar-free.
Celery is good as it helps with hydration and is good in cleaning the blood. Celery has a high nutritional value for horses. It contains vitamins A, K, and C plus lots of minerals including magnesium and phosphorus. And of course, as we all know, it contains a lot of fiber.
Celery is rich in antioxidants as well which are great in fighting free radicals in the body and preventing the growth of cancerous tumors. That’s an awesome benefit!
8. Strawberries are another great summer treat when they are in season. My horses loved those. They enjoyed them better than apples but they were a bit messier when hand-feeding.
Some of the benefits of strawberries for your horse are that they are full of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and water. Specifically, vitamins C, E, and K as well as magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Vitamin C is good for the eyes and vitamin K supports healthy bone density and cardiovascular functions. Vitamin E and the minerals contained in strawberries help maintain a healthy immune system and normal nerve and muscle functions.
9. Sweet Potatoes are really easy to keep at the barn as a treat since they can be stored in a cool dark place (tack room). Horses can eat them raw or cooked.
Sweet potatoes are actually considered a “superfood” for horses. They are great for maintaining a healthy digestive system with a few other benefits.
They have vitamins A and C for boosting your horse’s immune system and vitamin B5 for a healthy coat. B6 is known for reducing arthritis and improving healthy eyes. Plus B6 helps if your horse is suffering from depression. Vitamin E helps fight infections and maintains healthy skin, eyes, and coat.
The mineral potassium is one of the most important minerals in your horse’s body for healthy muscles and reducing tiredness after exercise. Manganese keeps your horse’s bones strong and healthy and it also reduces inflammation. It even plays an important role in the regulation of blood sugar and is good for a horse suffering from Cushing’s.
10. Beets are a great choice for horses as a treat too. I saved the best for last. Beets are an incredible source of nutrition for your horse. I’m talking about the actual whole vegetable, not beet pulp. There is a difference.
Beets contain folic acid, vitamin B, and the amino acid methionine. Both folic acid (which helps to generate new cells) and methionine, support healthy bone and skin elasticity. They also contain an anti-oxidant, betacyanin which inhibits tumor growth. And they have anti-parasite properties just like pumpkin seeds.
Beets also increase gastric juices, which bring moisture to the intestines. This action supports gut health by helping to prevent dryness, which can lead to impaction colic. They even help your horse’s liver because they are an alkalizing food. They aid the liver in detoxification by neutralizing toxins in the blood. Fewer toxins in the blood equate to less work for the liver.
Beets also help your horse’s nervous system because they contain a combination of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that stimulate the production of the hormone dopamine in the brain. Dopamine has a calming effect. That’s a great benefit! Beets are rich in flavonoids too, a compound that helps to reduce inflammation and reduce the effects of allergies.
So many benefits of this superfood for your horse.
Other fruits and vegetables your horse can eat are Zucchini, Honeydew Melon, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Peaches, and Apricots (all without the seeds/pits). Plus Corn, Cucumbers, blackberries, raspberries, green beans, Lettuce, Cabbage, and even Peas.
However, just because a food is safe for most horses, that does not mean it is safe for all horses. For example, if your horse has HYPP (hyperkalemic periodic paralysis), it will be on a low-potassium diet and may react poorly to fruits or vegetables that contain significant amounts of this nutrient. Or if your horse is on a low-sugar diet stay away from bananas and carrots.
Always take any health conditions your horse may have into account when selecting foods to use as special treats. If you have any doubts, contact your vet for verification.
Treats are meant to be fed in small quantities. Large quantities of any strange food can lead to colic or other digestive issues. A handful of grapes, a single pear, or a couple of slices of watermelon shouldn’t cause any trouble. But always be safe.
It is good to introduce new items to your horse’s diet slowly as well. Colic is a concern when introducing larger quantities quickly but you also have to consider if your horse has any allergies.
You never know if your horse might have an odd allergy to one or more of these foods. If you introduce foods one at a time, slowly, and in small quantities, you will be better able to tell if a particular treat gives your horse hives or any other allergic reactions.
As always, you know your horse best and you want to do what’s good for him even when dealing with types of foods to use as treats. Be smart and do what’s best for you and your horse. Treats can be a fun part of playtime and training time.
Just have fun and keep both of you happy and healthy.
Until next week, Happy Horses!