Diet is incredibly important for horses, but they can’t just eat anything. They have complicated digestive systems, and what might be fine for us humans to eat may actually poison your horse. It’s also not always possible to police what your horse eats, especially when it comes to plants and foliage, which is why it’s essential you know what is and isn’t safe for your horse to eat. That way, you can remove anything nearby that may cause a problem.
Of course, it’s not always easy to know exactly what’s safe for your horse to munch on, which is why we’ve put together this handy infographic about what you can and, more importantly, CAN’T feed your horse.
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A big thank you to Redwings Horse Sanctuary who helped us put this together.
What NOT to feed your horse
Garlic & onions – Members of the allium family which includes leeks, shallots & chives. Contains N-propyl which can destroy red blood cells, resulting in anaemia. Feed in moderation.
Unpitted stone fruits – Can cause them to choke.
Bread products – Can form a doughy mass and cause choke.
Tomatoes – Member of the toxic Solanaceae family, which includes Deadly Nightshade, chili peppers & aubergine. Atropine in leaves can cause colic. Also contains hyoscyamine which decreases saliva production, increases heart rate, & can cause constipation.
Caffeine – Can cause an irregular heart rhythm. Can also cause a failed drugs test when competing.
Chocolate – Contains theobromine which can cause colic, seizures, metabolic derangements & internal bleeding. The caffeine can cause a horse to fail a drugs test
Potatoes – If green or rotten, potatoes can cause toxicosis. If eaten whole, they can cause choke.
Avocado – The skin, stone and leaves are poisonous.
Cabbage, broccoli & cauliflower – Can cause severe gas if eaten in large amounts.
Rhubarb – The leaves contain calcium oxalates, which can damage digestive & urinary systems and cause kidney failure.
Dairy products – Horses are lactose intolerant, so cheese, milk, yoghurt & ice cream should be avoided.
Ragwort – Eating just 1-5 kg of a horse’s lifetime can cause liver failure or death. Take a look at the British Horse Society’s advice on dealing with ragwort.
Foxglove – Just 100g could prove fatal in just a few hours. Symptoms include breathing difficulties, convulsions & breathing difficulties.
Deadly nightshade – Can cause convulsions and unconsciousness.
Buttercups – Poisonous when fresh, but would need to eat a large amount to die from eating them.
Acorns – Can cause severe colic and poisoning in large amounts.
Yew – The fresh plant, leaves & berries are poisonous, even when fallen. Just 0.5 kg can be fatal.
Privet – Box privet is the most dangerous & even small amounts can be fatal.
Rhododendron – Highly toxic. Even small amounts can cause respiratory failure.
Sycamore & other acers – seeds and saplings contain Hypoglycin-A, which can cause atypical myopathy.
Lawn clippings & compost – May contain poisonous plants & can cause them to choke.
Foods your horse can eat
There are lots of foods that are safe & healthy for your horse, including:
- Apples (without core)
- Apricots (without stone)
- Sunflower seeds
Tips for feeding your horse
- Your horse’s diet should mainly consist of grass or hay.
- Cut foods up to avoid choking.
- Feed should be given based on weight, not volume.
- Salt is important to maintain your horse’s electrolyte balance – consider using a salt lick.
- Clean water is essential to your horse’s health.
- Don’t feed immediately before or after exercise
- Stick to a feeding routine
Always consult a vet if you’re unsure what to feed your horse or you think your horse might have been poisoned.