Horses have a complex and sensitive gastrointestinal system and are prone to problems in this area. If you feed the wrong foods to your horse, they will quickly suffer from bloating and colic. For example, moldy hay, too much grain, as well as lush grass clippings, can put their health at risk. But sudden changes in feed can also cause digestive problems. In principle, coarse-textured roughage made from hay and grass is ideal for horses.
A welcome change in everyday feeding is certain types of fruit and vegetables, which are usually well tolerated by horses. It is important to choose carefully, as some fruits contain large amounts of unhealthy fructose. In addition, certain types of vegetables must not be fed, as they cause difficulties in digestion or are even poisonous for the animals. In general, you should only buy fruits and vegetables in organic quality, so as not to unnecessarily burden the horse’s health. Apples, pears, carrots and beet are very popular and harmless, but you should only use them in small quantities and as a reward for in-between meals.
You can find out which foods you should not feed your horse in our guide.
Citrus fruits such as pineapple, grapefruit, oranges and lemons do not belong to species-appropriate horse feed, as they have a very high content of fructose and acid. If your horse already has stomach or digestive problems, it’s better to avoid the fruit altogether when supplemental feeding and switch to well-tolerated vegetables. Even healthy horses may only eat citrus fruits in small amounts.
If fruit is fed, it must be ripe, but not overripe or rotten. Furthermore, the fruit should not have been exposed to frost prior to feeding. Horses will not tolerate moldy food or food that has already gone bad.
Stone fruit includes cherries, peaches, apricots and plums. Stone fruit tends to ferment in the horse’s stomach and throw the animal’s digestion out of balance. Dangerous colic can result. In addition, the pit contains ingredients that are hazardous to health, such as amygdalin, which is broken down in the intestines to form toxic prussic acid. If eaten in large quantities, serious symptoms of poisoning can develop. Furthermore, stone fruit contains a lot of fructose, which is harmful for the horse. Therefore, it is best to eliminate it from the diet altogether.
If the horse pasture is also a meadow orchard, you must be careful as a horse owner. During harvest time you should not let your horse on the meadow orchard at all or only for a short time, because it eats the fallen fruit with great appetite and in large quantities. Wasp stings are an additional danger.
The nightshade family includes, for example, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Normally, horses dislike the nightshade family and avoid these plants. However, the animals may be tempted to eat the fresh leaves and stems of the plants. Because these are the most toxic parts of the plants, horses should not have access to them in the pasture or on adjacent cropland. Solanaceous plants contain alkaloids as chemical compounds. These include atropine, which can adversely affect the autonomic nervous system. After consumption, symptoms of atropine poisoning can present with severe convulsions. In extreme cases, horses can die from it. Therefore, never feed your horse nightshade vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Many gases are formed during digestion of cruciferous vegetables. These crops are not suitable for horses because they can cause severe flatulence and lead to colic. They have no place in horse feed.
The flesh and pit of the avocado have a very toxic effect on horses, as on many other animals. Poisoning manifests itself with respiratory distress, colic, and in the worst case, death of the animal. Therefore, avocados are absolutely forbidden for horses. The expensive food avocado is better to be consumed exclusively by humans.
As a food, ginger is far too spicy for horses and can cause serious digestive problems if taken in sustained high doses. In addition, the mold aflatoxin is regularly found in batches of ginger. It can damage the liver and kidneys. Like chili and pepper, ginger should therefore not be fed to horses.
Calcium oxalates are present in rhubarb. These ingredients can cause serious health problems such as kidney failure. Therefore, horses should not eat rhubarb.
Like dogs and cats, horses are sensitive to theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate. They lack enzymes that break down the substance in the body. Large amounts of cocoa can kill a horse. That’s why this food is completely banned. Also, even small amounts of it can have a positive effect on a doping test. This is important to know if the horse participates in competitions.
If you want to give your horse something sweet as a treat occasionally, sugar cubes are more suitable. However, candy is not the healthiest option for a reward.
bread and bakery products
Horses love bread and other baked goods. However, they do not tolerate these foods well. After you feed bread, digestive disorders and mal-fermentation may develop. This can lead to bloating in the intestines, the dreaded colic, or laminitis. If you are going to feed bread, then you should only offer your horse small portions with large time intervals throughout the day.
Adult horses cannot digest lactose, which is present in conventional dairy products. Therefore, yogurt and milk can cause persistent diarrhea in the horse. Cheese is also not a suitable food for sensitive animals.
If you want to learn more about the right horse feeding, then inform yourself in our guide “Horse feeding – back to the basics”.
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