Feeding Horses Different Types of Food: Dos and Don’ts

by | Apr 17, 2020

Do you have that one horse friend whose horse eats everything? Pancakes, potato chips, sodas, if it’s offered to him he’ll try it? Horses possess notoriously fragile digestive systems, and though they are often skilled at avoiding forage that will make them ill, other times they will voraciously gobble down whatever is in front of them. Some horses may turn their nose up at non-conventional horse food, but for those that will try it all, it’s good to be aware of which foods might prove detrimental and which might prove detrimental.

Every horse owner knows to stay away from overindulgence in high concentrate grains, but what about the common human snacks listed below?

Can horses eat bananas?

Most fruits are safe for horses as long as they are not over-fed and the seeds are removed before feeding. Bananas fall within this limitation, and can actually be fed without even removing the skin. Do be careful with amounts, as too many bananas could cause a blockage and possibly even colic. However, in reasonable quantities, bananas are a healthy treat.  As a sweet, soft fruit, your horse will probably enjoy a taste of banana, and the rich levels of potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C in bananas are a good vitamin and mineral boost as well.

Can horses eat bread?

As the main ingredients to bread are grain varieties, it is generally a safe treat to feed your horse. Even wheat, which can cause impaction in its raw form, is not a concern after it has been broken down and processed into flower. Do be careful of over-feeding, or feeding too much at one time, and watch what special ingredients might be included as a treat for humans, such as chocolate and poppy seeds, both of which should not be given to horses. Also it may be wise to avoid high fiber treats like bread if your horse is susceptible to laminitis.

Can horses eat celery?

Celery is an excellent vegetable to offer a horse, basically in the same category as carrot. Since celery is largely fiber and doesn’t have the same concentration of sugars as many fruits do, and even sometimes carrots,  it is an excellent, low calorie treat to offer.

Can horses eat chocolate?

Absolutely not! Chocolate is well-known as being poisonous to dogs due to a particular chemical called theobromine. Horses are also sensitive to this chemical, which is part of the basic structure of all chocolate and difficult for horses to metabolize. If enough theobromine builds up in their systems overtime, it can cause heart attacks, seizures, and internal bleeding. Enjoy your chocolate on your own and do not share it with your equine friends.

Can horses eat grapes?

Although grapes are not safe for smaller pets like cats and dogs, they can be offered as a conveniently sized treat for horses, and even seeded grapes are safe. Horses tend to enjoy the small, sweet little fruit. As with other fruits, feed in moderation, and be sure to speak to your veterinarian before offering sweet fruits if you have an insulin-resistant horse.

Can horses eat meat?

Horses are essentially obligate herbivores. While there are some stories of horses being fed meat, and meat will not instantly kill your horse, it also will do them no good whatsoever. A horse’s digestive system is designed for the processing and fermentation of plants and plant fibers, and they lack all of the enzymes that carnivores have to break down meats into useful nutrients. So while a horse can technically eat meat, there is no reason for them to do so and most will have absolutely no interest in eating meat in any case.

Can horses eat oranges?

Oranges are also safe for horses, and a good source of vitamin C. Your horse will probably find the skin unappealing just like you do, so cut it off the orange before feeding. It is also wise to cut the orange into pieces before offering in order to make it easier for your horse to chew.

Can horses eat peanut butter?

Peanut butter is safe for horses in small amounts, and is a good source of potassium. Many people use peanut butter to give medications like with dogs, or sometimes you might just be out in the pasture with a sandwich and wondering if you can give your horse a taste. Keep it to a limited amount, and peanut butter can be a safe treat.

Can horses eat pears?

Pears are not only safe for horses to eat, in certain parts of the world the pear is the fruit treat of choice for a horse instead of apples. Being high in fiber and low in protein, they are well adapted for a horse’s dietary needs, and they are a sweet and pleasant treat.

Can horses eat pumpkin?

As it is mostly water, pumpkin is not highly nutritious, but it is also fairly innocuous. If your horse enjoys the taste of pumpkin, it can be offered in moderation as a fun treat. Be careful of feeding fall vegetables in general though, for though the classic orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin is safe for horses, other squash and gourds are not. Also make sure that the pumpkin you are offering is fresh, has no signs of rot, and no leftover candle wax.

Can horses eat strawberries?

Strawberries are another safe fruit, and they offer antioxidants, vitamins, water, and fiber. However, as they are one of the sweeter fruits on this list, they should definitely be limited. Too much sugar is never good for horses.


Though many fruits and vegetables are quite safe to offer your horses, there are still plenty others that are not. This list is far from comprehensive, so always do your research regarding individual foods, and avoid any fruits that are in the nightshade family.

As with any treat or even change in diet, introducing any of these safe treats should be done carefully and in moderation, and none of them should be considered as a plausible replacement for forage and grains as the basis of a horse’s diet. However, given carefully and in limited amounts, these treats may provide a fun change in routine for your horse and allow him to enjoy some new dietary delights.

What is your horse’s favorite treat and do you plan to try any from the list above?

About The Author

<a href="https://www.equiniction.com/author/marian-vermeulen/" target="_self">Marian Vermeulen</a>

Marian Vermeulen

Marian Vermeulen was born into a family with two horses and horses have been a central part of her life ever since. She grew up running bareback through the surrounding woods and forests, and started training horses while attending university to study history and philosophy. After working at riding stables and dude ranches for a few years, she began focusing on training. Today, Marian owns three horses, volunteer trains for the local rescue, and trains for several clients in the area as well as doing freelance history writing on the side. She specializes in starting horses under saddle, working with “problem” behaviors and troubled horses, and helping owners improve their relationship with their own horses.

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