Things a Horse Shouldn't Eat

Rhubarb plant in garden

It's wonderful to give your horse little treats now and again. However, there are a few foods that they should avoid. What should you avoid giving your horse? The following is a list of items that should not be included in your horse's diet.

Fruit in Large Quantities

Many of us enjoy giving apples to our horses as rewards. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Colic or other difficulties might result from eating too many apples or other fruits. You should generally only give your horse one or two pieces of at a time. When horses have access to windfall from a wild tree, or when someone throws a basket of rotten apples over the fence believing it's a "treat," the horse is in danger.

Lawn and Garden Clippings

Lawn and garden clippings can contain several hazards. Just-cut or semi-wilted plant material can be a problem in itself, even if it appears to contain nothing but grass.


Toxic plants may be found in clippings, and numerous popular garden plants, such as horse nettle, belong into this group. Some plants are poisonous. Toxic substances might be sprayed on lawns and gardens to control pests and weeds.

Because horses do not have to graze and chew the stuff for themselves, they are more likely to bolt the meal and consume it quickly. Choking and colic are possible outcomes. Sugars in freshly cut or slightly wilted clippings can produce a digestive imbalance in horses, resulting in laminitis. Instead of dumping lawn and garden trash into your horse's pasture, put it in your composter or manure pile.


CuChullaine O'Reilly, the Founder of the Long Riders' Guild, investigates the idea that horses can and do consume flesh in her book "Deadly Equines, The Shocking True Story of Meat-Eating & Murderous Horses" (and some can appear to behave in quite a violent manner to get it). But just because they can and do consume meat does not imply they should.

A horse can be educated to eat meat or forced to do so through necessity. This does not imply that a regular meat diet is beneficial in the long run. Your horse may enjoy a taste of your hamburger or tuna sandwich on occasion, and it will not damage him. However, because we don't know the long-term impacts on most horses, a high-meat diet isn't recommended (and expensive).

Horses have the teeth and digestive system of a highly specialized herbivore. Our horses will likely be healthiest eating the diet their digestive system has evolved to digest.

Cruciferous Vegetables

You may already know someone who experiences stomach pains after eating cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, or other cabbage-related veggies. After eating "gassy" veggies like these, your horse may experience similar pain. A few leaves or sprouts may not be a big deal, but throwing old plants over the fence is usually not a good idea.

Moldy or Dusty Hay

If suitable pasture isn't available, the next best option is good-quality hay. Never feed your horse hay that is dusty or rotten. This might result in respiratory illness. It's not a good idea to feed hay that's just a little dusty or has mold on it.

Bran Mashes

Many individuals are startled to find that bran mashes should only be consumed as a special treat. Because excessive intake of bran mashes can cause mineral imbalances, you should serve them no more than once a week, ideally less frequently.

Alsike Clover

Eating alsike clover can result in a painful sunburn, mouth sores, and digestive issues such as colic, diarrhea, and large liver syndrome. In pastures, Alsike clover is prevalent. It may reach a height of 30 inches (76 cm) and features a spherical pink flower head in addition to its clover-shaped leaves.

It differs from red clover in that it lacks the unmistakable white "V" on the leaves that other clovers have. It's usually fine if your horse eats a few stalks of alsike clover every now and again, but excessive intake or a huge amount at once might create difficulties.

Cattle Feed

Supplements in cow feed are beneficial to cattle but extremely poisonous to horses. Rumensin and other drugs are often used in cow feed. Horses can be killed by these medications. This is why buying feed from mills that specialize in creating horse feed is a smart option.

Silage and Haylage

Haylage (also known as baleage) and silage are more often fed to horses in the UK and Europe than in North America. Horses can be difficult to feed silage and haylage. Offering these forages to your horses has a number of advantages, including a better nutritional value and lower dust levels.


The way hay is chopped and baled might raise the chances of botulism poisoning. The botulinum toxin is very toxic to horses, and exposure or ingestion of the toxin can result in paralysis and death. Because the hay is baled at a high moisture content and coated in plastic, the environment is optimal for toxin growth. Soil contaminated with botulinum toxin may be baled into hay, where the bacteria can thrive.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs of Ontario outlines some of the benefits and drawbacks of feeding haylage and silage to horses. Only three forms of botulinum toxins have been recognized as having an effect on horses. The most frequent form that affects horses, type B, has a vaccination. It's important to clean up any uneaten silage or haylage with care. Frozen silage has the potential to cause colic, and we don't yet know if feeding acidic (and treated or conditioned hay) fodder to horses has long-term consequences.


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