What Vegetables Can Horses Eat

Written by Beulah Martin

Kids feeding a horse

I have heard so many different opinions concerning feeding a horse vegetables. Most of us have always fed our horse carrots, but I was not sure what other vegetables were safe. I looked in to see what the do’s and don’ts were.

What vegetables can I feed my horse? 

  • Beetroot
  • Carrot 
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Parsnip
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash

Lots of the green vegetables work well i.e. Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli etc. Just try a few and see how your horse likes them.

According to my research those vegetables are safe in small amounts.

That is a list of just a few of the vegetables that are being used by horse owners without any problems. They are ones that almost everyone agrees are good to feed your horse.

What to know about feeding Horses vegetables

There is nothing wrong with feeding your horse some healthy vegetables as an addition to his diet or as a well deserved treat.  Vegetables add vitamins and minerals to the diet. Knowing what vegetables are best to feed your horse will help you avoid any upsets to their digestion.  

A good reason to decide to feed your horse some vegetables is to add variety to his diet.  Any food will get tiresome if you only ate that same food every day—for horses it is no different.  

Your horse’s appetite can be affected if he is always fed the same old grains day after day. A horse could actually go off his feed completely just because he has become bored with his feed. Feeding your horse some vegetables and fruits to vary his diet could be a simple way to solve the problem.  

Horses seem to especially like carrots and apples. They are a favorite treat that horse owners have discovered  works wonders in getting their horse to cooperate in their training. Another added trick, If your horse has some medicine that he refuses to take, its a great trick to tuck it in with the apple and it will go right down.

Apples will be a welcome addition to his usual grain ration and are very good for him.  Raw carrots are excellent for his nerves and eyesight because of the Vitamin A they contain. They should be cut in pieces so they won’t get stuck in the horses throat.   You can feed them sliced lengthwise or chopped up in a mash; either way your horse will love them. Raw turnips can be cut up just like carrots to add a slightly different flavor to his oats.  It’s good to remember there should be moderation in all things.

Important: Cut up your carrots and other large vegetables into pieces so you don’t risk choking. It’s been known to happen from time to time.

What fruits can horses eat?

 It is just as beneficial to introduce some fruits to your horse’s diet.  This is a longer list then the one for the vegetables.

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Banana
  • Grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Watermelons

You definitely want to limit how much fruit you allow your horse to eat, because of the sugar content.  You will have no trouble getting your horse to eat them, they quickly become a favorite.

You should avoid any seeds or pits, and just because the fruit is safe does not mean the leaves and plants are.  You should cut the fruits in strips rather than chunks so as to avoid choking. These fruits should be fed sparingly.

Fruits and vegetables that you should avoid

The word at the stable is that you should not feed your horse tomatoes as they have so much acid.  Also, be careful with rhubarb and avocado. The plants of these vegetables are very toxic to horses.  The ASPCA cautions against ever feeding your horse avocados.

Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes, which by the way are not the same thing, are vegetables that have not been researched enough to determine what their effect on a horse is.  It is known that their plants are definitely toxic to horses.

I am glad that I researched this because just this fall we let our horses into our garden to help clear it out thinking they would love the plants.  There were lots of potato plants left in there. We did not let the horses stay in very long, thank goodness, but we did not observe any problem. We will not do that again.

Some horse owners are feeding their horses garlic hoping that it would help as a fly and insect repellent;  in large amounts garlic and onions could cause your horse to develop anemia. So it would be wise to avoid them or at least limit their intake.

Best way to feed your horse vegetables

All fruits and vegetables should be washed before feeding them to your horse to remove any pesticides or chemicals.  Any fruits or vegetables that have any spoiled or rotten spots should be cut off. You can either feed your horse the fruits and vegetables separately or include them with their morning or evening meal.

If you are using the vegetables or fruit as a treat for your horse you could actually hand feed them.  This is a useful tool for keeping your horse happy and willing. Carrots are a big part of many good trainers routines and they could be part of yours too, if you use it wisely.

Some trainers object to hand feeding because it can lead to nips and bites.

So be sure you know how to do it correctly, and to be able to share that information with the friendly neighbors who want to feed your horse a treat.

To feed your horse by hand, place the treat on your palm.  Hold your hand as flat as possible, thumbs and fingers stretched away from your palm.  Your horse is apt to accidentally sample your fingers unless you keep them out of his way.

Very small round apples are not a good choice.  They are hard and slippery, and can easily lodge in a horse’s throat.  It’s better to cut large apples in half for ease of chewing.

Related Questions

Can I feed my horse lettuce? Many horse owners have fed their horses lettuce with apparently little issues, however, many have suggested that lettuce can give horses colic. Also cabbage and sprouts are not good for horses as digesting them produces gas and can cause colic as well. It may be best to avoid feeding with lettuce.

What can horses eat for treats? Horses love most fruits as a treat because of the sugar content. Apples, bananas, and watermelon to name a few. Vegetables like carrots and cucumber are an excellent healthy treat. Horses also go crazy for oats. Sugar cubes are a very popular choice but not the healthiest.