5 Things You Should Never Feed to Your Horse

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
JP Chret/Shutterstock

You might be surprised to know that horses are often mischievous and very inquisitive, and will want to take a nibble out of many things. It is one way to get acquainted with the world around them, but it also has to do with them simply being voracious. Still, they will depend on you for food, and it is your responsibility to feed them quality foods and quality foods only. Anything that is not confirmed safe for horses to eat can really harm them in the long run, so you should stick to the rules. But still, a reminder is always handy, so here is the list of five things you should never feed to your horse!

1. Meat

This one might come off as too obvious, especially considering that horses are plant eaters – i.e herbivores. As this is natural to them, you should of course stick to a plant-based diet. Don’t get any funny ideas and offer horses meat or meat-based products, for whatever reason. Horses' teeth can’t really deal with sinewy and chewy meat, and their digestive systems can’t handle it either. So, even products that contain small amounts of meat should be avoided altogether. It can do more harm than good.

2. Old hay

Let’s say that food stocks are running low, so you reach for that old bunch of hay or roughage that has been standing in the corner for ages and feed it to your horse. Doing this would be a fatal mistake. Old hay that stood for far too long and became dusty, dirty, and moldy, can cause irreparable damage to your horse’s respiratory system, and their health. Remember that it is often your responsibility to provide quality foods, as horses will often gulp down on many things even if they are bad for their health. Long term exposure to moldy and stale hay can severely damage your horse’s health, so avoid it altogether. 

3. Chocolate

Some owners might think that chocolate can be a suitable sweet reward for a good horse. If you enjoy it, why can’t your horse, right? Wrong. Chocolate is bad for horses. Just like cats and dogs, and many other animals, chocolate is dangerous for horses. It contains theobromine, which can make most animals ill. In fact, cocoa in large doses can actually kill horses, and even a bit of chocolate is enough for the negative ingredients to enter their bloodstream. So, even a square off of a chocolate bar can be dangerous to a horse, so best avoid it – always. 

4. Lawn mower clippings

So you mowed the lawn, and you’re left with a bunch of grass clippings. They seem minced and fresh, and easy for a horse to eat. But offering this would be a mistake, and a potential health hazard – even though it is just grass. This bunched up cut grass can often contain unhealthy and potentially poisonous plants, as well as a larger concentration of harmful parasites. What is more, such conveniently “mushed” grass is super easy for a horse to gulp down, and they will eat large quantities – this causes colic and bloating, together with other discomforts. And if the grass has been sitting for just a day or two, it will quickly develop dangerous mold. It is best thrown away or used as compost for your garden rather than being horse food. 

5. Tomatoes

For us, these are delicious veggies, ideal in a salad or in a sandwich. But this is not the same for horses, for whom the tomato is very toxic. If you didn’t know, the tomato belongs to the family of plants called Solanaceae. This family also includes the Deadly Nightshade, a notoriously poisonous plant. In fact, tomatoes too contain toxic alkaloid elements like atropine, hyoscyamine, and solanine, all of which are part of that nightshade family. Even a single tomato can be dangerous to a horse, causing tomato poisoning whose symptoms are increased heart rate, diarrhea, constipation, and severe digestion issues. Avoid them at all costs. 

For a balanced horse's diet, you should stick to the classics, and follow the recommendations of your vet. Horses should be fed according to their weight, age, and levels of activity throughout the day. Trying to experiment with odd and unorthodox foods can really cause more harm than good. 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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