What Horses Shouldn’t Eat

Sometimes it’s good to feed your horse special food. However, there are some things they probably shouldn’t eat. What shouldn’t you feed your horse? Below is a list of foods that should probably not be included in a horse’s diet.

lots of fruit

Many of us like to feed our horses apples as a treat. But sometimes fruit can become too much. A belly of apples or any other fruit can easily cause colic and can lead to laminitis. You probably shouldn’t feed your horse more than a piece or two of fruit. The danger is when a horse gets windfall fruit from a wild tree, or when someone dumps a basket of spoiled apples on the fence thinking they are giving the horse a “treasure”.

Lawn and Garden Clippings

Lawn and garden clippings can contain a variety of hazards. Freshly cut or semi-wilted plant material can be a problem in itself, even if it appears to contain only grass.


Clippings can contain poisonous plants, and several common garden plants, such as nettles, fall into this category. Some weeds are poisonous. What’s sprayed on lawns and gardens to control pests and weeds can also be toxic, even if it was sprayed a long time ago.

Because horses don’t have to graze and chew on these materials themselves, they may bolt on their food and get full more quickly. This can lead to choking and colic. The sugar in freshly cut or slightly wilted clippings can cause an imbalance in the horse’s gut, which can lead to laminitis. Put lawn and garden waste in a compost pile or manure pile rather than over the fence into the horse’s pasture.


The Shocking True Story of Deadly Horses, Meat-Eating and Killing Horses by CuChullaine O’Reilly, founder of Long Riders’ Guild, explores the fact that horses can and do eat meat (and appear to behave quite violent way to get it). However, just because they can and do eat meat doesn’t mean they should.

A horse may be trained to eat meat, or she may be driven to it by necessity. This doesn’t mean that eating meat on a regular basis in the long term is a good thing. Your horse may enjoy the occasional bite of your hamburger or tuna sandwich and can eat it without harm. However, high meat consumption is not recommended (and expensive) as we do not know the long-term effects on most horses.

Horses have highly specialized herbivore teeth and digestive systems. Our horses eat the diets that their digestive systems have evolved to digest are probably the healthiest.

Cruciferous Vegetables

You probably already know someone who feels sick after eating cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, or other vegetables in the cabbage family. Your horse may experience the same discomfort after eating “high gas” vegetables like these. A few leaves or buds might not matter, but dumping old plants on a fence might not be a good idea.

Moldy or dusty hay

If good pasture is not available, high-quality hay is the next best option. However, never feed your horse dusty or moldy hay. Doing so could damage its lungs. Do not feed hay that has only a little dust or mildew.

wheat bran

Many people may be surprised to learn that bran puree is not recommended for use other than as an occasional snack. Horses eat a lot of fiber in their normal diet, so adding bran can actually affect the gut flora. Bran has almost no nutrients, so it’s much better to feed a horse than bran or bran puree.


Eating the same clover can cause very serious sunburns, mouth sores, and problems like colic, diarrhea, and large liver syndrome. Clover is also common in pastures. It can grow up to 30 inches / 76 cm tall and has a pretty pink round head in addition to clover-shaped leaves.

You can tell it apart from red clover because it doesn’t have the distinctive white “V” on its leaves that other clovers have. It might be okay if your horse eats a few clover occasionally, but eating it for extended periods of time or in large quantities at one time can cause problems.

cattle feed

Cattle feed contains supplements that are good for cattle but toxic to horses. Drugs like rumen are often added to cattle feed. These drugs can be fatal to horses. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy feed from a factory that specializes in horse feed.

Silage and hay

Feeding horses with hay (sometimes called baling) and silage is more common in the UK and Europe than in North America. Feeding horses silage and hay can be tricky. There are some definite benefits to feeding these feeds, such as higher nutritional value and low dust.


But the way hay is cut and baled can create a risk of botulism. Horses are very susceptible to botulism, which can lead to paralysis and death. Because hay is packed with high moisture content and wrapped in plastic, it is an ideal environment for botulism to grow. Soil that carries botulism, poultry droppings, small animals, and birds can be baled into hay, which encourages bacterial growth.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has pointed out the disadvantages of feeding horses forage and silage. There is a vaccine available, but it only protects against one of the five types of botulism. Care must be taken to clean up uneaten silage or hay. Frozen silage has the potential to cause colic, and we don’t yet know if feeding horses acidic (and treated or conditioned hay) feeds will have long-term effects.


If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can provide the best advice for your pet.


What Horses Shouldn’t Eat
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