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May 09, 2009

Salad Bar for My Horse?

  2009 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

 

Hi Cherry,

My local grocer saves unsold but beautiful produce for us to feed our two pigs. But it is way more than they can possibly eat and recently my two horses decided to sneak over and started to eat things out of the pig feeders such as lettuce, strawberries, carrots, kale, avocados, onions, potatoes and other produce. I would think that if they eat the stuff, it must be OK for them but I wonder if you know if any of these types of vegetables or fruits are bad for them.

Carla

 

Hi Carla,

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacWell, first of all, I must dispel the myth the horses know what things are bad for them to eat. They are notorious for eating themselves sick, that is, eating too much of a good thing, or sampling toxic plants and substances. Sometimes it is because there is not enough for them to eat, such as when rangeland gets sparse and horses start to eat locoweed. But sometime it is out of curiosity or having a taste for something sweet, salty or otherwise.

So horses have been known to eat some pretty peculiar things such as pretzels, chocolate, soda, peppermints and of course, the things we associate with horse treats, sugar cubes, carrots, apples.

Now as to whether garden product and other vegetables or fruits might be harmful to horses, a few of them occur on this list of plants poisonous to equines as posted on Wikipedia.

It appears that the avocado is one from your free produce list that made the poisonous to horses list.

It seems as though garlic and onions could be toxic to horses, although not as bad as for cattle. You can read about garlic here, and onions here.

There is a group of plants called the Deadly Nightshade family that includes potatoes, chili and bell peppers, tomato, eggplant and other plants and herbs. The alkaloids in these foods and plants can be mildly to fatally toxic to humans and animals. The most dangerous and notorious members of this group are tobacco, belladonna, and datura. Some people have food sensitivities that cause mild to severe reactions when eating items from the Deadly Nightshade family. Horses could react similarly.

Horsekeeping On A Small AcreageBottom line. Horses evolved as grazers of prairie grasses. That is their natural diet. Even grain, per se, is unnatural feed for a horse.

There is no sense taking a chance with colic or founder by letting your horse eat avocados and onions. The best bet is stick to a natural diet of grass hay for your horse.

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