Just like you might think of feeding a mouse a piece of cheese or a cat a bowl of milk, you often think that the perfect treat for a horse is a carrot.
However, mice and cheese and cats and milk actually don’t go well together. Those foods can quickly make the animals sick and cause stomach unrest. Is the same thing true for horses and carrots? Can horses eat carrots?
The easy answer is yes. Horses can eat carrots. In fact, carrots can be healthy treats for horses. That said, a carrot should not replace their typical food, and treats, in general, should make up 10% or less of their overall diet.
In this article, we look at the relationship between carrots and horses, the nutritional benefits and risks, and how you should feed carrots to your horse.
Are Carrots Healthy for Horses?
Carrots can be healthy for horses as long as they are fed in moderate amounts. You shouldn’t be giving your horse entire bushels of carrots to replace their typical food sources, like hay.
Carrots do pack quite a nutritional punch for your horse when it comes to the levels of vitamins and minerals. Some of the vitamins in a carrot are essential for a horse, but they should still be consumed in moderation.
The Nutritional Benefits of Carrots for a Horse
The same reason that carrots are great for humans is what makes them delicious and nutritious snacks for horses. They have quite a bit of vitamin C and vitamin A.
Beyond these two supportive antioxidants, carrots only have 3.41 grams of sugar per serving and only 7 carbohydrates. That is excellent news for those horse owners who are constantly on the lookout for healthy treats for their horses. Carrots also contain 2 grams of fiber, helping to support digestive function.
Health Risks of Feeding Carrots to Your Horse
As with almost any treat that you can give your horses, there are always risks that you need to be aware of before feeding it to them. If your horse is in healthy condition, you probably won’t have to worry about feeding them carrots.
If your horse is laminitic or an EMS horse, then you need to oversee their diet. They will struggle to process anything that triggers a release of insulin or would typically require a release of insulin to get properly digested.
It is not an absolute “no” to carrots if your horse suffers from this disease or something similar. The safest choice is to cut out any treats like carrots and apples. However, if your horse’s treatment has resulted in getting their insulin levels under control, you can likely feed them a carrot with little to no repercussions.
A horse with high insulin or currently active laminitis, however, should not get carrots even as small, infrequent treats.
How to Feed Carrots to Your Horse
There are quite a few options when it comes to feeding carrots to horses. The most important thing to remember is that they should only get them in moderation. That means if you do intend to feed carrots to your horse, only give them one or two a day. Horses have notoriously sensitive stomachs and can suffer if they over-consume treats like carrots.
The easiest way to feed carrots to your horse is to give them a whole carrot at a time. Make sure to wash them, carrot top and all. Then, you can go ahead and let your horse bite off one piece of carrot at a time.
If you want them to have to work harder to find these tasty treats, then you can chop the carrots up and put them into their food trough. Put them on top of their hay, though, since you don’t want them to get lost and start to rot.
Some horse owners give their horses bran mash as an extra treat or a dietary supplement. If you typically do this, you can add carrots to the mash to make it even tastier.
If you want to add carrots to bran mash or other treats that you typically give to your horse, then you can use a cheese grater to make the pieces very small. It puts them into a much more accessible form for them to eat when mixed in with other treats.
Finally, use carrots in toys or as fodder for unique puzzles or training that you do with your horse. With the right motivation, they will be happy to do extra things if it results in a tasty carrot treat.
Other Healthy Snacks to Feed Your Horse
Since you can only feed carrots in moderation, what are other treats you could give your horse?
Healthy treats for a horse include things like:
Almost any fruit makes an excellent treat for a horse, and most vegetables do as well. Stay away from plants in the Brassicaceae family, like cabbage and broccoli, and you will generally be fine.
Horses can eat carrots and will generally be happy to receive such a tasty treat. As with any snack, ensure that they only get them in moderation. This way, they can reap the benefits of the food without over-consuming and putting their diet in danger.
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Featured Image Credit: Jason Leung, Unsplash