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Can Horses Eat Corn Husks? What You Need to Know!

Oliver Jones

After you’ve grown and harvested a crop of corn, there’s plenty leftover, including the stalks, leaves, and husks. Many farmers grind these up to use as animal feed — most commonly for cattle or pigs — or compost. But you may be wondering if your horse can eat these corn husks.

The simple answer is yes, they can eat corn husks. But the real question is whether they should. In general, there are a wide variety of vegetables that are safe for horses to eat in moderation, and some even have considerable nutritional value. However, horses have sensitive digestive systems, and too many vegetables can cause colic, a potentially life-threatening condition, especially if the veggies are high in fiber, like corn husks.

In this article, we take a look at the potential risks of feeding corn husks to your horse and why they are probably better left off the menu. Let’s get started!

divider-horseWhat are corn husks?

corn husk
Image Credit: Free-Photos from Pixabay

Corn husks are simply the bright green outer covering of an ear of corn that protects the cob from pests and the environment. They are most commonly thrown onto the compost heap or fed to animals after a harvest, although there are tasty dishes that they can be used in. The husks are strong yet biodegradable, and the silks were used as medicine in ancient cultures for centuries.

Potential risks of feeding corn husks to your horse

There is little nutritional value in corn husks, and they are even commonly used as a filler ingredient in commercial pet foods. So, while your horse may enjoy the taste and texture of chewing on a fresh corn husk, it will provide them with little nutritional value.

The main risks to be aware of are the mycotoxins that can sometimes be found growing on corn ears and husks. When consumed in large amounts, these toxins can potentially cause a neurological condition called Equine Leukoencephalomalacia, also commonly known as “moldy corn disease.” This can result in blindness or cognitive disorders, and it may even be fatal. These toxins are especially common in warm, humid environments and can easily go undetected — the palatability of the corn and husk is not diminished with the presence of the mold.

Another potential risk is colic and digestive issues. Corn husks contain a large amount of fiber, and if eaten in excess, they may cause painful and even life-threatening bloat for your horse.

What about corn kernels?

corn kernels
Image Credit: Kadisha, Pixabay

Corn is a common ingredient in animal feeds due to its availability and affordability. Provided that your horse’s teeth are healthy, they should have no problem chewing through the outer shell of corn kernels, although these are typically given to horses shelled, rolled, or cracked.

Ground or crushed kernels should never be given to horses because they pass through the small intestines too quickly and can cause colic. There is also the risk of toxic fungus, so you need to make sure any corn you give them is from a reputable source. Corn kernels are also high in sugar and carbohydrates, which in excess, can result in behavior issues. Moderation is key when it comes to corn kernels, and these should only be fed to them occasionally. Also, horses that are overweight or insulin-resistant should not be fed corn kernels at all due to the high sugar content.

What about corn cobs?

corn cob
Image Credit: Kadisha, Pixabay

The corn cob itself is high in fiber but has no real nutritional value. Horses often enjoy chewing on the cobs after eating kernels, but the high fiber can cause issues if they eat too much. Plus, there is the risk of choking when feeding your horse a corn cob, and in our opinion, with the lack of nutritional value, it’s simply not worth the risk.

horse shoe dividerFinal thoughts

While corn husks do not pose a massive risk to your horse, any form of corn, including the stalks, kernels, and cob, should be given in strict moderation and with a watchful eye. The biggest risk is mycotoxins, as these can be difficult to detect. Since there is little nutritional value in corn husks, we recommend leaving them off the menu altogether — there are plenty of other tasty treats to offer your horse!

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Featured Image Credit: Kadisha, Pixabay

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.