Good news for fruit-loving horses: it’s totally safe to feed your horse watermelon. Just like humans, horses love the bitter-sweet and juicy taste of watermelons. This fruit even acts as a good source of vitamins C, B6, and A.
However, no matter how much your horse takes to this watery treat, you need to avoid overfeeding them watermelon. Plus, if your horse suffers from insulin-resistance conditions, dental issues, or hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, you can’t feed them watermelon.
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about feeding watermelon to your horse.
Nutritional Content of Watermelons
Watermelons are 92% water. So, it’s surprising that they hold any nutritional value at all (besides hydrating us, of course). Watermelons are actually packed with vitamins and minerals, making them one of the healthiest treats you could give your horse.
In particular, watermelons contain the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
Besides the vitamins and minerals, watermelons don’t contain any cholesterol whatsoever. They’re also fat-free, low in sodium, and low in calories (there are only around 30 calories in a 100-gram serving of the fruit).
Here’s some of the good stuff you’re giving your horse when you gift them a slice of watermelon:
The inside of a watermelon doesn’t contain much fibre. However, the rind contains around 4 grams per 100-gram serving.
As horse owners, you probably know that a huge part of a horse’s diet needs to consist of fibre (at least 50%!). So, feeding some watermelon to your horse is a great way to top up their daily fibre intake. However, make sure your horse eats the watermelon rind as well as the pink fleshy part.
The rind is where most of the fibre content is kept, so you should definitely feed watermelon rinds to your horse.
In fact, as weird as it may sound to us humans, your horse may even prefer eating the rind of the watermelon rather than the sweet, soft centre. Each to their own, I guess!
A 100-gram serving of watermelon would provide your horse with 7mg worth of calcium. This is great because calcium keeps horses’ bones, teeth, and hooves strong and healthy. It also helps keep your horse’s heart, muscles, and nerves healthy and functioning correctly.
In 100 grams of watermelon, there is 0.2 mg worth of iron. Iron is great for a horse’s immune system. It also helps their bodies produce myoglobin and haemoglobin – both of which are essential for storing and transporting oxygen.
100 grams of watermelon contains 10mg worth of magnesium. Magnesium benefits horses in all kinds of ways, from promoting hoof growth to preventing laminitis.
There are 112 mg of potassium in every 100 grams of watermelon. This helps to boost heart, nerve, and muscle health.
There are around 11 mg of phosphorous in every 100 grams of watermelon. Phosphorus is great for bone and dental health.
The Health Benefits of Feeding Your Horse Watermelon
Now you know what vitamins and minerals watermelons can provide your horses with, you probably want to know how watermelon rinds actually improve your horse’s health. Here are the main health benefits of feeding horses watermelon:
Increased blood flow
Watermelon rind features citrulline, which is an organic compound and amino acid that converts to arginine in your horse’s body and produces nitric oxide. This helps to relax blood vessels, which increases blood flow. The citrulline ensures that wounds are healed quickly, minimizes fatigue, and even helps to fight cancer.
Besides citrulline, a lot of the vitamins and minerals listed above also help to boost a horse’s energy levels. Fibre and vitamin A in particular provide horses with lots of energy. With watermelons and other fibre-rich foodstuffs in its diet, a horse will have enough energy to walk, graze, and exercise as much as it needs to.
If your horse is working out loads during warm weather and not drinking enough water, slipping them a slice of watermelon or two could really help keep them hydrated. If your horse is more in the mood for a snack than a drink, watermelons give them the best of both worlds. Being 92% water, watermelons hydrate as they satiate your horse’s snack craving.
During warm weather or periods of intense workouts, your horse will likely sweat out a lot of the electrolytes they have stored. Watermelon is rich in electrolytes such as potassium, which makes the fruit a great source of electrolyte replenishment.
Helps them consume more vitamins and minerals
Whether they prefer the watermelon rind or the fleshy centre, horses tend to love eating watermelon. If you struggle to fit enough vitamins and minerals into your horse’s feeding plan, you should try feeding them watermelon.
How to Incorporate Watermelon into Your Horse’s Diet Safely
You should only feed horses watermelon occasionally and in small portions (we’ll get to recommended frequency and portion sizes in the next section).
To introduce watermelon to your horse successfully, you should cut the watermelon into slices. Make sure these slices are about the same size as a carrot. This way, you could try feeding watermelon to your horse just as you would a carrot. Make sure the slices are easy enough for your horse to chew.
If the horse appears fussy, you could try separating the watermelon rinds from the fleshy centre. This way, you could experiment by feeding them solely watermelon rinds and then solely the inside of the fruit to see which part they take to the most.
After your horse has consumed the watermelon, keep an eye out for any signs of an allergic reaction to the fruit.
You should only introduce watermelon to your horse when they’re fully grown. Young and infant horses have sensitive digestive systems, so it would be best to leave watermelon and other exotic snacks out of their diet until they’re older.
Lastly, I’d recommend keeping watermelon servings away from meal times. Horses can sometimes feel full up after eating watermelon. This is mainly due to the high water level found in the fruit.
How Much Watermelon Can Horses Eat?
Watermelons should not be part of a horse’s regular diet, regardless of how much nutritional value it contains. It should only ever be given to horses in small portions on an occasional basis, just as you would with other occasional treat snacks.
When your horse is fully grown, you could try introducing small portions (relative to the horse’s height and weight) of the fruit.
You shouldn’t feed horses large portions of watermelon or feed them the fruit too regularly. Overfeeding your horse with watermelon could lead to digestion issues. Plus, the sugar content of the fruit could cause dental problems. It may also give them too much energy, which they’ll need to burn off.
Types Of Watermelon That Are Unsafe for Horses
There are no specific types of watermelon that are unhealthy for horses. However, you should always make sure that the watermelon you pick out for your horse is ripe and ready to eat. You should also ensure the fruit is mould and spoil-free.
Additionally, if the watermelon has a particularly large quantity of seeds inside it, you should remove these before serving the fruit to your horse. Seeds in small amounts are ok, but large quantities should be avoided.
Should Horses Eat Watermelon?
If your horse doesn’t suffer from any health problems, you should definitely treat them to some watermelon rinds or slices from time to time. Horses eat watermelon rinds because they love the taste, so you should definitely consider giving your horse a watermelon as an occasional snack.
You Shouldn’t Feed Watermelon to These Horses…
However, despite all of the health benefits of watermelon, the fruit is not recommended for horses that suffer from specific health conditions.
It’s totally safe to let your horses eat some watermelon unless they suffer from one of the following health issues:
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis
If your horse suffers from hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, they’ll experience periods of muscle weakness which prevents their mobility. You need to keep your horse’s potassium levels low if your horse suffers from this. As we’ve already stated, you’d be feeding your horse around 112 mg of potassium per 100 grams of watermelon.
So, it would be best to keep this fruit off the snack list of any horse that suffers from hyperkalemic periodic paralysis.
As horses get older, their teeth get weaker. This limits the amount of tough foods they can chew through. Luckily for horses, they can still chew on the sweet centre of watermelons with bad teeth. However, they’ll probably struggle to get through the tougher rind of the watermelon.
For this reason, cut off the hard part of the fruit when feeding it to horses with dental issues.
Watermelons have a high sugar count, which can make them an unhealthy snack choice for horses who suffer from insulin resistance issues. Whether your horse suffers from pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, equine Cushing’s disease, or equine metabolic syndrome, sugar is not recommended. It can create inflammatory molecules and can lead to laminitis.
Can horses eat watermelon seeds?
Yes, horses can eat seeds from watermelons. Horses can basically eat every part of a watermelon – from the watermelon rinds right down to the seeds. However, you shouldn’t overfeed seeds to horses, just as you shouldn’t overfeed horses any part of the watermelon. You should also never feed horses the seeds of watermelon on their own.
What fruits can horses not eat?
Horses should not be fed whole cherries, avocados, or peaches, as they may choke on the pit. Besides pitted fruits, horses can eat pretty much the same fruits that humans do. This includes apples, bananas, and watermelons.