If you’re a fellow horse owner, then you already know that the humble carrot is the traditional favourite among equines – not counting some delicious sugar cubes, of course. But can your horse actually indulge in this tasty root vegetable?
Absolutely! Not only are fresh carrots a sweet, nutrition-filled treat for horses, but they’re also incredibly healthy and provide many nutritional and health benefits.
Let’s go over the nutritional content of carrots and the great benefits that come with feeding your equine friend this crunchy snack.
Nutritional Content Of Carrots
On average, one large carrot contains:
- Calories: 30
- Carbohydrates: 7 g
- Sugar: 3.41 g
- Protein: < 1 g
- Fat: < 1 g
- Fibre: 2 g
- Sodium: 50 mg
- Potassium: 230 mg
- Magnesium: 9 mg
- Vitamin C: 4 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.48 mg
Carrots are also packed with Vitamins A and K and, because of their low carbohydrate and sugar content, carrots are considered healthy treats.
The Health Benefits of Feeding Horses Carrots
Eating carrots holds many benefits for horses, including:
- Promoting a healthy digestive system: The high fibre content in carrots can aid movement in your horse’s digestive system. Fibre is responsible for cleaning the gut, acting as a “vacuum cleaner”, clearing the digestive tract of debris which ensures an increased absorption of vital nutrients.
- Relieving constipation: Additionally, the high fibre content of carrots helps with water absorption in your horse’s digestive system. This softens the stool, making it easier to pass, thus relieving or preventing constipation. This assists with a healthy bowel movement.
- Promoting a healthy coat: The vitamin A in carrots helps promote healthy eyes, and mucus membranes, while it also ensures that your horse has a healthy, glossy coat.
- Improving the immune system and function: The high levels of vitamins A, C and E – which all act as antioxidants – support your horse’s immune system which helps prevent and fight off diseases.
- Supporting bone health: These juicy vegetables contain calcium, phosphorus and vitamin K which all contribute to bone health and help prevent osteoporosis in horses. Also, the vitamin C in carrots boosts collagen production.
- Acting as an anti-inflammatory: Carrots contain Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene which both help fight inflammation.
- Providing additional hydration: Lastly, carrots also contain ample amounts of water – this ensures that water boosts your horse’s hydration levels.
How To Incorporate Carrots Into Your Horse’s Diet
Horses love the crunchy sweetness that carrots provide and there are several ways in which to prepare carrots to feed it to your horse.
How to prepare carrots for horses
- Feeding horses whole carrots: You can feed the carrot to the horse by holding it in your hand and allowing the horse to bite off chunks one piece at a time.
- Chopping up carrots: You can chop up the carrots into smaller bite-sized chunks. This will make it easier for the horse to chew and swallow the carrots. You can also toss the chunks into their trough or mix them with the horse’s hay or grains for an added treat.
- Baking carrots into homemade horse treats: Another fun way is to add grated or chopped-up carrots to your homemade horse treats. This is a good way to add extra fibre and nutrients to your horse’s diet.
- Mixing carrots into horse bran: You can mix chopped-up carrots into the horse’s bran on its own or mix it with other horse-safe vegetables or treats.
- Grating the carrots: Use a grater to shred the carrots into smaller pieces which can be mixed with other treats.
- Freeze chopped-up carrots: You can also freeze the chopped-up carrots which can be a great chilled treat on a hot day. Ensure that the carrot chunks are small enough to avoid choking when feeding it to your horse.
- Using carrots as a tool for behavioural enrichment: Horse owners can incorporate carrots into toys or hide them around the horse’s paddock. Horses are naturally curious and will enjoy finding and eating these sweet treats.
Precautions while feeding carrots to horses
It is important to note that there are some precautions when it comes to feeding carrots to your horse.
- Feed carrots in moderation: Carrots should be fed to horses in moderation, with a good suggestion being that you only feed them one or two carrots per day. Feeding them more than the recommended amount may cause your horse to not eat its normal meals, which can lead to digestive issues.
- Gradually introduce carrots into your horse’s diet: Horses are known for having very sensitive digestive tracts, so giving them carrots in moderation and introducing the vegetable into their diet in small amounts will help avoid upset stomachs.
- Risk of choking: Owners should take care when feeding carrots to their horses, as there is some risk of choking. The horse may bite off a big chunk, which can cause them to choke. Always cut carrots into smaller pieces to avoid choking.
- Consult your veterinarian: If your horse has a history of colic, founder or other diseases such as Cushing’s disease, consult your veterinarian before feeding it carrots. Carrots should also be fed with care to horses with metabolic diseases, laminitis and teeth problems (more on this below).
How Many Carrots Can Horses Eat?
In general, it’s advised that adult horses are fed only one to two carrots per day. If you prefer to feed your horse baby carrots, then two small handfuls will be enough.
- Ponies and miniature horses should only be fed one or two carrots per day. Due to their sensitive digestive systems, feeding too many carrots may cause an upset stomach.
- You can feed also feed carrots to baby horses or foals. Even if the foal already has teeth, it’s still advisable to cut the carrots into smaller pieces to avoid choking. Remember, however, to limit the intake of carrots and only feed carrots to foals in moderation.
Should Horses Eat Carrots?
Yes, they should and can. Carrots are the perfect vitamin-rich, low-sugar treat for your four-footed friend.
Be careful, however, to feed it to your horse in moderation.
Also, remember to rinse off the carrots before feeding them to your animal. Washing removes dirt, pesticides, chemicals and bacteria. To wash carrots, dip them in salt water, and then rinse them off with clean, cold water.
You Shouldn’t Feed Carrots To These Horses…
Most horses love carrots but care should be taken when feeding them to animals with the following issues or conditions:
Horses with laminitis
A horse suffering from laminitis, or an EMS horse, should be closely monitored if fed carrots.
Laminitis is when there is damage and inflammation of the tissue between the hoof and underlying coffin bone. Horses suffering from this condition struggle to process foods that trigger a release of insulin, which worsens the inflammation.
It’s best to not feed these horses carrots but, if the horse is receiving medical treatment, and their insulin levels are under control, you are allowed to feed them carrots.
A horse with acute laminitis should not, not even as a small treat, be fed carrots.
Because carrots are low in sugar and carbohydrates, they can be fed to horses with insulin resistance. Care should be taken though to only feed a moderate amount of carrots to these horses, as large amounts can cause spikes in blood insulin and sugar levels.
It’s always advised that you consult a veterinarian before feeding carrots to an insulin-resistant horse.
Horses with HYPP
A horse that suffers from Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) needs to have its potassium intake constantly monitored. Because of the high potassium content (230 mg per one large carrot) carrots cannot be fed to horses with HYPP.
It’s advised that horse owners don’t feed horses with HYPP foods that contain potassium.
Horses with dental issues
Although many horses love eating carrots, horses with teeth issues should not be fed whole carrots. Horses suffering from tooth decay and tooth loss need to be fed soft foods that are easy to chew.
If you do decide to treat them with a piece of carrot, try to boil the carrot to soften the vegetable. An alternative is to chop the carrots into smaller pieces to make it easier for horses with tooth problems to chew and swallow the vegetable.
Can horses eat the green tops of carrots?
Yes, horses can eat carrot tops or carrot leaves. Carrot tops are rich in fibre, which helps with digestion and nutrient absorption and like carrots, contain calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. However, avoid overfeeding your horse with carrot tops as this can cause colic (a build-up of gas in a horse’s digestive tract) which can lead to bloating and abdominal pain.
Can horses be allergic to carrots?
Yes, horses can be allergic to carrots, especially if they consume large amounts of them. Carrots may also, if not properly washed, contain chemicals that may lead to an allergic reaction.
Are carrots bad for horses with ulcers?
No, carrots are a great, healthy treat for horses with ulcers. Horses with ulcers must at all times avoid starchy food and, because carrots are low in starch, won’t cause your horse too much harm. However, horses with ulcers should be fed quality feeds while their carrot intake should be kept to a minimum.