Feeding apples of all kinds to horses is not harmful to them, as long as you’re not the evil queen in Snow White! This means you can feed them apples from a cooking apple tree as well. The trick is to not feed your horse too many apples as this could cause its stomach to ache, which no horse owners want.
Cooking apples aren’t as soft or sweet as regular fresh apples, but I’ve never seen a horse complaining. Horses love apples, especially when they’re fresh, and they’ll be quite happy to accept cooking apples at any time they’re offered.
Nutritional Content Of Cooking Apples
Apples contain certain vitamins and nutrients that are good for horses. The nutrients that each apple contains are as follows:
- Calories: 52
- Water: 86%
- Protein: 0.3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 13.8 grams
- Sugar: 10.4 grams
- Fibre: 2.4 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
What Are Cooking Apples?
Cooking apples are the types of apples you’ll find in baked apple pies and other cooked delicacies. They don’t have quite the sweet taste of other types of apples. This makes them perfect as baked treats with a tart taste that goes well with custard, cream, or other sweet desserts.
The most well-known cooking apple varieties are the Bramley and Granny Smith types.
The Health Benefits And Risks Of Feeding Your Horse Cooking Apples
Let’s look at the health benefits (and a couple of risks) of feeding your horse these sweet treats:
Full of nutrients
Just like how apples are good for humans – they are also good for horses!
Apples contain a lot of healthy minerals and vitamins, like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fibre. These help to support a healthy immune system and also help with digestion – you will have an all-around happy horse.
Source of energy
The sugar content found in organic apples is a great source of energy for your horse. The sugar, fructose, is a complex carbohydrate which will slowly release energy, meaning your horse will enjoy longer rides and romping around the paddock with their pals.
Cooking apples are filled with antioxidants which can help your horse fight off infection and prevent inflammation. This means they’ll also be less stiff and sore after a tough ride, and recover quicker after exercise.
The downside of feeding apples to your horse
Moderation is key when feeding your horse cooking apples. Overconsumption of apples can have the following side effects:
- Stomach problems like gas and bloat
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Dental problems due to hard apples and high sugar content
How To Stop Horses From Eating Cooking Apples
As I just mentioned, eating too many apples could be harmful to a horse. Horses shouldn’t have too much sugar in their diet and with over 10 grams of sugar in each cooking apple, you need to draw a line somewhere.
Don’t allow your horse access to unlimited apples. For example, don’t let it graze under your apple trees as, besides the sugar it’ll eat, it could end up munching on rotten apples all day. This could cause endless stomach problems for your equine friend.
Also, make sure you don’t include too much cooking apple in its feed. A little goes a long way and your horse will enjoy it.
How To Incorporate Cooking Apples Into Your Horse’s Diet Safely
When you feed cooking apples (or any other apples) to a horse, chop them up or cut them up into slices. It’s important for digestion and cuts down the risk of choking from trying to swallow the whole apple.
Cooking apples are generally larger and harder than regular eating apples, so although horses can eat whole apples, it’s not the best idea. It will increase the risk of a horse choking on the fruit, while it also could make digesting the cooking apple more difficult.
When feeding horses apples of any type, I like to cut them into regular apple slices or mix them with their oats to create apple oatmeal. You can also make a cooking apple peel bran mash for easier eating and digestion. These apple types have exceptionally nutritious peels that are very high in fibre.
Horses also eat cooked apples. But, don’t add any sugar or spices to the apples – only steam or bake them as is. Most horses will be perfectly happy with a soft, poached apple!
How Many Cooking Apples Can Horses Eat?
I’m a big believer that “less is more” to keep your horse healthy. Any more than five cooking apples in a day is likely too many.
Consider your horse’s comfort – if you eat too much of a good thing you often end up with an aching belly. Your equine buddy is no different, so don’t cause any potential future discomfort by overfeeding it.
If your horse is healthy, you want to keep it that way. As a rule, anything in excess is not a good thing. You will get away with feeding large, healthy horses cooking apples more frequently compared to smaller or older ones
Feeding an older horse cooking apples in higher quantities won’t allow it to burn off the sugars as quickly. This could result in excess weight and worsening health.
Types Of Apples That Are Unsafe For Horses
Besides apples that are well past their “sell-by” date, all varieties of apples are safe to feed your horse. There are also lots to choose from! The UK alone has developed over 2,500 apple varieties, so there’s no shortage of apples around.
Apple seeds contain amygdalin, a substance that protects the fruit itself. If this is chewed or crushed, it metabolizes into hydrogen cyanide. We all know cyanide’s reputation! If a horse is exposed to enough hydrogen cyanide it can die. The concentration of the cyanide would have to be massive though.
This means the horse would have to chew thousands of seeds to feel any effect. Apples only have up to two dozen seeds each, and few even have that many. Apple seeds aren’t dangerous to horses unless they eat a bag full and chew each one before swallowing it.
Should Horses Eat Cooking Apples?
There’s no harm in your average horse eating these apple types, although other apples might be more tasty for them. They’re healthy when eaten in moderation, so why not? Of course, there could be the odd exception:
You shouldn’t feed cooking apples to these horses…
If your horse is susceptible to problems in its gastrointestinal tract, eating cooking apples could cause it to end up with stomach cramps and colic. Colic is mainly caused by excess gas, which apples are known to produce in some horses.
Can I mix cooking apples with cattle feed for my horse?
No. The apples won’t be a problem but the cattle feed could be. Cattle feed contains special additives that are designed for cattle. Feeding this to your horse could cause several health problems for an equine animal.
Can horses eat windfall apples?
Yes, horses can eat windfall apples, but only while the apples are still fresh. Never feed your horse rotten or mouldy fruit.
Can horses eat unripe apples?
Horses can eat unripe apples if they manage to escape into the apple orchards. They will enjoy the sour-sweet taste, but it’s best to only give them unripe apples in moderation. If you have no ripe apples around, give them some other fruits instead.