As horse owners, we all love spoiling our horses with delicious treats. In this case, it’s the tasty root vegetable known as a parsnip.
Parsnips belong to the same family as the traditional favourite of horses – carrots. But can they indulge in parsnips the same way? While the answer isn’t exactly a simple one, yes, horses can eat parsnips in moderation.
Continue reading to learn the possible advantages of feeding your horse parsnips, as well as some helpful tips on preparation and what to watch out for.
Hey human…. Got any parsnips???
Nutritional Content of Parsnips
If you’re a fellow horse owner, you already know how horses tend to adore sweet treats like apples and carrots. But the parsnip is an often overlooked veggie for horses, despite its sweet, creamy, and nutmeg-like flavour.
Nutritionally speaking, parsnips are quite similar to carrots and can serve as nice treats for our horses.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional content of 100 grams of parsnip:
Calories kJ: 314
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Saturated Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 10 mg
Potassium: 375 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 18 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.9 g
Sugar: 4.8 g
Protein: 1.2 g
Vitamin C: 17 mg
Vitamin K: 22.5 micrograms
So to answer your question “Can horses eat parsnips?” – yes, in moderation. Nutrition for horses is just as important as it is for us humans. And luckily, parsnips can be a tasty low-fat treat for your horse.
The Health Benefits of Feeding Your Horse Parsnip
Much like their carrot cousin, these versatile root vegetables offer a whole bunch of health benefits thanks to their impressive lineup of nutrients and vitamins.
Being a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, it’s no surprise that parsnips promote a healthy digestive system.
Parsnips provide essential vitamins like B1 and K, which support bacterial fermentation of fibres. Plus, thanks to their rich fibre content, parsnips help support a community of beneficial gut microbes. This all works together to facilitate smooth movement in your horse’s digestive tract and aid in reducing constipation.
Supports Immune System
Parsnips also bring a healthy dose of antioxidants to the table. One is vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Parsnips deliver another great antioxidant, vitamin K. Together with vitamin C, this vitamin helps fight inflammation, promote better blood flow, and improve overall circulation.
Tasty Treat for Picky Horses
If your horse is a picky eater or turns their nose up at carrots or other treats, parsnips may just be the healthy treat they’ll like! Finding your horse’s favourite fruit or vegetable may take some trial and error, but most horses actually love the tasty goodness that parsnips pack.
Plus, they can be a great alternative low-fat treat to encourage poor feeders and reward good behaviour.
How to Incorporate Parsnip into Your Horse’s Diet Safely
While we humans have a variety of tasty cooking methods for parsnips, horses have different preferences and safety considerations.
How to Prepare Parsnips
First things first, make sure the parsnips you offer are fresh, pesticide-free, and thoroughly washed. We want to provide them with the best quality produce, and that means clean, fresh vegetables!
Some popular methods for preparing parsnips include boiling, steaming, and roasting but there is no need to do that for your horse, they can eat them raw. They can be served chopped up as a healthy snack to reward good behaviour and mixed into their roughage.
The most important thing to consider when you feed horses parsnips is introducing it slowly and monitoring for any adverse reactions.
Parsnip Treat Dos
Moderation is key! Parsnips should mainly be given as a treat rather than a major part of your horse’s diet.
Chop into bite-sized pieces. Large chunks could present a choking hazard.
Feed horses raw. Leave the seasoning in your pantry and feed parsnips in their natural form.
Parnsip Treat Don’ts
Never feed horses anything mouldy or off. Any mouldy or rotten fruit or vegetable can be incredibly harmful to horses.
Don’t force feed. Just like us, horses have their own preferences and tastes. Even if you have poor feeders, don’t force parsnips on them.
Avoid overfeeding. Horses notoriously have a sensitive digestive system and too much parsnip can cause gastrointestinal issues.
How Much Parsnip Can Horses Eat?
How much parsnip you can feed horses will depend on factors like their size, weight, and overall health.
As we mentioned earlier, parsnips should be offered as a treat and not as a main source of nutrition in their diet. Parsnips should make up no more than 10-15% of your horse’s overall food intake.
So, how much is just enough? Assuming you have a regular-sized horse, a handful of chopped-up parsnips once or twice a week will be enough to satisfy their taste buds without causing any potential digestive issues.
Types Of Parsnips That Are Unsafe for Horses
While the root of the wild parsnip can be fed to horses, the flowers, stems, and foliage of the wild parsnip contains high concentrations of toxic chemicals called furanocoumarins. This toxicity increases when exposed to UV radiation (often from sunlight) and can lead to wild parsnip poisoning in horses.
Wild parsnip poisoning in horses can have varied signs, but it commonly manifests as a skin sensitivity affecting white or light-coloured areas.
Wild Parsnip is toxic for horses
Should Horses Eat Parsnip?
So, you now know that you can feed horses parsnip, but does this mean they should?
While most horses can enjoy parsnip as a delicious treat, there are some that should avoid eating parsnip or too much of it.
You Shouldn’t Feed Parsnip to These Horses…
Horses with Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
If your horse has HYPP, it’s crucial to be mindful of their potassium intake. One parsnip weighing 100 grams contains 375 mg of potassium.
Due to this high potassium content, it’s advised not to feed parsnip to horses suffering from HYPP.
Horses With Metabolic Issues
It’s essential to practice caution with horses that have a condition like metabolic syndrome, Cushing’s disease, insulin resistance, or a history of laminitis. This is because parsnips have a relatively high sugar content which may pose health problems.
Always consult your vet before introducing any new treats into your horse’s diet.
Horses With Dental Issues
The crunchy and hard texture of parsnips may pose a challenge for horses with dental problems like tooth loss or decay.
Fortunately, you can steam or boil the parsnip to soften it. You can also chop them into small pieces or shred them into finer bits.
Can horses eat parsnip leaves?
The tops or leaves of garden parsnips are safe for horses to consume and are not considered harmful. But be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt or contaminants.
The leaves of wild parsnips, on the other hand, should be avoided entirely.
What are the symptoms of too much parsnip in horses?
Too much parsnip may cause gastrointestinal distress in horses, such as an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhoea. Parsnips should be fed in moderation to avoid these potential digestive issues.