Who doesn’t love a ripe watermelon during the hot summer months? I know I do! And it turns out that horses do too! In fact, watermelon can make an excellent treat for horses.
If you want to introduce a treat to your horse, it’s always a good idea to first do your research on what your horse can and cannot eat.
Horses feed primarily on pasture grass and hay. Horse feed and grains can also be part of a horse’s diet, although in limited quantities, while fruits and veggies should be fed only as an occasional treat.
If watermelon is something you want your horse to try, I’ll bring you all the information you need on how to safely introduce watermelon into the diet of your horse.
Is Watermelon Safe for Horses?
Watermelon is safe for horses and makes for a healthy and refreshing snack, especially during the hot summer months.
Watermelons have a staggeringly high water content, but also trace amounts of various vitamins (Vitamins A, B6, C, etc.), minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, etc.), and amino acids. The rind of the watermelon is also a source of fiber.
Therefore, watermelon is a great choice for some horses, however, not all horses can eat watermelon safely and not all horses should be offered watermelon.
This restriction is necessary either because of dental problems or an underlying health issue that would be made worse by the consumption of watermelon.
For example, watermelon rind should not be fed to horses with dental problems. Since the rind can be tough to chew, there’s an increased risk of choking.
Likewise, watermelon should not be fed to horses with known insulin-resistant conditions such as the equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) because of the sugar content of watermelon.
I also strongly discourage feeding watermelon to horses with Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis disease, which can be made worse by the presence of potassium in watermelon.
With these caveats in mind, watermelon is a safe fruit to feed your horse in moderate quantities.
Like with any foods given to horses, moderation is key. I, for one, feel like there’s never enough watermelon to satisfy my appetite, but it’s not good for your horse to fill up on watermelon.
Colic is one of the major concerns when watermelon is fed in excess, but long-term health consequences should also be considered.
While watermelons contain only about 6 g of sugar per 100 g, dental issues and other health problems can be exacerbated by too much watermelon consumption.
How Much Watermelon is Safe for a Horse?
I can’t tell you exactly how much watermelon your horse can eat since that depends on the size of your horse and any health issues it may have.
In any event, you should exercise moderation and feed watermelon to your horse only as an occasional treat and never as a primary source of food. Limit the amount to a few cups a day.
Overfeeding your horse can cause colic and may prevent your horses from eating their own foods, which are more nutritious to them than watermelon.
In short, consider watermelon as a treat and feed it to your horse as you would feed any other treat – occasionally and in moderation.
Do Horses Like Watermelon?
Usually, horses are fond of sweet treats, and watermelon is an especially appealing treat since it’s juicy and cooling in the summer.
Even so, horses, like humans, may have preferences, and might not be as fond of watermelon as they would be by carrots, for example.
In addition, horses may have a preference for the flesh of the watermelon and not take too well to the rind of the watermelon.
While I can’t imagine anyone not liking watermelon, there are plenty of people who don’t. Your horse may be no different. And that’s okay.
If your horse doesn’t seem to be enjoying watermelon, you shouldn’t force your horse to eat it. Try a different treat instead. Maybe, your horse is just one of those weird ones that doesn’t enjoy watermelon.
If it’s your first time feeding watermelon to your horse, he may be reluctant to try it if he’s not familiar with it.
You can try offering watermelon at a later date and see whether your horse will try it then. If after a couple of times trying to give your horse a taste of this delicious goodness, he still won’t try it, it may mean he is not interested.
There are plenty of other fruits you can offer as a treat. For example, strawberries can be a great alternative to watermelon.
Is Watermelon Rind Safe for Horses?
While the flesh of the watermelon is by far the tastiest part, the rind is the more nutritious one, despite our reluctance to eat it.
Not all horses will eat the rind, and even those that will happily munch on it, will need you to prepare the rind so that it’s clean and easy for them to chew.
Here are my recommendations on how to safely feed watermelon rind to horses:
- Wash and scrub the watermelon rind under cool running water to get rid of debris, bacteria, viruses, any potential pesticide residue, and avoid cross-contamination of the flesh
- Cut in smaller pieces so that they’re easier to chew and don’t pose a choking hazard to your horse
- Feed only a small quantity at any one time.
Even with these preparations, your horse may decide it does not like the rind and prefers the flesh over it, although, in my experience horses will happily eat both the flesh and rind of a watermelon.
Are Watermelon Seeds Safe for Horses?
Unless you buy seedless watermelons, your watermelon will usually come with seeds. Even when being circumspect with removing the seeds before you eat the watermelon, you may still ingest a few.
Because watermelon seeds contain only a very small amount of cyanide, it’s not a problem if you or your horse swallow a few seeds while eating the flesh of the watermelon.
However, like with any seeds containing cyanide (e.g. apple seeds), eating too much of them can have detrimental effects.
Therefore, I advise against feeding watermelon seeds to your horse in excess. A few seeds here and there that stay hidden in the flesh of the watermelon are not harmful, but too many seeds are problematic.
If you can take the time to remove seeds, it’s probably best but small quantities of watermelon seed aren’t likely to hurt your horse either way.
How to Introduce Watermelon and Other Treats to Your Horse?
The digestive system of a horse is finicky – it can be upset both by too much or too little food. And the way some foods are served should also be off limits to horses.
For example, apples and carrots should be cut into smaller chunks to avoid choking, same as with the rind of a watermelon.
Moderation is also a key element to introducing treats to your horse. As their name suggests, treats should be just that – a small reward offered occasionally.
To get a better sense of how you should introduce treats to your horse’s diet, here are my top recommendations:
- Make sure the treat you choose is safe for horses in general (avoid anything that may be toxic to your horse or cause excessive gas production that could lead to colic)
- Account for any diseases your horse may have and choose treats accordingly
- Wash and scrub any fruit or veggies that may have trace amounts of pesticides or that may be contaminated with bacteria or viruses
- Fruit or veggies that contain seeds should be de-pitted so that the seeds are removed (apricots or apples for example may pose a choking hazard and the seeds contain cyanide)
- Don’t feed large pieces of anything that can get stuck in the throat of your horse. Because horses don’t have a gag reflex and can’t vomit, the risk of choking is high.
- Feed your horse only a small amount of any treat at one time and see how it takes to it.
- If your horse is fine and seems to be enjoying the treat, you can feed it another small amount later or on another day
- Some horses may not like certain treats, while others may do. Just like humans, horses can have preferences and you should never force them to eat something they don’t seem to like.
Whether it’s watermelon or a sugar cube, make sure you understand the ramifications of feeding anything to your horse that isn’t part of their regular diet.
Start by introducing new things slowly and gradually until you’ve made sure your horse does not exhibit any adverse effects.
Once you’ve made sure your horse takes well to said treats, you can use them occasionally as a reward, a snack or to make their feed more interesting.
Watermelon chunks can be frozen or simply just refrigerated to help your horse to a refreshing treat during hot summer days.
What Other Fruits Can Horses Eat?
Besides watermelon, there are lots of other safe fruits for horses including other types of melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.), apples, strawberries, grapes, bananas, apricots, nectarines, peaches, berries, pitted dates, etc.
Can Horses Eat Vegetables?
Yes, horses can eat some vegetables too, including carrots, celery, and pumpkins. However, not all vegetables are safe for horses, especially those that cause bloating.
Vegetables you should not feed your horse include potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and other cabbage or onion-like vegetables.
What Should You Never Feed to Your Horse?
Besides the list of vegetables to avoid feeding your horse, you should also never feed your horse chocolate or caffeine, which are deemed toxic to horses.
Cat or dog foods should also be avoided since these contain animal-based proteins, which horses should not be fed as they’re herbivores and not omnivores.
Many houseplants are also toxic to horses, so keep these in a place where your horse may not find them.
You should also avoid feeding your horse anything that may exacerbate any health conditions your horse may have.
Keep an eye on the size of treats since many things can easily get stuck in a horse’s windpipe.
How Much Does a Horse Eat a Day?
You probably know how good it is for your horse to be grazing all day on a pasture. It’s not that horses are voracious eaters, it’s that they need a lot of calories, and grass isn’t packing much of that.
Grass packs about 250 calories per pound and an average horse, with average exercise levels will need somewhere north of 15,000 calories a day. An active horse will need double that number.
Unfortunately, the stomach of horses is also built in a way that they cannot hold much food at a time, plus the digestive tract of horses empty quickly.
Therefore, it’s important to always have food around for your horse to eat. To put things into perspective, your horse will have to spend 17 hours a day grazing on pasture grass just to meet their caloric demand.
Hay isn’t much better either when it comes to its caloric content – a horse will need to consume around 2% of its body weight in hay each day.
You should never let your horse go hungry. An empty horse stomach comes with its own set of health issues and risks including severe colic and intestinal twisting.
Horses can eat watermelon and many horses enjoy the occasional watermelon treat. That said, you should follow my recommendations related to how you should introduce treats to your horses and what to watch out for when feeding them watermelon.
Although a lot of fruits and veggies are safe for horses, horses should primarily eat pasture grass, hay, limited quantities of grains and feed, and fruits and veggies as an occasional treat.
You should never overfeed your horse or force them to eat something they don’t enjoy. Because some vegetables can cause colic, excess gas and bloating, you should be very careful about keeping these away from your horse’s diet.Horse Diet