Your horse’s diet can appear to get pretty boring. Roughage, roughage, and more roughage! A large proportion of a horse’s diet consists of hay, haylage, grass, and concentrates such as grains.
It may seem pretty boring to us humans, but this is most definitely the best type of diet for most horses and should be considered the bulk of their diet.
There are many tasty treats that we are able to provide for our horses safely on an ad-hoc basis in addition to their regular feed. It all boils down to moderation.
Many types of commercial horse treats can be bought online and in equestrian stores for our equine friends and there are also many more types of food, fruit, and vegetables in particular that are safe for our horses to also consume.
One highly debated foodstuff for horses is sweet potato. Many believe it is perfectly safe to feed sweet potatoes to horses whilst others believe the whole of the plant is highly toxic for equine consumption and too closely linked to the nightshade family which is toxic to most animals.
So, can horses eat sweet potato? No, it is not a good idea to allow horses to eat sweet potato. There is not enough research that has been carried out with evidence to confirm it is safe for horses to eat sweet potato. It is always best to avoid foods of this kind until more research has been conducted.
We decided to delve into this topic a little deeper to give you a much better understanding of feeding this vegetable to your horse and the implications of that.
Can horses eat sweet potatoes?
The sweet potato plant is known to be part of the ‘bindweed’ or ‘morning glory’ family. It is a root vegetable that is sweet, tasty, and very starchy. It is often lumped together with regular potatoes (red and white) which are part of the nightshade family.
This family of plants is known to be highly toxic to most animals, including horses. Vegetables such as red and white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers should be avoided at all costs.
Technically, sweet potato does not fall under the family of nightshades, however, it is true the two have always been closely linked and often confused.
To this day very little research has been carried out on the effects of feeding sweet potato to horses, so this plant cannot be considered 100% safe for consumption. There is always the chance that this plant could be toxic to horses.
The most edible part of sweet potato (the fleshy bits we cook ourselves) is the part most owners will choose to feed to their horses, however, during the growth period, if it has been exposed to too much sunlight, it is likely to turn toxic (something you can never be too sure about if you haven’t gone down the homegrown route).
Which vegetables are safe for horses?
Based on the lack of evidence to suggest it is safe for equines to consume sweet potato it seems way too risky to offer this to your horse when there so many other types of vegetables and fruits that have proven to be safe.
Let’s take a look at some of the safe alternatives which are just as tasty and full of nutrition:
|Vegetables safe for horses||Fruits safe for horses|
As you can see there are plenty of healthy treat options for horses without the need of opting for a sweet potato that hasn’t technically been deemed safe.
It is important to note that fruits and vegetables should be considered a treat for horses in small quantities and should not be fed as the main part of their meal.
They are very high in starch, which in the right doses, can be highly beneficial however too much is likely to lead to severe digestive problems or even worse, colic!
With so many options available we would strongly advise against feeding your horse sweet potato as the cons far outweigh the pros in this instance. It is not necessary for them to consume and based on the strong lack of evidence confirming sweet potato is safe for horses to eat we think it’s wise to leave well alone for the health of your horse.
Can horses eat sweet potato peels?
Feeding any part of the sweet potato plant to horses is a risky business. With such little research to warrant the safety we believe it is best to avoid sweet potato peels in the same way as the fleshy part of this plant.
You will usually find that well-fed horses are not interested in eating the peels thanks to the very acidic taste. They may have a little try out of curiosity but will move onto something with a better taste.
The peel of sweet potato is very sensitive to light and with too much exposure has proven to become toxic very quickly. It is hard to determine whether a sweet potato has got to this stage visually and without growing your own you will not be aware of its toxicity.
Sweet potato peels are best avoided. They can severely upset your horse’s stomach and in large enough doses could cause the following:
- Labored respiration
- Digestive problems
- Excessive thirst
- In some cases, death
As you can see, there are plenty of very good reasons why it is not a good idea to feed sweet potato peels to your horse. You can never be sure how your horse may react and at the end of the day vets, visits are very expensive.
Can horses eat sweet potato vines?
Sweet potato vines are not safe for horses to eat and are believed to have toxic properties in the same way as the entire rest of the plant. If eaten in large quantities sweet potato vines can cause some very serious complications for your horse, in particular colic and intestinal issues.
Colic is an illness that horses and ponies are particularly prone to and it can in certain situations be life-threatening. As a horse owner, you will want to do everything in your power to ensure your horse’s diet consists of the right sources of nutrition to avoid colic.
Part of the problem with horses eating the wrong types of food (whether intentional or accidental) is their inability to be sick.
Horses have a one-way valve thanks to a lower esophageal sphincter which means there is no turning back. They are physically unable to vomit once the food has reached a certain point. This then just leaves their delicate digestive system to deal with the problem, which doesn’t usually go to plan.
Feeding horses sweet potato vines is a risk since there has not been anywhere near enough research to suggest that it is safe for horses to consume. There is always the possibility it will cause a bad reaction.
When thinking about feeding your horse the sweet potato plant or any other vegetables, we must remember that first and foremost a horse’s diet consists of mostly roughage such as hay, grass, and haylage.
In some instances, a portion of concentrates such as grains is also sufficient. Vegetables do not factor into the horse’s main dietary needs and we must therefore be very careful of the quantity and the frequency we offer these types of foods. They should be regarded as a treat rather than a key requirement.
Many believe that feeding sweet potato, as well as the peels and vines, are perfectly safe for horses and it is fair to say that if eaten in a very small amount it is unlikely to cause any side effects.
For instance, if a horse were to come across a sweet potato plant out in their field they may decide to have a taste of it, but 9 times out of 10 they will find the luscious grass or piles of hay much more appealing.
This isn’t necessarily something to worry about if your horse does happen to come across this plant, but we would strongly advise against knowingly providing your horse with sweet potato as a treat based on the lack of research. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Up Next: Do Horses Like Sugar Cubes?