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Apples & Horses: Facts, Recipes & Cautions

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Trying to decide what kind of treat you should feed your horse? Apples may just be the answer to your dilemma! Apples are a healthy and nutritious treat that many horses love.

Can a horse eat apples? Apples are safe for most horses to eat and they come in a variety of flavors ranging from super sweet to tart. Horses can eat apples as treats as long as they are fed in moderation and properly prepared.

Keep in mind that just because they can eat apples, doesn’t mean they should eat a whole bag full a day.

Most horses enjoy eating apples and probably don’t even realize they are eating a healthy treat. As with any food, there is always some risk with feeding certain treats to specific horses, but with the following information, you should easily be able to tell if apples are the perfect treat for your horse or not.

Apples Are Healthy for Horses

For the most part, apples are healthy for horses to eat and most horses absolutely love them.

Apples contain potassium, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants that help destroy damaged molecules in the body that often cause inflammation and other issues.

A lot of horse owners find that their horses prefer apples over other treats. The key to keeping apples a healthy treat is to feed them only in moderation, meaning just a couple of apples a day is more than plenty.

You should never feed a large amount of any treat in a single day, as this could lead to digestive issues in your horse.

As with any new food, start small and only feed them a few pieces of an apple at first and monitor them for a day. If they are fine, then they should have no problem eating apples.

Issues with Feeding Apples to Horses

While apples are generally safe, there are some instances where they could potentially create a problem. Let’s explore some of the most common things to be aware of when feeding apples.

Avoid Overfeeding

The major issue that occurs when feeding horses apples is that sometimes horse owners feed too many apples to their horse at one time. You should feed any treat only in moderation to avoid upset stomach and colic in your horse.

Horses’ digestive systems are extremely fragile if they are not fed the proper diet. If you feed your horse a lot of apples at one time, it can definitely cause severe stomach distress and possibly lead to a vet visit.

To avoid this and to keep your horse happy and healthy, stick with feeding just 1 or 2 apples per day. If you want to, cut up one apple in the morning and feed part of it early and the rest later in the afternoon. This keeps your horse happy and helps them avoid any stomach issues.

Use Caution for Horses with Dental Issues

Horses with dental issues often have a problem chewing up their food. Apples naturally have a crunchy texture and require chewing. They may not be the perfect food for your horse if it has dental issues.

If your horse still has some teeth and can chew somewhat, you can cut the apple up into really small pieces that won’t hurt them if they swallow them without chewing.

If your horse has no teeth, you may want to avoid apples or find a way to prepare them that makes them softer and easier for your horse to manage. You can do this by pureeing them using a food processor or blender.

Apple Puree
Apple Puree

Avoid Feeding to Horses with Metabolic Issues

Some horses suffer from metabolic issues such as Cushing’s and insulin resistance. Unfortunately, since apples contain sugar, they probably should not be fed to these horses.

There are more healthy treats that are designed specifically for these horses that you can feed them instead.

Avoid Feeding Apples to Horses with HYPP

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is a disease that makes the horse unable to handle potassium and it actually leaks out of their muscles causing severe issues.  Apples contain potassium and are not recommended for horses that suffer from HYPP. (source)

How to Prepare Apples for Your Horse

To Peel or Not to Peel

You can definitely feed your horse apple peeling. They actually tend to love the peeling and since it is relatively thin, they have no problem crunching it up along with the rest of the apple.

The apple peel contains extra fiber that is beneficial to your horse’s digestive system. You may want to rinse off the apple first, just to be sure there are no toxins or pesticide residue.

You can also look for organic apples that shouldn’t have any pesticides on the peeling or if you happen to have an apple tree on your property, you can feed them apples picked straight from the source.

Cutting Up or Feeding Whole

Horses do eat apples whole. Smaller apples will fit entirely in their mouths where they can chew it. They will usually take bites out of bigger apples.

Many horse owners feed whole apples to their horses, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that is it the right method for your horse. Some horses tend to eat too quickly and may swallow a whole apple too fast, causing it to be lodged in their throat.

To avoid this, just cut the apple up in smaller pieces before you feed it. This also helps to trick your horse into thinking that he or she is getting a lot of treats instead of just one that has been cut up.

It is safer and will help you to avoid a costly veterinarian visit. Remember, choking can also lead to pneumonia and no horse owner wants to deal with a bout of pneumonia.

Different Way to Feed Apples to Horses

Aside from feeding your horse regular apple slices, there are a couple of different ways you can prepare apples for your horse.

Mixing with Bran Mash

You can add chopped up apples to your horse’s bran mash as a special treat. Don’t put too much though and always remember moderation is key for any treats. 

Baked Apple Treats

There are a number of baked treats that incorporate apples that you can prepare for your horse. Just make sure that any ingredients that you use are safe for a horse and that you don’t add too much or any sugar if possible.

Frozen Apple Lick

Some creative horse owners enjoy making frozen licks for their horses. You can use an empty ice cream container, fill it up with water and add some treats, like chopped up apples, to the water.

Freeze it completely, remove the container and then put it out for your horse to lick on throughout a hot summer day.

Apple Oatmeal

Some horse owners prepare a batch of apple oatmeal as a horse treat. Again, make sure any ingredients used are safe for horses and that you don’t add too much sugar since apples already contain some.

Baked/Softened Apples

You can cook and soften apples to make them easier to chew for horses that have dental problems.  Just make sure they are cut up in smaller pieces and easy to swallow for those horses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Apples Kill Horses?

Apples, and any other treat fed in high quantities can cause colic which is potentially fatal to horses.

Can Horses Eat Apple Cores?

A horse can eat the entire apple including peel, core and seeds.

Can Horses Eat Windfall Apples?

Horses can eat windfall apples in small quantities. Care should be taken to check the apple has not rotted and to feed only a couple a day.

Final Thoughts

I have not found a horse yet that doesn’t like treats of some kind, but finding one they love can sometimes be difficult. Thankfully, most horses seem to love apples and really seem to enjoy eating them. They are nutritious and natural, so I have little worry when feeding them to my horses.

Apples should always be fed in moderation and only to those horses than can handle an apple’s sugar and potassium content.  If you follow these two suggestions, you should have no problems feeding apples as treats to your favorite horse.

April Lee

I've owned horses for 25 years and have a particular love for gentling wild horses. I write these articles to help others learn more about horses. If you enjoyed the article please take a moment to pin it to Pinterest or share on social media. It really does help! Check out my about page for more detailed information.