A steadfast part of any good fruit platter, we know cantaloupe to be a refreshing and delicious treat. In fact, you may already take some pieces, cut and cubed, to the barn with you as an excellent treat after a ride. And while you are surely used to sharing your carrots and apples with your horse during snack time, what about cantaloupe, too? Is this melon actually a safe treat for horses?
Can horses eat cantaloupe? Horses can eat cantaloupe. This fruit is as refreshing to them as it is to you, and delicious to boot. In fact, horses can get the same nutritional benefits from eating cantaloupe as they do with other fruits and vegetables.
There are some horses, though, that just naturally do not like the taste of cantaloupe and may spit it out or refuse it. Also, you should be careful to only give your horses the flesh, just the same as you would consume.
Feeding Cantaloupe Flesh to Horses
For starters, cantaloupe flesh is 100% not toxic or dangerous to horses. The rinds, which we cover more in-depth below, are not a good idea to feed to your horse, however. Further, they have little to no nutritional value. When it comes to the cantaloupe flesh, though, that’s a different story.
This fresh fruit contains multiple essential vitamins and minerals:
- Beta carotene – This supports strong eye health
- Potassium – A very important macromineral that helps maintain cell health and skeletal health.
- Vitamin C – An antioxidant that prevents tissue, organ and muscle damage by fighting free radicals to neutralize the risks they pose. It also promotes a healthy coat, working immune system, recovery of wounds and more.
- Folic acid – A horse’s red blood cells’ best friend. It helps maintain normal red blood cell levels, improve hemoglobin levels, control anemia and aid in the production and maintenance of new cells.
- B vitamins – (Also known as thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine), these vitamins are needed for healthy metabolism function. Thiamin particularly is helpful in metabolizing fats, while riboflavin assists with healthy protein levels. B vitamins can also promote calm attitudes.
- Antioxidants – Cantaloupe is rich in antioxidants, which are known for increasing your horse’s immunity and helping to prevent a number of diseases.
Remember, though, as with all fruits, cantaloupe contains a fair amount of natural sugar, which is why it’s so tasty! The downside, of course, is that if your horse if fed too much, it can cause them to develop diabetes, laminitis, excessive weight gain and more thanks to high levels of sugar.
So for that reason, cantaloupe should only be fed in moderation or as a treat once in a while. Further, a horse who is already insulin-resistant or on a low sugar diet should probably not be fed cantaloupe too often, and not more than 1/8th of a whole cantaloupe at a time (this serving size contains only 4 grams of sugar.)
Cantaloupe is also a low-calorie food, so it won’t upset your horse’s typical diet much – 100 grams of cantaloupe, in fact, only contains 34 calories, making this a (moderately, due to the sugar content) healthy snack for horses.
Feeding Cantaloupe Rinds to Horses
Can a horse eat cantaloupe rinds? Technically, horses are able to eat the rinds of a cantaloupe. And cantaloupe rinds themselves are not inherently toxic to horses.
However, feeding your horses the rinds is still not a good idea, as the rinds could contain mold that will upset your horse’s stomach or cause further digestive issues.
Just as corn husks or stems can inadvertently play host to unseen molds, the growths on cantaloupes may not be able to be seen by the naked eye.
You may find that your horse is attracted to the rind and will try to eat it anyway. However, that potential mold can lead to fungal infections that only wind up damaging their digestive tracts and compromising overall health down the line – or even causing laminitis.
The risk really is just not worth it, and your horses are not missing out on anything truly tasty or nutritious.
Horses Who Eat Cantaloupe Seeds
It is best to discard the seeds when feeding your horse cantaloupe. They are just the right size to pose a choking hazard to horses. They can too easily become stuck in their throats and since horses can’t vomit up obstructions, it’s best to leave them out.
If your horse accidentally gets a hold of a whole cantaloupe and eats the seeds, there isn’t any research I found that would indicate there are toxicity concerns.
So while it is probably best to discard the seeds (or feed them to the chickens), if a horse did eat them it is probably OK.
How to Feed Cantaloupe to Your Horse
When feeding the fruit itself to your horse, be sure to cut it up in small enough chunks. Horses tend to gulp down food they don’t have to bite into, so rather than running the risk of your horse excitedly inhaling some cantaloupe and choking, cut it up into small pieces for them.
Also, just as with any other treat, cantaloupe is best as an occasional snack. If you plan on feeding it to your horse on a more regular basis, however, take the same care as you would any other new food and introduce it slowly to their diet.
You don’t want to overwhelm their delicate digestive systems by giving them a lot of cantaloupe on a daily basis without allowing their bodies to adjust. Start by introducing a small half handful or so of cut up cantaloupe and gradually increase the quantity to ensure a smooth process.
Be sure to be very selective, too, in picking a cantaloupe to feed your horse. Look for one that is fresh and firm. Any sign of rot or mold can mean it will harm your horse’s stomach and upset their digestion.
Special Considerations When Feeding Cantaloupe to Horses
Even though cantaloupe is not toxic or dangerous by nature, there are certain horses to take into consideration who may not be best cut out for eating it.
Insulin Resistant Horses
For instance, horses who are already overweight, who suffer from insulin resistance or who have a documented history of being prone to founder should have a highly restricted diet that encompasses treats, too.
Both their sugar and starch intake should be limited and for this reason, fruits such as cantaloupe (and even the classic standbys such as apples and carrots!) are not a good idea to feed them.
Horses with HYPP
Also, horses that have Equine Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis Disease (HYPP), a genetic mutation that results in a muscular disease, should not have treats that have high values of potassium.
As cantaloupes are considered to be a prime source of potassium, horses with HYPP should for sure not be fed this fruit.
Other fruits they should avoid include bananas, plums, apricots and pumpkin, due to high potassium levels.
Senior horses, too, are another group of equines with special dietary requirements. As they lose teeth with age and chewing becomes harder, choking and eating comfort become higher and higher priorities.
Especially with these horses, rinds and seeds should be taken care to be removed, as they can become all too easily lodged in their throats. Since horses cannot vomit, an obstruction is very dangerous as it cannot be vomited up to be dislodged.
Even the softer flesh of the cantaloupe should be treated carefully. It should be diced up small enough so as to be easily digested – or even mushed up like applesauce. This will ensure safe ingestion by senior horses.
At the end of the day, cantaloupe is just as tasty and refreshing for horses as for humans. And, while the rind is not toxic, if can play host to molds that may sicken your horse. The seeds should also not be fed to them. But, if you chop of a few pieces of the flesh, your horse will most likely enjoy themselves a fruity, watery treat!