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Feeding Carrots to Horses – Nutrition and Precautions

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Not only are carrots healthy for humans, they are also extremely healthy for your horse! Most horses adore eating carrots as treats and thankfully they are inexpensive and very nutritious!

Can horses eat carrots? Yes, horses can eat carrots and they typically look forward to getting them as treats.

Carrots contain a bushel of vitamins that are essential for a horse’s wellbeing. Always feed any treats with caution, however, and understand that they are only meant to be fed in moderation.

Many horse owners agree that their horses prefer carrots over other treats. If you prepare them correctly and feed them only an allotted amount daily, carrots can serve as a healthy treat for most horses. Use the following guide to make sure that carrots will be safe and nourishing treat for your best horse.

Carrots Are Healthy for Horses

Carrots are very healthy for horses! Carrots have vitamin C and vitamin A, both antioxidants that support the immune system. One large carrot contains approximately 3.41 grams of sugar and about 7 carbohydrates as well as 2 grams of fiber.

Since they are low in sugar and carbohydrates, carrots are healthy for most horses. Fiber is essential in helping horses maintain a healthy digestive system. Carrots are full of nutrients that are all beneficial to the health of most horses. (source)

Carrot Feeding Details

Different Ways of Feeding Carrots to Horses

As long as you feed carrots in moderation, you can prepare them for your horse in a variety of ways.

  • Feed them a carrot just the way it is, letting the horse bite off one piece at a time.
  • Chop up carrots and toss them in your horse’s food trough or on top of their hay.
  • Bake your own own homemade treats for your horses and add chopped up carrots to the mix as an added treat.
  • Mix them into your horse’s bran mash as a treat (alone or with other vegetables).
  • Use a cheese grater and shred up the carrots into tiny pieces to add to various treat mixtures.
  • Find ways to use them as behavioral enrichment by incorporating into toys or hiding them around the paddock.
  • Freeze chopped up carrots for your horses. The key is to make sure they are small enough that a horse will not accidentally choke if they swallow them whole.

Wash Carrots Before You Feed Them

Any vegetable or fruit that you feed your hose should be rinsed off first. A carrot travels from the ground to a farmer then off to the grocery store that you found it in. It passes through many hands and is exposed to many germs and possibly even preservatives of some kind.

To clean carrots, you can dip them in saltwater and then rinse them off with cold water. Typically, this removes most of the residue from the surface of the carrot. (source) This makes vegetables safer for you and your horse. After that, the carrot is safe to feed to most horses.

Hide pieces of carrot around your horse’s paddock to encourage him to move around during the day and keep him active.

Feed Carrots in Moderation

How many carrots can I feed my horse? All treats should be fed to horses in moderation. Horses notoriously have a sensitive digestive system and too much of certain foods can cause them severe gastrointestinal issues.

Feeding too many carrots in one day could also cause your horse to not eat their normal food, which is essential for proper digestion.

Feeding one to two carrots per day is recommended by the majority of horse owners. I would not feed more than 2 per day and it is helpful if you feed them at different times.

Horses are used to eating small meals throughout the day and breaking up the treats will help maintain their eating schedule.

Carrot Top

Are the carrot tops, the leaves, safe for my horse to eat? Carrot leaves, or tops, are not toxic or poisonous to humans or horses. You can feed the top leafy part of a carrot to horses, however, make sure that you do not overfeed them.

Fresh carrots that haven’t been packaged can be found with the leafy tops still attached. There are some equine enthusiasts out there that believe that the carrot tops are toxic to horses and may cause colic. This is not true, however, you will want to make sure they are free from pesticides.

Quantity of carrot tops fed to horses, just like any other treat, should be limited. Overfeeding any food can be dangerous for horses and lead to colic, a severe digestive issue in horses that is potentially fatal.

Carrot Colors

colored carrots

Can I feed my horse carrots that different colors? Carrots of any shade are okay for horses.

Did you know that carrots come in a few different colors including red, purple, black and yellow? Although they vary in some of their nutrients, which accounts for the different colors, carrots of any shade are okay for horses.

Purple carrots, for example, contain high amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. (source)

Possible Concerns with Feeding Carrots to Horses

Insulin Resistant Horses

Can horses with metabolic issues eat carrots? Carrots are low in sugar and carbohydrates. Due to this, it may be okay to feed one carrot to your horse each day if he or she suffers from metabolic disorders including insulin resistance.

It depends on the specific horse and the severity of its disorder. It is imperative to consult your vet to find out if carrots are appropriate to feed to your horse as a treat. (source)

Horses with HYPP

Horses with HYPP should not eat carrots. Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is a disorder in horses that requires owners to keep a close eye on the horse’s potassium intake. (source)

One carrot contains about 230 milligrams of potassium. (source) Due to this relatively high potassium content, carrots are not suitable for horses with HYPP. You should never feed them carrots or any treats that contain potassium.

Use Caution When Feeding Carrots to Horses With Teeth Issues

Shredded carrot is great for horses with teeth issues.

Horses that have dental issues including tooth loss and decay often need to eat foods that are softer and easy to chew. Carrots are crunchy and require quite a bit of chewing, so they are not the best option for feeding as treats to these horses.

If the horse cannot chew carrots up properly, they could inadvertently swallow a piece that is too large and they could choke on it.

You do have the option of cooking the carrots first and then feeding them as a treat, however, cooking vegetables often removes some of their nutrients.

You can also chop them up in very small pieces or shred them into even smaller pieces if you still want to feed carrots to a horse that has tooth issues. (source)

Don’t forget…

  • Carrots are healthy for most horses.
  • Talk to your vet before adding carrots to your horse’s diet.
  • Always feed carrots in moderation, not more than 2 per day.
  • Do not feed to horses with HYPP.
  • Use caution when feeding carrots to horses with metabolic disorders.
  • Be careful feeding carrots to horses with dental issues.
  • Rinse carrots before feeding them to your horse.

Final Thoughts

Carrots, regardless of their hue, are all healthy treats for horses, as long as they are fed in moderation. All treats fed to our equine friends should be fed only in limited quantities. This makes them safer for our horses and prevents overindulgences that could lead to possible farm calls for our veterinarians. Carrots are good for not only us, but for most of our horses as well.

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.