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Can Horses Eat Carrots? + Nutrition & Using As A Treat

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Carrots are a perfect treat for horses. They’re nutritional, and offer your horse a nice change from their normal feed. They should always be fed as a treat though, to avoid upsetting your horse’s stomach. They’re also pretty inexpensive.

As long as you take some time to wash and prepare carrots properly, they’re a perfect treat for horses. You can also consider other fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, pumpkin, and strawberries as other great horse treats. Let’s dive into all these details!

Key Takeaways:

  • Carrots are a perfect, inexpensive, and nutritious treat for horses.
  • Feed your horse up to two large carrots a day, at different times, as a treat. Don’t overfeed, or your horse may start ignoring its normal food, which can lead to digestive issues. (source)
  • Wash and chop carrots before feeding, and consider other prep options like grating, mashing into your horse’s bran mash, or boiling (and cooling) to soften them.
Horse eating carrot

Are Carrots Are Healthy for Horses? You Bet!

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. As a matter of fact, here’s the full nutritional breakdown:

Calories41 kcal
Water88.29 g
Protein0.93 g
Fat0.24 g
Carbohydrates9.58 g
Fiber2.8 g
Sugar4.74 g
Vitamin A835 µg
Vitamin C5.9 mg
Calcium33 mg
Iron0.3 mg
Nutrition Facts for 1 Large Carrot

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) Like Oranges, which are also safe for horses, carrots make a great treat.

Do Carrots Have “Too Much” Sugar for Horses?

As you can see, a carrot only has about 5g of sugar overall. If you feed in moderation (~2 large carrots/day), the sugar content of a carrot will never meaningfully affect your horse’s system.

What About Other Equine Animals?

Horses, ponies, mules, and even donkeys will all have similar nutritional responses to carrots. They will also all consider them great treats as complements to their normal feed.

These “non-ruminant herbivores” (to use a technical term) process a lot of cellulose, or plant fiber, from grass and hay normally. So, offering treats like carrots or other fruits and vegetables (see the next section) is a great complement.

What Other Fruits & Vegetables Can Horses Eat? (Most Popular Equine Treats)

And remember, apples and carrots are traditional favorites of horses, so mix it up and offer some apples sometimes as well. It’s important to have multiple horse treats that your horses like. You’d get sick of eating the same thing too every day, so just imagine how old grass or hay gets to a horse over time.

Here are some other treats you can offer your horse–just remember the general guideline to keep the treats as a very small portion of your horse’s overall diet. And note that for each of these we have a dedicated article you can peruse.

Want more options? Check out our article on 15 Fruits and Vegetables Horses Love to Eat!

Carrot Feeding Details

How Many Carrots Can A Horse Eat Per Day?

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. Avoid feeding too many carrots in one day, because this could cause your horse to not eat their normal food, which is necessary for proper digestion.

Feeding one to two carrots per day is recommended by the majority of horse owners. I personally wouldn’t feed more than 2 large carrots per day, and it is helpful if you feed them at different times. (source)

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

Different Ways of Feeding Carrots to Horses

Young woman feeds the horse with carrot

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.

Take the time to think about your horse and what it needs. Treats are just treats, after all, and “due to the risk of colic or choke, many horse owners do not allow their horses to be given treats.” (source: Wikipedia)

So, if you’re going to feed carrots to your horse, take the time to do it right and prep the carrots to avoid choke. See our article on colic for more on this.

Wash Carrots Before You Feed Them

Generally, you should remember to treat your horse’s food just like you would yours. 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 salt water 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.


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 who 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.

The 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

Heirloom carrots at a farmers market.

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

brown quarter horse

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

grated carrot in bowl and on a table
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.