Last Updated on July 27, 2020 by Allison Price
Have you seen horses eat meat?
We are always fascinated by the thought of herbivores turning into carnivores. We tend to organize everything into neat, tidy categories in our minds. So, anything that deviates from the norm seems exciting.
You may be new to taking care of horses. Or you may be curious and wonder. Can I feed my horse with meat?
Horses are herbivores! They are designed to process plant matter. Naturally, they do not eat meat. There have been instances where horses eat animals, but it is not the norm.
Let’s dig a little more about what horses eat and what will happen if they eat meat in this article.
What if my horse likes to eat meat?
You may find that your horse like the smell and taste of the meat. But that doesn’t mean you should feed them with it. It is not good for their digestive system. They have been bred and formed by nature to have a digestive system based on eating plants and hay.
Horses often like the smell of human food. Especially when it contains meat. This is because we eat food that is processed and flavored. And the horse like the smell of it just like you and I.
So, the next time you wonder if you let your horse taste your leftovers, get rid of the meat first.
What will happen if my horse accidentally ate meat?
Nothing. The parts of the meat that can’t be processed by the digestive system will be processed out of the body. Your horse can eat smaller rodents and birds. But they should not eat bigger slices of meat.
If your horse grabbed a piece of your hotdog or a tiny piece of meat, it’s no trouble at all.
A big animal with a little piece of meat should do no harm. But it doesn’t mean you let your horse taste it on purpose.
Why do horses eat meat?
There are some cases when horses eat meat.
Climate like harsh winters can lead to carnivorous tendencies. In Iceland, horses are often fed a diet consisting dried fish in the winter months. So that their proteins will increase.
Tibetan horses who are living in a harsh climate are usually fed a mixture of blood and grain.
These addition to their diet keeps their system healthy. And it helps them survive a cold, unforgiving winter.
Some horses, during a war or other troubled times, have eaten meat as well.
In desert lands, vegetation is a scarce and warring occur regularly. Some people feed their horses with a mixture of honey, dried locusts, and dried camel meat.
Seldom, horse owners in Europe and America add gelatin and bone meal to horse feed. If these are fed right, these will be common supplements. Fortifying food as additives to help horse stock up on needed proteins and fats.
Your horse may also suffer from pica, a mineral deficiency. And may find himself gnawing on totally out of the ordinary things. Like bones, antlers or cartilage. This is to balance out those missing nutrients.
Horses eat meat sometimes by accident. When they don’t know what it is but know you are eating it. There are stories of horses nosing up to owners eating cheeseburgers and taking a bite.
It is not because they are seeking to eat meat based on their cravings. But because they saw you eating it. So, they knew it was edible and they wanted to steal a little bite!
Eating a small quantity of meat is not going to affect their digestion either.
Dried fish, cheeseburger and others may not be desirable to a horse because they are meat. But rather for the sodium content.
A horse may enjoy a good salt lick. And its body crave for those minerals. So, the appeal of the dried fish and other meat is probably more in the salty snack vein for the horses.
What Not to Feed Your Horses
Since horses are herbivores, their teeth and digestive systems cannot handle meat. And even some fruits and vegetables. Here are some foods people eat that you should avoid feeding your horse:
Coffee, tea and cola has stimulant caffeine which can cause an irregular heart rhythm.
Chocolates can cause sever colic, metabolic derangement and internet bleeding in horses.
Garlic and Onions
These contain a chemical which can destroy red blood cells and result in anemia. Leeks, scallions and chives as well. Although garlic is a popular equine supplement, moderation is the key.
The leafy green parts of the tomato plants contain atropine. It can cause colic by slowing gut function. Tomatoes decrease saliva production and intestinal mobility. They increase the heart rate and cause constipation or hemorrhagic diarrhea. Chili peppers and eggplants should also be avoided.
Fruit seeds and pits
Fruits like apples and apricots have pits or seeds. These are toxic in extremely large quantities. Large pits can cause choking. It is best to remove them before feeding your horse peaches or nectarines.
Dog and cat kibble
Dry kibble that contains grain products may be tempting and seem harmless enough. But it also contains meat by products. And such is not suitable for your horse’s consumption.
A potato is green or rotten. The chemical composition can cause toxicosis in all animals including horses. If the potato is eaten whole, it can lodge in the windpipe and result in choke.
Some house plants are dangerous to horses. They can result in diarrhea, renal failure, liver damage, colic and even death. It depends on the species. Although you would not intentionally feed your horse with these. But be careful that they do not have access to live or discarded plants.
In general, the physical nature of a horse is not set up to eat meat. From teeth to stomach to extracting nutrients. The body of the horse is naturally vegetarian. Horse prefer to eat hay. They will also eventually eat grass and green plants. Because their teeth are made for chewing plants and grass. They can eat meat upon occasion, but they don’t actually need it. Just because some horses eat meat in small quantities does not mean most horses could or should. Let’s be careful when choosing the treats. Consider the health of your horse.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!