Sunflower Seeds for Horses: Yea or Nay?

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

In feed rooms all across the country, sunflower seeds are a common sight. Sunflower seeds are rich in fat, which may help horses gain weight, shine, and skin health.

Are all sunflower seeds equal? No. Non-oil sunflower seeds such as those used in bakery and sporting events, are not recommended for horses. Black oil sunflower seeds (or BOSS) are more often fed to horses because of their higher oil content and better digestibility. BOSS are thinner than non-oil seed hulls and hold the kernel more tightly. BOSS are easier to digest and chew because of their thinner hulls.

Are sunflower safe to feed horses? Although ideal feeding rates are not known, the answer is yes. Horses can eat small amounts of BOSS (2-4 oz/day, 56-133g) without any problems and it can also provide some additional calories. Some horse feeds even contain BOSS as an ingredient.

Sunflower Seeds for Horses

“Compared to other oilseeds, BOSS don’t contain any anti-nutritional ingredients that would reduce nutrient use,” stated Kathleen Crandell Ph.D., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research.

BOSS are high in omega-6 fatty acid and contain between 40-50% oil. The inflammatory immune response, cell integrity and skin health are all important functions of omega-6 fatty acids. Modern diets, particularly those that are concentrated, tend to be high in omega-6s. Adding omega-3s to the diet will help restore the desired balance. The addition of fish oil such as EO-3 to your diet can help maintain a balanced ratio between omega-6 and 3. EO-3 is rich in DHA and EPA, which are two essential omega-3s.

Additional fat can improve the coat’s condition. Sunflower oil, which is rich in vitamin E, can help improve the coat condition. Horses that cannot graze on fresh pasture are advised to supplement their diet with a natural-source vitamin-E product such as NanoE.

BOSS are high in protein but low in essential amino acids lysine. This is important for growth. BOSS can be used as a supplement to dietary protein, but not as the primary source.

BOSS is well-known for its ability to support shiny coats and overall health. BOSS can be used in moderation as a supplement to a horse’s balanced diet.

Allison Price
Allison Price

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!