There’s no debate about whether strawberries are delicious, but since a horse’s digestive system is sensitive, it makes sense to wonder, “Can horses eat strawberries?” Like us humans, horses have a sweet tooth. But they don’t need sugary treats like strawberries for energy. However, there are benefits to eating strawberries (even for horses).
I sometimes eat a few strawberries when I check on my horse, and Moonshine always seems really curious about the red berries. She comes to the fence, sniffs at the fruit, and tries to steal a strawberry or two – that was before a fellow horse owner told me Moonshine could have a few strawberries as a treat.
Since then, I’ve learned all about why horses can eat strawberries and what is the value of these (making Moonshine very happy). No matter whether you are new to owning horses or an old pro, I am always surprised how many horse owners are unsure about what exactly horses can and can’t eat.
So does feeding strawberries to your trusty steed fall in the safe or toxic treat box?
The Answer: Should You Feed Strawberries to Your Horse?
You can feed your horses strawberries as a treat – just don’t add some cream! Strawberries can help hydrate your horse (especially on those hot summer days), boost their immunity, and improve their heart health.
However, you should never overfeed strawberries, and be careful not to give strawberries to a diabetic horse. It’s also essential to rinse pesticides off the fruit and check that there are no moldy spots on them or the plants.
Horses Eating Strawberries: Safe or Toxic?
Horses need to have a balanced diet. While our equine friends primarily eat hay and graze, you can include fruits, veggies, concentrates, and herbs to enhance their diet. Of course, what you feed your horse depends on their nutritional needs, how much work they do, their health, and what’s seasonally available.
Strawberries are safe for horses – but only in moderation or as a tasty treat. Most horses will love strawberries because they are sweet and juicy. I know my bunch enjoys the strawberries I feed them when the fruit is in season since they munch away, obsessed with the delicious berry until it’s finished.
Types and Forms of Strawberries for Horses
When feeding strawberries to horses, a couple of questions probably pop up: Fresh, dried, or frozen? The whole plant (stalk, leaves, and roots) or just the berry? What about strawberry jelly, jam, or yogurt?
In what form and shape are strawberries good for horses?
Here’s a short cheat sheet to help you know what’s safe when feeding strawberries to your horse and what not to feed them:
|Feed Your Horse These Strawberries||Do Not Feed Your Horse These Strawberries|
Benefits of Eating Strawberries for Horses
Strawberries pack quite the punch in the health benefit box, and that’s good news if you want to give your horse strawberries now and again.
The nutritional profile of one cup of fresh sliced strawberries (though you wouldn’t feed a cup at a time):
|Calories: 53||Phosphorus: 39.8 mg|
|Protein: 1.11 g||Potassium: 254 mg|
|Carbohydrates: 12.7 g||Vitamin C: 97.6 mg|
|Dietary Fiber: 3.32 g||Folate (vitamin B9): 39.8 µg|
|Water: 151 g||Vitamin A: 19.9 IU|
|Calcium: 26.6 mg||Sodium: 1.66 mg|
|Iron: 0.681 mg||Magnesium: 21.6 mg|
Other notable vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in strawberries are:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Anthocyanins, such as pelargonidin
- Ellagic acid
Here’s a low-down on the three main benefits of feeding strawberries to your horse (in moderation, of course):
Good for Hydration
Strawberries are 91% water, which is great if your horse needs extra hydration. Of course, you can’t just replace your horse’s total water intake needs with strawberries and other water-rich fruits and veggies. But you can use strawberries to entice them to drink more water and increase their hydration, especially when it gets hot in the summer.
Helps Improve Heart Health
The heart shape of strawberries tells you it should be good for your heart. It helps that various studies have found a direct link between eating berries and improved heart health.
Strawberries contain more than 25 types of anthocyanins, which help decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood pressure. Strawberries also increase vascular function, blood antioxidant status, and good cholesterol.
Supports the Immune System
Strawberries are a nutrient powerhouse because they contain high amounts of antioxidants. They are among the foods with the most potent sources of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help combat oxidative stress, which is harmful to your horses. Vitamin C, one of the antioxidants in strawberries, also supports your horse’s immune system. This essential nutrient helps a horse’s body fight off pathogens that cause disease and illness.
Risks of Feeding Strawberries to Horses
While strawberries are jam-packed with benefits, there are risks when feeding these berries to your horses.
An Allergic Reaction
If you feed strawberries (or any new food) to your horse for the first time, it’s best to do it gradually and see how they react.
Your horse may have an allergic reaction, in which case they may start sneezing, have watery, itchy, or red eyes, have a skin rash, and become congested within 20 minutes of exposure. Your horse may have warned you that they don’t think the strawberries are good for them and refuse a taste – except you may have forced them to eat some berries.
If your horse has an allergic reaction, it’s best to consult your vet, as treatment will depend on the symptoms. Most vets will treat your horse symptomatically; treatment usually involves corticosteroids, analgesics, antihistamines, pain medication, and antispasmodics.
Nasty Side Effects from Too Many Strawberries
Strawberries are pretty high in sugar, and there’s a reason a horse’s typical diet doesn’t include copious amounts of sugar. The side effects of giving your horse too many strawberries include:
- It is bad for their teeth, resulting in cavities, weak teeth that can break easily, and high equine dentist bills (that’s a big no thank you).
- It can cause insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes in the long run.
- Your horse can gain weight, which puts pressure on their joints.
- Too much sugar from strawberries can cause behavioral issues such as bucking, biting, and barging.
- Excess sugar also stresses the digestive tract, leading to ulcers, colic, or laminitis.
- Too many strawberries can cause your horse only to want sweet treats, so they’ll eat less hay, resulting in nutritional deficiencies and digestive issues.
How Many Strawberries Should a Horse Eat? And How Often?
Strawberries should be an occasional treat, but how many strawberries are enough, and how often is “occasionally?”
You can give your horse a cup (five to ten) of strawberries in a week. I usually give my bunch one large strawberry or two smaller strawberries each per day and never more than two or three times a week.
Since variety is the spice of life, I ensure to include various treats (such as apples, celery, carrots, and bananas) to fully optimize the health benefits of fruits and vegetables for my horses. Plus, different kinds of treats keep my horses entertained, and they don’t have a chance to get used to one treat and refuse other tasty morsels.
When Should Horses Not Eat Strawberries?
There are a few instances when you shouldn’t give a horse strawberries. A horse shouldn’t eat strawberries when they are:
- Diabetic, insulin resistant, or have metabolic syndrome
- Allergic to strawberries or other pollen foods
- Under six months old
- In-foal or for lactating mares (as a safety point)
Answer: A horse can eat many kinds of fruit: apples, pears, bananas, watermelon, apricots, strawberries, cherries, grapes, pineapples, citrus fruit like grapefruit and oranges, mangoes, peaches, coconuts, and cucumber. However, washing the fruit, removing any stones or pips, and slicing the fruit into bite sizes is essential.
Answer: Horse-friendly vegetables and fruit make excellent treats, but you can also buy horse treats from Amazon or a nearby pet food retailer. Horses love strawberries, carrots, apples, raisins, hay cubes, pumpkin pieces, and peppermint candies for the occasional treat.
Answer: Strawberries are safe for horses when fed in moderation. You can give your horse one to two strawberries a day, not exceeding ten strawberries over a week. Strawberries are a nutrient powerhouse, helping a horse stay hydrated, boosting their immunity, and improving brain and heart health.
When strawberries are in season, I ensure my horses can enjoy some too. I’ve even planted a few strawberry plants so I can grow organic strawberries for myself and my horses.
Remember to check the strawberries and plants for signs of rot, mold, insects, and disease, then thoroughly wash or soak and rinse the fruit, roots, stalks, and leaves. Slice and dice the berries to ensure you give your horse bite-size pieces, and let your horse enjoy and benefit from everything the berry and the strawberry plant have to offer.
If you’re looking for a trough for your horse to stay hydrated, check out this detailed guide on finding the best horse trough. Or, read this article on the best horse feeder bags so your horse can safely eat hay while stabled.
Read More: How Much Does a Horse Eat in a Day