The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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If you have a horse, then there’s a good chance that you will want to give it a treat one day. Given the fact that horses are natural herbivores, it would make sense for you to feed your house a vegetable-based treat, right?
While this is absolutely true in many contexts, there are some types of vegetables that are not suitable for your horse to consume.
Before you can really dive into the question of what kinds of vegetables can horses eat, you are first going to want to try and have a firm understanding of a horse’s natural diet.
If you understand what horses have evolved to eat and digest, you might have a better understanding of what kinds of fruits and vegetables your horse can eat.
What Should Your Horse Eat?
Horses, naturally, are herbivores. This means that they eat exclusively plant products and that they do not have the digestive flora to be able to handle most meat products.
Most horses cannot handle dairy either, as this falls under the category of animal product. As for what kind of vegetables horses need specifically, you should aim to make sure that your horse has a steady diet of fiber.
When your horse eats, you should make sure that it eats only a little bit at a time, but that it is able to eat often throughout the day. This is important, as a horse’s digestive system is both long and sensitive so you need to provide an environment where your horse will thrive with this.
Most horses are known for eating grass and hay, but you can also feed your horse fruits and vegetables to increase the amount of nutrients your horse gets throughout the day.
Depending on the work that your horse does, if it does any work, you may need to include certain vegetables in the horse’s diet so that it can get the nutrients needed to complete the horse’s job.
When you do feed your horse vegetables outside of hay and freshly grown grass, those vegetables should be high in moisture content, as this is the common purpose of the vegetables. Additionally, because of a horse’s very sensitive digestive system, there are some entire families of vegetables that are completely ruled out.
This is where the question of whether or not your horse can eat cauliflower comes into the matter.
Can a Horse Safely Eat Cauliflower?
Horses, because of their sensitive digestive systems, often stick to only eating grass and hay throughout the day. If you plan on giving your horse some vegetables, they should only be specific ones that cater to your horse’s digestive system. Cauliflower is not one of those vegetables.
In fact, broccoli and the entire cabbage family (turnips, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower) are not acceptable vegetables for horses. They are known for causing digestive discomfort and making your horse extremely gassy.
Not only will this be unpleasant for you, but it will make your horse feel bad enough that it may not want to eat, and if it doesn’t want to eat, it may end up doing some long-term damage as horses need to eat frequently.
Horses cannot safely eat any part of the cauliflower without experiencing some degree of digestive distress. However, keep in mind that horses are quite large. If your horse accidentally eats a tiny piece of a cauliflower floret by mistake, then there’s a chance that it may be able to handle that tiny floret with only a mild increase of gas.
Any more than that accidental piece and you are likely going to have some trouble with your horse’s digestive system. You should try to stick to foods that you know your horse can safely eat, such as carrots, apples, pears, bananas, and even green beans.
The scientific basis of this is the fact that foods within the cruciferous family (the cabbage family) all contain a type of sugar that is known as raffinose. This sugar, when processed by the digestive system, will often produce a fair amount of intestinal gas. This is notable in people as well, but because most people have a hardier digestive system than horses do, people can handle the sugar better.
Horses cannot handle this type of intestinal gas, and if your horse eats a noticeable amount of cauliflower, you are going to have a lot more of a problem than your horse being a little bit more gassy than usual. Raffinose can lead to more severe abdominal pains that are caused by a type of gas-related colic.
In terms of horses, colic is a type of pain that comes from the digestive system. Gas colic in particular is when gas from the intestines causes the gut to become distended, taking up more room in your horse’s abdominal space, causing severe pain that can disrupt your horse’s life.
If the colic is severe enough, you will likely need to take your horse to an equine-friendly vet to let the vet release the gas in a safe manner through a nasogastric tube.
The worst part about feeding your horse cauliflower is that, in the end, gas colic can easily be fatal for your horse. There is no situation where it is safe or acceptable for your horse to be eating cauliflower, and you should restrict your horse’s access to cauliflower if you have any growing naturally near your home.