Galloping across the meadows like a warrior, horses have long occupied the royal status in the pet world. Accordingly, their diet is also quite specific and particular, and may I say regal. One of the most important questions that plague the minds of horse owners is that, can horses eat potatoes.
So, can horses eat potatoes? Yes, horses can eat potatoes but in a very small quantity, and that also cooked or boiled. Raw potatoes contain an enzyme called solanine, which acts as a toxin for horses. However, cooking the potato eliminates the possibility of poisoning, but the starch binding process of the vegetable, which gets activated post-cooking, may aid horse obesity.
Now let’s take a look at all the information before you decide to feed your horse some potato chips!
Why are potatoes harmful to horses?
Potatoes hail from the nightshade family, which are characteristically poisonous for the equine race. Not only do they give rise to gastrointestinal problems, but they can also prove fatal to the horses.
Now, coming to solanine, which is another toxic enzyme present in the potato. This alkaloid is mostly present in the leaves, and the stems of the potato, though traces of it can be found in the vegetable itself.
Green or rotten potatoes can be responsible for toxicosis. High atropine content in the root vegetable also causes a breakdown of the autonomic nervous system. Raw potatoes consumed in large amounts can lead to cardiac arrest of the horse, though those are rare instances.
Can cooked potatoes be fed to a horse?
Cooking removes the solanine enzyme in the potato. However, some enthusiasts believe that chips are a viable alternative to boiled potatoes. This is a misconception as no nutrients are available in the chips and more so the oil causes digestive problems.
Boiled potatoes are the best form of consumption for horses. However, it must be kept in mind that an excessive amount of potatoes, whether cooked or raw, is plainly harmful to the horse. Heat breaks down solanine, and it also solidifies starch.
Many trainers believe that since horses love to munch on crunchy potato chips or fries, it is good to feed it in plenty. However, the often neglected fact that these include sodium and carbohydrates sometimes become the cause of significant problems.
Can horses eat potato peels?
As we have so far surmised that potatoes are potentially toxic to horses. But are potato peels equally harmful? The answer is Yes. Potato peels contain solanine in higher amounts in the skin than in the flesh of the vegetable.
Amounting to 10x more times of solanine in the flesh, potato peels are also enriched with starch, which may lead to obesity, indigestion, and choking if consumed by the horse. Some equine training mavericks have said that their horses are quite fond of the skin and have faced no health issues so far.
However, this theory is not verifiable as all horses are of different builds, and thus, they portray various symptoms accordingly. Immunity can also be a factor when it comes to digesting poison.
Many of the pet owners believe that their pets are an alternative to dumpsters, which cannot be any farther than the truth. Wastes are wastes, and they have no utility to any living being. Therefore, many vets have suggested against feeding wastes to pets as it may turn out to be toxic.
Symptoms of potato poisoning
There are various markers or physical anomalies that will enable you to detect potato poisoning in your horse. Ingestion of the toxins can lead to multiple illnesses and disturbances.
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive water intake
- Abdominal swelling
- Muscle cramping
Severe symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory issues
These apparent symptoms will enable you to take better care of your horse and respond accordingly to your needs without delay.
What to do when your horse eats potato accidentally?
If this actually happens, keep calm and remind yourself that horses are known for their sturdiness. It is really a feat for a horse to get sick by eating a single potato.
A large quantity of this root vegetable needs to be consumed in a short span of time to have an adverse impact.
However, if you see that your horse has consumed a large no. of potatoes and showing symptoms of stomach cramps or other such issues, then consulting a veterinarian at the earliest would be a smart decision.
A given dosage of activated charcoal and neostigmine would decrease the problems along with some few more medicines.
How to keep the horse away from potatoes?
Prevention is always a smarter move than cure, and you can never be too cautious when it comes to taking care of your pet’s health.
Keeping your horse away from the potato garden or stock isn’t too hard if you follow the below-listed methods:
- A keen eye on the areas where your horse likes to stroll or gaze would eliminate the majority of the threat of unsupervised eating.
- Remove the nightshade plants along with the weeds from these areas as early as possible.
- Use plenty of herbicides to prohibit their growth.
- Try to uproot them right from the roots as it would stop pollination.
- Various gardening tools will help in eradicating large plantations of the nightshade plant.
- Plants that kill or restricts the growth of potato shrub can be planted to check the growth.
Vegetables that must be fed to a horse
A regulated diet can save you a lot of trips to the vet, and it also ensures a healthy and active lifestyle for the horse. Mealtime should include two different kinds of veggies that you can give in rotation. 1 or 2 pounds of carrots can easily make up for the lunchtime with a serving of lettuce at the sides.
You can customize this accordingly with beets, celery, squash, green beans, pumpkin, parsnip, cucumber, and corn. Dried legumes like fava, pinto, and chickpeas can also be substituted for grains. However, they should be cooked or treated to heat.
If the horse prefers Brussel sprouts, then it should strictly be kept as a treat and never as a full meal. Other green vegetables may include chard, kale, collard greens, broccoli, turnips, spinach, and radishes.
How to feed your horses?
Horses can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to their eating habits. Mixing the grains with the vegetables or even feeding them separately would do the job. However, before including something permanently in the diet, an allergy test must be carried out to ensure the horse’s safety.
Horses have large, gnawing teeth and thus, larger sized pieces of vegetables can be given to imbibe a habit of chewing.
In many instances, it has been reported that horses have choked on foods, mainly because a chewing pattern was not developed on time.
Foals should be trained from an early age to utilize their chewing habits. In the case of older horses, a mixture of mashed or juiced vegetables can be fed. Even aloe vera juice has been marked healthy for equine consumption.
Horses have found a regular spot in the track and out of it as well. To date, in many countries, sports like polo and horse racing are held in esteem rank. A royal animal in all its rights, a horse requires a lot of taming and care to fetch the best of results.
It is a high maintenance animal in all manner, and from preserving its mane to providing it the correct nutrition, taking care of a horse is a full-time job.
Thorough research on its eating habits must be done to ensure that it does not eat the bad stuff. Staying away from potatoes and other nightshade variety of plants would guarantee health as healthy as a horse.