Sharing is caring, and most of us want our equine pals to enjoy whatever tasty treats we are snacking on. Horses are physically very different from humans, so it can be difficult to know what will agree with them – after all, most of us wouldn’t want to tuck into a hay net, so can horses eat blueberries, and what happens if they do?
Horses can eat blueberries, and many will enjoy them. The staple diet of a horse must always be roughage, but an occasional handful of fresh blueberries can be a healthy, tasty treat. Not all horses will develop a taste for blueberries, and they should never be forced to eat them.
Are blueberries healthy for horses; do they enjoy eating blueberries; can they eat blueberry plants, and more importantly, will their poop turn blue? We will answer all these and other important blueberry-related questions so you know exactly how to share your delicious clamshell of blueberries with your equine buddy.
Can Horses Eat Blueberries?
Horses can eat blueberries, so long as they don’t eat too many. If they enjoy the taste, most horses will eagerly beg for more. Owners must resist the temptation to give in and possibly upset the microbial balance in their horse’s digestive system.
Blueberries are frequently referred to as a super food for humans as they are naturally rich in a range of vitamins, including Vitamins C, B, B1, B2, and A. They are also a valuable source of antioxidants which can provide natural anti-inflammatory properties and boost the immune system.
While fresh blueberries are certainly safe to feed your horse, the bio availability of some vitamins to horses is not the same as for humans. Different kinds of animals have adapted specific digestive systems primed to remove required nutrients in specific ways. For example, in horses, vitamin C is mainly extracted from green grass and foliage like alfalfa.
While many sources recommend feeding blueberries for the beneficial health effects, there is little evidence that adding blueberries to your horse’s diet will have any significant positive physical health impact. Like all fruit, they should also only ever be offered in very limited quantities, so major health benefits on such a large animal would be negligible.
Blueberries are non-toxic, and your horse may love the taste, but they should never be viewed as a tonic or health supplement. These super-juicy fruits are likely to become a favorite and can be offered confidently as a safe, delicious, tasty treat.
Why Do Horses Love Blueberries?
Horses love the taste of ripe blueberries because they are sweet. Like many humans, horses usually have a sweet tooth and crave sugary treats.
Blueberries are an ideal sweet treat to offer to horses. They contain a moderate to high amount of natural sugar, but unlike feeding sugar cubes, it is in a healthy form. Blueberries have more than double the amount of sugar per 100g compared to carrots, so it is no wonder most horses love the taste of these tiny blue fruits.
If given in moderation, besides being moreish, blueberries contain an array of vitamins and antioxidants. However, horse owners need to remember that just because blueberries are healthy, not all their nutrients may not be in a form that is readily available to horses.
There is no denying that many horses love blueberries, and they are a safe snack that will add interest and variation to their staple diet. A handful of blueberries are an excellent reward or occasional treat for your horse.
When Not To Give Blueberries To Horses
Most horses love fruit, and providing your horse with snacks can be a great way to bond and make it feel loved. Offering them a selection of healthy fruits along with their staple roughage can provide variety and interest for the horse.
Blueberries are an excellent and healthy fruit to offer a horse when you want to change things up from the usual carrots or apples as treats. However, unlike these other two, blueberries have a short shelf life and can go bad very quickly.
Before feeding blueberries, check the following:
- Are they washed? Mold can grow around single berries and quickly spoil a whole punnet. Always give them a quick rinse before offering them to horses.
- Are they ripe? If you grow blueberries yourself, unripe fruit can slip into the harvest. Unripe blueberries are hard and very sour.
- Are they still good? Besides possibly developing an outer coating of mold, overripe or hot blueberries can quickly go mushy or become rotten. Unless they are refrigerated, blueberries should be consumed within a day, both by humans and horses.
Do Horses Need To Eat Blueberries?
According to Rutgers University, horses’ diet varies considerably between countries, and treats in one country may differ entirely from treats in another – horses in Ireland may even occasionally receive ale! The most important factor is that horses must receive adequate roughage as their bodies are designed to take up nutrition from grassy stalks.
Horses do not need blueberries in their diet and can get all the nutrition they require from good-quality grazing or hay. If necessary, grain can be added, but nothing can take the place of roughage – they need a regular supply to keep their digestive system moving.
As most horses are acutely aware, horses cannot throw up or burp, so it is essential that whatever goes in the one end keeps on moving and comes out the other side. They must be able to eat small amounts throughout the day and night, and they can eat for up to 16 hours a day.
According to a study on equine nutrition, almost all of a horse’s vitamin supply either comes from sunlight (Vitamin D) or can be found in green leafy silage. When fodder quality is low, horses may experience a dip in Vitamin E. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, when required, the most effective form of Vitamin E supplementation is using a water-soluble supplement created specifically for equines.
So, while there is no medical evidence to indicate that horses need blueberries in their diet, they will appreciate them. The natural sweetness will make them an ideal snack they will enjoy in addition to their high-fiber staple diet.
Are There Any Benefits To Feeding A Horse Blueberries?
Absolutely! Blueberries are a tasty, natural treat that many horses enjoy. Most horse owners love giving their horses an occasional snack, and blueberries tick all the boxes.
Although horses don’t need to eat blueberries to be healthy, many do love them. A handful of blueberries is a great way to provide positive reinforcement while doing groundwork or after an event. Desired actions like lifting feet for the farrier or successfully boxing can be rewarded with a handful of these delicious treats.
Introducing blueberries to a horse’s diet can also have an unexpected, potentially lifesaving spin-off. Once they get used to them, most horses crave blueberries and can’t get enough of them. This may not seem important until you have a sick horse that needs to be coaxed to eat.
The best way to get nutrients into a sick horse is to encourage it to start eating on its own. Tubing and IV are an option when horses aren’t eating but adding an irresistible treat to food is a good way to try to perk a horse’s interest. Usual treats for this include molasses and apple sauce, but sweet, juicy blueberries may be the ace up your sleeve that you need to encourage your sick horse to show interest in its food.
What Are The Dangers Of Feeding Horses Blueberries?
There is no danger in giving a horse an occasional handful of blueberries, but it must never be excessive. Any significant change in a horse’s diet or sudden sugar intake could lead to colic.
A horse’s digestive tract is a complex system designed to move volume. The small intestine alone can be between 50 – 70 feet long. Blueberries are safe and healthy when offered as a handful, but horses must never be forced to eat them. If they enjoy the taste, it’s a great occasional treat, but they should never be given in large amounts.
Eating a bucket full of blueberries will inevitably result in an upset stomach and gastrointestinal discomfort. Most experts recommend that safe fruits like carrots, apples, and blueberries are given in quantities of not more than two pieces of fruit a day. Blueberries are small, so half a cupful would equal one portion of fruit.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners lists one of the leading causes of founder, also called l am in it is, in horses as an overload of grain, fruit, or snacks. Yet another reason to only give your horse a handful of these delicious fruits at a time.
Can Horses Eat Frozen Blueberries?
Offering your horse a handful of ice-cold frozen blueberries on a hot day can be a welcome and refreshing treat. If your horse enjoys the taste of blueberries, and most do, this is a great way to provide variation.
Freezing blueberries is also an excellent way to preserve them, especially if you are growing them yourself or find a great bulk deal at a farmer’s market. Like all fruit, blueberries should only be offered to horses as an occasional treat, but they often become a highly anticipated favorite.
Blueberries are in season in North America during late spring and throughout the summer months. Horses should never get more than half a cup per serving, so horse owners can freeze them in small individual portions and take them out when required.
How To Introduce A Horse To Blueberries
Like all new foods, some horses will immediately take to blueberries and become addicted, while others will be less excited about trying them. Even if your horse loves them from the start, it is important to start their blueberry-snacking journey slowly.
Introduce blueberries gradually in case there is an adverse reaction. Let the horse smell two or three berries and taste them. Then wait a few days to ensure they were well tolerated before increasing the amount or offering a handful.
If your horse isn’t interested in the new fruit, try to make it more appealing by mixing them into oatmeal cookies to get it used to the taste. Some horses don’t have adventurous palettes and prefer to stick with their regular carrots and apple munchies. You could also try offering alternative treats like strawberries or watermelon instead of blueberries.
Can Horses Eat Blueberries Every Day?
One serving of blueberries a day, which is approximately half a cupful, is fine for horses if they are used to eating them. They should only be provided as a treat or sweet reward and must never be considered a staple source of nutrition for a horse.
Horses that enjoy the taste of blueberries may become a little pushy if they become an everyday item. Rewarding a horse each time it approaches you in a field can quickly lead to unwanted, often dangerous behavior as animals often dash over expecting treats.
It is especially important for owners never to become viewed as horse treat-vending machines by their horses, especially when there is no physical barrier between them. Some horses can become over-confident and determined when it comes to getting sweet treats which can become nerve-wracking for owners walking in the pasture, especially in a herd situation.
It is better to occasionally offer blueberries or other treats as rewards for desired behavior as part of a bonding routine when they are inside their stall. Since blueberries are small and round, they can roll out your flat, outstretched palm when they are hand fed. It is sometimes better to place them in your horse’s feed bucket.
Do Wild Horses Eat Blueberries?
Since blueberries occur naturally in some places in North America, and since they are delicious and not poisonous, one can assume that wild horses will snack on them if they find bushes that have ripe berries. However, it is unlikely that they will specifically seek them out as a source of nutrition since they are foragers dependent on bulk amounts of roughage for nutrients.
Horses, whether domestic or wild, love to explore and may nibble on an assortment of plants. It is essential for horse owners to ensure that there is always plenty of safe grazing or palatable hay available. Pasture areas should be kept free of noxious weeds like jimsonweed and oleander.
Can Horses Eat Dried Blueberries?
Dried blueberries contain almost double the amount of sugar per serving compared to fresh ones. That is because the water content in the juice has evaporated, and the sugar in the fruit has concentrated.
Most horses love the taste of dried blueberries, although the fresh fruit option is healthier. However, like raisins, dried blueberries are a great treat option when fresh berries aren’t available.
Dried blueberries are also less messy to carry around than fresh fruit. They are less likely to stain your clothes and skin, so they can be a more practical method of delivering yummy blueberries to your horse.
Since horses should never receive more than half a cup of blueberries per day and not every day, dried blueberries can work well as a stand-in for fresh ones. The dry form is particularly useful when it’s midwinter if it is your horse’s favorite treat.
Can Horses Eat Blueberry Plants?
All parts of the blueberry plant are non-toxic, which is great news for horse owners since plenty of varieties occur naturally in North America. It is sometimes impossible to scour every inch of your horse’s pasture, so if you have wild blueberries growing in the area, you don’t have to worry about them.
Horses can eat blueberries, but they must never take the place of an equine’s daily intake of roughage. Unlike squirrels or rabbits, which have digestive systems adapted to consume lots of vitamin-loaded fruit, horses are designed to eat large quantities of roughage – it’s where the term ‘eats like a horse’ originated.
Horses kept in paddocks that include natural vegetation may have encountered wild blueberry bushes and may snack on ripe fruit if they find it. It is unlikely that they will munch the stems or leaves of the shrub since they have an unpalatable waxy coating. But even if they did, the plant is not poisonous, and studies have shown that rats fed blueberry leaves showed no adverse health effects.
Practical Tips When Feeding Blueberries To Horses
While there is plenty to be said about the benefits of offering blueberries to your horse as an occasional treat, they may not always be the most practical choice. Three important things to keep in mind for horse owners with blueberry-mad horses:
- As healthy as they may be, blueberries are not an ideal treat to let your horse snack on before you enter the show ring! A little trail of blue juice dripping off your immaculately groomed horse’s chin during an event will never be a catchy look.
- Never carry blueberries as a horse snack in your pockets – it will not end well. The squishy blue berries will cause permanent dark stains that may ruin your riding gear.
- There are some people who don’t like the taste of blueberries. It is the same with horses. Each one is an individual.
So long as they are eating sufficient roughage in the form of grazing or good quality hay and balanced pellet horse feed if required, you should experiment to see which healthy fruits or snacks your horse will enjoy the most as a treat. Horses don’t need blueberries in their diet so if you have one that doesn’t like them, find an alternative fruit treat that it prefers.
What Fruit Should Horses Never Eat?
Most horse owners know that food like chocolate, potatoes, and cabbage should be avoided, but it can be tricky when it comes to fruit. There are actually very few fruits that horses can’t eat – however, even if they are safe, horses should never eat more than two servings of fruit per day.
So, what fruits must never be on your horse’s menu? Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Many people think of these as vegetables, but since they contain seeds, they are technically fruits. These items are all members of the nightshade family of plants and must be on the no-go list as snacks for your horse.
Avocado is another fruit that must never be given to horses. Most parts of avocados are toxic, including the peel, seeds, and leaves of the plant. Merck Veterinary Manual specifically lists avocados as a hazard to a variety of animals, including horses.
While horses may enjoy the taste of stone fruit like peaches, apricots, cherries, and plums, these must only be offered after the pits are removed. An overenthusiastic smacker may swallow the hard pit, which could be a choking hazard.
Fruits like blueberries, apples, bananas, and watermelon are ideal, safe horse treats. Some horses have particular favorites, while others will happily accept whatever treat is on offer.
Do Blueberries Stain Your Hands?
Most horse owners are no strangers to getting their hands dirty, but the inky blue stains of blueberries can be tricky to remove from your skin. This is specifically a challenge for owners who love to hand-feed their horses these juicy treats since some of the blueberries are likely to get squished onto your hands.
The fear of staining your skin should not prevent you from giving your horse blueberries as an occasional snack. A quick, natural method to remove blueberry stains from your skin is to make a thick mixture using a teaspoon of cornmeal and a dash of lemon juice.
Rub the paste onto your stained hands and let it soak for a few minutes. Then rinse it off, and the blueberry stain will be gone.
Will Horse Poop Turn Blue From Eating Blueberries?
Blueberries must only ever be fed to horses as a snack in very low quantities. A handful of blueberries mixed with a daily amount of up to 20 pounds of roughage for a 1000-pound horse is unlikely to be noticeable in its poop.
However, if your horse somehow gets hold of a bucket of blueberries and munches them down, it may come out the other side in a messy, dark format. So no, an occasional handful of blueberries provided as a treat will not turn your horse’s poop blue. They are simply too big, and there should be a lot of other things moving through their system at the same time.
The same cannot be said for any stable yard chickens that may eagerly snatch up dropped blueberries. Although blueberries are perfectly healthy for chickens to eat, you may quickly notice if they have eaten a few!
Horse owners can confidently give blueberries to their horses as treats. Blueberries are healthy fruits packed with vitamins and natural antioxidants, but they cannot replace a horse’s staple diet, which must be good-quality roughage. Blueberries can be offered fresh, frozen, or dried.