Can Horses Eat Oranges?

January 6, 2023
can horses eat oranges

Horses and carrots go together like peanut butter and jelly. But sometimes, you open up the fridge to find emptiness staring back and require a plan B. Also, it’s fun to give your horses new treats and watch their faces scrunch up in perplexed delight. First, however, we must ensure nothing will hurt our beloved four-hooved beasts. For example, can horses eat oranges?

white horse in the grass

Horses can eat oranges as a treat. But they shouldn’t make up a significant portion of an equine diet. Horses use ascorbic acid (vitamin C), synthesizing it from glucose, for bone calcification and antioxidant functions. It also helps weaned foals when stressed, such as during transport.

Anyone who loves horses has a colic story. Even if it isn’t their tale, they know someone who has been through it. Of course, nobody wants to mistakenly give their horse toxic food or upset their digestive system. But even safe foods must be introduced gradually. Nor should treats make up a significant part of their diet. But there are benefits to giving your horse will eat the occasional orange.

Can I Give My Horse Oranges As Treats?

Oranges can be given to horses. Introduce them gradually and cut them into chunks to ensure they don’t choke. Also, wash it first, as it is common to spray in orchards, and that stuff can stick around long after they are harvested.

However, oranges are only meant to be a treat and are never used as a main food source. Roughage from the pasture and giving them hay, alfalfa, orchard grass, or teff keep horses happy and healthy. But as always, chat with your vet if you are unsure.

Can I Freeze Cut Oranges For Horses?

Cutting up oranges and freezing them in treat portions is excellent. It makes for easy storage and access, cutting out the fuss when you want to dash off to the barn.

Can Donkeys Eat Oranges?

Oranges are also safe for donkeys. As with horses, the orange should be washed and cut into chunks before serving.

Are Orange Peels Toxic To Horses?

Orange peels are perfectly safe for horses and donkeys.

They are packed with nutrition:

However, not all horses enjoy the taste of an orange peel. So you might have to peel it for your fussier friends.

Are Polyphenols Beneficial For Horses?

Polyphenols, found in orange peels, can be beneficial for horses. A 2016 study found that giving senior bioactive polyphenols instead of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) worked just as well, if not slightly better.

However, don’t try to replace yourhorse’s NSAIDs with orange peels. Oranges can only be given to our equine friends as the occasional treat, not as a significant part of their daily diet.

Are Orange Seeds Toxic To Horses?

Orange seeds are perfectly safe for horses and donkeys to eat. Humans can eat them too. They are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of fiber and antioxidants, including vitamin C.

Group of horses eating

Orange seeds contain a tiny cyanide trace, which sounds far more alarming than reality. Citrus, such as oranges and nectarine,have a fraction of what is found in apple seeds (even those are not dangerous in small quantities.)You’d have to feed your horse a wheelbarrow’s worth of seeds to begin causing problems. Since you’re not supposed to give them that many treats anyway, you’re fine.

Is Vitamin C Healthy For Horses?

Horses do need scorbutic acid (vitamin C) to stay healthy. The American Farriers Journal noted that it isn’t just for the immune system. The antioxidant is essential in equine health for the building and maintenance of connective tissues:

  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Joint cartilage
  • The walls of blood vessels
  • The structural framework of the skeletal system

However, unless specifically instructed by a vet, there is no need to put your horse on an ascorbic acid supplement or provide oranges daily.

Can Horses Make Vitamin C?

Horses, like most mammals, can make (synthesize) vitamin C thanks to their liver and glucose. Humans’ inability to make their own is a mammal oddity. So most horses don’t need scorbutic acid added to their diet. Instead, excess is flushed out of the body.

Thus, if you buy fancy vitamin C supplements, you’re essentially investing in expensive equine pee. Also, scorbutic acid supplements are not suitable for them longer-term.

When Do Horses Need Vitamin C?

Horses generally make enough scorbutic acid to meet their needs. However, stress can hamper their natural production. For example, a study in 2012 found that foals that have been weaned and transported benefit from vitamin C supplementation post-transportation. However, it is not recommended to be given long-term.

Sometimes veterinarians may recommend occasional supplementation in particular circumstances, such as the following:

  • Hay-only diet (horse has no access to pasture due to drought or other challenges)
  • Post-competitive trail riding
  • Equine motor neuron disease
  • Senior horse post-vaccination
  • Pituitary dysfunction
  • Cushing’s syndrome

However, long-term supplementation is seldom recommended. Instead, it is typically administered, like with the foals, for a short series of days or put on a schedule, such as twice a month.

But as previously mentioned, giving your horse an orange a couple of times a week as a treat is not a problem. The caution is only for people trying to administer equine supplements containing vitamin C, which should only be done with a vet’s supervision.

When Are Oranges Bad For A Horse?

Oranges are perfectly safe to give as an occasional treat to a healthy and happy horse. However, some horses should not be fed oranges and require more caution with their treats.

Steer clear of the tasty treats if the following applies to your horse:

  • Scorbutic acid supplements
  • Hyperglycemia periodic paralysis
  • Insulin-resistant
  • Laminitis
  • Obese
  • Ulcers

Can Senior Horses Have Oranges?

Senior horses also enjoy oranges as treats. However, you might want to peel them to make them easier to consume. Chewing is harder for older equines. Also, like all horses, if they have specific health problems that require a low-sugar diet, they can’t eat them.

man with a horseCan Horses Eat Tangerines?

Horses can eat tangerines, including the skin and peel. However, even though they are smaller, it is still recommended to cut them up.

Can Horses Choke On Oranges And Tangerines?

It is rare for a horse to choke on an orange or tangerine. However, if you give them whole, there is a risk. Thus, cut them up into chunks for the sake of your horse and your vet bills.

Can I Let My Horse Have A Sip Of Orange Juice?

Letting your horse have a sip of orange juice can be fun. They’ll probably love it. However, water is the best source of hydration,souse OJ as a treat, not as a water alternative. Also, juice doesn’t have fiber and contains a higher sugar concentration. Thus, it isn’t as healthy as giving them an orange.

What Other Treats Can I Give My Horse?

Oranges and carrots are not the only fruits and vegetables a horse can eat as a treat.

Your horse may safely be given the following in moderation:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Strawberries

What Other Treats Are Bad For My Horse?

Some human treats should never cross your horse’s lips.

Examples include the following:

  • Avocado
  • Caffeine
  • Cabbage
  • Chocolate
  • Nightshades (i.e., potatoes, tomatoes)
  • Onions


Healthy and happy horses can be given a cut-up orange as a treat. The fiber and nutrition in the fruit are good for them, too. However, they don’t need vitamin supplements except in particular circumstances under veterinarian supervision. So, your horse doesn’t need oranges; it’s just a fun way to add some occasional joy to their lives.



I'm Bo, the owner of Smarter Horse. Helping horses be smarter by educating their people.  To find out more about me, click here

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