Can a horse eat too many apples?

Horses love apples, and an apple or two can make a nice treat. But can horses eat too many apples? Let’s take a look at the potential benefits and risks of feeding apples to horses.

The Appeal of Apples for Horses

There are several reasons why apples are a popular treat for horses:

  • Apples are sweet and flavorful, which makes them appealing to horses.
  • The crunchy texture provides mental stimulation.
  • Apples are readily available and easy for owners to feed.
  • They can be fed whole, sliced, or cubed to accommodate different sized horses.
  • Apples are often viewed as a “safe” treat that is unlikely to cause digestive upset.

In moderation, apples offer some nutritional benefits for horses as well. Apples contain antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium. The natural sugars provide a quick energy boost. So there are certainly some advantages to giving apples as the occasional treat.

Potential Downsides of Too Many Apples

However, there are some potential downsides if horses consume too many apples:

  • Weight gain – Apples are high in sugar, with a typical apple containing 19-20 grams of sugar. While horses need dietary sources of sugar for energy, excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain, especially in inactive horses.
  • Gastrointestinal issues – Too many apples could lead to loose stool, gas, or colic due to the high fructose content. The acidity may also disturb the pH balance in the hindgut.
  • Tooth decay – The natural sugars in apples could contribute to dental decay if fed excessively over time.
  • Behavior issues – Horses may become pushy or nippy if they expect frequent apple treats.
  • Nutritional imbalances – Apples should not make up a significant portion of a horse’s diet. An excess could lead to deficits in other nutrients.
  • Choking hazard – Whole apples or large slices could pose a choking risk if not thoroughly chewed.

So while the occasional apple or two is unlikely to cause problems, horses should not eat large quantities of apples on a regular basis.

How Many Apples Can a Horse Eat Safely?

There are no absolute rules governing how many apples a horse can eat safely. As with most treats, moderation and proper portioning are key. Some general guidelines include:

  • Limit treats to no more than 10% of a horse’s total daily caloric intake.
  • For a 1000 lb horse, treats should make up no more than 2-4 lbs of feed per day.
  • Divide treats out into multiple small servings rather than one large portion.
  • Try to limit apples to several slices or no more than 1 apple per day for a typical sized horse.
  • Always feed apples as part of a balanced diet and adjust rations accordingly.
  • Cut back on grain/concentrate portions if supplementing with apple treats.

Owners should also consider factors like the individual horse’s weight, activity level, metabolic health, dental health, and if they are prone to gastrointestinal issues when determining appropriate apple treat amounts. Consulting with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian can help develop suitable treat guidelines for each horse.

Best Practices for Feeding Apples Safely

If owners want to provide apples but avoid overfeeding, some best practices include:

  • Purchase organic when possible. This reduces chemical exposures from pesticides and coatings.
  • Wash apples thoroughly to remove dirt and surface contaminants.
  • Remove seeds and stems as these can pose a choking risk.
  • Cut into bite-sized pieces. Quarters or eighths are a safe size.
  • Hand feed small amounts. This prevents horses from bolting treats.
  • Offer only a few slices at a time, spaced throughout the day.
  • Save apples for special occasions rather than everyday treating.

Proper dental care is also important when feeding apples. Routine dental exams and floatings can help minimize the risks of tooth decay. Avoid feeding apples to horses with dental issues until those problems have been addressed.

Healthier Alternatives to Apples

For horses that really enjoy treats or need added calories, some healthier alternatives to try instead of apples include:

  • Carrots – Lower in sugar
  • Bananas – Provide potassium
  • Watermelon – High water content
  • Pears – Less acidic than apples
  • Unsweetened horse treats/muffins – Designed for equine nutrition needs

There are also some homemade treat recipes that provide more balanced nutrition, such as:

  • Oatmeal cookies with carrots or applesauce
  • Bran muffins with carrots and honey
  • Horse cookies made from grains and molasses

Owners should introduce any new treats gradually and monitor the horse’s response. Consulting a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help identify healthier treat alternatives tailored to the individual.

Signs a Horse is Eating Too Many Apples

Some signs that a horse may be getting too many apples or other treats can include:

  • Noticeable weight gain, especially around the crest of the neck
  • Loose manure
  • Increased gassiness or bloating
  • Frequent mild colic episodes
  • Increased fussiness during grooming or handling the mouth
  • Increased presence of dental gaps or tooth root exposure
  • Excessive chewing or tooth grinding
  • Increase in cribbing or other stable vices
  • Apathy about regular feed, grain refusal

Owners should monitor their horse’s condition closely and be on the lookout for signs of adverse reactions. If any symptoms of concern develop, reduce or discontinue apple treats and consult a veterinarian if needed.


Are apple seeds and stems safe for horses to eat?

Apple seeds contain amygdalin, a compound that releases cyanide when ingested, so seeds should be removed before feeding. Apple stems also pose a choking hazard and should be cut off as well.

Can I give my horse apple slices, chunks, or whole apples?

For safety, it is best to core apples and cut into quarters or smaller slices before feeding. Whole apples pose a greater choking risk and are harder to portion control.

How long can apples be stored before feeding?

Fresh apples can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. Refrigerating can prolong shelf life slightly longer. Old or rotting apples should always be discarded.

Besides weight gain, what are the biggest risks of feeding too many apples?

Excessive apples most commonly cause gastrointestinal upset like gas, colic, or diarrhea due to the high sugar and acidic content. Dental decay is also a risk long-term.

Should I reduce grain or hay if I am feeding more apples as treats?

Yes, it is ideal to cut back on concentrates or grain ration when supplementing with high-sugar treats to prevent excessive calorie intake. Hay should remain consistent.

Can horses eat apple peels?

Yes, apple peels are safe for horses to eat. In fact, much of the fiber and antioxidants are contained in the peel. Just thoroughly wash before feeding.

What about dried apples or apple chips?

Dried apple snacks are very high in sugar and not ideal for frequent feeding. A few occasionally are unlikely to cause issues. But moderation is still recommended.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, apples make a fine occasional treat for horses as long as they are fed in moderation. Limiting apples to a few small slices just 1-2 times per week is a good general guideline. Owners should adjust quantities based on the individual horse’s needs and monitor closely for any adverse reactions. With sensible portions, apples can be enjoyed safely as part of a balanced equine diet.

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