We all know that a horse likes to eat a juicy carrot, and even the odd Polo mint, but what about fleshy meat?
Whilst we like to feast on a supersized finger lickin’ bucket of chicken, horses are not known for eating meat. That is not to say that a horse would not enjoy it either, as no doubt if they had their way, they would order it off a menu.
However, whilst some animals eat meat every day, like a pet dog or cat, why do we not feed horses meat? If you are curious to know, let us explore further.
A Horse’s Digestive System
Horses do not tend to hunt for meat, and they are most certainly not given meat as a part of their regular diet, but why?
Whilst they may enjoy the taste if given the chance, horses are, in fact, herbivores. Their digestive system has not been created to deal with something like meat, unlike our own which can break it down a lot easier.
Horses tend to eat vegan staples such as ‘plant’ food. Whilst a regular vegan will not be eating a plate full of pasture grass, this is the main area a horse will get its nutrition from – and they likely think it is really tasty too.
The reason for their diet of grass, plants and hay is because their intestines are much larger than carnivores, so the food takes longer to break down and fully digest. Because of this, it means the horse can absorb every bit of the nutrients that it needs from the food.
So, Can A Horse Eat Meat?
As we have already stated, a horse is a herbivore, however that does not mean that they cannot eat meat, and that they will not eat meat.
Due to their digestive system, it probably is not a great idea to eat meat, though in places like Iceland they are regularly given fish to consume, though that is far different than placing a couple of pork chops in your hand for them to chow down.
The reason horses get fed fish in Iceland is because it gets really, really cold during the winter and the horses need to digest extra protein.
There is a possibility that a horse can consume small portions of meat, but for you and your horse to be in a situation where you can only feed them meat, then that is the only reason you would likely feed them meat.
Whilst meat may provide some nutritional benefits, it should never form a part of their diet, whether as a supplement or as a main area. They are just not designed to eat it, and it could cause problems in the long-term.
What Happens If A Horse Eats Meat?
Whilst a tiny amount of meat probably will not do anything, it is best to steer clear of it when it comes to the horse’s diet. If it is a small portion, they should be able to flush it out due to it not being able to be digested.
Horses do not know what is good and bad for them, so even if they like the taste of something, it does not mean it is good for them – a little like when we eat a doughnut.
So, even if your horse is curious whilst you are eating meat, such as a hotdog or hamburger, make sure that they do not take a quick bite. Whilst it should not harm them – it does happen – a horse cannot vomit, so if they have eaten quite a bit of meat, take them to see a vet as soon as possible.
When it comes to veterinary attention after consuming food they should not have, you need to act quickly. Any delay of time could be the difference between it being fatal or not.
What Is Botulism?
Whilst rare, a horse can become ill with a disease called botulism if they digest toxins from an animal carcass. This is because meat can go bad really quickly, especially in a warmer climate, and if a horse eats it, they can become dangerously ill.
In fact, it is so dangerous that if a vet is not called, they will sadly die.
One of the ways this can accidently happen is when a mouse gets trapped in hay, dies and eventually rots. A horse may nibble at it, at least by accident, so always make sure the hay is clear.
Do Horses In The Wild Eat Meat?
Even though you might think a wild horse would eat meat, it has to be because of a drastic situation, such as extreme hunger and completely nothing else available.
Most horses in the wild have enough plants and grass to last them a lifetime, so they do not have to worry about trying to find small animals and rodents to eat.
It does not mean it is impossible, however, but horses are not generally known to crave meat, or use it as a way to survive even when they are living out in the wild.
Like we mentioned previously, the only horses that are known to eat meat (fish) are icelandic horses. People are said to leave barrels containing salted fish for the horses to chow down on when needed.
Doing this means the horses can get the nutrients they require such as salt, protein, minerals and vitamins, whilst the grass is covered in snow.
What Does A Horse Eat?
A horse is really happy to eat clean and toxic-free food such as grass, hay, grains and pre-made mixes that have been specifically put together.
In fact, a horse may spend more than half of their day munching away on pasture grass, eating small meals to fill up their stomach. They never usually go hungry, because if they do it can lead to stomach pain and colic problems – this is because their digestive system has no food to process.
They do not need to eat meat, as it does not give them any dietary benefits. It is more likely to make them ill, especially if they suffer from a sensitive digestive system. Even if they do not, it is never worth the risk of finding out.
Even though it is always tempting to want to share your food with a pet, when it comes to horses, it is better to let them stick with their herbivore diet of plants, hay and grass.
Whilst meat is eaten by a lot of animals, including your own dog, a horse should never be given meat. This is because their digestive system is longer and larger than carnivores, causing digestion to be slow.
This slowness is what causes horses not to be able to digest meat efficiently, especially in larger quantities. It may cause issues in the long-term due to horses not being able to vomit it back up.
So, now that you know that horses should not eat meat, you will not even need to wonder whether you can add it to their diet – and anyway, they enjoy eating pasture grass, so let them enjoy it because at least it will not cause them gut problems!