Can Horses Eat Broccoli? Benefits & Risks
Technically, yes, horses can eat broccoli. But the more important question is – should they? I’m inclined to discourage feeding broccoli to your horse more than I’m inclined to recommend it.
In order to offer you a fair overview of both sides of the argument, I’m going to list the benefits and risks of feeding broccoli to horses, so you can make up your own mind about it.
It’s also important to mention that horses have a sensitive digestive system that’s prone to colic that can range from mild to severe. Therefore, it’s important to be very circumspect of what your horse can and cannot eat.
Benefits of Horses Eating Broccoli
For human consumption, broccoli is touted as an extremely healthy vegetable that’s rich in soluble fiber, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals.
The addition of soluble fibers can help with constipation and digestive issues. Flavonoids and antioxidants can help with inflammatory diseases and have a role in preventing cardiovascular problems.
While the addition of fiber and an intake of flavonoids, minerals and vitamins can be beneficial to horses, cruciferous vegetables aren’t recommended for our equine companion.
Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, etc.
Although cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are safe for horses because they don’t contain any toxic compounds, they’re not a good choice for a treat.
Unfortunately, they contain raffinose, which is a type of sugar that produces gas both in humans and horses.
This is the reasoning behind the general recommendation not to feed any cruciferous vegetables to your horse. This recommendation holds both for cooked and raw broccoli.
If you’re going to feed broccoli to your horse, it’s important to understand the risks it involves.
Risks of Horses Eating Broccoli
Some of the risks of horses eating broccoli are difficult or impossible to mitigate, others can be avoided altogether.
Here’s why feeding broccoli to your horse isn’t such a good idea, despite being an otherwise safe vegetable:
– It produces intestinal gas, which can cause colic
One of the reasons why broccoli is not recommended for some humans either is because of the excess gas production it triggers in the intestines.
While in healthy individuals a bit of gas is not a major issue, for some individuals suffering from IBS, IBD or other gastrointestinal disorders, the consumption of broccoli is strongly discouraged.
Because the intestinal system of horses makes it unable for them to burp or throw up, excess gas production can have serious health implications for them too.
Some horses that eat broccoli can experience a mild discomfort, however, others may experience severe colic.
Therefore, if your horse is prone to colic, broccoli is something you must keep away from them.
– It’s a choking hazard if it’s not cut into smaller chunks
While the texture and crunchiness of broccoli may be appreciated by horses, if the broccoli is not served in smaller chunks, it can pose a choking hazard.
Horses with dental problems may have a hard time chewing on broccoli stems. This is only an issue with uncooked broccoli. Cooked broccoli is much softer and can be eaten easily.
However, cooked broccoli loses its nutritional kick compared to the raw one, so it doesn’t make much nutritional sense to feed it to your horse.
– It can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and pesticides
Serving unwashed broccoli to your horse can potentially make them sick, if the broccoli is contaminated with parasites, viruses, bacteria or pesticides.
As you can see, serving broccoli to your horse comes with a few risks, chief among them being the risk of developing mild to severe colic.
Is Any Part of Broccoli Toxic to Horses?
No, no part of the broccoli is toxic to horses. Technically, both the stem and the florets of the broccoli are safe for horses, whether they’re cooked or raw.
The confusion about the toxicity of broccoli may come from the association of this vegetable with vegetables that are part of the nightshade family such as eggplants.
However, broccoli is not part of the nightshade family of vegetables. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that contains no compounds that would cause toxicity to horses.
But as I explained above, feeding broccoli to your horse comes with a serious warning for colic. Any benefits that your horse would draw from eating broccoli would not be worth the trouble of dealing with a serious colic episode.
Can a Horse Eat Too Much Broccoli?
Absolutely! Overfeeding your horse on broccoli will most certainly cause serious gastrointestinal upset to your horse.
If your horse is more prone to colic than the general horse population, you should definitely put broccoli on the list of foods you should not feed to your horse.
Other vegetables in the cruciferous category should also be avoided including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflowers, etc.
Can a Foal Eat Broccoli?
Foals should not be offered broccoli, regardless of whether it’s cooked or raw. Their gastrointestinal system isn’t yet developed well enough to break down or ferment broccoli or other vegetables or fruit.
This is something you need to be careful with, especially if the foal hasn’t been weaned off nursing yet or has only been recently weaned off.
It’s also a discouraged practice to give treats or snacks to foals on account that they’re prone to developing a nippy and pushy attitude.
Therefore, don’t feed nursing foals any extra foods other than what they get through nursing or transitioning to roughage.
Broccoli is a problematic treat for horses. Not because it’s toxic but because of the gas production it triggers.
While it can have health benefits, these benefits can be obtained through other means as well. For example, you can feed your horse treats that are safe and won’t cause gastrointestinal upset.
Treats you can feed your horse instead of broccoli include carrots, cucumbers, and apples. Regardless of the type of fruits or vegetables that are safe for your horse, make sure you feed them in moderation.
Any excesses, even of otherwise unproblematic fruits and veggie treats, can trigger colic and related gastrointestinal distress in horses.