Can Horses Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Horses have a lot of dietary restrictions, not because they’re picky eaters, but because their gastrointestinal system is set up in a way that predisposes them to colic.
If you’re wondering whether sweet potatoes are safe for horses, I have some good news for you: Horses can safely eat sweet potatoes.
Horses should consume sweet potatoes only in moderation, though.
I will also touch on issues such as whether you should feed raw or cooked sweet potatoes to your horse and whether sweet potatoes can cause colic in horses.
Benefits of Horses Eating Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a healthy and tasty treat for horses. Here are the benefits of feeding them to your horse:
1. Source of fiber
Sweet potatoes are a good source of soluble fiber that’s easy to digest, especially when served cooked. Sweet potatoes contain around 4 grams of fiber per cup.
2. Source of vitamins and minerals
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamins such as vitamin A, C, B5, B6, and Vitamin E.
As for minerals, sweet potatoes are a source of potassium and manganese. Trace amounts of iron and calcium can also be found in sweet potatoes.
3. Said to aid the healing of gastric ulcers
One of the most touted benefits of sweet potatoes is related to its ability to help in the healing of gastric ulcers.
Unfortunately, horses are prone to a variety of bowel issues, chief among them being a proclivity towards developing colic and gastric ulcers.
Luckily, sweet potatoes can help in treating gastric ulcers and they’re often even recommended by veterinarians.
Risk of Horses Eating Sweet Potatoes
If the name of the vegetable is not suggestive enough, let me mention that one of the drawbacks of feeding sweet potatoes to your horse lies in its sugar content (about 6 g of sugar per serving).
Besides sugar, sweet potatoes are also high in starches and carbohydrates. A single cup of sweet potatoes packs 27 grams of carbohydrates.
Feeding your horse a bit of sweet potatoes here and there is not going to hurt, but fed regularly or in excess, it can cause obesity and insulin resistance or exacerbate an existing insulin-resistance.
The potassium content of sweet potatoes can also be problematic in horses with pre-existing conditions such as Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis disease.
Apart from these, there’s also the risk of choking if the serving size is too big for your horse to swallow or chew.
Therefore, the risks of feeding sweet potatoes to your horse include:
- Risk of choking (feed only small pieces that can be chewed comfortably by your horse)
- Risk of obesity because of the extra sugar and carbs added to the diet of your horse (if fed in excess)
- Exacerbation of pre-existing conditions such as insulin-resistance or Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis disease
- Risk of colic or gastrointestinal upset if too much of it is consumed.
Therefore, make sure not to feed sweet potatoes or other vegetables high in sugar (e.g., carrots) or potassium (e.g., watermelon) to horses with pre-existing conditions.
Raw vs Cooked Sweet Potatoes
If you’re wondering whether to feed your horse raw or cooked potatoes, you’ll be happy to know that both raw and cooked sweet potatoes are safe for your horse.
The only differences between them are their nutritional value and ease of consumption. Raw sweet potatoes have a higher nutritional value, whereas cooked sweet potatoes lose some of their nutritional value during the cooking process.
Cooked sweet potatoes are a better choice for older horses or horses with dental problems that may be unable to chew sweet potatoes properly.
Is Any Part of Sweet Potatoes Toxic to Horses?
It’s no question that sweet potatoes can be a healthy treat for horses when fed in moderation.
There isn’t, however, a consensus on whether other parts of the sweet potato – peels, vines or leaves – are also safe for horses.
Some experts warn that the vine of the sweet potato does have some toxic compounds that can cause colic and serious intestinal complications if enough of it is consumed.
Therefore, I recommend that you don’t feed your horse sweet potato vines or leaves. Stick to feeding them only the bulbous root, which is known to be safe and healthy, when consumed in moderation.
Can Sweet Potatoes Cause Colic in Horses?
When consumed only as an occasional treat, sweet potatoes are unlikely to cause colic or gastrointestinal upset.
Avoid feeding too much sweet potatoes to your horse. Don’t feed more than a cup at any one time. In fact, if your horse has never eaten sweet potatoes before, you should first feed it only a very small amount and see how it reacts.
While sweet potatoes are beneficial in small quantities and can even help in the healing of ulcers, too much of anything that’s not pasture grass or hay can cause gastrointestinal upset in horses.
And as I mentioned, sweet potato vines can also become a problem if your horse has been feeding on them.
Can Horses Eat Regular Potatoes?
No, horses should not eat regular potatoes. As a member of the nightshade family, regular potatoes are toxic to horses and should never be fed to horses.
All members of the nightshade family such as eggplants, tomatoes and peppers are harmful to horses, so make sure you have a clear understanding of the fruits and vegetables that you can safely feed to your horse.
You don’t really need to supplement your horse’s diet with fruits and vegetables, especially if you don’t know which are and aren’t safe for your horse.
Horses can have a small serving of boiled or raw sweet potatoes here and there, but never as a main meal, only as a treat.
Feeding sweet potatoes too often or in large quantities to your horse can have multiple health implications, so it’s best to exercise moderation when it comes to sweet potato treats.
Never allow your horse to graze in an area where they may accidentally ingest sweet potato vines or leaves. Likewise, never feed your horse any parts of regular potatoes.