Wild horses are thought to be mainly herbivores. However, there is a surprising amount of history that shows that horses can eat meat. 

However, just because they can eat meat doesn’t mean that they should eat it regularly. Their ability to eat meat may have come as a last resort solution to fight off starvation or famine.

Can Horses Eat Meat?

Yes, it appears that when precise needs and conditions arise, you can feed your horse meat. History has shown that horses are able to digest and tolerate meat in their digestive systems. If a horse is wild and lives in forests and plains on its own, it has been known to eat small rodents, birds, frogs, and other small creatures.

If we are talking about the domesticated horses that help many humans in their daily lives, these horses have also been known to eat baby chickens, rats and mice, baby birds, and other farmland pests. Domesticated horses can even eat cooked food like cooked chicken, steak, pork, and seafood. Although how much meat they can digest depends entirely on the horse itself. Another factor that affects a horse’s ability to digest meat is if they were given meat as a baby horse or a foal. 

Even throughout history, there are numerous to the point of uncountable stories of soldiers, traitors, travelers feeding their horse meat when times were rough, and grasses and hay were unavailable. Horses were even encouraged to drink the milk of other animals so they could just stay alive.

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However, this diet of meat is not ideal. It is mostly used as a technique during times of extreme starvation, hardship, and limited resources. It seems as though horses do not innately eat meat. Horses that eat meat are trained to do so by humans. Even though a horse’s mouth is designed for crushing and crunching vegetables and hay., a horse’s powerful jaws make it easy for them to break up bones, although they have no fangs to rip apart flesh. 

A healthy horse diet should be comprised of grasses, fruits, and vegetables, and other foods that a herbivore can eat.

What Would Happen if Horses Overeat Meat?

If a horse eats a bite of meat, like if they’re older was sitting next to them eating some meat and gave them a scrap, there would be very little to no adverse side effects.

If meat becomes a regular part of their diet, this is when problems begin to appear. Too much meat can cause digestive issues, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. Horses can also become sick from eating rotten meat. If this happens, you have to take your horse to the veterinarian so they can get antibiotics. Also, servings of meat that are larger can be a choking hazard to horses.

If a horse begs for meat or human food that is in front of them, it does not mean that they lack anything in their diet. It just means that the horse finds the smell of meat and human food to be appetizing. By no means does this mean a horse owner should incorporate meat into their daily diet.

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horse eating meat

The Proper Diet of a Horse

1. Hay and Grasses

The foundation of every horse’s diet should be an abundant and steady supply of hay and grasses. Although they are powerful and strong beasts, horses were built to get much of their nutrition and calories from hay and grasses. The average thousand-pound horse eats around 20 lb of grasses and hay every day. They also spent about eight hours grazing in the fields. You can also add grains to their diet if there isn’t enough grass. Grains are especially helpful during the wintertime when plants grow slower.

You must also be sure that any grasses, hey, and greens you give your horse should be pesticide-free.

2. Salt

Because of their enormous size and huge appetite, horses need to eat a lot of salt with their hay and grasses. Their need for salt is one of the reasons why horses have salt licks. If a horse is not receiving enough salt in his diet, they could become lethargic and their coats less healthy. Horses also lose a lot of salt when they run through their sweat. If they do not replenish the salt they have lost, their muscles will tire quickly.

What Other Foods Should Horses Not Eat?

Alongside meats like shrimp, pork, beef, and chicken, there are many other foods that horses should not eat.

One of those foods that they should avoid altogether is high amounts of sugar. Surgery should not be part of a horse’s daily diet. Even when they consume fruit, they should consume it in limited quantities, and it should be regarded as a snack, not as a portion of daily food.

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Another food horses need to avoid at all costs is lawn grass. Many people, who are not horse owners, believe that any type of grass can be fed to horses. But this is not true. Hay and wild grass are completely different from the domesticated lawn grass. For one, lawn grass has sugar in it. Lawn grass should not be fed to horses as the sugar in the grass can raise a horse’s insulin or cause them to develop laminitis. When you cut your lawn, make sure to move the grass clippings far away from where your horses frolic and play.

Rice

Even if the rice is a grain, it should not be fed to horses. Horses do not have the ability to digest a lot of rice. If there is rice in their diets, they can develop colic, and their stomach could cramp and become blocked. Rice also has a lot of carbohydrates that convert to sugar in a horse’s system.

Conclusion

  • Horses should not eat meat if they don’t have to.
  • Feeding meat to horses has been practiced during harsh times and times of famine.
  • Humans train horses to eat meat and drink the milk of other animals. 
  • A 1000-pound horse needs about 20 lb. of grasses and hay per day.
  • If there is not enough grasses or hay, you can substitute up to 1/4 of their diet with grains.
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