Can I Feed My Horse a Banana?
It’s nice to offer your horse a treat as an occasional reward or a method of bonding with your animal. Horses can enjoy a wide variety of treats, including particular “weeds,” fruits, vegetables, and even peppermint candy now and then. One of the foods you may be wondering if you can feed your horse is banana – bananas are a delicious snack for humans, but are they safe for our equine friends?
Can horses eat bananas? In moderation, bananas make an excellent treat for most horses. They are a great source of potassium, fiber, vitamins B6 and C, and antioxidants. Because they are high in sugar, it is recommended intake be limited to two to three bananas per week, with no more than one banana in one sitting.
Before heading to the kitchen, you will want to know more about feeding your horse bananas. Read on for information on how to safely feed your horse bananas, why they make an excellent treat, and when your horse shouldn’t be fed bananas.
Can Horses Eat Bananas: The Health Benefits Of Bananas
Bananas are one of nature’s superfoods. They are packed with vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function and are an excellent source of fiber. The health benefits of eating bananas, for both horses and humans, include:
- Potassium: Potassium is one of seven essential macrominerals. It is beneficial to cardiovascular health, as it helps to counteract the adverse effects of sodium and relaxes the walls of blood vessels. It is helpful to muscular and skeletal systems because it can increase bone mineral density and help preserve muscle mass in older age. It can also positively impact kidney health and reduce the risks of developing kidney stones.
- Fiber: fiber is well-known for its benefit to digestive health, but fiber can also help lower (bad) cholesterol levels, aid in controlling blood sugar levels, and help maintain a healthy weight.
- Vitamin B6: B6 is an essential vitamin that supports brain development, nervous system function, and the immune system.
- Vitamin C: vitamin C does so much more than support a healthy immune system (although that alone is vital to keeping your body healthy) – it is necessary to develop blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen.
- Antioxidants: antioxidants have been shown to counteract the harmful effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This can help prevent various diseases, including multiple types of cancers.
Another food that can be very beneficial to humans is peanut butter. Is it as beneficial to horses? Learn more in my article Can Horses Eat Peanut Butter? Read Before Trying.
Bananas Can Soothe A Horse’s Belly
It is estimated that between 50% and 90% of horses will eventually suffer from stomach ulcers. Though there’s not been research on the effects of bananas on horse stomach ulcers, there is a theory that bananas will soothe or prevent stomach ulcers in humans due to the high presence of phospholipids. If you’ve got a horse prone to stomach ulcers, bananas may be a healthy treat instead of other fruits – especially acidic ones. Of course, before you attempt to treat your horse’s stomach pain at home, please consult a veterinarian.
Bananas Are Easy For An Older Horse To Chew
One of the most common ways that a human will attempt to determine the age of a horse is by looking in his mouth – the angle and condition of a horse’s teeth are very telling. A senior horse may have trouble chewing, seriously limiting what the animal can eat regarding regular diet and treats. A horse with bad teeth (or just “old” teeth) will probably not be able to chew pieces of apple or carrot, but even a horse with no teeth should be able to eat a bite of banana without a problem. This is one reason that bananas make a smart snack choice (in moderation) for elderly horses.
In the stables I learned to ride at, there lived a 37-year-old Quarter Horse. This horse couldn’t eat hay, apples, carrots, or peppermints. This sweet old gelding would have been an excellent candidate for the occasional banana, especially as he was still happy to walk a child around the arena a few times a week.
Horses Who Shouldn’t Eat Bananas
While bananas are known to be generally safe (and even healthy) as an occasional treat for most horses, some should not be given bananas at all.
There are better ideas than offering bananas as a treat for an overweight horse. Obesity causes a range of health problems for almost all species in the animal kingdom, but horses are especially susceptible. Overweight horses are likelier to suffer from laminitis, metabolic syndromes, insulin resistance, and high cortisol. Being overweight can impact the health of a horse’s hoof, lead to joint problems, and increase muscle strains. It can even affect a horse’s ability to regulate body temperature. Because bananas are relatively high in sugar (having over 12 grams of sugar in a single piece of fruit), it is not a healthy treat for overweight horses.
Bananas also should not be given to a horse affected by HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis). HYPP is a genetic disorder that causes excessive blood potassium due to sodium ion channel disruption. It causes excessive muscle contractions, which can be asymptomatic, cause mild muscle tremors, or cause collapse, heart, or respiratory failure. Horses suspected of having this gene should not have foods high in potassium. This includes bananas but extends to alfalfa, brome hay, soybean meal, sugar molasses, and beet molasses.
Certain things your horse eats can be a sign of unmet needs in their diet. To learn more about this, visit my article Why Horses Eat Dirt: Essential Behavior Guide.
Can Horses Eat Banana Peels?
Before you toss that banana peel in the garbage, you might try to offer it to your horse. Banana peels are safe for horses to eat, containing many of the same nutritional benefits as bananas. If you’ve ever tried eating a banana peel yourself, you will have discovered that they are not necessarily as palatable as the flesh – but your horse has different taste buds than you do. Your horse may enjoy eating banana peels, or he may not. If he does like them, you should cut them up before offering them to your horse because they can be understandably harder to chew. Banana peels are an excellent way to simultaneously provide yourself and your horse a treat, all with no food waste left over.
How To Offer Bananas To Your Horse
If you’re curious whether your horse has ever tried a banana before, you will not want to pull one off the bunch and toss it to him. You’ll want to start small. Offer him a small bite of banana flesh – perhaps the last bite of your own snack – and see how it affects him. Give him a bit more if you’ve not noticed any ill effects by the next day. Gradually increase his intake of bananas until he can eat up to ½-1 banana without any problems. Regardless of how he does, avoid the temptation to give him more than one banana at a time. Overeating bananas can spike blood sugars and cause digestive upset, including constipation and, at worst, colic.
The easiest way to offer your horse a banana is by tearing off small chunks of freshly peeled fruit. But you aren’t limited to raw bananas. If you always seem to have an abundance of bananas, other ways exist to provide this treat. You can freeze a banana if your horse would appreciate a cold treat on a hot day. Place it in a plastic bag first and squeeze it so that the banana freezes into a “sheet.” You can break off pieces of this frozen sheet and offer them to your horse. You can also make banana bread using bananas, oats, and other horse-friendly ingredients. You can mash it and add it to cooked oatmeal (make a little extra as a healthy breakfast for yourself). And remember that peel – if you’re baking or mashing, you can easily puree the peel and use that at the same time.
Bananas Are Good For Both Humans And Horses
We don’t have the same anatomy or appetite as our horses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share a snack now and then. Even if you don’t live in a tropical climate, you can likely find bananas in your grocery store 365 days a year. They are full of vitamins and minerals that benefit both humans and animals. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up an extra bunch of bananas, as this is a snack you and your equine friend can enjoy – together.
Horses are curious creatures and can end up eating some pretty weird things if left to their own devices. One of the latest popular search queries on this topic is whether or not horses eat meat. This comes from a trending video of a horse eating baby chicks. To learn more about this, visit my article Do Horses Eat Meat? (The Answer Might Surprise You.)