Can horses eat peanuts?
Have you considered peanuts if you’re on a quest to find healthy, affordable, and delicious horse treats? But can horses eat peanuts? Sure, mostly, and maybe carefully. You may also find they are more trouble than they are worth.
Peanut plant info
- Peanuts are a legume, much like alfalfa, and live underground. The peanut greens can become hay, but not the way one would expect. When peanuts are ready for harvest, the leafy greens have little value as hay. For growing peanut hay, a special peanut plant grows for its leafy greens, not the tasty treat. This peanut hay is classified as a legume hay, like alfalfa.
- Peanuts have a shell called a hull, which many horses will happily chomp on. The hull is chock full of fiber, which is usually great for a horse’s digestive system. HOWEVER – the fiber of peanut hulls has a large amount of lignin. Your horse can’t digest lignin; while the overall fiber content is good, the lignin’s indigestibility is of no benefit to your horse.
- Ground-up peanut hulls are sometimes used as filler in livestock feeds, adding no nutritional value. It was once thought that the hulls could add a nutritious boost to feed, but the fibrous shells have no vitamins and barely any protein, minerals, and fats to impact an equine diet. A good idea, but it didn’t pan out.
The dangers of peanut shells for horses
- There are two significant cautions to heed about peanut hulls and horses.
- There is a risk of choke from a horse eating a whole peanut. The hull is rigid, and its size could get stuck in the esophagus.
- The other risk is the fungal toxin aflatoxin. This creepy mold can remain on hulls even after cooking or roasting. Aflatoxins link to liver damage, cancer, and immune system problems. Some unlucky souls do not survive aflatoxin poisoning.
Ditch the hulls and only feed the “innards”
The peanut itself
- Peanuts are delicious and make excellent sandwich filling. There is more nutrition in the acutal peanut than the shell, but they are so small it’s unlikely that a few peanuts a day will dent your horse’s nutritional needs.
- But, if your horse likes them, they are handy to have around. You could skip shelling roasted peanuts yourself and buy a bag of shelled nuts, but make sure there is no added salt or other non-peanut ingredients. Just plain roasted peanuts are what you need.
Other options for horse treats
So your horse doesn’t like peanuts, or maybe you or a friend at the barn has an allergy! No worry – you have treat options for your horse.
Here are some horse treat options to avoid at all costs:
- Raw garlic
- Raw potatoes
- Chocolate – *Who would share chocolate anyway*
These are safe treats for horses, but higher in sugars and may not benefit a metabolically challenged horse:
- Candy (peppermints, sugar cubes)
- Store-bought treats with molasses
- Citrus fruits
- Watermelon and the rind
For metabolically challenged horses, try these:
- Hay pellets
- Hay cubes
- Specialty low-sugar and low-starch treats
- Horses with Cushing’s or Equine Metabolic Syndrome need low sugar and low starch diets, including their treats. Hay products are the safest if you must give your horse a treat. There are also lots of treats available that you can buy, in every flavor imaginable, including low sugar, low starch options.
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