Feeding treats to horses – can your horse eat pumpkin?


Yes, your horse can eat orange pumpkins as a treat! This is the short answer, but you may want to think twice about it. Horses may or may not like the taste of pumpkin. If your horse likes pumpkin, it’s perfectly OK to feed him some, assuming you do so without going wildly overboard on the treats.  And yes, you can let your horse eat pumpkin seeds.  


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Before you feed any treat


  • There are three things to consider before feeding your horse any tasty snack. One, is the snack or any ingredients toxic? Even a little bit? Two, will this horse treat interfere with a medical condition? Lastly, can you safely feed this new goody so your horse won’t choke, have some GI distress, or worse?  

  • With orange pumpkins, they are non-toxic for horses.  Two, they might interfere with some conditions, like HYPP.  And lastly, if you remember “small pieces, small amounts,” these tasty holiday snacks are great for your horse.  


More on choke in horses here. 


a cut up orange pumpkin including seed that is safe for your horse eat pumpkin



Tips for feeding pumpkin to horses: 


  • Chop up the pumpkin into pieces! Make the pieces small and easily chewable to avoid choking hazards. If you choose to let your horse snack on the seeds, think about the potential mess with all of those chewy pieces mixed with stringy slime.   Sure, it’s really cute to see a hippo crunch a big piece of fruit, but horses are not designed to eat that way.  


  • Limit the quantity of pumpkin given, anything more than a cupful or two a day may give your horse a belly ache and trigger some colic. This is pretty true for about anything new you give your horse. Try to resist the urge to toss a few pumpkins into his pen for rollie-pollie snack time and go for a handful or two. 


  • Pumpkin is generally safe for horses with metabolic issues, like Cushing’s and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Insulin Resistance, as well as PSSM, the “tying up” condition. While there are “sugars” in pumpkin, they do not cause a fast increase in your horse’s blood glucose when fed in smaller amounts.  They are likely safer than carrots, apples, and many molasses-based horse goodies. 


pumpkins stacked together


  • Pumpkins are high in potassium, so avoid giving your horse with HYPP any pumpkin as a treat. Horses with HYPP have a genetic muscle disorder that causes weakness and muscle shaking. It’s related to how sodium and potassium interact in the body; higher potassium levels in the diet can trigger an episode. Unfortunately, many horses also develop paralysis and may collapse. 


  • Don’t feed any pumpkin that is starting to sag, get soft, or start to mush.  Fresh food is best! Throw those in the compost bin instead and see how many new orange babies show up next fall. 


  • A carved pumpkin may have candle wax spilled or mold starting to grow inside, so be careful there, too. And leave the stalk out of it too. This ridiculously hard-to-chew part is just an episode of choke waiting to happen.


  • Other pumpkin family members, like gourds, can be toxic to horses. If you are unsure what type of fall treat you have, better not feed it, just in case.  Stick to the orange pumpkin variety. 


  • If it’s off-season, you can find this yummy treat smashed up in a can. However, preservatives, sugars, and salt may be added in the canning process.  


pumpkins on the vine in a field


Can a horse eat pumpkin to clear sand? 


  • I stumbled upon a thread of horse owners talking about removing sand from a horse’s gut and colic prevention, and it was tossed around that pumpkins were the way to go. Someone recalled a story about an older farmer who fed pumpkins, and his horses never had sand colic. I have a few thoughts about this.


    • There is no evidence to support this.  AT ALL.  
    • There are MANY horses who eat carrots, apples, store-bought treats, bananas, and many other types of goodies who have never had a sand colic or any issues with a sandy gut.  A horse eating something and not having a sandy gut doesn’t mean what they eat removes sand. 
    • There are horses who have eaten pumpkins that will still be colic or have sandy guts.  


  • When in doubt – talk to your vet about your concerns about sand.  

Make pumpkin treats for horses at home


  • If you love homemade horse treats, try making some at home.  The recipe is largely “experimental,” and you can play around with flavors that your horse likes.  You will need:


    • Pumpkin – but cook it down until it’s mashable
    • Oats or some other less-mushy ingredient like some of your horse’s pellets
    • Maybe some molasses or banana if you need additional “glue.”
    • Mix it all together, form into little balls or circles, and bake at a lower heat, like 300 or 350, for about 15-20 minutes.  Bake with love, not exact instructions! 


Horses can eat pumpkin-flavored horse treats that are not as messy as the real thing! Ready-made pumpkin treats are also longer-lasting and easier to store. 



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