Can your horse eat dandelions?
Despite being tasty to horses and pretty to look at, they are a nuisance to some lawns and pastures. And, depending on what type of dandelions you have, perhaps is not a good idea to let your horse eat dandelions.
YES, horses can eat dandelions, but maybe it’s not the best idea in the world.
- Dandelions are delicious for horses, and add a bit of spring color to the pastures, but may not be as healthy as you would think.
- While dandelions are “safe” for most horses, know that they are super high in fructans, more so than fresh spring grass. This may pose a real threat to the metabolically challenged horse, such as the horse with Cushing’s or Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance.
- Those sugars also make the dandelion super tasty, and therefore the go-to plant of choice for most horses in the pasture. You will need to decide how much your horse can eat based on his metabolic status and current health.
The dandelion in its native habitat – my yard.
Dandelions and stringhalt
- Stringhalt is a condition in which the horse’s hock spontaneously flexes. This can be mild, or serious enough to warrant euthanasia. There is some correlation (not a definite cause here) between FALSE dandelion, aka flatweed, and stringhalt, especially in Australia. The key lies in the plant.
- Actual dandelions do not have branches, are hollow-stemmed, don’t have stem leaves, aren’t hairy, and have leaves that look like they have teeth.
- While there are loads of false dandelions out there, they all can differ in branching, stem leaves, and hair along with some differences in the flower.
Real vs. false dandelions
- Your local ag extension service should be able to help you discern between dandelion and false dandelion. They can also help you create pasture that resists these yellow troublemakers if your horse has metabolic issues that need addressing.
This dandelion is missing its flower – so it’s sort of like the Waldo of the pasture.
And, if you decide your horse should not be eating dandelions, you can always take them home and eat them yourself. They are safe for humans, although they are bitter unless you cook them. Happy cooking for you and happy grazing for your horse!