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HomeFarming News5 things you should never feed horses when walking in the countryside
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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5 things you should never feed horses when walking in the countryside

While can be tempting to feed horses while out and about in the countryside, especially when with young children, this practice can be incredibly dangerous, writes Katie Allen-Clarke of Horse & Country.

Passers-by, often without consent and/or an understanding of harm, often feed horses.

Lockdown showed several instances of unwell horses that linked to snacks fed to them by the public.

It can be tempting to pet and feed horses while spending time in the countryside, especially with young children in tow, as they are incredibly affectionate animals.

However, to keep both you and the horses safe, it is important not to feed them something that is potentially harmful.

Stable owners and equestrians tend to have set diet plans in place, and it is vital not to disrupt this.

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Sometimes you may be able to feed them something safe such as a carrot or a piece of apple, but you should always get permission from the owner first.

Lastly, if you are out and about this spring, always make sure to clean up after a day near a stable or farmyard, as rubbish and leftover scraps could be consumed without your knowledge.

To minimise the chances of pedestrians causing unintentional harm to horses with this gesture, I have put together a five-strong list of things you should NEVER feed horses for That’s Farming’s readers.

These foods include:

  • Chocolate;
  • Tomatoes;
  • Bread;
  • Lawn clippings;
  • Pitted fruit.
Lawn clippings

For many, this may seem an unusual one as horse graze daily on grass.

However, picking freshly cut grass from the ground and using it as feed is not advised.

As the grass has been finely chopped, it allows the horse to eat more and chew less in a short space of time and can be a choking hazard.

This could also cause a fatal stomach-ache, negative impacts on hoof health and colic, making it incredibly important to avoid.


While the taste of the tomato plant is unappealing to horses, it is harmful too.

The presence of alkaloid in tomatoes slows the gut function of horses and can result in diarrhoea.

This includes cherry tomatoes, so even a miniature version can cause great discomfort.

Make sure to check your picnic spot for any roll-away tomatoes before leaving.


Sandwiches are a day-out essential, so this could be the first thing that springs to mind when spotting a gate with friendly faces peering over. But, ensure you avoid doing this at all costs.

Baked goods, including bread can become sticky and doughy in the intestine, making it hard to digest and causing blockages.

Bread can also cause a calcium deficiency, which could lead to more serious health concerns for our equine friends.


Horses have been known to enjoy a sweet treat in the form of peppermints and sugar cubes; however, chocolate is a step too far.

Like dogs, the chemicals found in cocoa are harmful to horses causing seizures, crippling colic and, in some severe cases, internal bleeding.

This makes it one of the most dangerous foods to dish out while passing a field.

Equines are also essentially lactose intolerant, they do not have the enzymes to absorb lactose in the body.

Therefore, any dairy products can have a lasting negative impact.

Pitted fruit

While apples are among horses’ favourites, other sweet fruits that probably taste delicious are not so good.

Fruits that have seeds or pits contain cyanide and are toxic to horses.

Not only this, but the pits can also get caught in the throat, and without a vet’s immediate attention, it would be life-threatening.

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