Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Horses typically eat grass, hay or haylage. This may be supplemented by fruits and vegetables, and they need salt on a regular basis. But what else can horses eat? For example, can they eat sunflower seeds? The short answer is a qualified yes. Let’s cover the situations when your horse may benefit from sunflower seeds and when the seeds are not something your horse could tolerate. Horses can eat black oil sunflower seeds. These are often found in birdseed. If you pick it up at a feed store or pet shop, you can buy it in bulk.

Why Do We Think Horses Cannot Eat Sunflower Seeds?

We’ve mentioned the fact that horses can eat black oil sunflower seeds. Horses cannot eat the striped sunflower seeds their owners often consume. Don’t give your horse striped sunflower seeds, whether they’re raw or salted. What makes the BOSS seeds suitable for horses? It is because their shells are soft and easy to digest. The outer shell of the striped sunflower seeds is too hard for the horse to digest.

 Sunflower seeds for horse

Why Do Horse Owners Add Sunflower Seeds to the Feed?

Sunflower seeds can be added to a horse’s ration to provide additional fat. That will improve their coat condition. You could add a quarter pound to a full pound of black oil sunflower seeds to your horse’s ration. It isn’t wise to give them more than two pounds of these sunflower seeds per day, depending on how much the horse eats per day. (The horse should eat 1.5 to 3 percent of their body weight per day.)

Sunflower seeds contain omega-6 fatty acids but very little omega-3. Giving the horse too many sunflower seeds means they won’t get enough omega-3. But sunflower seeds are a safe, vegan way to give your horse these fatty acids. Ironically, some people give their horses marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, though flax by-products are a better source of omega-3.

Try to balance omega-6 with omega-3, since omega-6 is considered inflammatory and omega-3 has the opposite effect. That is why it is unwise to give horses experiencing inflammation due to an injury or obesity sunflower seeds without a counter-balancing source of omega-3. A good rule of thumb is to balance the cup of BOSS or black oil sunflower seeds with two cups of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. Note that these seeds need to be ground up to be digestible for the horse.

What Happens If I Give My Healthy Horse Sunflower Seeds?

Assuming you’re giving your horse the safe variety of sunflower seeds, it provides shine and improves the texture of your horse’s coat. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are recommended for horses with skin problems. That’s why your veterinarian may recommend a mixture of black oil sunflower seeds and flax by-products for a horse with hair or skin problems.

Sunflower for horses

How Do I Know If I’m Giving the Horse Too Many Sunflower Seeds?

Horse feed can be optimized by using ratios that work regardless of how large the horse is. For example, half of the diet of every horse should be pasture grass, hay or haylage. If the horse is worked or ridden, they’ll need more calories but they don’t need a change in this ratio. Fruits, vegetables like carrot slices and sunflower seeds are a small percentage of their diet. Apples and carrots are treats to horses the way a bowl of ice cream would be to the owner.

You may need to give a pregnant, nursing or competing horse various supplements, but in these cases, you should consult with a vet rather than simply adding seeds and supplements to their feed. Additives like these should always be a small part of the horse’s diet if they are present at all.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Feeding My Horse?

Note that you shouldn’t ride the horse right after you’ve fed them, whether they just ate hay or half a bag of sunflower seeds. Nor should they go too long between meals. Feed them a little and often. This is where giving them small treats like apples or carrots can keep them satisfied, as long as they are given in moderation. Never let them go more than eight hours without food of some kind.

Furthermore, horses need to have abundant clean water. They should be allowed to drink at least twice a day, but giving them more opportunities to drink is even better. If your horse doesn’t have enough to drink, a blockage of undigested food could form in their digestive tract. Never give your horse bread. It will cause a blockage.