Can Horses Eat Sweet PotatoES?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
Last updated on:

Horses have a lot of dietary restrictions, not because they are picky eaters but because their gastrointestinal system is set up in a way that predisposes them to colic.

The average grain and hay can get boring, and your horse is probably looking forward to a nice treat.  If you are looking to expand your horse’s palette, you might wonder: can horses eat sweet potatoes?

The short answer is yes; horses can eat sweet potatoes – in moderation.  They are full of delicious nutrition that will benefit your horse.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about feeding your horse sweet potatoes, the best way to prepare them for your horse, and if the whole sweet potato plant is safe for your horse to ingest.

Nutritional Information of Sweet Potato

Nutritional facts are based on 1 cup of cubed sweet potatoes:

NutrientAmount
Calories114
Sodium73 mg
Potassium448 mg
Carbohydrates27 g
Fiber4 g
Sugar6 g
Protein2.1 g
Vitamin A337 %
Calcium4 %
Vitamin C5 %
Iron4 %
Water77 %
Fat3 g
Vitamin B615 %
Vitamin K5.1 mcg
Magnesium8 %

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Benefits of Sweet Potato in Your Horse’s Diet

On top of protein and dietary fiber sweet potatoes also have a perfect selection of vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin A:

As well as boosting your horse’s immune system and strengthening his bones, Vitamin A can also help to reduce the risk of cataracts.

Vitamin C:

Like Vitamin A, Vitamin C can help to improve your horse’s immune system, but it can also help to heal wounds and keep your horse’s teeth, bones, and cartilage healthy.

Vitamin B5:

Part of the B complex vitamin group, Vitamin B5 can help keep your horse’s coat in good condition. It also works to aid digestion, especially in the digestive tract.

Vitamin B6:

Another B complex vitamin is known to reduce the symptoms of some forms of arthritis and keep the eyes healthy. If your horse suffers from depression, then Vitamin B6 can also help with this.

Vitamin E:

Known for its ability to fight infection, it also works to maintain healthy skin, eyes, and even a healthy coat.

Potassium:

You might not realize it, but potassium is one of the essential minerals in the body; it works to keep a horse’s muscles working correctly and will also help to reduce tiredness after exercise.

Magnesium

Not only does manganese help to keep your horse’s bones strong and healthy, but it can also reduce inflammation. The most significant role that manganese plays is in regulating blood sugar, which means that it may be suitable for horses that suffer from conditions such as Equine Cushing’s Disease. 

Fiber:

Fiber keeps the gut full and the horse hydrated by acting as a water reserve. Therefore, it is excellent when it comes to digestive health.

Carbohydrates:

Sweet potatoes contain a significant amount of carbohydrates. Since this is a valuable nutritional ingredient that horses need, sweet potatoes come in handy. Carbohydrates provide the energy that horses require to stay energetic.

Protein:

Sweet potatoes supply horses with these essential nutrients that play a significant role in the body. 

Gastric Ulcers:

Sweet potato is not just another healthy snack for horses,  it has another perk. These veggies are a natural treatment for gastric ulcers in horses. 

Gastric ulcers are more common in racehorses due to their lack of foraging. Most of these horses are in a stable for a significant duration of their time. Because the natural ability to eat lots of nutrient-rich leafy greens in the field is taken away, it negatively impacts the stomach’s acidity.

Even though racehorses are the most susceptible, they are also quite common in domesticated horses. If you find that your horse is suffering from a gastric ulcer, you can use sweet potatoes to soothe their tummy in combination with advice from your veterinarian.

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Risks of Feeding Sweet Potatoes to Horses

One of the drawbacks of feeding sweet potatoes to your horse lies in its sugar content (about 6g of sugar per serving).

Besides sugar, sweet potatoes are also high in starches and carbohydrates. A single cup of sweet potatoes packs 27 grams of carbohydrates.

Laminitis:

Laminitis is a painful condition of the sensitive laminae structures in the horse’s hoof.  Laminitis is caused by a disruption of blood flow to the laminae. The laminae consist of soft connective tissue that can quickly become swollen and irritated.

Obesity, sudden ingestion of large amounts of sugars and starches, and high insulin levels are linked to laminitis cases.

Since sweet potatoes are sugary, starchy foods, they should be fed to horses in careful moderation to help avoid laminitis.

Feeding your horse a few sweet potatoes will not hurt, but providing them regularly or in excess can cause obesity and insulin resistance, or aggravate existing insulin resistance.

The potassium content of sweet potatoes can also be problematic in horses with pre-existing conditions such as Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis disease.

There is also a choking risk if the serving size is too big for your horse to swallow or chew.

Therefore, the risks of feeding sweet potatoes to your horse include:

  • Choking – provide only small pieces that can be chewed comfortably by your horse.
  • The risk of obesity is because of the extra sugar and carbs added to your horse’s diet (if fed in excess).
  • Worsening of pre-existing conditions such as insulin resistance or Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis disease.
  • Risk of colic or gastrointestinal upset if too much of it is consumed.

Therefore, do not feed sweet potatoes or other vegetables high in sugar (e.g., carrots) or potassium (e.g., watermelon) to horses with pre-existing conditions.

Should Horses Eat Raw or Cooked Sweet Potatoes?

If you’re wondering whether to feed your horse raw or cooked potatoes, you’ll be happy to know that both raw and cooked sweet potatoes are safe for your horse.

The only differences between them are their nutritional value and ease of consumption. Raw sweet potatoes have a higher nutritional value, whereas cooked sweet potatoes lose some of their nutritional value during the cooking process.

Cooked sweet potatoes are better for older horses or horses with dental problems that may not be able to chew raw sweet potatoes properly.

Can Horses Eat Sweet Potato Peel?

Yes, horses can eat sweet potato peelings. Sweet potato peelings have almost twice as many antioxidants as their flesh and contain considerable amounts of fiber!

Horses also love eating the peel. Roughly chop a sweet potato for your horse and let them enjoy their healthy treat. 

Can Horses Eat Sweet Potato Leaves and Vines?

The sweet potato itself may be a safe treat for your horse, but there isn’t much research on whether the leaves and vines of the sweet potato plant are safe for horses to consume.

There’s no research suggesting leaves and vines are toxic to horses. Still, as regular potatoes and their leaves and vines can be problematic, there is always the possibility that sweet potato leaves and vines could be problematic too.

Since there is no definitive answer, avoid feeding your horse the sweet potato leaves and vines. It isn’t worth the potential risk.

Conclusion

Sweet potatoes are an excellent choice for horse owners to add to a balanced diet. They contain healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Like other treat foods, you should feed sweet potatoes in careful moderation. Sweet potatoes are full of starch, carbohydrates, and sugar, which are acceptable for horses in small amounts but can cause many problems in excess.

Raw and cooked sweet potatoes are both good for horses to enjoy. 

We recommend avoiding leaves and stems since we don’t know much about them.

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