Doctors might prescribe lettuce for humans if they’re looking to lose weight, and we all know how much our pet rabbits and guinea pigs love those crunchy leaves! But does that mean that your equine friend can enjoy it, too? Can horses eat lettuce?
Yes, horses can eat lettuce! Lettuce is a tasty treat for horses and can help cool them down in the summer, as lettuce contains very few calories but plenty of water. There’s not much nutrition in lettuce leaves, though, so it’s important to remember that you should only serve lettuce to your horse as a treat and not as a regular or bulk part of their diet.
As humans, we might not see lettuce as much of a treat at all. But these green leaves won’t last long around your horse! Horses love the fresh, vibrant flavors of all kinds of lettuce leaves, and they certainly make a nice change from their usual diet.
We know that horses eat celery, and lettuce is similar in that it’s a green vegetable that’s high in water content, low in calories, and gives a very satisfying crunch!
The Benefits Of Lettuce To Your Horse
Lettuce makes such a good treat because of its low sugar content, and the ease with which a horse can digest it. That means that while your horse will love to crunch on the leaves as a treat, they won’t put on weight eating it.
It’s also thought that some lettuce, such as iceberg, contains up to 96% water, so a few leaves of the cool iceberg can give your horse some much-needed refreshment on a very hot day.
In fact, it’s better to give larger quantities of lettuce to your horse as a treat than other foods such as carrots or apples, as these are high in natural sugars and should be fed in small quantities. Lettuce is calorie-free and won’t make your horse put on weight or damage its teeth.
So, as far as horse treats go, it’s an inexpensive, easily found way to reward your horse for good behavior and keep them interested in their training. Lettuce is a great snack to carry with you if you’re hoping to bond with your horse, too, as they love to crunch the leaves and will happily trot over to you if they know you have fresh lettuce in your pockets.
Are There Risks To Horses Eating Lettuce?
With up to 140 different varieties of lettuce in the world, you could wonder whether they’re all safe for horses to eat. After all, it’s one thing to give your horse a few of the leaves in your freshly bought salad bag, but it’s quite another for them to munch on wild lettuce that may be growing on the outskirts of their pasture.
This is because wild lettuce, or bitter lettuce, contains a milky substance called lactucarium, along with another substance called lactucopicrin. These can cause stomach upsets and even have sedative effects on horses, but only when eaten in large quantities.
It’s a good idea to ensure there’s as little wild lettuce growing as possible in your horse’s pasture, and you shouldn’t pluck these leaves and hand-feed them to your horse.
Do Horses Like Lettuce?
Horses absolutely love to eat lettuce and would happily munch on it on a daily basis, which is why it’s important for you to only serve it once or twice a week to them, as a snack made up of a handful of leaves.
This is because while it doesn’t do them any harm, lettuce contains practically nothing of nutritional value for your horse. It should never replace their regular diet and you should still stick to their regular feed ration. Lettuce contains very little fiber and can instead be hard to digest in large quantities. So, keep the portions small and spaced out, and you won’t have a problem.
How To Serve Lettuce To Your Horse
A good rule of thumb when serving lettuce to your horse is that you should never feed any leaves to your animal that you wouldn’t eat yourself. If the lettuce leaves are old, wilted, soggy, or smell bad, throw them away and don’t give them to your horse.
While they may still eat the leaves, your horse can become very unwell from spoiled lettuce leaves. Older leaves can ferment in their digestive tracts, causing a build-up of gas which can ultimately lead to colic.
Don’t throw a head of lettuce over into the paddock either. Separate and wash the leaves and hand-feed them to your horse with a flat palm. If you’re in a hurry, you can scatter a few leaves into their feeding bag.
Can Horses Eat Iceberg Lettuce?
Iceberg is a great lettuce to feed your horse. When it comes straight from the refrigerator it’s cool, crunchy, and a special treat for your horse. It’s packed full of water and aids in their hydration and won’t make them put on weight.
Iceberg lettuce might not have a huge amount of nutrients, but it does still contain some vitamins and minerals, so it’s not a total loss. It’s more about the texture and the water content that makes iceberg lettuce such a juicy treat.
Can Horses Eat Romaine Lettuce?
Romaine lettuce is even better for horses than iceberg because it contains more minerals and nutrients. It has phosphorous, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and, like iceberg lettuce, is full of vitamins C and K.
If you’re struggling to find Romaine lettuce, in some places it’s also known as Cos lettuce, so try that instead!
Can Horses Eat Cabbage And Lettuce?
You might think that because horses are fine to eat lettuce, they must be just as good with cabbage, too. But this is wrong! Cabbage should never be fed to horses. Cabbage causes fermentation in the stomach, which means the horse produces a lot of gas. If they can’t release the gas, they can quickly develop colic.
Never feed your horse cabbage. You may find that some horse owners argue that their horse has always enjoyed a crunchy cabbage leaf or two with no problems. Others may argue that while white or green cabbage can be problematic, red cabbage is fine, and so on.
It’s just not worth the risk. Cabbage is a strict no-no for horse owners. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so swap out the cabbage for lettuce instead.
Can Horses Eat Cucumber And Lettuce?
It’s been established that lettuce is fine, but so is cucumber! It’s another refreshing, crunchy treat that costs next to nothing and is easy to take to the stables. Cucumbers are low in calories, high in water, and contain vitamins A, C, and K.
The skin of the cucumber is even more nutritious than lettuce as it contains fiber, which is vital for a horse’s digestion. Cucumber is also particularly good for horses who need to lose weight and those that may be insulin-resistant.
The shape of a cucumber is such that feeding it whole could cause a horse to choke, so be sure to always chop up the cucumber into pieces before feeding it to your horse. And, as always, it’s about portion control. Don’t overfeed cucumber to your horse as it doesn’t contain all the nutrients the animal needs.
Can Horses Eat Spinach And Lettuce?
Some horses go as crazy for spinach as they do for lettuce! And both are perfectly safe. In fact, the odd handful of spinach for your horse is beneficial for them, as spinach is a superfood, just chock full of minerals, vitamins (especially B vitamins, which you can’t get from lettuce), folic acid, and iron.
Although, as Equine Desire reminds us: horses are supposed to eat mostly grains and hay, so anything else can irritate their stomachs if fed in abundance. As always, it’s all about moderation.
Can Horses Eat Prickly Lettuce?
The genus lettuce includes wild and prickly lettuce but, as discussed earlier, it’s a lettuce that your horse does well to avoid.
Horses tend to give it a wide berth anyway, because not only is the lettuce prickly, as the name suggests, but it has a very bitter taste that makes for an unpleasant snack. However, as they graze in fields, they may at times eat some prickly, or wild lettuce.
It won’t kill them, but in large quantities, prickly lettuce can have a mild sedative or even narcotic effect, thanks to the lactucerin. It’s best to remove horses from the pasture where there is a lot of prickly or wild lettuce growing, and never pick the leaves from the ground to feed to your horse.
Can Horses Eat Water Lettuce?
No! A horse should never eat water lettuce.
Despite sounding like a lettuce given its name, water lettuce, or Pistia stratiotes, is a kind of philodendron plant, which is nothing like a lettuce. It’s an aquatic plant that grows on the surface of ponds and lakes.
If your horse grazes near water then there’s a chance that they could come across this plant but if not, don’t introduce them to it! Water lettuce is toxic to mammals, including both horses and humans, so steer clear. If you’re in any doubt, this great article tells you all you need to know about the plant, including the severity of its poisonous qualities.
Can Mini Horses Eat Lettuce?
Mini horses still have the same digestive systems as full-sized horses, so yes, they can enjoy eating the same treats! As they’re smaller in stature it makes sense that their portion sizes will be smaller, so as always go easy on the extras as horses do best when they stick to a regular diet, occasionally supplemented by the odd treat.
How Much Lettuce Can I Feed My Horse Each Day?
While it may not be the most nutritious vegetable we advise feeding your horse less than 2 pounds of lettuce each day.
So, feel free to give your horse the occasional handful of lettuce! Not only will your pony welcome the change of texture and taste from their normal diet, but they’ll love you all the more for bringing them this treat.
It’s always important to keep in mind that when it comes to deviating from their regular diet, even with healthy foods, you should always remember that moderation is key. A few bits of lettuce here and there are a lovely tidbit, but they should never replace a horse’s regular diet.
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