One of the biggest questions horse owners and breeders impose about their beloved animals is what kind of diet should a healthy horse have. The horses are high maintenance animals and therefore, every owner, or every potential owner should know what is best for his dear horse friend.

Just like for us humans, some food is better suited for one’s organism and other kinds of food for others, food preferences vary from horse to horse, however, there are some staples that are common for all the horses – or at least for a particular breed.

In this article, we will discuss whether can horses eat tomatoes, or some similar veggies. We will also cover what can horses eat, and whether the tomatoes and the other vegetables are beneficial for them as they are for the humans and some other animals. A healthy diet will make your horse thrive, and is especially important during the early months, when the horse grows and develops.

Can horses eat tomato fruit?

Tomatoes are part of the Solanaceae family. Solanaceae is a large family of plants that covers various species from tomatoes and eggplants, to petunias. This group also covers some more toxic species, such as tobacco, belladonna, and mandrake.

As you have probably heard already, tomatoes are actually not veggies – they’re fruit. More specifically, they are considered as berries. Consisted of 95% water, apart from a moderate Vitamin C amount, they don’t have a large nutritional value – they’re mostly used by humans because of their delicious taste.

Many animals also enjoy the taste of ripe tomatoes: squirrels, deer, even dogs. However, horses are not one of them. In general horses are not big fans of the taste of the tomato, even though once again, this is all a matter of individual taste.

Not being tomato fans is not the only reason why you should not feed your horse with tomatoes. As we have mentioned, they are in the Solanaceae family, which contains some poisonous alkaloids. A member of this family is also the horse nettle, which you probably know, is one of the most damaging plants for your horse’s digestive system.

Some of the ingredients common to these alkaloids and plants can be found in the unripe, green tomatoes. The most toxic one of them is called solanine. It’s a glycoalkaloid and can cause serious damage to your horse’s digestive system. However, solanine is usually not found in the tomatoes (it is more common in horse nettle). The real culprit in the unripe tomatoes are atropine and hyoscyamine.

What will happen if my horse eats a tomato?

The hyoscyamine and the atropine, which can be found in higher concentration in the green tomatoes, but is still present in the ripe ones as well, can pose as a serious health hazard for your horse. The most common effects are:

  • Irritated mucous membranes in the mouth;
  • Irritated mucous membrane in the stomach (gastric mucosa). This is the membrane layer where the glands can be found, as well as the gastric pits;
  • Excessive salivation;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Constipation;
  • Colic;
  • The overall mobility of the gastric system is slowed down.

Additionally, the glycoalkaloids are attacking the autonomous nervous system of the horse. This system controls many internal organs and systems, including the stomach, intestines, the lungs, the heart, the blood vessels, the digestive glands, the liver and the kidneys. The poison predominantly causes damage to the digestive system, however, the other systems might also be subjected to damage.

How Will I Know if my Horse Ate a Tomato?

The first signs of poisoning by glycoalkaloids are dilated pupils and light sensitivity. They are usually followed by weakness, and eventually depression. Additionally, a depressed respiration may occur, together with a low heart rate.

If your horse ate a large amount of tomato, unfortunately, it can cause a collapse, and in worst cases, death. However, bear in mind that they need to eat a huge amount of unripe tomatoes for this to happen. In most of the cases, even if they do taste a tomato, they might get a mild nuisance, and be back on track in a short period of time. If the condition lasts, make sure you consult with a veterinarian.

The good thing is that horses are not big fans of tomatoes in the first place. So, the odds of your horse eating a tomato are rather small. The odds of your horse eating enough tomato to get poisoned are slim to none. Still, if you’re growing tomatoes where your horse might be moving around, make sure to put a fence or another obstacle, so they don’t have easy access to your tomatoes.

Horses and Similar Plants

Can Horses Eat Cucumber?

Yes, they can! However, not all horses are fans of the taste. Some of them enjoy the crunchiness and the freshness of this vegetable. As they are mostly consisted of water, they are a great way to hydrate your horse, while also providing it with a snack.

However, do not go overboard with feeding your horse with cucumbers – once a week is simply enough. Of course, organic cucumbers that do not have any pesticides on them are the best choice.

Can Horses Eat Lettuce?

Also yes! It is a great fresh and crunchy snack for your favorite animal. It is also rather easily digested by horses and can be a great summer hydration food.

However, make sure this is only a snack – and not a regular meal. The lettuce basically has no nutrients, so it cannot replace some other food with higher calories and bigger nutritional value.

Make sure the lettuce is okay and it hasn’t started to rot before you feed your horse. Slimy and bad lettuce can cause them digestive issues.

Can Horses Eat Potatoes?

No. Potatoes are in the same Solanaceae family, and contain the same toxicity as tomatoes – especially the raw potatoes. Keep your horse away from this delicious human snack.

Can Horses Eat Peppers

Peppers are in the same group with tomatoes and potatoes, so the answer is also no.

Can Horses Eat Celery?

Most definitely! Celery is a great fiber source for your horse. This also goes for the celery leaves.

Apart from fibers, celery is a great source of vitamins (A, B2, B6, C and K), manganese and potassium. This is another fresh and crunchy snack, and unlike the lettuce, celery actually has some great nutritional value for your horse.

Conclusion

Tomatoes and the other members of the Solanaceae family are definitely a bad choice for your horse’s diet. Some animal species tolerate them better, but overall, they pose troubles for every one of them. Horses are particularly sensitive to some of the glycoalkaloids contained in them.

The good news is that horses do not like tomatoes anyway – so there are little chances that your horse might get some serious issues. However, be vigilant, and make sure they do not have an open access to tomatoes, potatoes, paprikas, as well as horse nettle (which is actually the most poisonous of them all).

There are plenty of fruits and veggies that can be a great snack for your horse, and will not cause any issues with their digestive system. Moreover, some of them, such as celery and carrots, are rich in vitamins and minerals and will actually pose great benefit to your horse’s wellbeing.