Once apon a time I had a little black stock horse, named Cotton. He was a sweet old man, who gallantly carried me safely whilst galloping through the bush, and then even more bravely tackled the basic dressage and jumping that I loved at Adult Riding Club (he wasn’t so keen on the arena stuff, but always tried his best for me anyway!). But for some strange reason, he was a bit of a junk food horse. It didn’t really matter what I was eating next to him, whether it was a sandwich, a packet of potato chips, or even Barbeque Shapes – he would insist that he partake and share my snacks. In fact I have never known another junk food horse quite like him! But whilst I limited the junk food that he snaffled from me (at the time I wasn’t convinced that it was good for him, despite his insistence that it was!), he did have another slightly odd and rather crazy treat obsession. He adored bananas!
It used to be a running joke at Adult Riding Club, that after our lessons, we would both stand under the shade of a tree and happily share a banana together(!). His incredible enthusiasm when a banana appeared was surely a sight to behold. One whiff of his prized fruit, and he would practically take your arm off in his quest to secure a bite. He would eat them whole – peel and all! In fact I generally only managed a bite or two for myself, before he devoured the lot.
Yet none of my other three horses at the time, were the slightest bit interested in bananas. Carrots & apples sent them nuts, but present them with a banana, and they would look at you as if you were daft. So the question is – how good are bananas for horses?
Well, the general consensus is that bananas are indeed perfectly healthy for horses. They are rich in potassium and are possibly even thought to be a worthwhile regular supplement for this reason. They can eat the peel too, which also provides extra valuable nutrition. It is said that some horses even prefer the peel and will eat the peel in preference to the banana itself.
Bananas do however contain a fair amount of naturally occurring sugars, so if you do have a horse who is sensitive to sugar, ie has metabolic issues, cushings, is founder prone etc, you might want to check with your vet before offering them – just to be on the safe side(!).
But for most horses, they aren’t a problem.
So why do some horses love them, and others not? Well, it’s hard to know. Cotton was the only horse I have come across so far who has not only eaten bananas but went absolutely nuts over them! His funny little banana dances were just hilarious. I’d hedge a guess, that perhaps it just comes down to their upbringing. I purchased Cotton when he was around 16 years old, and never knew much about his history. So perhaps he was offered bananas from an early age, and therefore developed a taste for them. My other horses (thoroughbreds and standardbreds off the track) perhaps had just never ever been introduced to them – so didn’t know how tasty they could be. It just seems that some love them – and some hate them – just like us human folk with our different food preferences I guess!
So maybe the next time you eat a banana, you might try offering your horse a small bite to see whether they are keen. You could even try offering the peel, instead of throwing it in the bin or compost. If they like it – they can then do the garbage disposal for you! At the very least, the next time you find a horse that sneakily grabs the banana you were eating, right out of your hands, you won’t have to panic! As you will know that it’s a healthy treat and won’t harm them – and that quite possibly you might just have to pack TWO bananas next time...
About the Author:
Sarah is One Stop Horse Shop's Manager, co-owner and driving force(!). She is also a mother of two, and one of the most horse crazy people you could come across. She has one old retired Standardbred named Jack, and her young five year old Thoroughbred - Trigger!