Can Horses Eat Bread? Or Is Bread Bad for Horses?

Question: Can horses eat bread? Or is best to keep this pantry staple off your horse’s diet? If you want to give your horse a treat, but you’ve ran out of store-bough horse treats, then you might think about giving your horse some bread instead.

Can Horses Eat Bread? The Quick Answer!

The quick answer would be that horses can eat plain bread, but some special types of bread (for example, garlic bread, chocolate bread and bread with poppy seeds) may not be safe for horses.

Plain bread is bread that is made from four simple ingredients — wheat flour, salt, yeast, and water. As none of these ingredients are toxic to horses, it’s okay for horses to occasionally eat some plain bread.

However, bread does not provide enough nutrients to be a large part of their daily feed. Bread definitely cannot replace commercially formulated grain.

Bread is only okay for horses as a small, occasional treat. As bread has a high calorie content it’s sometimes used by horse owners to put weight on their horse —  this is only okay if the horse still eats a normal amount of his/her regular feed-stuff as well, otherwise it can lead to nutritional deficiencies. And even if you are trying to get your horse to gain weight, bread should still be fed in small amounts, because the high starch content of bread can cause abdominal pain and other issues if fed in large amounts.

Why Bread Is Not the Best Thing to Feed Your Horse

While plain bread is not toxic to horses, it’s not exactly good for them either. In fact, it would be more appropriate to say that bread is bad for horses, especially if fed regularly or in large amounts.

The following are some reasons why bread is not the best thing for a horse to eat:

1. Bread Cannot Provide a Horse with All the Necessary Nutrients

When bread is the only feed-stuff to accompany hay, then it can lead to nutritional imbalance and deficiencies for your horse. The problem with bread for horses is that bread doesn’t provide the right amount of vitamins and minerals for horses.

For example, there’s not enough vitamin A, D, and E as well as calcium, copper, selenium and zinc in bread to meet the nutritional requirements for a horse.

2. The High Starch Content of Bread Is Bad for Horses

Can horses eat bread?Another problem with bread for horses is the high starch content of bread. Starch-rich diets in horses have been linked to the increase risk of many health problems, including rhabdomyolysis (a syndrome that leads to muscle damage) and bone formation problems in young horses.

A horse’s small intestine also has a limited capacity to digest starch. If a horse eats large amounts of bread or other high-starch food, then a large amounts of starch will pass through the small intestine to be later fermented in the large intestine and colon. However, the fermentation of starch causes a build-up of bacteria, which produces lactic acid in the hind gut and leads to a drop in pH levels. This, in return, can cause abdominal pain, laminitis (a painful inflammatory condition) and weight loss in horses.

So How Much Bread Can Horses Eat?

Because of the problems listed above, regularly feeding your equine large amounts of bread is definitely not recommended, but bread can still serve as a small, occasional treat for your horse — 1 or 2 slices of bread every now and then is okay for your horse, especially if he or she likes bread.

Do Horses Like Bread?

Some horses like bread and some do not. It is largely an individual preference from one horse to another if they will eat it or not due to the lack of an appealing aroma. Just like when some horses turn down mints, apples, and carrots, bread is also one of those feed-stuff items that may or may not be well received by a horse.

Can Horses Eat Moldy Bread?

In the case of feeding a horse moldy bread, the best practice is not to feed moldy bread, ever. Horses cannot digest mold or mycotoxins that the mold may produce. Ingesting mold can actuallly lead to a number of disorders and illnesses. If a horse inhales fungal or actinomycete spores, it can cause primary allergic and inflammatory disease. Mycotoxins can lead to numerous reproductive, immunological, gastrointestinal, and respiratory illnesses in the horse as well. Fresh or stale bread is preferred for the horse’s consumption of bread to reduce the risk of ingesting mold.

Can Horses Eat Whole Wheat Bread?

While it is not customary to feed horses whole grains, they can consume whole wheat bread due to the alteration to the gluten-starch by the yeast and the heat of baking. Without this alteration, the wheat grain could ball up in the intestinal tract and cause blockages.

Can Horses Eat Raisin Bread?

Like many fruits, raisins are okay for horses in limited quantities, as long as they are seedless. If you are not sure whether the raisins in the bread are seedless or not, it is not wise to feed it to your horse because horses cannot properly digest raisin seeds. The improper digestion of the seeds is likely to lead to abdominal pain.

Other Tings to Give Your Horse as a Treat

can-horses-eat-bread-2While the answer to the question “Can horses eat bread?” is yes, it’s not the best thing to give your horse as a treat. So, let’s look at some other treat options for horses.

Equines usually love a treat of fresh vegetables and fruits. One or two carrots or a banana would make a lot better treat for your horse than a slice of bread. Fresh vegetables and fruit do not only provide more nutrients than bread, but are also more similar to your horse’s regular food, so they are less likely to cause a stomach upset.

Conclusion on Can Horses Eat Bread?

To sum it up, it’s okay to occasionally feed your horse some bread as a treat. However, as bread is high in calories and starch, it’s best to not feed your horse more than a few slices in a single sitting and keep bread as a strictly occasional treat for your horse.

When you first introduce this treat to your horse, give even less than a few slices to make sure that the new food doesn’t upset your horse’s stomach — all new food items should be introduced gradually.

Does your horse like bread? What are some other things he or she likes to get as treats? Join the discussion in the comments below and let us know.

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