Eating hay and grain only can be boring, and in your attempt to expand the taste palette of your horses and increase their choices of food, you must have wondered, can horses eat sweet potatoes? After all, it is easy going on the digestive tract of humans, the same should extend to horses since they are similar in some respect to humans.
Yes, your horses can feed on sweet potatoes; however, you should ensure that they have it in moderation as an abundance of this starchy vegetable can lead to a build-up of sugar, which may be detrimental to the health of your equine.
Read on to understand the benefits attached to including sweet potatoes in your horses’ diet and what pitfalls to avoid. You will also get to know how to ration sweet potatoes in their diet through the nutrition they provide and need. Also, you will know in what state it is best to serve sweet potatoes to your horses.
Amazing Facts about Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are often called yams in some parts of America, but they bear no relation to the true yam. However, they are root vegetables that have characteristic tubers with varying colors, depending on the cultivar, ranging from red to yellow, pink, orange, purple, and beige.
It is rightly called sweet potatoes due to its high sugar and starch content.
Here are some of the facts about sweet potatoes you should know as they may influence their edibility for your horses.
They can be eaten cooked or raw
Your horses can have sweet potatoes either cooked or raw. Although they can chew better and you can be sure that their teeth are intact after chewing when you give them cooked sweet potatoes. However, they stand to gain more nutrients if they eat raw sweet potatoes. The downside to giving your horses raw sweet potatoes is that it could damage their teeth as chewing the tuber may be stressful to their teeth.
Cooked or raw, sweet potatoes provide a good amount of nutrients. Only ensure that they are served in small quantities at a time.
It has better nutrient composition than most grains
Sweet potatoes contain more than just starch. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, more than some grains and hay that your horses regularly feed on.
Horses are known to rely on grains such as corn, wheat, oats, and barley, to supply energy. Their high fiber content ensures that horses do not overeat but eat enough to supply the nutrient at a time, while they eat more, at the end of the day, to meet their nutrient requirement.
However, if there is a food that can effectively meet horses’ nutrient requirements and prevent them from overeating at the same time, it is sweet potatoes. It is higher in fiber, carbohydrates, sugar, calcium, potassium, sodium, and some other minerals, than maize and wheat. It is also high in vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and E.
You can grow them yourself
Sweet potatoes are relatively easy to grow to meet the nutritional needs of your horses. You can easily have a garden where sweet potatoes can be harvested from about two months, depending on the cultivar you plant.
The growing conditions are fairly easy to meet. All you need is to avoid frost – probably have them grown under some makeshift greenhouse to protect them from frost – and maintain a temperature of about 75°F. You can grow them in abundance during the summer and spring and store them for the cold months.
They do not require as much protection from pests as some other crops. You can also grow them indoors by placing the vines in a nutrient solution.
It is easily digestible
Due to the nature of horses’ digestive tract, they need food that is bulky and high in nutrients that they need. Therefore, foods that are high in fiber and can be served to your horses at intervals are preferred to nutrient-dense but hard-to-digest options.
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and contain enormous amounts of nutrients for the benefit of your horses.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Your horses stand to gain some health benefits from consuming sweet potatoes. While their digestibility and high nutrient content make them good candidates for horse feed, the benefits they give your horses include:
Improves bone strength
The physical exertion that horses are put through in the sport they partake in requires that they have excellent bone density. One of the nutrients responsible for giving that is potassium, and it is abundant in sweet potatoes.
Strengthens the Immune System
The immune system helps to fight infections and it needs to be strengthened from time to time. Vitamin C, E, and A are responsible for boosting the immune system due to their antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also has the added function of strengthening bones and reducing your horses’ possibility of developing cataracts.
Vitamin E also improves skin and eye health, while Vitamin C helps to heal wounds.
Better muscle coordination
Horses are muscular and need a high amount of potassium to help in the coordination of those massive muscles. Sweet potatoes are high in potassium and zinc, minerals that help in coordinating muscle contraction and relaxation.
It used to be the norm that horses were limited to certain feed – hay and some grains – due to their non-ruminant herbivores’ nature. However, they can also access more nutrients and better health by eating other food such as sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and protein, making them a good food choice for your horses.