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Can you feed your horse carrots?

Customers tell us they can’t feed their horses carrots because they are high in sugar.

FACT: Raw carrots contain only 4.7% sugar and 1.4% starch. Carrots are 85% water! Compare that to average hay at 8 to 10% sugar, and non molassed sugar beet at 5 to 8% sugar.

So why are carrots the bad guys? One extra large carrot weighing 85g contains just 4g sugar! In the 1950’s, healthy horses with no exercise had a typical diet of 12lb of hay, 2lb of bran, 4lb of oats and 7lb of carrots. (This type of diet was fed to horses in little exercise in the 1990’s with no ill effect, before commercial bagged feeds became really popular). So what has changed?

We would like to hear from you if you genuinely cannot feed carrots to your horse because you have actually observed that they adversely affect your horse in some way (increase in metabolic syndrome symptoms, laminitis, etc). Or is everyone avoiding carrots because they mistakenly think they are high in sugar? Share this post and lets see if we can find an answer!


  • Jini Patel Thompson Posted July 5, 2015 8:12 am

    Well, considering that 5 g of sugar is 1 teaspoon, that still seems a lot of sugar to me. But the 1950’s diet you listed is also interesting and would throw many horses I know today into laminitis… so wondering if it was okay because the amount of hay fed (12 lbs) was so little? My horses eat about 30 lbs each of low sugar (10% NSC) hay in a slow feeder per day.

    I’ve also noticed that feeding carrots induces what I call “treat franticness” – although some horses get this much worse than others, so maybe it’s not related to the sugar content, but rather to behavioural issues. Perhaps treats were used to manipulate/coerce the horse in the past? Or used to represent love and approval.

    My mare’s former owner calls her “food oriented”, I call it NUTS! I was thinking about getting her a big bag of carrots and dumping them in a bucket and seeing if she could experience abundance and no scarcity, and whether that would release her from treat anxiety – do some EFT Tapping for her at the same time. However, I was wondering if a large amount of carrots could cause a serious, acute health issue, so THANK YOU so much for answering that!

    One question: I was reading in your ABOUT section about horses getting itchy tail and rubbing the hair off there. What remedy did you find worked for that?

  • D Dixon Posted October 16, 2015 7:31 pm

    My pie bald turns ginger after having carrots! Since I’ve reduced her sugar in take no carrots no treats nothing she no longer has sweet itch

    • Susan Posted December 16, 2017 6:02 pm

      I feed my horse a bag of small carrots everyday but now he has sweet itch . Could it be from the carrots?

  • Vanessa Rimmer Posted October 17, 2015 1:09 pm

    I worked on a big event yard / stud farm in the eighties and we fed hay, bran and freshly rolled oats to everything young and old. I don’t remember ever having the vet visit in the 2 years I worked there other than for routine vaccinations. We never had gastric ulcers or hind gut problems or colic. Oh and every week in winter we had a load of carrots tipped and every horse had half a bucket full once a day. I am seriously thinking of going back to this regime.

  • Jane Simpson Posted November 26, 2015 5:16 pm

    I have a sack of carrots every 10-14 days, I regularly add around 10 small carrots in my two mares feeds plus I give them carrots as treats.
    I have one friend who won’t feed more than one carrot a day as he says ” a horse can get diarrhoea from too many carrots” and another who won’t feed them at all as “they make horses put on weight”
    My two love them!!

    • Brian Ratcliffe Posted April 2, 2016 1:04 pm

      I give my horse carrots cut strips for easy digestion, he loves them & no weight gain

  • Lynn Hindsley Posted February 11, 2016 12:03 pm

    Well my horse loves his carrots and has a couple every day in his feed , i worked on a hunt yard in the eighties they were on rolled oats bran and hay with boiled barley once or twice a week , no problems with any of them , very fit healthy horses .

  • Linda Posted April 27, 2016 8:33 pm

    I wonder if it makes a difference feeding organic carrots? Given what we know about fertilisers etc.

  • Liz Bracegirdle Posted November 26, 2016 2:28 pm

    I can feed all of my 4 horsses/ponies carrots – even the welsh section D with EMS. The only bad thing for them is too much grass.

  • Relax Massage Posted January 6, 2018 5:38 pm

    Thanks for posting this brilliant article. I’m a long time reader but I’ve never left a comment.

    I’ve bookmarked your blog and shared this on Twitter.

    Many thanks again for a really good article!

  • Jacki Honeybourne Posted May 27, 2018 8:15 am

    I have owned/worked with horses for many years, and the feeding regimes were always dictated by the owners of the yards I worked on. Many owners never agreed with titbits of any sort as they believed treats would turn their otherwise already highly strung horses into nippy, bargy animals. I always introduced carrots as a treat to be given as a reward for groundwork excercises, never has it spoilt a horses manners, in fact I found the horses looked forward to their ‘classes’ and gave a bit more attention to the lesson. Let’s not forget most of our horses are pets, yes shocking as that sounds, I believe that to be true. I ride my newly acquired highly strung young Arab 4 times a week, he’s fed Thunderbrook healthy chaff, along with base mix, & has 2 Himalayan salt licks in different locations for ease of use. Since cutting out completely all quick beet & Micronised Linseed he has calmed down significantly & is a pleasure to be around. All ground work lessons are rewarded with sliced carrot as well as Thunderbrook cob nuts. He now looks forward to any attention be it a scratch on his favourite place under his mane or a slice of carrot. For me giving him a treat, is a pleasure for us both, & has also helped with his ‘head down excercises’ to overcome chronic head shyness.

  • Manda Scott Posted June 19, 2018 3:24 pm

    Horses like carrots a lot. I clicker train and use chopped carrots along with Hay Cobs and other pellets as reinforcement. Because I have studied basic behavioural science, it’s easy to teach a horse/pony good behaviour around any food, so carrots are no different. So – no problems here. Though useful to have it opened upas a conversation.

  • johanna wilson Posted August 21, 2018 3:48 pm

    My friend had donkeys who would choke on feed. Her vet pout then on carrots and coastal hay. I visited yesterday and I cannot express the richness of the coats on these donkeys. They were bright eyed happy and well feed but not obese. But the coats..the mini donkeys looked like velvet.

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