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  • Writer's pictureFiona Tothill

Feeding horses whilst on your walk

Horses around the UK are dying daily during this lockdown because well meaning people are feeding them.

Passers by have said to me

“it’s only a bag of carrots” (or whatever) however to the horse and it’s owner it can be devastating.

Did you know:

If you feed carrots the horses fill themselves up and then don’t eat their hay (hay or grass is the essential diet of any horse). This is like a child eating sweets and then not wanting their vegetables. Horses eat until they are fibre full, don’t fill them up on carrots. Grass (or hay) has all the nutritional contents necessary for a horse, please don’t tempt them away from what is good for them.

The eating of grass is also an important part of a horses internal heat regulation, they are grazing animals so do best when allowed to eat and rest as their gut dictates.

Some vegetables are poisonous to horses and can make them very ill or lead to a slow painful death. A domestic horse may try foods that are harmful and not realise until it’s too late.

Some horses have metabolic conditions similar to diabetes, apples or other sweet foods can make them very ill.

Some horses are prone to laminitis, giving them high energy or sugary foods will cause them weeks of crippling pain ( and may result in them being euthanised )

Carrots dropped into mud and then eaten can lead to an ingestion of sandy mud which can cause colic - again crippling pain than can lead to death

Grass cuttings can be lethal - cut grass ferments and it clumps and blocks the gut, again leading to colic ( which is very painful and potentially fatal).

Whilst some people feed bread, it is not a recognised food source and can upset a horse especially if they are not used to eating it.

Horses can choke to death on a carrot or apple if not cut correctly, some horses have dental problems and cannot chew hard foods, again increasing the chances of a blockage.

Horses are hanging around at the fence and risk being hurt and need expensive veterinary care. Some horses get good aggressive which can lead to fights.

If you don’t know how to feed you risk getting bitten or kicked yourself. Horses have a heirachy around food, if you do not know the horses you put the horses and yourself at risk.

Feeding horses can make it harder to identify and respond to genuine neglect ( welfare officers cannot identify food fed by passer by or owner- a lack of food can hasten a horse being rescued)

There has been a massive increase of passers by, that one bag of carrots may turn into 20-30kg at the end of the day - that amount is harmful and is a significant change to any horses diet.

If you want to support owner or get to know horses better why not bring food to a local riding school, we will make sure all the horses get something (as and when it is safe to do so) and teach you more about horses.


This poster is from Lightning's Legacy. Lightning was a famous show pony. He was killed this year after being fed by walkers.

His devastated owner Sarra Mackenzie-pilot has set up a fund to try to raise awareness and educate the public that their actions are costing lives.


About the author:

Fiona Tothill, BA Educational Studies, UKCC level 2 coach (equestrian). Equine Assisted Facilitator.

Fiona is an experienced speaker and trainer who is able to engage her audience and empower them to explore challenging issues.

Fiona is the co-owner vision behind Kingsmead Equestrian Centre in Surrey.

Fiona is available for public speaking engagements, workshops and events.

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22. Feb. 2021

This was a real eye opener to read. Thanks for sharing.

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