Can Horses Eat Parsnips?

Can Horses Eat Parsnips?

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The Sweet Dilemma of Parsnips: Creating a Nourishing Diet for Horses

Parsnips are a root vegetable that is enjoyed by many humans for their sweet and earthy flavour and high nutritional value. But can horses also benefit from this unique vegetable? While horses are primarily fed hay and grains, some owners may want to diversify their horse's diet with fresh fruits and vegetables. One such option is parsnips, which can provide an additional source of vitamins and minerals to a horse's diet.

The health benefits of parsnips for horses are often overlooked when it comes to a balanced diet. Although high in sugar, when given in moderation, parsnips can provide essential vitamins and nutrients that are vital for your horse's well-being. With the right preparation and knowledge, parsnips can be a great addition to your horse's daily diet.

In this article, we will explore the nutritional value of parsnips, the risks and benefits of feeding them to horses, and the best practices for preparing and serving parsnips as a treat. 

Can Horses Eat Parsnips?

Yes, horses can eat parsnips. Parsnips contain several nutrients that are beneficial for horses. They are a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, and potassium for horses. Feeding parsnips to horses should be done in moderation due to their high sugar content which can lead to weight gain and other health issues.



Parsnips are a root vegetable closely related to carrots and parsley. They have been cultivated for centuries and were once a common staple food in Europe before being replaced by the potato. They have a distinctly sweet, earthy flavour and are commonly used in cooking as a side dish, added to stews and soups, or roasted as a standalone dish.

Parsnips are high in fibre and contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They also contain antioxidants such as falcarinol, which has been linked to reducing the risk of cancer.

When it comes to feeding parsnips to horses, it's important to keep in mind their nutritional value and potential risks, as excessive consumption can cause digestive issues and colic.

Preparing and Feeding Parsnips to Horses

Washing and Cutting Parsnips

The first step in preparing parsnips is to make sure they are washed properly, as any dirt left on the surface could be a poisoning hazard. Wash the parsnips thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Peel the parsnips using a vegetable peeler and cut them into small, bite-sized pieces. This will make them easier for horses to chew and swallow. If the parsnips have stems or leaves, these should be removed before feeding.

Cooking or Serving Raw

Parsnips can be fed to horses either raw or cooked. When fed raw, parsnips retain their natural nutrients and can provide a satisfying crunch for horses. However, raw parsnips can be difficult for horses to digest and may cause digestive issues if fed in large quantities. Cooking parsnips can make them easier for horses to digest, while also enhancing their flavour and sweetness. Steaming or boiling parsnips until they are tender can make them softer and more palatable for horses.

The Benefits of Feeding Parsnips to Horses

A good source of dietary fibre

Parsnips are a good source of dietary fibre, which is important for the horse's overall health and digestion. Dietary fibre helps to keep the digestive system regular, easing gastrointestinal issues and helping to break down and absorb nutrients. Fibre also helps to slow down the absorption of sugar in the body, leading to more energy for longer periods and a healthier weight.

An excellent source of vitamin C

Parsnips are an excellent source of vitamin C, which can help boost your horse’s immune system. Vitamin C helps the body to fight off infections, heal wounds, and protect against free radical damage. Furthermore, it can also aid in the absorption of other nutrients, such as iron, to ensure your horse stays healthy.

A rich source of potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral for horses and parsnips are a great source of it. Potassium helps to regulate the muscles, nerves, and heart. Additionally, it helps to maintain the body's natural balance of fluids. Potassium is also important for normal growth and development, as well as helping to control blood pressure and aiding in muscle contractions.

Low in calories

Parsnips are low in calories, making them a great option for horses that are on a diet or trying to maintain a healthy weight. These root vegetables are primarily composed of starch and water, with roughly 100 calories per cup. While this amount may vary slightly depending on the size and amount of parsnips fed, it is still a relatively low number when compared to other foods.


Parsnips contain antioxidants like falcarinol, which has been linked to reducing the risk of cancer. These compounds can help protect horses from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can lead to a range of health problems.

Moderation when Feeding Parsnips

While parsnips can provide many benefits to your horse, they should still be fed in moderation. This is due to the high sugar content of parsnips; when consumed in large quantities, the sugar can lead to weight gain and other health issues. It is important to start with small amounts and gradually increase the portion size over time.

Additionally, when feeding parsnips to horses, it's important to monitor portion sizes and ensure that they are appropriate for the horse's size and nutritional needs. This is because digestive issues can occur if too much sugar is consumed at once. Therefore, it is important to monitor how much parsnips your horse consumes and to ensure they are only used as a treat.


Potential Risks of Feeding Parsnips to Horses

Digestive issues

Feeding too many parsnips or introducing them too quickly can cause digestive issues like gas, bloating, or colic in horses. It's important to start with small amounts and monitor your horse's reaction.

High in sugar

Parsnips are relatively high in sugar compared to other vegetables, which can be a concern for horses with metabolic issues like insulin resistance or laminitis.

Choking hazard

Parsnips can be a choking hazard if they are not cut into small pieces or grated. Make sure to cut parsnips into small pieces to prevent choking.


Parsnips, like any food, can become contaminated with bacteria or toxins that can be harmful to horses. It's important to wash parsnips thoroughly before feeding and to avoid feeding spoiled or rotten parsnips

Final words

Parsnips can be a great treat for horses and an excellent addition to their daily diet. With the right preparation and by following general moderation guidelines, these root vegetables can provide essential nutrients that are vital for your horse’s health.

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