Can Horses Eat Bananas?

Katie Navarra Bradley

Katie Navarra Bradley

. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM
Updated May 20, 2024
girl sharing a banana with her horse

YuriyS/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Most horses love apples and carrots. But have you ever wondered, “Can horses eat bananas?”

Yes, horses can eat bananas, but Dr. Beau Whitaker, a veterinarian at Brazos Valley Equine Hospitals in Salado, Texas, says that it’s important to understand some health details about the horse before freely offering bananas as a treat.

Are Bananas Good for Horses?

Bananas are high in potassium, which helps balance electrolyte levels and regulates nerve and muscle activity, according to Whitaker.

They also contain high levels of B vitamins, a group of minerals that support blood cell production, the immune system, nerve function, and cellular and energy metabolism.

“B vitamins can impact carbohydrate metabolism, mood, and nerve function,” he says. “Healthy horses on good forage should not need supplementation, but it can be beneficial in times of stress.”

Can Bananas be Bad for Horses?

While bananas may have health benefits, Whitaker emphasizes that they are not a good choice for horses with equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease, conditions that require low-sugar diets.

“Horses with Cushing’s or equine metabolic syndrome are sensitive to consuming sugars, so we have to be cognizant of that,” he explains. “A small banana has 7 to 9 grams of sugar and a medium-sized banana has 14 grams, which isn’t a lot. But even a little bit can sometimes be problems in horses that are super-sensitive to consuming sugars.”

There is a caveat—the greener the banana, the lower the sugar level and the higher levels of fiber and resistant starch in the form of complex carbohydrates, which can counteract some of the insulin response, he adds.

Because green bananas have not ripened yet, their resistant starch or complex carbohydrates have not had the chance to further break down into simple sugars, which may cause insulin spikes after ingestion.

Additionally, horses with the genetic disease hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) are sensitive to potassium. High levels of potassium can trigger muscle spasms and trembling. In these horses, low-potassium diets are typically recommended and bananas are best avoided.

Can Horses Eat Banana Peels?

Yes, horses can eat banana peels. Banana peels are even a good source of antioxidants, Whitaker explains.

Antioxidants are essential nutrients that support performance, maintain general health, and protect against oxidative stress, which occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are atoms in the body that can damage cells, cause illness, and accelerate aging.

Can Horses Eat Whole Bananas?

Horses can eat bananas whole, peel and all, but it is recommended to cut them into bite-sized pieces to reduce the risk of choke.

When feeding a banana without the peel, Dr. Whitaker says the fruit is soft enough to offer to your horse to take bites off a bit at a time.

If you choose to feed the banana peel and all, he recommends cutting them into small slices. Similarly, if feeding the peel only, he suggests cutting those into one-inch pieces and to avoid cutting lengthwise.

How Many Bananas Can a Horse Eat a Day?

Bananas, like other fruits and commercially produced horse treats, are just that—treats. According to Whitaker, they should not be fed to replace any of the minerals and nutrients in the horse’s diet, which should first be based on forage (hay and grass).

“Since we’re not giving bananas as a source of nutrition, one or two bananas at a time no more than three to four a week is probably all I would want to give to a horse,” he says.

Alternatively, you can give your horse banana-flavored treats.

How To Safely Feed Your Horse Bananas

Offering fresh bananas cut into bite-sized pieces is the best way to feed one to a horse. Processing or cooking any fruit can diminish some of the nutrients, says Whitaker.

Gradually introduce your horse to bananas and keep a close eye on how they react. If your horse exhibits any signs of a medical issue such as an allergic reaction such as hives, increased respiratory rate, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your veterinarian before offering your horse bananas, to rule out any underlying conditions like Cushing’s disease, equine metabolic syndrome, or HYPP.

What Other Fruits Can Horses Eat?

Horses, like people, have preferences for the fruits they want to eat. In general, horses will eat:

  • Apples

  • Berries

  • Watermelon and other melons

  • Grapes

  • Strawberries

It’s important to remember that horses evolved to eat forage—grasses and shrubby growth—in the wild. Too much of a good thing, even fruit, is something to be cautious of, especially for horses that are sensitive to sugar or potassium.

Whether or not you choose to offer your horse bananas, they will likely enjoy trying new tastes. Maybe next time you bring a banana for yourself to the barn, you can share some with your equine companion!

Katie Navarra Bradley


Katie Navarra Bradley

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