Happy National Watermelon Day (#NationalWatermelonDay), every August 3rd. Most horses love watermelon. Should we really let them eat it, and if so how much? Just the flesh, or just the rind?
Watermelon is not harmful to horses — in moderate amounts. In fact, it is a great treat. However, please research anything you are considering giving your horse that’s new to you and them. Here are some tips to get you started.
Horses generally prefer the sweet flesh to the rind.
Watermelon is mostly water. In fact, a serving of watermelon is about 90 percent water. In a cup of diced watermelon, there is about 1 gram of fiber and 9 grams of sugar. That means roughly 10 percent of a watermelon is sugar. There are also a few vitamins and minerals in there—mainly vitamins A and C, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Sugar occurs naturally in all plants. Even carrots—a favorite root vegetable fed to horses, quite often by the bucketful—can contain about 6 grams of sugar per cup of a diced root. A horse’s natural food, pasture grass, has sugar, too. At certain times of the year, the amount of sugar in grass can be more than 25 percent. Over the course of a day’s eating, a horse will eat several pounds of sugar. This presents a problem only when they eat too much, as too much sugar in their grass can lead to laminitis and colic. As you can see, your horse would have to eat a lot of watermelon before the sugar would become a problem.
Are those watermelon rinds safe for your horse to eat? The answer is yes. In small quantities, watermelon rind is fine. Your horse can eat the ripe part, too, seeds and all. Some may not like melon, while others will be wild about it.
The watermelon is a member of the cucumber family, and most of us wouldn’t think twice about eating the skin of a cucumber or feeding it to our horse. There is no obscure toxin in watermelon skin or rind that is a danger only to horses, and, as noted, watermelon rind can be pickled and eaten by humans.
Some horse owners worry about the seeds. There are toxins in the seeds of many fruits, but the quantity of toxin is so minute that it’s unlikely to cause any problems.
Be sure to give the rind a good rinsing to remove any traces of pesticide residues.
How about us? We love watermelon too, right? So how about some popsicles such as the one above, made with watermelon and kiwi? Please see Patsy talks popsicles here on Tuesday’s Horse.