Foliage for horses? Safe only in moderation
In autumn, trees, hedges and other plants lose their leaves. The dropped leaves then collect in more or less large quantities on the ground - also on horse pastures and in paddocks. Then riders and animal owners repeatedly discuss whether leaves are suitable as feed for their four-legged friends.
From a nutritional point of view, leaves can be classified as safe in healthy animals, except, of course, leaves from toxic plants. In the wild, horses also feed on leaves and tree fruits in the "golden season". And just a few decades ago, farmers even drove horses into the forest when conserved feed resources were in danger of becoming scarce.
However, as with almost everything in life, the rule applies here: »The dose makes the poison!«. In contrast to today's domestic horses, equidae have a sufficiently large area in the wild with countless feed alternatives.
Domestic horses generally do not have these areas. If they do not get enough hay and are hungry, they may eat too much leaves. The keeping of the animals is also an important factor. Boredom encourages curiosity, especially in young horses, and reduces their natural fear of an unknown plant or inedible fruit. While small amounts of foliage are considered harmless in vital horses with sufficient mineral nutrients, horses with metabolic disorders or colic prone should only eat foliage to a limited extent.
The situation is often more critical for fruit: Even small amounts of fermented fall fruit on a meadow orchard can trigger digestive problems. While the hazelnut is mostly avoided by the horses because of its hard shell, this is less common for walnuts. The fruit peels of still green walnuts contain tannic acid, which can cause gastrointestinal complaints and diarrhea. If the fruit skin is also infected by fungi, their toxins can lead to nerve cramps. Horses also react extremely sensitively to beech nuts. H. even small amounts are lethal. On the other hand, acorns are considered to be beneficial for horses in small quantities and are now often part of industrially manufactured feed mixtures.
Anke Klabunde, aid