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Every year, around October when Halloween is fast approaching, a common query arises within equestrian circles regarding the suitability of feeding pumpkins to horses. This question is quite understandable, especially given the abundance of pumpkins available on street corners. Later on, as the pumpkins make way for Christmas decorations, many owners ponder the prospect of offering pumpkins to their equine companions rather than discarding them.

In essence, a distinction must be made between decorative pumpkins and those intended for human consumption. Decorative pumpkins do not belong in feeding troughs; they should find their place in organic waste disposal or on compost heaps once their purpose has been served. Among edible pumpkins, experts assert that the orange varieties are non-toxic for horses. However, it’s crucial to note that not all pumpkin plants are automatically suitable for equine consumption.

Concerning nutritional composition, pumpkins are primarily composed of water, approximately 92%. Nutritional values may slightly vary depending on the pumpkin variety. On average, pumpkins contain around 0.2% fat, roughly 1.4% protein, and about 4.5% to 6.5% carbohydrates (including approximately 1.4% to 2.9% sugar and 0% to 0.9% starch). These nutritional figures are relatively modest (source: https://www.naehrwertrechner.de/naehrwerte/G581111/Kürbis%20frisch). It’s worth considering that standard hay typically contains a sugar content ranging between 10% and 14%. By comparison, pumpkins fare quite favourably, particularly since they aren’t intended to be fed in substantial quantities like hay. Orange pumpkins notably contain a relatively significant concentration of beta-carotene, approximately 1,400 micrograms. This compound has been noted for its potential influence on the mare’s reproductive cycle. However, in comparison to carrots with their approximate 7,800 micrograms of beta-carotene, the content in pumpkins can be largely regarded as inconsequential. At present, there is no existing research into how the equine digestive system processes the fibre content of pumpkins.

As often observed with the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in equine diets, the adage “less is more” remains pertinent.

While there is no nutritional or edibility-related objection to offering horses a piece of pumpkin as an occasional treat, it is advisable to avoid generous provisioning. The equine digestive system is adept at processing cellulose present in grass and hay, but not as well-suited to the structural carbohydrates prevalent in fruits and vegetables.

Consequently, the approach should involve infrequent provisions of a small portion of pumpkin, perhaps as a winter amusement for the herd or an intermittent treat.

But this should not be a regular occurrence, and definitely not in huge amounts. Pumpkin should by no means be integrated into the daily diet or administered in substantial quantities. Furthermore, it is essential to avoid feeding pumpkins with residual wax from Halloween decorations, those that have been painted, or ones that are displaying signs of decay.