I know watermelons are a favorite treat at our house during hot summer days. It's pretty natural to want to share a treat with your friends – your equine friends included. While rinds don't taste that great to us (unless you know someone who can pickle them or cook them in a stir-fry), your horse will probably crunch them down with zeal. But are those watermelon rinds okay for your horse to eat? This is a common question horse owners have when watermelons are in abundance.
Is it okay to pitch the rind over the fence when you're done eating the red part? The answer is yes, in small quantities, watermelon rind is okay. And, your horse can eat the ripe part too, seeds and all. Some may not like melon, while others will be wild about it.
One thing people worry about when feeding watermelon to their horse is the large amount of sugar present. It tastes like there is a lot of sugar in a ripe melon. A watermelon is, as its name implies mostly water. A serving of watermelon is about 90% water. In a cup of diced watermelon, there is about 1 gram of fiber and 9 grams of sugar. That means roughly 10% 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, that don't taste as sweet as watermelon, contain about 6 grams of sugar per cup of diced root.
A horse's natural food, pasture grass, has sugar too, and at certain times of the year, the amount of sugar can be substantial—over 25%. Over the course of a day's eating, a horse will eat several pounds of sugar. When they eat too much sugar in their grass, it can lead to laminitis, and colic. So you can see that your horse would have to eat a lot of watermelon before the sugar became a problem.
Another thing people worry about is toxins in the rind. 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 that is a danger only to horses. As I mentioned, watermelon rind can be pickled and eaten by humans. There are toxins in the seeds of many fruits, but the quantity of toxin is so minute it's unlikely to cause any problems. Watermelon seeds are traditionally used to make a tasty treat when roasted. Because the seeds are so tiny, there is little chance they will cause choke. Many of the melons you can buy today are a seedless variety anyway.
The one thing you might want to do before you slice into your watermelon is to wash the outside. The rind may be sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and carry bacteria like e. coli into the flesh as you draw the knife through it, and that's not good for you. However, because of your horse's size, it's unlikely that chemical residue or bacteria will affect it.
Everything In Moderation
So while feeding your horse small quantities of watermelon occasionally, or sharing your uneaten rind is okay, a really large quantity may cause problems in your horse's gut.
It may not be a good idea to toss a large quantity of half ripe melons from your garden into the pasture. You might end up with a horse that has colic. Chunks of any improperly chewed food can cause choke in horses. If your horse is a greedy eater you might want to break the rind into pieces. But, there's no reason your horse can't enjoy this summertime treat – in moderation.