Feeding Horses Almonds: Surprising FactsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 24, 2017
Health and fitness aficionados encourage daily consumption of almonds, and some even refer to the treat as the world’s healthiest food. Could almonds be the next “superfood” for your horse?
Almonds aren’t actually nuts, they’re drupes, a type of fruit that grows on trees, like peaches and plums. The outer surface of an almond is the hull, equivalent to the fleshy, juicy part of the peach. As an almond ripens, the hull dries and is subsequently removed during processing to harvest the seed for human consumption.
California, a world leader in almond production, exports approximately a billion pounds of almonds each year. Not only is that a lot of nuts, it is also a lot of hulls. Those hulls, like many other food byproducts, become incorporated into various livestock feeds. For horses, almond hulls are comparable to soybean hulls and beet pulp as super fibers, and can be safely incorporated at up to 45% of the diet*.
“Super fibers are highly digestible feedstuffs that horses ferment in the hindgut to produce volatile fatty acids. Those short-chain fatty acids are absorbed from the intestine to the bloodstream and are important sources of energy for horses,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).
Almonds are an excellent source of monounsaturated and unsaturated fats, vitamin E, biotin, and a variety of minerals, including manganese and copper—all involved in maintaining and improving hoof health. Almonds also contain a variety of other anti-inflammatory compounds, molecules that help the immune system, and even intestinal microbiome boosters**.
“Although almonds are not commonly fed to horses because they are used primarily for human consumption, they make a tasty treat for horses with many nutritional benefits. It would, however, take a lot more than the recommended six almonds a day for horses to reap the same benefits from almonds as humans. To provide supplemental vitamin E to horses, choose a natural source like Nano•E. For help in maintaining and improving hoof health, select Bio•Bloom PS,” Crandell recommended. Australian horse owners should look for Bio•Bloom.
Bear in mind that the dried leaves of almond trees can be toxic to horses.
Super fibers have a place in the diets of many horses, including high-performance athletes. Do you have a question about your horse’s diet? Request a nutritional consultation today.
*Clutter, S.H., and A.V. Rodiek. 1992. Feeding value of diets containing almond hulls. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 12(2):99-102.
**Burns, A.M., M.A. Zitt, C.C. Rowe, et al. 2016. Diet quality improves for parents and children when almonds are incorporated into their daily diet: A randomized, crossover study. Nutrition Research. 36(1):80-89.