Can my horse eat dandelions? They are everywhere!
The short answer is YES, the long answer is “maybe it’s not the best idea in the world”. Dandelions are delicious to horses, and add a bit of spring color to the pastures, but may not be as healthy as you would think.
While dandelions are “safe” for most horses, know that they are super high in fractions, more so than fresh spring grass. This may pose a real threat to the metabolically challenged horse, such as the horse with Cushing’s. This also makes the dandelion super tasty, and therefore the go-to plant of choice for most horses in the pasture. You will need to decide how much your horse can eat based on his metabolic status and current health.
The dandelion in it's native habitat - my yard.
There are also a ton of rumors on the internet about dandelions and string halt. String halt is a condition in which the horse’s hock spontaneously flexes. This can be mild, or serious enough to warrant euthanasia. There is some correlation (not a definite cause here) between FALSE dandelion, aka flatweed, and string halt, especially in Australia. The key lies in the plant.
Actual dandelions do not have branches, are hollow, don’t have stem leaves, aren’t hairy, and have leaves that look like they have teeth. While there are loads of false dandelions out there, they all can differ branching, stem leaves, and hair along with some differences in the flower.
So how do you know? Your local ag extension service should be able to help you discern between dandelion and false dandelion. They can also help you create pasture that resists these yellow trouble makers if your horse has metabolic issues that need addressing.
And, if you decide your horse should not be eating dandelions, you can always take them home and eat them yourself. They are safe for humans, although they are bitter unless you cook them. Happy cooking for you and happy grazing for your horse!