Can horses eat parsley?

Unfortunately, unlike other “can horses eat” topics we’ve discussed, there isn’t a straight “yes” or “no” answer because it all depends on the type of parsley.

Don’t worry, though, we’ll still help you figure it out!

Read on to learn which types are safe, which are toxic, and which are somewhere in the middle.

Can Horses Eat Parsley?

Short answer: it depends.

A holistic approach to health has not only become popular amongst humans but also with the animals they care for.

As people try to find more natural ways to look after their horse’s health, the use of herbal supplements and plants has grown.

Over many centuries, herbs have been thought to have beneficial properties.

Before deciding which plants to provide your horse, it is necessary to do some research.

Not all plants are safe for horses to eat, making it important to avoid anything that is toxic.

Just because it is natural does not mean it is safe for your horse to eat. Here we will take a look at parsley and if horses can eat it.

Different Types of Parsley

parsley

The most recognizable types of parsley are those commonly used for cooking. These are flat leaf or curly leaf parsley.

Another less common type of parsley used in cooking is root parsley, which looks similar to a parsnip. 

In some locations, particularly in Europe, you will see a plant called ‘Alexander.’

While not itself a parsley that most people recognize as one, it is very similar in taste and looks, making it easily mistaken for parsley.

Cow parsley, part of the Apiaceae plant family, like the previously mentioned varieties, is another similar flowering plant.

Finally, another plant to look out for is Spring Parsley.

While Spring Parsley looks very similar to other parsley family plants, it can be distinguished by its yellow flowers.

Can Horses Eat Flat or Curly Leaf Parsley?

a brown horse eating grass on pasture

According to the ASPCA, flat-leaf or curly parsley and root parsley are toxic for horses.

This is due to the plant containing furanocoumarins. When large amounts of furanocoumarins are ingested photosensitization can occur.

Furocoumarins are most commonly found in plants that are part of the Apiaceae and Rutaceae families.

The different types of parsley are members of the Apiaceae family. Because of this photosensitization, it is a risk if horses eat these plants. 

There is contradictory information regarding the safety of eating parsley for horses.

Many natural-horse-feeding advocates say parsley is a safe and beneficial herb.

It is said to help with digestive issues, such as excessive gas. It is also said the rubbing crushed parsley leaves into an insect bit will help relieve itching.

Common flat leaf or curly parsley has a good nutritional profile that would be appealing for horse owners. A small amount is unlikely to cause any harm.

However, it is safer to avoid providing it directly to your horse, or as a part of a herbal supplement and find a guaranteed safe option.

If your horse has not eaten parsley in the past, it is impossible to know how sensitive they are to Furocoumarins.

CAN HORSES EAT PARSLEY?

mare and cob Irish horses on the grassfield: can they eat parsley?

Alexander

Alexander, sometimes called Horse Parsley, looks similar to Cow Parsley and Hemlock.

It has yellow flowers and once was commonly used in cooking.

The yellow flowers help distinguish it from other plants in the parsley family that can be harmful.

Alexanders are safe for horses to eat, and the taste is appealing to them.

Cow Parsley

Cow parsley, a white flowering plant, is safe for horses to eat.

Many horses find it very appealing and will eat it if they have access to it, whether in their field or snatched from a hedgerow on a hack.

Antidotal accounts say that cow parsley tastes similar to carrots, so it’s easy to see why horses love it.

However, it is extremely important to know this plant well as it looks almost identical to Hemlock. Hemlock is poisonous and can be lethal to horses.

Check out the side-by-side comparison below and you’ll see what I mean:

Comparison of cow parsley and hemlock side by side. Horses can eat cow parsley but hemlock is fatal.

There is no treatment protocol for horses that have ingested Hemlock, making the chance of survival low.

If you remove Hemlock from your land, you need to take safety precautions, such as wearing gloves, preventing contact with skin, and avoiding breathing close to the plant.

If in doubt, it is safer to not allow your horse to eat Cow Parsley.

Cow Parsley also looks similar to Giant Hogweed. Giant Hogweed should be avoided as it can cause skin burns, particularly in horses with pink noses.

Skin contact with Giant Hogweed causes photosensitivity.

Comparison of cow parsley and giant hogweed side by side. Cow parsley is safe for horses. Giant hogweed (right) is NOT.

Spring Parsley

Spring Parsley has yellow flowers, similar to Alexanders. There are 50 different types of Spring Parsley.

While contact or ingestion of the plant is not lethal to horses, it still has toxic effects.

When ingested, the toxins, xanthotoxin, and bergapten, enter the bloodstream and cause photosensitization.

How badly affected your horse is, depends on his skin and hair color.

Pink skin and areas around the face with little hair that has the least protection from the sun are the most affected.

Signs of Spring Parsley exposure include burns, a skin rash, blisters, and even weeping lesions. The eyes can become red, and you may notice squinting.

The main treatment for Spring Parsley poisoning is avoiding sunlight. Horses will have to graze at night, which could last several months.

Final Words

Before offering your horse any type of parsley, ensure you study the different types of plants in this family.

Accurate recognition of each type of parsley will avoid your horse accidentally eating a plant that can cause harm.

Some parsley plants only cause photosensitization which fortunately is not lethal but they can cause discomfort and increased management precautions for your horse.

The most important plant in this family to recognize is Hemlock.

There is no treatment for Hemlock poisoning, and it often leads to death.

If you are unsure what type of parsley you have, the safest option is to not let your horse eat it.

horse eating from a woman's hand

Can horses eat parsley? what are your thoughts about it? share with us!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.