Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds? Facts to Reveal Truth

Oats, barley, and corn have been an important part of a horse’s diet since the beginning of time but the majority of horse owners these days are upgrading the horse’s platters with seeds. Flax(linseed), chia, sunflower, and hemp seed have become a prominent part of the horse’s weekly diet. 

We all know the use, dos, and don’ts of flax, chia, and hemp seeds but sunflower seeds are a little new to the market. 

And if you are hell-bent on taking part in this race? Let’s make everything clear for you.

Can Horses Eat Sunflower seeds

Yay, for several reasons. Horses can eat sunflower seeds in fact, giving it as a nutritional treat is a common practice. They can be super beneficial for horses if fed the right way. 

Ideal feeding rate

To let the sunflower seeds play safe it is generally recommended to keep the quantity within 56 to 1333 grams.

Are Sunflower seeds safe for horses

You may or may not know but all sunflower seeds are not the same. To sum it up in a sentence, black oil sunflower seeds are safe but classic non-oil ones are not.

Black oil or boss sunflower seeds are recommended for their high oil content as it aids in digestibility. Besides, nutritional content and digestibility they are thin and easy to chew. So they do not put an extra burden on the horse’s jaws to devour it in.

Classic sunflower seeds will not do any good as they are high in omega-6 and low in omega-3s it would rather upset horse’s fatty acid consumption. 

What do black oil sunflower seeds do for horses?

With being a snack full of vitamins, minerals, magnesium, and proteins they are also helpful in promoting skin health. Shiny coat and weight gain is another plus of feeding the recommended black oil sunflower seeds.

To clear your doubts, let’s break the biology of Boss(black oil sunflower seeds)

Black oil sunflower seeds are rich in omega-6 fatty acid but it also contains an amount of omega-3 as well. This concentration helps in bringing the balance of omega to a reasonable proportion.

The balanced oil percentage(40-50) aids in digestion and a considerable amount of protein and vitamins make it a fine portion of the meal.

Sunflower seeds are highly recommended for non-grazing horses

Sunflower seeds provide a fair share of vitamin E to the non-grazing horses and horses that are surviving on stale pastures. The deficiency of vitamin E in such horses can be treated this way. Although it would never be an ideal alternative for vitamin E that is being consumed through green forage. But it would somehow fulfill the part to some extent. 

What vitamins and minerals sunflower seeds have? And what do they do for the horses?

Sunflower seeds are fully packed with numerous vitamins and minerals but the important ones are:

  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E
sunflower seeds for horses


Phosphorus does not just keep the skeleton healthy but it also provides structural support to the bones.

As per the research conducted recently, An average 500lb horse needs 14.3 grams of phosphorus every day. Sunflower seeds help in keeping the figures of phosphorus balanced. Inorganic phosphorus supplements are no doubt a quick way to fulfill the need but on the other hand, they are slowly taking the strength away. Magnesium:

Magnesium is needed for the healthy functional nerve and muscle system. It also brings a calming effect to the nervousness, excitability, and wariness in horses. Every 100 grams of sunflower seeds contain 325 mg magnesium that is enough to meet a day’s requirements.


Even though horses do not need iron daily but it becomes an unavoidable micro mineral in the case of blood loss and sub-clinical iron toxicity. Feeding it in both cases would reduce the need for inorganic iron supplements


Calcium deficiency shows the signs of lameness, slow growth, weak bones, and poor performance. By bringing a little stability in all the above mentioned medical conditions calcium also gives a healthy boost to muscle weakness as well. So, the sunflower seeds are soothing the taste buds and giving a healthy boost at the same time.


Potassium balances the acid and base balance, cellular osmotic pressure, muscle, and nerve function. 100 grams of sunflower seed supplies 645mg of potassium.


Horses need protein to grow and it becomes even more important in the growth years. Sunflower seeds are just another protein-rich snack that will be a health booster for not just growing but mature horses as well.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E fights against free radicals that are damaging the membrane and components of cells. Non-grazing horses usually suffer from vitamin E deficiency as they hardly get fresh pasture. So, sunflower seeds are the best organic alternative for vitamin E needs.

Grind them or soak them in water, to make it easy to devour

Some horses may find it difficult to break the hulls in such cases soak or grind the sunflower seeds to make them appear weaker in their mouth.

But remember! You will hardly come across a horse owner feeding the sunflower seed this way as these are my inventions.

For ground sunflower seed- A point to remember.

For ground sunflower seed, horse owners should be careful of rancidity. Ground sunflower seeds should be fed as soon as you are done grinding. 

 But you won’t have to worry about the pre-ground ready to use sunflower seed available in the market as they are already treated for rancidity. 

But how would you recognize the black oil sunflower seed? 

As there are three types of sunflower seeds it would be overwhelming for a newbie to find the “one” for their horses. 

The seed your horse is going to get benefits from should have a soil black colored husk. If it’s still tricky to identify the black oil seed, compare the available types you will find the black ones in a minute.

In brief, you can feed your horses sunflower seeds but they would only be good for them if you follow the instructions and precautions properly. And one thing you must not forget(not just in the sunflower seed case) feeding in moderation is the key!


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Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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