Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds? Explore Its Nutritional Benefits

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 09/06/22 •  7 min read

Although Horses eat grass hay, wheat bran, and soybean meal, they also need omega 3 and 6 for strength and nutritional value. 

And we all know that seeds are the best natural supplement.

For example, sunflower seeds are a great source of omega for us humans. But my question is: can horses eat sunflower seeds? Is it safe for the horses, really?

Before you go for a handful of seeds for your horse, you must know the nutritional facts of the seeds. It would help you make the right decision about the amount and type of sunflower seeds for horses.

Reasons why you should incorporate sunflower seed to your horses’ diet!

As I already stated, horses can safely eat the sunflower seed, but you need to know more about the seeds and what they do to help your horse in health.

The seeds’ nutrients work wonders for diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation.

The seeds are immune boosters to the body. 

Knowing about the sunflower seeds’ potential benefits and nutritional value would be like walking on the right track.

Can Horses Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Packed with nutritions

The sunflower seeds are rich in fat and omega 3 & omega 6 that promote skin health and coat a shiny look. 

According to the national center for biotechnology information, seeds of this specific plant are composed of almost 20% protein, increasing the muscular and skeletal cell development of horses. 

A nutrition-dense snacking option

Horses also adore snacking.

You heard that right.

The seeds are healthy, delicious, and even 100% safe for horses. Literally, there is no serious reason to retain the horses away from this snack.

Magnesium is vital to horses’ muscle function as an electrolyte. More than 300 metabolic processes are supported by magnesium. Luckily the sunflower seeds contain 100 mg of magnesium per ounce.

Related: Wondering if horses can eat corn on the cob safely? Learn the facts about feeding straight corn to horses, and discover how to ensure your horse is getting a healthy, balanced diet.

Energy booster

Race horses need energy boost time and again. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is present in the sunflower seeds. Thus the seed supplement would be a good source of energy for the horses that work more.

Horses’ inflammation is the response to their injuries and trauma. But if the inflammation is out of control, it damages the healthy tissues. Zinc and selenium in the sunflower seeds help horses reduce, rather control, to a certain level.

The Nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds for horses

The Nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds for horses

Knowing the nutritional value of sunflower seeds for horses is good for ensuring a balanced diet plan. The nutritional value of sunflower seeds is as follows (consider an amount of 0.25 cup serving):

IngredientsAmount% Daily Value
Total fat8 g12%
Saturated fat2g10%
Trans fat0g 
Total Carbohydrate17g6%
Dietary Fiber1g4%

What kind of sunflower seeds can horses eat?

Well, whole sunflower seeds are an ideal and safe supplement for horses. But the horse owner should be prudent in choosing the right types of sunflower seeds fed. 

While buying them for the horses, you need to select the black oil sunflower seeds shortly, called BOSS. It is better to list out the reasons for choosing BOSS for horses.

Can I feed my horse black oil sunflower seeds? 

Yes, the black oil seeds are more likely to be a part of horses’ feed. Hence, the BOSS becomes safer and more digestible to eat.

Every ounce of sunflower seeds contains 100 milligrams of magnesium, whereas every ounce of BOSS provides 10,000 milligrams of Omega 6 fatty acid with 34 milligrams of Omega 3. 

The attractions you may find in using black oil sunflower seeds are many:

Oil content:

The black oil sunflower seeds contain 40% to 50% oil in the form of fatty acids. The fatty acids are Omega 6, which serve the problems of inflammatory response and weak cell unity. 

The fatty acids build up an immune system against inflammation. They enhance cell integrity, providing the horses with a better, smooth, and shiny coat/skin.

Note: The modern equine diet plans have enough Omega 6 fatty acids. You should add Omega 3 fatty acids by adding fish oil to horse feed. Thus you can maintain a balanced amount.

Vitamin E

Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E improves the coat condition of horses and helps fight chronic diseases. 

Can I feed my horse black oil sunflower seeds? 

Can horses have roasted sunflower seeds? Or whole sunflowers?

No, roasted sunflower seeds are not a preference for horses. Rather, the whole seeds serve the purpose better. The types of seeds and how they are treated need a study to know why it is so.

You can differentiate sunflower seeds into two categories: 

  1. Oilseed varieties 
  2. Confectionery sunflower seeds.

Confectionery seeds

The confectionery seeds are harvested and then processed for consumption by humans. You will find these in the form of shelled or roasted snack food. Sometimes, they are dehulled for bakery use. The downside is their large size.

Oilseed varieties

These are a suitable choice for horses. Oilseed varieties are also good for bird feed and sunflower oil extraction.

Sometimes horses don’t want to take fat supplements; in that case, adding black oil and sunflower seeds would be best. The seeds have dietary fat, which comes from the oil in them.

Note: Compared to the confectionery seeds, the black oil sunflower seeds have thinner hulls, making them easy to digest.

Let’s talk about the other side of the coin…..The disadvantage of sunflower seeds:

Like any other food item, sunflower seeds have their downsides. The downsides are not likely unavoided.

How many sunflower seeds to feed horses?

The exact amount of sunflower seeds for horses has not yet been standardized by veterinarians. Yet, the amount is around 56-133 gms per day.

A horse can consume a small number of sunflower seeds like 2 ounces or ¼ cups / 56-133 grams without complications. It also can deliver some supplement calories that are needed for a horse’s good health. 

The horse should not be allowed to eat more than one pound or two cups of seeds per day, depending on the seed type. 

2-ounce¼ cups56-133 g
1-pounds2-cups100-450 g

In other words, it is 2-4 oz per day. Adding in amounts without precautions may lead to constipation, colic or gas.


1. Are black oil sunflower seeds good for horses?

Yes, black oil sunflower seeds can be a great treat for horses. They are an excellent source of protein, fat, and other essential nutrients.

2. Where can I buy black oil sunflower seeds for horses?

You can find them at most local feed stores or online retailers that specialize in horse feed and supplies.

3. Can horses eat sunflower seeds with shells?

Yes, horses can eat sunflower seeds with shells in English. However, it’s important to feed them in moderation as excessive intake may lead to digestive issues.

Final verdict

Piling it up, yes, horses can eat sunflower seeds as a health-supportive supplement. But before you go for the pick, select the right type and amount for your horse. 

Some horses are also allergic to some of the nutrition of the seeds or not. So keep in mind this factor. If your horses face any issues after feeding the seeds for the first time, consult with horse experts or experienced friends.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

Keep Reading