Forage for a Horse's Digestive Health
A high forage equine diet
When I was a child, forage was the mainstay in the equine diet. Horses grazed in the pasture alongside cows and other livestock. The animals shared a salt block, and hard working horses that were brought in with the cattle received oats. The pastures often had hedgerows, a variety of weeds, and a small stand of trees to provide shade during the hot summer months. This is no longer the case as pastures are maintained to limit the number of unplanned species of plants to maintain a horse's digestive health.
Highly processed food for horses
Pick a brand of equine food, and you will find no less than four versions of feed that is meant to provide nutrition for your horse's digestive health at all stage of its life. There are extruded feeds, chopped feeds, puffed feeds, grain-free feeds, low-fat feeds, low-starch feeds, low-sugar feeds, sweet feeds, feeds for old horses, feeds for foals, feeds for mares, feeds for performance horses and ration-balancers to balance out the nutrition not being met by most of these products. Many of the ingredients used to manufacture these blends are waste products leftover from making food for those animals meant for the human food supply. The lab might find measurable amounts of nutrition left in these scraps, but that doesn’t mean the nutrients are available or good for your horse, or your horse's digestive health. But never fear: when your feed is not producing the results you want or need, you can immerse yourself in online catalogs that offer dozens of choices of pelleted, liquid or powdered supplements to make or keep your horse healthy - or so they say.
My next blog will talk a little about what goes into horse feeds today and how these practices came to be.