The Horse Feed Minefield

I am from the North, so I guess that it is intrinsic in my bones to be forthright, upfront and say it how I see it. Not comfortable for many people, I have been known to cause upset by being honest but I truly believe that it is time for someone to stand up.

My career was in technology, until I was allowed to retire, so I am used to the logical but in this equestrian world, I find very little is logical. There is argument and counter argument, research papers and counter research papers of what is good, bad and indifferent for your horse.

What I do know is that every horse owner is trying to do their very best for their beloved horses and being taken for a jolly old, expensive ride for the most part.


I still remember back in the day, feeding “straights”, but I don’t remember speaking to my friends about ulcers and gastric issues. Today, that is not true it is a hot topic of discussion and from what I can see it has reached epidemic proportions.

Yes, I was guilty too. My horses were all fed on top names, expensive brands, promising me this energy, that fibre, this condition, muscle support, supporting my horse, good for this, that and the other. Oh, and I believed it too.

Then I met someone who lifted the veil of marketing spin from my eyes and brought me back down to earth with a big crash.


This is normally where we start. I thought my chaff was safe, well safer than most, it has to be said but then I was educated.

What was rapeseed oil doing in it? I thought that was ok but not for equines it really only should be Cold Pressed Linseed Oil. Why? A) Because it is only one of two oils that should be fed to equines as it has the correct Omega 3 to 6 ratios. B) If it is not cold pressed it is heat extracted, this means heating to over 400 degrees thus changing the molecular structure and often incorporates the use of Hexane a rather nasty chemical.

Then I saw mould inhibitors too, really?? Most chaffs have molasses in them and other forms of “palatability enhancers”.  Why you ask? Well remember these are all waste products – so why would they taste nice?


Like most horse owners I trusted that I was doing the right thing. It wasn’t until I got down on my hands and knees and started looking at the content of the bags that I realised that what I was feeding was actually the waste products from other processes, commonly known as by-products. Make no bones about it – it is waste.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at your own bag of feed, it will be a revelation.


This is what the feed has in it but there are no weights to tell you what the ratios are. You may find Lucerne (Alfalfa) and some oats in there but predominantly the modern-day feed comprises of soya hulls, soya bean meal, sugar beet, molasses, wheat feed and a host of other waste products some of which are genetically modified!

All these ingredients are then ground down to powder and then formed into pellets. Think back to Fact 4 – horses need to grind – what do you think happens when a horse tries to grind on a pellet? Yes, you guessed it, it turns back to powder – no grind.

Which leads me to “mash” feeds. A lovely slobbery mush, that may smell nice to us but it is absolutely not what our horses need or really want. They are not encouraged to chew and grind this type of product and will not be fully digested.


The bit where we have the vitamins and minerals that are added to the feed. You will find them in IU’s, mg and CFU’s and grams. Unintelligible to most of us, but suffice to say they are usually the tech/feed grade additives which are poorly absorbed so more is required.


We are brain washed into believing that we need to feed chaff, plus a processed feed (cubes/nuts/pencils) or maybe two and then a balancer perhaps? A few supplements may be for this or that and you have arrived at a completely unbalanced diet.  

Yes, guilty as charged. When I looked at what I was feeding my horse it is no wonder he was a bit of a fruit loop.

There was no balance there at all.  

The symptoms of this were plain for me to see but I chose to ignore it because I was doing the right thing – right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.


An acronym from my technology days, Keep It Simple Stupid.  Boy, had I forgotten that one.

Horses are not complicated to feed, we have made it that way. Well I say we, not us exactly. The wonderful feed companies that we have trusted.

Have you stopped to think about the rise in ulcers and gastric issues? This increase can be directly linked to the use of modern-day feeds and in many cases insufficient roughage.

Can I eat fast food, junk food, fizzy drinks and processed food with all kinds of additives every day? Yes, I can. Can I look good on it? No definitely not! Is it doing me good? Absolutely not, sugar levels, salt, mood swings, internal issues, digestive issues the list goes on. The parallel applies.

Would you feed milk to a lactose intolerant child? We would all say “Of course, not”. The brutal truth is that we are feeding our horses’ food that their digestive system has not evolved to digest.  

Remember horses are strict herbivores – that means plants – not vegetables, fruits, by-products or another junk we have no other use for. Did you know that the quality of our horse feeds is below that of cattle?

Back to K.I.S.S

For the majority of horses out there………………. including competition and performance horses.

Turnout – absolutely.

Ad lib hay – absolutely.

Alfalfa with nothing at all in it –     Absolutely

Whole Oats – Yes not crushed, rolled, bruised or anything else – don’t believe the old wives’ tales it is probably in your feed already in some limited form. – certainly, if required

Cold Pressed Linseed Oil – for extra energy without the calories – Absolutely

High Quality Daily Supplement that provides the correct balance of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes your horse requires on a daily basis. Human grade using mineral tissue salts is preferred – more expensive perhaps – but it is fully absorbed into the body and gets to work – Absolutely


My warm blood has a new zest for food, that was not there before – it seems his innate instinct for knowing what is good for him has come to the surface – I should have listened but I didn’t.

I guess it’s like being a prisoner in a cell, you eat what is presented to you because you have to, to survive. It doesn’t mean you like it.

My horses’ guts are healthy, their poo is how it should be, it does not smell, their boxes are cleaner, they have plenty of energy, their zest for life is there, they can’t wait to be fed and tell me so every morning and every night.

Financially it costs me far less from a feed/supplement bill perspective and I am sure over time my vet will be annoyed but I shan’t be calling him out as often.

I am in complete control of what goes into my horses. Dependent on work load I can tweak, add and take away.

No longer will I trust a faceless brand, I am the Master of the Destiny of my horses and it feels great.

Recommendations noted above are not provided to replace veterinary advice, if you are still concerned about your horse please contact your vet.

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