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Debunking Feeding Myths

When it comes to feeding horses, there are a whole host of old wives’ tales that horsemen still follow today. Let’s review some of the most common horse-feeding myths.

Myth #1 – “Bran Mashes are Beneficial for Horses”

Horses are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to what they eat. So substituting a bran mash for the horse’s regular feed could cause a digestive upset and loose manure will result. This is not a good way of “cleaning out his system” and is actually a way to cause colic in your horse.

Myth #2 – “High Protein Diets Cause Developmental Problems in Growing Horses”

Feeding more protein than the growing horse needs does not increase the growth rate any more than feeding to meet the protein requirement. Likewise, restricting protein will not result in improved bone growth and can actually be harmful by decreasing feed intake, growth rate and skeletal development. For growing horses, protein and mineral intake must be in proportion to the energy level of the diet.

Myth #3 – “High Protein Feeds Make My Horse Hot”

There is no research to show a connection between feeding excess protein and “hot” behavior or excitability in the horse. There have been studies showing that a diet high in soluble carbohydrates (starch and simple sugars) that are responsible for a high glycemic response (rise in blood glucose and insulin) is related to more excitable behavior.

Myth #4 – “Beet Pulp-based Feeds Must Be Soaked Before Feeding or Your Horse Will Choke”

Beet pulp may soak up water like a sponge, but it can’t soak up saliva quickly enough to cause a choke. Choke associated with beet pulp is usually associated with a rapid eating rate (bolting) and inadequate chewing, not enough access to water, a raised feeder (not at ground level) with inadequate chewing, and/or particle size. (Pelleted and finely shredded beet pulp are the worst for causing a choke).

Myth #5 – “Feeding in Raised Feeders is Healthier for My Horse”

How we feed horses can be as important as what we feed. Horses are designed to eat off the ground, which is evident in the fact that the lower jaw slides forward into proper grinding position only when its head is down. Eating from a raised feeder results in improperly chewed food, uneven tooth wear, decreased saliva, increased incidence of choke, and respiratory issues from more inspired dust and mold in hay and grain.

So, now you know the truth about feeding your equine friend. Keep these five tips in mind next time you feed.

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