The “Back to Basics” Equine Feeding Program

The Native Wild Horse
Horses evolved and flourished consuming grass and grass seed as their natural balanced diet. It is not possible to duplicate and feed our domesticated horses with the same wild horse diet consisting of such a wide variety of forages. The diet that best correlates with the native wild horse diet that we can feed our domesticated horses today is hay and oats. Oats are grass seeds. However, today’s varieties of cultivated grass and oats are different from the diet of ancestral and wild horses due to modern plant breeding programs and cultivation. In addition, the horse’s daily requirement of individual nutrients has changed due to domesticated confinement and the tasks required of them. Without these changes in both the feed stuffs and the horse’s modern lifestyle it would not be necessary to provide any extra additives to the horse’s original natural diet of wild plants, grass, and grass seeds.

Understanding the Equine Digestive System
In order to understand how to feed a horse, we must understand how the equine digestive system works and why it is drastically different from animals with simple gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. All mammals have similar nutrient requirements at the tissue level. Simple GI tract animals must ingest numerous required nutrients to survive. However the majority of the horse’s required daily nutrients are manufactured by microbes in the lumen (space) of the caecum, or hind gut, allowing the horse to survive on a diet restricted to grass and grass seeds only. Also, these microbes perform the critical function of converting grass cellulose to calories as the main equine calorie source. In contrast, simple GI tract creatures depend on calories obtained from ingested fats, starches, sugars and carbohydrates. Cellulose equals calories for horses while cellulose equals fiber for humans and other simple GI tract species.

Creating a Balanced Diet
Based on Life Data Labs, Inc. research, a diet of grass hay and/or pasture and oats most nearly meets the nutrient requirements of adult pleasure and performance horses and thus requires fewer additional nutrients to balance the diet. These additional nutrients are supplied in the correct amounts and ratios in the Barn Bag® Pleasure and Performance Horse for equines. Broodmares and growing horses require additional nutrients for growth and lactation.

If the horse is fed grass, hay and the Barn Bag® Pleasure and Performance Horse to meet the known requirements, without nutrient excesses, the horse will adjust or “reset” his metabolism to enable him to reach his maximum potential. An individual horse may have “special needs” such as joint or hoof problems and can benefit from a supplement. However, it is only after fulfilling the individual’s known nutrient requirements, without excesses, that we are able to determine if a horse has these “special needs”.

The Problem of Using Compounded Feeds
Today’s compounded feeds are often produced using by-products and grain hulls from the food industry. These ground and processed feeds lessen the horse’s desire to chew and therefore reduces salivation. Furthermore, when feeding compounded feeds nutrient intake is regulated by the amount of feed intake. Since there is great disparity of feeding levels between individual horses, when feeding a compounded feed most horses are either under or over supplied with various nutrients.

The Solution
In contrast, when feeding the Barn Bag® Pleasure and Performance Horse and grass hay and/or pasture the daily nutrient requirement can be separated from the calorie requirement necessary to maintain the correct body weight. Whole oats (a grass seed) is the preferred grain for the horse that requires additional calories.

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