Coming from Australia where general horse management is heavily European influenced, a major difference I found upon moving to the US was in relation to feeding, specifically feeding “grain” or “concentrates”.
Here in the US, the reference to “grain” can include premix feeds in any form, not just actual grain (oats, barley etc). In Australia, supplementary feeding of anything other than hay is commonly referred to as a “hard feed”. The biggest difference I have found is in how these feeds are provided.
All horse nutritionists, & indeed any basic knowledge of good horse management tells you that as the horse has evolved as a grazing animal, the basis of a horses diet must be first & foremost roughage, in the form of grazing or hay.
Certainly hay is widely used here as it is back home, however a common feeding practice here is to provide “grain” on its own, without mixing it with any other form of roughage (hay being provided but not actually mixed with the grain). Chaff (chopped hay, either Oaten, Alfalfa (Lucerne) or Wheaten), is a staple ingredient of horses diets in Australia & is used as a basis upon which to build a “hard feed”, yet it is almost unheard of here in the US (in the area I live at least)! In more recent times, beet pulp & also soy hull pulp have also become popular & I have heard these referred to by nutritionists as a “super fibre”.
It is interesting how the different feeding practices have evolved. The benefit to providing concentrates within a roughage mix is to slow the progress of digestion of the concentrate. If grain is provided alongside hay, the horse will generally eat the grain first, then the hay. Personally I don’t like the idea of concentrate hitting the horses gut all at once & prefer to mix the ingredients through beet pulp (chaff being unavailable, but also for the additional benefits of pulp itself). I think this is particularly important for horses that have limited access to pasture grazing.
The one grain that is commonly fed straight, & which I am comfortable feeding straight is whole oats. It’s been interesting for me to read on some forums here in the US people questioning the value of oats. In Australia, & what I understand in Europe as well, oats are quite often the very first ingredient if a horses diet requires supplementation (after hay of course!). Oats are a wonderful, relatively safe feed, but of course common sense should be employed whenever feeding oats, as with any additional supplements, but that is another topic!
I believe beet pulp is growing in popularity everywhere, although there has been mixed & often conflicting information “out there” which has produced some resistance. As with all my feed ingredients, I’ve done a lot of research into the value of feeding this & am happy to continue. Of course, what you feed your horse if for you to decide, & many factors come into play; cost, efficiency, access & even your personal preferences. These issues will all be addressed in coming posts as feeding & nutrition are a pet interest of mine.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, experiences & feelings on the issue of feeding concentrates “straight” v’s “mixed”.
Cheers for now & Happy riding!