So what is the problem with processed horse feed?

Posted: February 17th, 2008, by Melanie Merrow

The view ahead

One question I am often asked is, “Why are these natural people so against the feeds we have used for years?” There are a number of reasons. A certain bacteria associated with high carbohydrate grains like corn, scavenge through the lower intestine to ferment undigested carbohydrates, which the horse either could not digest or could not absorb after digestion. These troublemakers produce highly toxic and allergenic chemicals called endotoxins which readily affect the sensitive laminae. Mineral oil given by stomach tube works by preventing the further absorption of the antitoxin. If the condition is left for a period of time, the laminae die due to oxygen starvation from lack of blood flow and can no longer hold attachment of the coffin bone to the hoof wall. As the hoof grows out over a period of time, a separation appears on the bottom of the hoof where the dead laminae appear. X-rays of the hoof show the coffin bone lacking proper support will rotate downward, pointing toward the bottom of the foot.

Many common commercial fat supplements utilize commercial slaughterhouse waste and further hydrogenate those already saturated animal fats into a prilled wax used in processing. Horses are vegetarians and have lesser digestive and enzymatic ability to digest these ultra saturated fats than we do as omnivores. Just think about what those fats do to our own bodies! These fat trimmings are also the repositories of the steroids such as synthetic estrogen’s fed to those feed animals as growth stimulants. Soy is used often in animal feed for this reason as well. These synthetic estrogen’s are immune suppressors. and almost all processed feed have some form of them.

Heat treating fats and even oils, like they do in pelleting and extruding produces trans fatty acids which are inflammatory to cell membranes. Heat also kills or deactivates all enzymes and B-vitamins which puts more digestive stress on the body. The body then has to provide more of these digestive elements. A horse fed these processed feeds and given no access to free choice hay or proper pasture bears an additional stress of digestion. Most race and performance horses are in this situation, as if the stress of performance isn’t enough already.

Each of these things can contribute to fragility of the laminae. They also compromise calcium and magnesium – the body’s main acid neutralizers – metabolism, cause low thyroid function, low compound absorption and retention in the body. Consuming these types of feeds raises the acidicty levels of lactic, gastric and other acids to a critical point in the body where we do not want them.

In simple terms a fresh diet is best for your horse. It should consist of a mixed grass pasture (not lush), free choice grass hay, water and salt and minerals.  If given in moderation, fresh carrots, apples, soaked beet pulp, parsnip, pineapple, dates, watermelon rind, banana, broccoli etc are great treats that add to a good diet. A horse should eat constantly in small mouth fulls while moving most of the day and night. Moving promotes good digestion and circulation all over the body allowing acids to be processed and expelled quickly.

If you think your horse needs supplements, please get a blood analysis! Most horses are over supplemented on minerals they do not need and this only causes problems both in the horse and in the pocket book.