When you buy a bag of textured or pelleted horse feed, none of the ingredients are easily recognizable. A bag of oats contains oats - and thatís easy to see. But often even the label on a bag of feed doesnít list the exact ingredients in some cases. Hereís a look at what might be on the ingredient list of a pelleted, mixed or textured horse feed.
Grains such as barley, oats and corn are very common in horse feeds. Whole, rolled or crimped oats used to be a staple feed for horses. It was thought that rolling or crimping the grains would make it easier for the horse to digest. Wheat isnít usually given to horses, but some blends may use wheat by-products. Grains are a source of simple carbohydrates. Theyíre the first thing we think of to add weight or energy to a horse.
Molasses, either liquid or powder is a common ingredient that adds a yummy flavor, and helps bind the product together. Even the powdery stuff is a little sticky, and that helps hold the shape of the pellets. The good thing about molasses is that it can encourage a picky horse to eat. The downside is that some horses donít need the carbs found in molasses. Another problem can occur if the feed is stored in the heat. The molasses can sour and start to ferment. Your feed should always smell grainy and sweet, not sour and beer-y. Lots of molasses in a feed can also be a pain in the cold months as it freezes into a solid mass. Molasses is a source of simple carbs.
Finely chopped grass hay and legumes may be an ingredient in some feeds. These are a source of complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Depending on the mixture, a concentrated feed may include beet pulp, soybean hulls, rice bran. These are good for adding weight to a horse and looking after digestive health.
Oils are a quick source of energy and weight gain nutrition. You might find corn, soy, and canola oil, or they may be listed under the general label of vegetable oils. Some feeds with a lot of oil will feel a bit dampóbut this is the oil, not moisture.
Sometimes extra proteins are added to a feed. These can include canola (rapeseed), flax meal (linseed), soy meal and whey, which is a by-product of cheese making. Proteins help muscles and other tissue grow and repair. Some are better than others, and some feed makers will add extra amino acids, such as l-lysine mono hydrochloride, which are building blocks of protein.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin and minerals are almost sure to be in a concentrated feed. Some, like selenium are added because they donít occur naturally in the soil, and horses can be in danger of not getting enough. There are both micro and macro minerals. Youíll see both macro-minerals like magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride and micro or trace minerals like copper, zinc and iodine. When feeding mineral supplements on top of a concentrate feed itís important to be sure youíre not giving your horse too much of a good thing.
Probiotics are thought to aid digestion and can include things like enzymes, yeasts and good bacteria.
Preservatives can help keep things fresh. They slow the growth of nasties like bacteria and molds. One common one that is used is propionic acid. While it seems harmless for most horses, there is the odd one that seems to have a reaction to it. Another is Citric Acid. It is a derivative of corn. A natural preservative is Vitamin E.
Herbs, things like glycerin to help hold the pellets together, soy lecithin, which helps keep everything uniformly mixed together and even flavorings are commonly added to horse feeds.
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