Equestrian Life
BLOG: Amy Strapp discusses different feeding practices around the world

Amy Strapp - Part 1

Yalambi's Fendi.

 

By Amy Strapp

Busting some of the feeding myths wide open and getting down to what is really good for our horses gut and what’s not!

PART 1

We all want to do the best by our horses, but where are we going right or wrong in our efforts and what is really best for our horses and their guts?

So much of the success top riders or stables have with their teams of horses comes down to management; not just correct training but also the blacksmith, competition schedule, soundness, grooming, the general health and happiness of the horse - and of course feeding! I want to try to slowly share with you some of the lessons I have learnt on my journeys around Europe, South America and now back home here in Australia and thought I would start at one of the most important and basic steps in producing top horses: correct feeding.

So when I sat down to write a blog on the different feeding systems around Europe vs Australia I didn’t want to just be repeating what I had seen without a solid depth of knowledge of how their feeding systems over there relate to us here in a different climate and with different working programs for our horses - so I thought it best to call on expert advice to help explain what I have seen and what it all means!

So I approached the most knowledgeable person I know on this topic to help out and share his knowledge with us, Greg Manley. Greg is the founder and owner of Hygain Feeds, an Australian owned and made feed company that has been leading the way in high quality feed production here in Australia since 1983.

Here is a summary of our conversation:


So Greg, firstly since returning to Australia I have been taking many different horses in training and with each horse the owners are dropping off their own feed. I was surprised to notice how many different ways of feeding horses (for similar jobs) there are here in Australia and I would like to be able to advise my clients correctly on how to move forward here in this country with their feeding.

I found amongst the top stables in Europe, systems would not vary as greatly as they do here, from one Australian stable to another everything changes so much with training, management and feed; it’s very fragmented and inconsistent and I think the results from the horses reflect that. Some great and some really not!

Focusing on feed though, one method I was most surprised to still see is the ‘old style’ of bringing pollards, oats and bran etc. either to mix feed from scratch or add to an already pre-designed pellet or feed.

What would be your advice on this style of feeding?


“I don’t think this style of feeding would provide a balanced diet, like this you don’t know what quality of product you are buying and mixing feeds with, the quality of product can vary greatly from bag to bag. (Leading feed manufacturing companies like Hygain undergo rigorous testing of all of the products they use in their feeds to maintain high quality ingredients). Plus this type of diet isn’t balanced out with the necessary minerals and vitamins that a horse’s diet requires”.

There is more to it though than just the sourcing of high quality ingredients for our horse’s food. As technology and our knowledge of how horses digest different types of food has improved, so has the way the feed is ‘cooked’ or prepared for our horses.

I have been studying your feeds at Hygain and I have seen there are three major forms of processing feed: Pelleting, Extrusion and the new state of the art form of Micronizing. Can you explain in layman’s terms how this will benefit our horses?

“What micronizing does is it breaks down the starch, starch is the primary energy source for horses, we are talking carbohydrates and simple sugars… So the more that we can break down that molecular structure of the starch before the animal has to digest it, the better. The cooking process - basically what it does is it expands the molecular structure of the starch molecule and by expanding it we tear it apart in so making it more digestible for the horse in that process.

Micronized products are around 90% digested in the horse’s small intestine and this significantly increased digestibility not only improves the nutritional value of the grain, but greatly decreases the risk of starch fermentation in the hind gut.”

 

Ike snacking on a willow tree in his paddock - Photo Amy Strapp

Yalambi's Isaiah snacking on a willow tree in his paddock.

 

A lot of good horsemanship comes down to the full management of the horse, which includes feeding in proportion to the horses energy needs - as well as understanding the importance of and adding the correct amount off roughage to the pre-mixed feeds.

During my travels and work all around Europe, never did I enter a stable where they feed chaff - we would always feed hay with feeds, from breeding stables right through to high level Olympic stables. Yet here in Australia, so often people are feeding chaff, why is this?


“Australians don’t tend to feed enough hay, instead they tend to feed chaff or they think that they are feeding hay by feeding a few scoops of chaff, but the amount of chaff they feed is really quite negligible. They think two scoops of chaff is a lot of chaff but if you were to weigh that it would be lucky to be a kilo.

If I feed chaff, I would only feed lucerne chaff to our horses, as I think white chaff or oaten chaff is a total waste of time. It’s really just filler; it doesn’t have much nutritional value. For what you pay for oaten chaff, it’s better to feed hay, to benefit the horse’s digestive system - or if you’re going to feed chaff, only feed lucerne chaff. I say lucerne chaff because it is very low in sugar, high in soluble fibre and provides a source of calcium, so it has a buffering effect in the gut and it helps to also protect against ulcerations.”

So you are saying lucerne chaff is better then oaten chaff but hay is better then both?

“Lucerne hay is definitely the advancement on lucerne chaff, as unlike the chaff you are dealing more with the long stem fiber and the chewing is creating the saliva for the gut…The enzymes in the saliva protect the gut, they line the mucosa in the stomach and that protects against ulceration.

For whatever reason in Australia, people love the small cut chaff rather than rough cut chaff and hay, where it’s all different sizes (so they have to chew and break it down more) the longer the fibre stem the better it is for the horse!”

I have been in a variety of stables and another variation (also in Europe) to the feeding is that some stables will insist on feeding hay half an hour before feed and others feed before hay…what is your opinion on that?

“Feeding hay prior to cereal grains is a lot better, absolutely, because the longer stem (hay rather then chaff) creates the saliva as the horse chews, lining the stomach and preparing the gut for the digestion of concentrated feeds.”

 

Dog on the hay bail - Amy Strapp Part 1

Ozzie promoting the benefits of hay.



In Europe there was a lot of bran mash (often warm) fed to the horses, on the understanding this was good for their gut in situations where they might be unsettled, i.e. before, after or during travel or at night before spending the night standing still in the box.

How does this work and why would it be used for this purpose? In your opinion, should it be introduced into Australian feeding programs?

“I think it’s a very European thing that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, and so people keep doing it, but nutritionally it doesn’t provide a lot of benefit to the horse.

It might help hydrate the horse or keep the horse hydrated certainly while it’s traveling, this is a benefit. But really it doesn’t add nutritional value to the horse, it doesn’t help them from becoming constipated or anything along those lines, people think a bran mash will help food travel through the digestive system but that’s just rubbish. Wives tale if nothing else. Bran is very high in starch and a byproduct of milling wheat so it’s like pollard also, the hackies used to feed pollard all the time because they thought it put weight on.

Pollard and bran are bad for the horses for the same reasons, it basically gives them a sugar rush.”

In Europe and I know also here most people are adding a lot of supplements to their horses feeds to help them along, however Hygain only have a small amount of extra supplements available, why is this?

“We try and make a complete or maybe semi-complete feed that then only needs to have a fiber source (such as hay) added to it and so providing a balanced diet. In some cases a horse may need an additional supplementation, this may be an electrolyte, especially for horses that are heavy sweaters. Some horses that tie up generally have a higher requirement for vitamin E and selenium and then the only other supplements that I would consider necessary is a biotin supplement for horses that have hoof problems and a joint supplement for those that are a bit scratchy."

 

Amy Strapp November Blog - part 1

Yalambi's Isaiah.



When I look at the ingredients for your feeds they actually include a lot of supplements or natural sources of support to help with things like joints and muscles - each feed is designed for different horses doing different jobs…

“Absolutely, it’s basically just expensive urine when you give a horse a lot of extra supplements not needed at the end of the day, because a horse will mostly just pee it out. There is only so much a body can cope with, what we find in horses that are over supplemented is their bodies adjust to it. When when you want to give them something they need down the track, they have become immune to it and it’s a lot harder to get the body to absorb what it needs rather then flushing it straight out.”

To be continued……….

Photos courtesy of Amy Strapp

READ PART TWO HERE

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