Grain-free horse feed - when feeding makes sense 2022

Feeding four-legged friends with grain-free horse feed is becoming more and more common. It is mostly fed when horses have to go on a diet, 

for example, or when they are dependent on this type of nutrition for health reasons.You can find more good reasons to feed grain-free horse feed, the exact ingredients and product recommendations in this article. 

What role does grain play in horse feeding?

Before we take a closer look at grain-free horse feed, we must first clarify what grain actually is. Cereals are defined as plant species that carry fruit as grains. Oats , barley and maize are particularly well-known, especially when it comes to feeding horses . Spelled is also increasingly being used. In addition, there is wheat bran, which is being fed by more and more horse owners. You can often find these in the mash.

Cereals have a particularly high content of readily available energy in the form of starch . Precisely because of this property, grain was used to feed horses in the past: In the past, the four-legged friends mainly had to work in the fields and pull heavy ploughs. As a result, they naturally required a lot of energy, which they obtained by feeding grain. Even today, for example, oats are part of a horse's daily diet.


Grain for horses - curse or blessing?

As already mentioned, oats for horses contain a lot of energy, which is particularly beneficial for sport horses, for example. But grain can also have a negative effect on a horse's body . Because the horse, as a permanent eater, can quickly be overwhelmed with too much grain and could have problems digesting the excess supply of energy . Because with the grain comes a high proportion of starch in the sensitive digestive tract of the horse. But our darlings have only a few starch-splitting enzymes, which means that the horse's intestines sometimes have problems digesting grain. Oats are even easier to digest than corn or barley, for example. Poor digestibility can result in incorrect fermentation and digestive disorders.

If a feed is too grain-heavy and the starch is not completely digested in the small intestine, which means that some residual starch ends up in the large intestine, the balance of microorganisms can be shifted under certain circumstances. Affected horses often suffer from flatulence, hyperacidity or even have to contend with metabolic toxins.

You have to consider individually whether grain-free feed is the right feeding method for your horse. If you are unsure, we also advise you to consult your trusted veterinarian or to seek competent advice on feeding .

Feeding horses grain-free – five good reasons

More natural horse nutrition

Basically, a grain-free diet is in the nature of the horse. If you choose a food that is as natural as possible, you will be more likely to meet the needs of your four-legged friend.

weight reduction

A grain-free diet is often recommended for horses that need to lose weight. Because even more sugar intake should then be prevented.

In any case, the main component of horse nutrition consists of roughage , mostly in the form of hay. And hay also gives horses energy: ten kilos of hay contain 80 to 90 megajoules of digestible energy, depending on when it is cut. This is perfectly adequate for many horses. Of course, the individual needs of the horse must always be taken into account.

For the prevention of metabolic diseases

Horses that suffer from or are particularly susceptible to metabolic diseases such as Cushing's disease, equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), laminitis, diabetes or tying up are also usually fed grain-free horse feed. These diseases are increasing so that it is no longer just certain horse breeds or older four-legged friends that are affected. Regardless of the reason for the disease, the fur nose should not be overfed. Since the intake of sugar and starch should be avoided, a grain-free diet is recommended for affected four-legged friends.

Independence from the harvest

If you feed grain, you are also dependent on the annual harvest . If a crop is too wet, for example, grains can quickly become colonized by fungi. You can no longer feed them, as this can trigger colic, allergies or respiratory problems, among other things.

Protection of the digestive tract

Some horses are particularly sensitive in the gastrointestinal area . The digestion of grain is not without problems: Because the grain is normally digested in the stomach and in the front small intestine of the four-legged friend. The digestive capacity of starch, i.e. grain, is quite limited in the small intestine. If the limited capacity is exceeded, the incompletely digested grain enters the large intestine in the next step. There it can happen that the balance of the intestinal bacteria is disturbed . The intestinal bacteria are actually responsible for breaking down the fibers of roughage. If there is a disturbance, it can lead to gas colic or diarrhea. In the worst case, this can even become a long-term disorder even diseases such as laminitis bring with them.

Content of grain-free horse feed

rain-free feed therefore does not contain the types of grain listed above. Of course, every feed mixture - whether grain-free or not - is made up of different components. Here are some common ingredients found in grain-free horse feed:

  • alfalfa
  • haycobs
  • shredded hay
  • herbs
  • fruit and/or vegetable additives
  • Oil or flower seeds ( flaxseed , black cumin seeds, hemp nuts or sunflower seeds)
  • Carrot schnitzel, beetroot schnitzel and/or beet pulp
  • Green oats (not grain, but the stalks of an oat plant harvested before the bodies sprout)

Which horses benefit from grain-free feeding?

A grain-free diet is often recommended for horses that need to lose weight . Four-legged friends who are prone to metabolic diseases such as laminitis or cross-linkage are also often fed grain-free food. Horses with stomach problems such as stomach ulcers or diarrhea can also benefit from a grain-free diet, as the sensitive digestive tract is protected. In addition, there are horses with allergies that simply cannot tolerate grain and therefore need an alternative. Grain-free food can be helpful for all of these symptoms.

Nevertheless, this should always be discussed with a veterinarian , as certain diseases also have to be treated in other ways.

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