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Fibre or forage for horses

Fibre or forage?

07 June 2024

Fibre or forage for horses?

We all know horses are best served with a high fibre diet, but is all fibre the same?  You’ve guessed, it isn’t! 

Fibre is the structural part that holds plants together – its skeleton, if you will. The older the plant, the stronger its fibre needs to be, but the stronger it is, and as result, for the animals that eat it or try to, the less goodness can be extracted from it. Fibre is broken down by gut microbes in the horse to free fatty acids which are assimilated along the same pathways as fats and oils, to provide slow-release energy.

Soluble fibre, from younger plants is easily fermented and yields the most goodness. Pectins and gums come into this category. As the fibre get stronger, it is broken down more slowly and yields less nutrition. Old fibre becomes lignified and yields very little. Straw and wood come into this category.

Fibre firstly supports gut microbes. They in turn support the horse with the products of their fermentation of the fibre. If the fibre is lignified and tough, not only is it of low nutritional value to the horse, but it is also of little value to the microbes. They will in effect be starved and will be unable to offer the support that the horse relies on from them, such as immunity and well-being, as well as nutrition.

Fibre can come from many sources, including waste or by-products from the human food industry but that from forage is what we want for our horses. Ideally, horses will be on a 100% forage diet, which will be high in the right sort of fibre

Forage is plant material, such as leaves, flowers and stems, that can be eaten by animals. It can be grazed or preserved by drying to make hay, fermented to make haylage and silage, or rapidly dried to make specific nutrient feeds that can be compressed as pellets or fed as chop. Forage is good for the horse's gut microbes, and is therefore good for the horse.

All of Simple System's feeds are forage based - only adding additional plant-based ingredients that are functional for the horse. They are free from; cereals and their by-products (including straw), pulses (including soya), molasses, additives and preservatives. Our range is also GM free and registered with the Vegan Society.

To shop online please click here.

To discuss your horse's diet, please contact our Feed Line nutrition team on 01728 604 008 or complete our online advice request form here.

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