May's enews from Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr, Independent Equine Nutritionist. Feed Focus, Q&A, Research snippets and more... 


Hello from a soggy, muddy North Wiltshire! We are certainly getting the rain I wished for in my previous Enews…..Seems to be all coming at once. How are you coping managing your horses? Many of our horses will be inside more than usual for this time of year, with some liveries limiting turnout to save poached pasture. My own horses have been in their pens overnight because they are on restricted grass and that soon turns to mud in this weather! So I have been getting through much more forage than I expected and I’m feeding a combination of Halley’s Ad Lib Blox (low energy compressed chopped forage blocks) and some stalky local hay, soaked. With this extra money going on forage, I thought a few tips on penny pinching would be useful! (see below). If you are a British Horse Society member, look out for my article on Feeding and Fitness in their current edition. Have a great month and enjoy your horses (in between the showers)….  

Research snippet:
Flex those chewing muscles!

Horses fed hay, haylage or a straw/alfalfa chaff had much greater chewing muscle activity, took longer to eat a specific amount, and therefore would stimulate much more saliva flow than horses fed cracked maize. Hay intake before feeding cracked maize did not affect the chewing force of the maize, but the horses took longer to eat the maize compared to when it was fed after a 12 hour fast. These research findings remind us that fulfilling as much of your horses’ nutritional requirements from forage will help to fulfil their need to chew, and feeding hay to a stabled horse in the morning before their concentrate feed will help to slow the intake of the concentrate feed, which is desirable.
Vervuert et al, (2012) Electromyographic evaluation of masseter muscle activity in horses fed (i) different types of roughage and (ii) maize after different hay allocations. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, Mar 29

Feed focus
May’s feed is bran. Bran used to be a staple of many horses’ diets, which isn’t surprising because it can be a useful feed. Many myths surround bran, and the two most common are that it is bad for horses, and that it is a laxative. Both aren’t true if it is fed as part of a balanced diet.
Bran is a reasonable source of fibre and digestible energy. Its starch level is lower than most cereals, although it’s too high for horses on low starch diets. Bran is high in phosphorus and low in calcium for horses, so it does need to be balanced if added to the diet in quantities over half a kilo (450 g) per day. If fed in larger quantities e.g. 2-3 kg per day and not balanced, it can cause a calcium deficiency due to its high phosphorus content, and this is partly why  some consider it ‘bad’ for horses.
Bran is a common ingredient in compound horse feeds, where it is a useful source of digestible fibre. It is commonly used in a slightly different form called ‘wheat feed’ or ‘wheat middlings’, which actually consists of bran along with some wheat germ and flour.
Why is bran thought to be laxative? Bran used to be fed once weekly or after hunting or other exhaustive exercise as a mash, often with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) mixed in. Feeding anything irregularly such as once weekly disturbs the horse’s gut and can cause loose droppings, so this may be partly the reason it was considered a laxative. But more likely this effect was due to the Epsom salts. Epsom salts draws water into the gut, acting as a laxative. It is useful for horses at risk of impacted colic due to dehydration and fatigue, because it ‘gets things moving again’. However, dehydrated and fatigued horses also need to be rehydrated with regular salt (sodium chloride) and water because using just Epsom salts won’t help their whole body-dehydration.
Bran is very palatable and is a useful feed to tempt sick horses or those with appetite problems. It is also useful to tempt fussy horses to eat unpalatable drugs.


Are bananas safe to feed to horses? Clementine oranges? Bread? These are questions that came up on the Facebook page (thanks Sarah, Abi and Terrin). The answer is, ‘Yes’ in limited quantities. Most fruit and veg are fine as treats for horses, although there are several you wouldn’t want to feed in quantities of more than a handful per day. Examples are brassicas like cabbage and broccoli, onions, (raw) potatoes and tomatoes. Limit bread to a couple of slices per day due to its high starch content, and avoid for overweight horses and ponies, and those with laminitis or metabolic syndrome. A couple per day of oranges, apples, pears, bananas, soft fruit and stoned fruit (with stones removed!) are all fine.  

If you have any friends who would be interested in Clare's Health and Nutrition enews, please feel free to forward this message onto them. Don't forget to submit your Nutrition and Feeding Questions to Clare ( with 'enews question' in the subject box and it may be picked out of the bag for inclusion in a future enews Q&A. Thank you for your interest.

Quote of the month: 

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” La Rochefoucauld 

May's Practical Tip
In these financially tight times, how can we ensure we are feeding economically? First, only feed what your horse needs. No point in feeding half a scoop of compound feed (which won’t balance the diet) unless you are using it to tempt your fussy horse to eat his supplements. Buy a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement instead, e.g. Equivite. TopSpec. Dengie, Day, Son & Hewitt or Dodson & Horrell Vits and Mins. If you mix with unmolassed sugar beet, and don’t mind soaking for 24 hours, the pelleted (unmolassed) version is much cheaper than flaked, quick-soak versions. If you feed chaff, check if the sack is 12, 15 or 20 kg and divide the cost to check cost per kg. Manage your grazing, perhaps by splitting into paddocks and rotating, to ensure a good yield of grass which will save on extra forage and hard feed (unless your horse has to have restricted grass and safe, low cal forage instead). Check exactly what a daily dose of your horse's supplement contains and compare with equivalents to ensure you are getting value for money. Finally, please share your money-saving tips on Clare's Facebook page!

Each month Clare will be answering your questions. Please email with ‘Enews question’ in the subject box if you would like to have your question answered.

Struggling to get weight gain
Q: I’m struggling to get weight on my 16hh TB, who is stabled overnight and out in the day. He is fed a scoop of conditioning mix twice a day and some sugar beet and chaff. He gets a big net of hay overnight. There isn’t much grass in his pasture. His teeth and deworming are up to date and he’s well rugged up. But he still looks very lean. Help!
A: It’s worth learning how to condition score, and also looking at a few pictures of fit endurance horses because many owners are concerned that their horses are too thin when in fact they are simply lean but healthy. I’ve had a few consultations like this, which I believe is due to the fact that our leisure horses are, generally fatter so the ‘norm’ is a fatter horse than the ‘norm’ a decade or two ago. However, if would like more fat covering on your horse then here goes: Firstly, increase your horse’s forage up to ad lib so that he always has some left in the morning, and ideally feed hay out at pasture as well (consider a tree-pot or hay hutch or similar if your livery isn’t keen on hay on the ground). Also try to source the highest energy forage you can, and try to access a field with good grass availability. Then, I recommend you change to a conditioning cube or a medium energy high digestible fibre feed such as those made for endurance. In this way you can increase up to 3-4 kg safely (over at least 2 meals, and preferably 3). Then, add some vegetable oil (e.g. linseed or corn), increasing gradually up to a mugful per day.

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