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The Grain Myth

Dr. med. vet. Malin Olson

Although horses have evolved as grass eaters, performance horses are commonly fed diets including large amounts of starch-rich concentrates (oat, barley, maize). There is very little scientific evidence that supports that these diets promote performance. In fact, it is well known that high concentrate diets are associated with problems in the digestive system, abnormal behavior, metabolic disorders (Obesity, EMS, Tying Up) and perhaps also problems with muscles, joints and ligaments. This is not surprising, as a diet with a focus on grains is comparable with a diet focused on sweets, cake and pastry in humans. Such a diet in humans will not promote performance in an athlete, moreover it is held responsible for obesity, diabetes, heart failure and stroke to name a few.

Horse feed pyramid

A healthy nutrition starts from the bottom. Make sure that your horse has excess to clean water, all the time! The basis of the diet has to be hay, haylage and pasture. Always try to feed roughage, which is composed of different species of grasses (there are more then 10’000 species available!). You can add grains to the diet as it encourages fussy horses to eat due to it’s palatability, but never make it the main part of the diet.

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