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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is probably a stupid question, and I apologize, I've just seen/heard/experienced a lot of different things and wanted to get a better understanding.

Why is grain used? In my current barn, every single horse gets grain, no questions asked. The amounts vary, and some only get the tiniest handful, but they all get it. They're the horses we use for our college program, so they're ridden a ton, is that why they get grain? I have no idea what type of grain it is.. Does that make a difference? I've heard that you shouldn't give hot horses grain - is that true?

Does it just totally depend on the horse? Kiya is a bit underweight still, and she loves her grain more than anything (as they all seem to), but giving her grain doesn't seem to make her hot at all.

Sorry for the lack of knowledge!
 

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It's far from a stupid question! Aside from the fact I reckon the only stupid questions are the unasked ones that you should have done! ;-)

Grain has been a common feed for horses... probably since farming. It's a starch/energy rich feed. It is/has been fed to horses who's diet needs supplementing, due to work, weight, and often because that's what's most convenient (easier to carry a bag of oats than bales of hay for eg). Whole grain is also a source of phosphorus, iron, selenium, etc & may be used to 'balance' nutrition.

These days, with 'improved' varieties & commercial farming, cereal grain has become a lot higher starch/sugars across the board(as have 'improved' grasses). Equine health studies have also shown that horses don't digest high levels of starch well and that whole, unprocessed grain is also generally hard for the horse to digest at all in the foregut(oats are a bit of an exception). High levels of starch hitting the hindgut can cause ulcers, colic, gut damage & even laminitis & other very serious health issues. Especially with conventional farming & fertilising, it can also be very imbalanced nutritionally. Therefore, even if extra energy is required, I tend to think there are *generally* better options to cereal grain.

If a horse is deemed to need grain, either for weight gain or nutrition, it's important that they're fed little & often. Small, frequent meals including lots of fibre. Unless it's whole oats, grain also needs to be processed to be digested in the stomach - ie 'micronised'. Some grain, such as corn & maize, I'd generally avoid all together, such as corn, which is very high NSC.
 

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Welcome to the forum, Kiya! As was wisely stated, avoid giving grain altogether. The only way I would ever feed grain to my horses would have to be Vet recommended due to an extreme health issue. Horses just simply don't need it. Simplicity is the key, as horses are more simple to feed than we humans can comprehend! Quality hay/Loose minerals/Salt, and All the fresh water they can drink! Keep in mind, that if you are boarding, you absolutely have a say in what you desire your horse to be fed. Don't ever feel pressured by 'going against the grain'. :)
 

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Good questions. All horses are different, just like us, so their diets vary. If a horse is usedregularly, then grain is the best way for it to recover lost nutrients and keep its weight up. As said above, the more feedings the better. Quality forage should almost always be the foundation of the diet.
 

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When the modern horse was evolving there was no place that it could stop at the grain pile and consume large amounts. As a result, horses did not evolve the ability to produce the volume of enzymes that break down starches and sugars beyond a small constant amount. This means that too much grain moves too far down the digestive system. When that happens it ceases to be a positive source of nutrition, and disrupts the use of other energy sources. If grain based feeds are your only option (this is rare), it should be fed in very small amounts over a longer period as mentioned above. There are much better alternatives
 

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One thing I've noticed is that most folks refer to everything not hay as "grain". So, Corn Oats Barley (COB) is grain, Strategy concentrate is grain, Nutrena Empower is grain. Some of the concentrates contain various grains but also contain a lot more things like vitamins and fat. Grain seems to be a catch all, convenience term for almost any kind of supplemental feeding.
 

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Keep in mind, too, that the term "grain" is often used for any hard feed.

Cereal grains (corn, oats, barley) are specifically the ones that are high in starch, difficult for horses to digest, make horses "hot", and lead to gastric and hindgut ulcers. Molasses, which is high in sugar instead of starch, has many of the same negatives. Textured sweet feeds are usually a combination of cereal grains, molasses, and often a pelleted supplement to add nutritional value (since cereal grains have very limited nutritional value aside from calories)

Hay pellets (either grass or alfalfa) are largely the same as baled hay, with the exception that they don't have the long stem fibers that are really necessary to keep the gut "swept out" and don't provide the same amount of "chew time" as grass/baled hay.

Processed pelleted feeds can vary widely on how good or bad they are for horses. Some are just as bad as textured sweet feeds because they're essentially the same ingredients, just ground up and pressed into pellet form. Others are grain free (often based on alfalfa or beet pulp instead of cereal grains) and can be a valuable part of a horse's diet.

To determine if you'd want to add more "grain" to your horse's diet to help her gain weight, you'd need to find out what kind it is first. You might want to also see if she can be given more hay first if she's not already getting free-choice hay or on pasture.
 

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I have fed oats for years 22 years never have had problems because of it. As far as horses being hot on them didn't bother me. Would rather ride a hot horse then a lazy doesn't like to move horse.

Still feed oats to 2 of my 3 horses also feed pellets that are below 10 percent nsc. Lot cheaper to feed oats hay and a vit min...then pellets at 25 a 50 pound bag. Can get 1200lbs of oats for 75 dollars plus horses like them better then pellets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I hate the boarding situation she's in currently, but it's my only option. She's boarded at my university barn (the only one around for who knows how many miles), where turn out isn't offered to boarders because the school horses get it and there's not enough pasture space currently. It's being fought for, but it won't happen while I'm there. So I can have her out in a large round pen, frequently with two of her newly made friends, if I'm on the property. Otherwise she's in a stall. She's getting 6 flakes a day currently, and a 1/2 cup of "grain" - I wonder what it really is?

How do you go about weaning a horse off of it? Or should I leave her on it until I move her and she's in a pasture?

In May I'll be moving her out to Colorado with me (be prepared for hundreds of questions). :D I believe she'll be staying at my old barn, about five minutes from my house, in a pasture with 3 geldings and an older mare. The grass out here isn't great, but I think she'll be sooo much happier outside than in a stall. She just has to survive a few more months. Ideally, I want her off grain. Being a thoroughbred, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need it as long as weight doesn't end up being an issue.

Next fall I'll be boarding her in Fort Collins, CO. The barn I'm looking at currently, she'll hopefully be in a leanto with a big run and then have turn out every day. So, again, much better.

Thanks for all the replies! I've been around horses forever but it's so different actually owning one.. I don't want to screw anything up!
 

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So happy to hear you'll have her close by this Spring!! And yes, I'd wean her off of the grain, asap... Wean in small amounts daily, until whatever bag you have is gone...Don't ever be afraid to ask questions here, btw, as we've all been at the beginning where you are to where we are now! Horses never cease to amaze us with the things involved in their proper care :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you so much!! I'll have to talk to the barn manager about weaning her off of it next week when I see her again. :)
 

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If she's only getting a half cup then you can just stop giving it. A half cup isn't enough to do anything (positive or negative) unless it's actually a vitamin/mineral supplement that's designed to fed in such small amounts.
 
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If she is only getting the 6 flakes a day, then she ma be on a ration balancer....if so, then i would leave her on it. If it is grain, then you can just stop giving it to her, as said above.
 

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Frankly, I'd want to know exactly what she was being fed and why. Is it grain, is it ration balancer etc. What kind of hay is she getting, is it mixed grasses, straight grass or grass with alfalfa etc. Then what is the quality of the hay? Where we live in Washington state there's Eastern WA hay and then there is Western WA hay, two very different qualities and that makes a big difference in what nutrition they are getting and whether or not you need to supliment and with what. For instance Western WA is notorious for lacking selenium so we have to make up for that in their diet. Barley and oats for instance are sources of selenium.

Most importantly never do anything with a horse's food abruptly or without fully understanding what you're doing. In the wild or even in free range pasture a horse will seek out what it needs to the best of it's ability/availability. In your horse's case she's stalled and does not have that opportunity. Check with your vet to find out what she actaully needs in her diet. He/she will have the best advice and understanding about your horse, areas minerals-vitamins and what she needs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The barn grows their own hay.. So.. I assume it's straight grass? I honestly have no idea. I feel so terrible for not knowing what I'm feeding her.

She was at the university before I bought her for about a month, so my coach decided what to feed her. Before, she was just getting two flakes.. I didn't think it was enough so I bumped it up to three.

Thank you all for being so helpful. I definitely have a list of questions now.
 

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The barn grows their own hay.. So.. I assume it's straight grass? I honestly have no idea. I feel so terrible for not knowing what I'm feeding her.

She was at the university before I bought her for about a month, so my coach decided what to feed her. Before, she was just getting two flakes.. I didn't think it was enough so I bumped it up to three.

Thank you all for being so helpful. I definitely have a list of questions now.
...And don't ever by shy about asking your barn owner - It's your horse and your right to know. It's also your ultimate responsibility as a horse owner to know what your horse should be fed, and is being fed, so be assertive! Don't ever be afraid to ask questions here, as there is a lot of good advice readily available :)
 

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Barley and oats for instance are sources of selenium.
I hadn't heard that one before. None of the bags of oats I've ever seen have listed selenium in their guaranteed analysis (which of course doesn't mean it's not there, just that they don't guarantee a consistent content). I imagine it would depend heavily on where the oats were grown, though. Oats grown in a selenium deficient region won't be a good source of selenium.

There are better sources for selenium supplementation that do have a guaranteed concentration and don't have huge amounts of NSC. I use Platinum Performance Selenium Yeast. $24 for 453 servings.
 
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I hadn't heard that one before. None of the bags of oats I've ever seen have listed selenium in their guaranteed analysis (which of course doesn't mean it's not there, just that they don't guarantee a consistent content). I imagine it would depend heavily on where the oats were grown, though. Oats grown in a selenium deficient region won't be a good source of selenium.

There are better sources for selenium supplementation that do have a guaranteed concentration and don't have huge amounts of NSC. I use Platinum Performance Selenium Yeast. $24 for 453 servings.

Oh, I'm sorry if I was unclear. That reference was not intended as a dietary suggestion but simply to highlight the importance of looking deeper into what we're feeding. Any nutritional suggestions are best left to the owner's personal vet who actually knows the horse and environment.
 
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