The history of soaked feeds

The horse world is no different to any other sector in life when it comes to trends, fashions and popular products. Whether it’s a new rug, a popular brand of saddle or a new bit there is always something that’s in vogue! This also applies to feeding and nutrition; right now there seems to be a revival in feeding soaked feeds but although this seems very popular today it’s actually not new. So let’s have a trip down memory lane to see where this tradition started.

 

Speedy Mash Fibre

 

Where it all began…

It’s difficult to pin point when horsemen started to feed soaked feeds but the rationale behind it is very sensible. Grass and fresh herbage is the natural diet of horses and differs in moisture content to many of the other feeds we give our horses today. Grass can be up to 80% water depending on the pasture and the time of year, which means grazing horses take in a large amount of liquid. This is why horses don’t tend to drink as much in spring. Hay on the other hand is typically only 15% moisture and prepared feeds even less, which is why stabled horses tend to drink more than field kept ones.

 

Horse at grass

 

The first soaked feeds were fed at the beginning of the last century and would have been largely made up of cereal grains such as oats, wheat and barley which were sometimes boiled alongside linseed. These ingredients were soaked for various reasons, some real and some perceived, including increasing digestion or, in the case of linseed, removing toxins.

The bran mash…

 

Bran mash

 

Another historical practice was the feeding of warm bran mashes, especially after a day on the hunting field. These mashes which were often mixed with Epsom salts were fed as a tasty reward, to stave off a chill or as laxative. Although there is no denying that bran mashes are palatable, feeding warm feed doesn’t provide any more of that ‘Ready Brek’ warmth than a cold feed. It’s also not a balanced meal as amongst other things the calcium to phosphorus ratio is inverted. If fed regularly bran mashes can contribute to conditions such as ‘big head disease’ which although is not seen in this country today has been seen in the past. In addition to all this the feeding of a bran mash represents a dietary change that could cause a digestive upset or even colic. It is now thought that the perceived laxative effect that was seen was actually as result of a compromised digestive tract not as a direct laxative effect of the bran!

And then there’s sugar beet…

 

Sugar beet for horses

 

The one feed that would be front of mind if you asked any horse owner to name a soaked feed would be sugar beet. Fed to horses for well over 50 years sugar beet is a by-product of sugar production and provides horses with a highly digestible fibre source. It’s always fed soaked as its high pectin level means that it swells to 4 or 5 times its own volume when it comes into contact with water and if not soaked properly it could lead to choke.

Sugar beet has traditionally been provided as either shreds or pellets but both have to be soaked for 12-24 hours before feeding. Later developments have seen micronised versions only requiring 10 minutes to soak. Although sugar beet is an excellent feed for horses and ponies it has its limitations. By the time its soaked it is 80% water which greatly reduces its calorie contribution and means you would have to feed lots of it in order for it to be the winter conditioning feed it is perceived to be. Also, it doesn’t provide a balanced diet and the unmolassed versions are sometimes unpalatable.

 

Sugar beet

 

The soaking revival…

To bring us bang up to date over the past few years a number of new soakable feeds have been launched onto the market, from quick soaking sugar beet through to fibre based blends. So if you are looking to feed a soaked feed why not check out our new product SPILLERS SPEEDY-MASH Fibre which offers all the benefits of a soaked feed whilst being fully balanced, palatable and ready to feed in 60 seconds what’s not to love!

 

 

Spillers Speedy Mash Fibre

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