On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Is sweet feed a good option for feeding horses?

It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Is sweet feed a good option for feeding horses? Do they get the nutrition they need from it? Does it give horses extra energy? Will the feed cause bad health? Read further to find out!

Myth:  Sweet feed is a good option for feeding horses.

Myth or Fact: Both

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Sweet feed is a grain based feed. It is usually made up of oats, barley and corn. Most sweet feeds include supplemental protein, minerals and vitamins and it is all mixed together with molasses which gives it a sweet taste, making it more desirable to eat.

But, is it a good choice for feeding horses? The research says, it depends on the horse.

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An article by Deep Hollow Ranch indicates that sweet feet can be compared to hot dogs. This type of food is one that some horses exceptionally love while others will turn their noses to it.

Sweet feeds are a source of energy. Horses that are participating in a significant amount of work such as racehorses or farm horses can benefit from the energy. Lactating mares also benefit from the extra power sweet feed has to offer.

For the extremely picky horse or an older horse with no appetite, sweet feed is beneficial because it increases a horse’s appetite. Some horses do not have the zeal to eat for a plethora of reasons. If you have a picky child at home, most likely they’ll eat a hot dog, right? Same with horses. That picky eater will most likely be drawn to eat the sweet feed.

Many horses who are more prone to ulcers or choking are given sweet feed because it improves the gut and forces the horse to chew more. Sweet feed needs to be chewed more than a pelleted feed. This allows the horse to produce more saliva, which aids in regulating the pH of the stomach. Also, with sweet feeds there is less fermentation of starch.

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Another article by the Kentucky Equine Research Staff states that sweet feed has evolved over the years. It used to be more simple with oat, corn and molasses, but now has formulas that meet the nutrition standards horses need.

The Kentucky Equine Research Staff also points out that sweet feed has excellent palatability. While it has its benefits for the picky eaters, it should not be fed to growing horses. They state that research has shown that feeding high sugar feeds to growing horses creates a steep rise in blood glucose levels which has been linked to an increased incidence of skeletal deformities.

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An article from the Rutgers Equine Nutrition Center reports that while sweet feed is a good option for some horses, it is not the preferred option for others. Horses who are overweight should not be given sweet feed. This is because it increases the risk of laminitis. Sweet feed should also be withheld from horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome because their bodies can not regulate insulin.

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Jessica McDaniel states in her article that the sweet feed formulas have gone through major changes within the last 30 years — for the better. The sugar content in many sweet feeds has been reduced significantly.

McDaniel goes on to state that sweet feed is a good choice for horses who are in heavy work. It gives them energy and aid in maintaining an acceptable weight. She states that sweet feed is especially good for this type of horse in the winter when they need more energy to stay warm.

McDaniels continues by discussing the benefits of sweet feed for the mouth. Sweet feed is used for the prevention and treatment of aphthous ulcers, also known as mouth rot. Research states that this type of ulcer is created from a lack of saliva in the mouth. The sugar in the sweet feed aids in producing more saliva and helps the mouth to heal.

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After diving into the research, sweet feed has both benefits and consequences depending on which horse consumes it. Sweet feed is a great option for horses who are picky. It also has positive outcomes for horses who are in heavy work and need more energy to sustain their weight. However, it is not a desirable selection for overweight horses or horses that are still growing.


Do you have an equine myth you’d like us to tackle? If so, send it our way! Email your suggestions to deann@horsenation.com. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.

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