photo by
Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ask Taco: What Do You Eat?

Q. Dear Taco,
Could you tell me what you eat? My mom is on a quest to find food for me that gives me energy, keeps weight on me, doesn't make me overly exuberant, AND... doesn't make me fart! We do NOT like horse farting at Run For It Farm as it means my stomach is not happy. I didn't fart at Aunt Lellie's farm, but started it again once I came home (though I must say, I have been an absolute prince about everything!) We share similar traits as do our Moms, so please reveal your daily diet!
Many thanks - I wish you lots of carrots!
Rasta Mon

A. Dear Rasta,
Humans are constantly trying to figure out diets for us that do all of those things, especially the part about providing energy without wildness.  While we enjoy feeling our oats, so to speak, they get a little worried about staying on our backs.

The other problem is making sure that what we eat provides the right nutrients and is good quality.  It is hard to know this sometimes, because every horse is different and just about every feed company says that their product is high-quality.  Also, it is often very difficult to find out important nutrition information from major feed companies, such as the exact ingredients.  This is because many of the companies only guarantee the amounts of certain nutrients (protein, fat, and fiber), but not the ingredients themselves, which allows the companies to vary the ingredients depending on what is cheapest to purchase at any given time. 

So, after a lot of research, Amy decided that she did not want to feed a commercially mixed feed in addition to the nice pasture and hay that we eat.  She decided to feed a combination of soaked molasses-free beet pulp and steam rolled oats to us.
-The beet pulp is delicious.  It is the product left over when the sugar and molasses are removed from sugar beets, and is mostly pectin.  It has been called a "super fiber," because it contains a fairly high amount of easily digestible calories but not a lot of starch or other non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs), and it holds lots of water and thus helps us regulate hydration.  NSCs are not so good for us in large quantities, because they can disrupt the acidity in our hindgut and they tend to make us a little excitable. I wonder whether your farting problem might mean that your hindgut is not working too well.  Beet pulp is a great way to add energy without adding lots of NSCs-- it has about 36% NSCs. It has the added benefit of increasing water intake when it is fed wet (some people feed it dry but it is much less tasty and much more likely to cause choke that way).
- The oats are also very delicious.  They add additional calories to the diets of those of us who are working harder, but they contain some fiber as well as some energy and not as many NSCs (46%) as other grains (such as corn, at 64%).  Rolling them (so that they look like Quaker oatmeal) slightly increases the availability of the nutrients, but it also means that they should be fed fairly soon after rolling or the nutrient value drops.

Because neither the beet pulp nor the oats contain balanced micronutrients and very little fat, I also get a multivitamin (SmartVite Performance Grass Pellets) and some Omega Fatty Acids (SmartOmega).  I also gets lots of carrots, and sometimes apples and peppermints.

Recently, however, Amy has been consulting with a representative of Pennfield Equine Feed Technologies. Although she has avoided commercial feed preparations because of inconsistency and uncertain quality, she has been very impressed with Pennfield.  They always keep the ingredients the same in each batch of feed, so that digestibility and nutrient availability stays the same.  They make nutritional information very easy to find on their website.  And they are very committed to each ingredient being extremely high quality.  They have impressed Amy, and Amy is very difficult to impress when it comes to feed!  She also would like to feed something that does not require supplementing added vitamins and trace minerals.  So she has decided to start us on Pennfield.

First, we will start eating Phase V Senior's Energized Choice, a textured feed that contains our old friend beet pulp, plus barley and two more super fibers: soybean hulls and alfalfa meal.  Even though this feed is called "senior," it is good for us competition horses because it is high in protein, fat, and fiber and is very digestible.  It is 25% NSC.

This is what Senior's Energized Choice looks like (photo from

When we are heavily conditioning and competing, we will also get some added Fibregized Omega, which contains the high-fat foods flax and rice bran.  Fat is a good way to add more energy to our diets.

I am excited about our new food.  I tasted some a couple of weeks ago and it was really good.  We will be in great shape for the 2011 season!

Best wishes,
P.S. If your mom wants to talk to Amy about our food she should call Amy-- email Stacy (cookiepony at gmail dot com) for her number!

Further reading:
Joe D. Pagan, "Carbohydrates in Equine Nutrition," in Pagan, ed., Advances in Equine Nutrition (Nottingham, UK: Nottingham University Press, 1998), 29-41.  Downloadable PDF 
Lori K. Warren, "Super, Fantastic Fibers: Find Out Which Fibers Might Benefit Your Horse," Equus Caballus Fall 2007, 10-13.  Downloadable PDF


Annika said...

Taco- make sure to share with Amy and Stacy your absolute love of Grand Prix Granola. I know you remember this- and how we would drive hours to get your most favorite grain ever...especially when you were not feeling your absolute best, it was a sure bet to get you to eat!

Also have you shared your tea recipe with your humans yet?

I also just saw Stacys CoTH profile picture. You both make a very fancy team,

We miss you here at Foxview...your stall still has your name on it!

Frizzle said...

Just wanted to add that Triple Crown is also a "fixed formula" feed company, in that the ingredients/amounts in the feeds never change. Their Senior is a great feed, even for younger horses; it's 10% fat and 11.7% NSC, plus it contains flax, rice bran, kelp, and probiotics. Love it!

Kate said...

Another option that I've just switched my super hot TB mare to is Poulin Fibre Max, if it's available in your area. It has a 14% fat content and only 17.5% NSC. If you have a very hot hard keeper this is the grain for you.

Anastasia said...

Taco says:

"Thank you for commenting on my column. I like knowing that someone is reading what I write. And especially that Annika, whom I still love very much, reads my column too. I had forgotten the name of Grand Prix Granola but now I can bug Amy and Stacy for it!

"Also, I used to eat Triple Crown and it was scrumptious and gave me lots of good energy and nutrients. It is a good company. I believe that recently one of the feed stores in our area began carrying it. I have heard other horses talking about Poulin Grains and speaking very highly of that company, but we do not have it in our area. So Frizzle and Kate, thank you for sharing that useful information with my readers."

OnTheBit said...

You have been awarded the "Stylish Blogger Award". Please come by my blog ( to pick it up.

Rising Rainbow said...

I had never heard that rolled oats can loose their nutrients. Very interesting piece of information. Thanks.

Checkmark115 said...

Onthebit beat me too it, I have also nominated you for the same award. Either way, come visit my blog! I ride a Tb just like you Taco and we event as well! Woot for TB's.