There are many myths circulating when it comes to horse feeds, feed ingredients and other aspects of raising horses, but here we will talk you through the common myths that you may have heard and whether they are worth listening to.
NIS is Harmful to The Digestive System
Straw contains a certain amount of material called lignin which is indigestible and limits how much fibre from the straw the horse can access. It effectively reduces the feed value of the straw. To make the straw more digestible, straw can be treated. This treated straw is referred to as Nutritionally Improved Straw or NIS.
Because the treatment process involves the use of sodium hydroxide (which is also used in human food preparation like making pretzels or treating olives), many believe this material is corrosive or acidic and therefore harmful to horses’ digestive systems due to its alternative name: caustic soda. However, when sodium hydroxide reacts with the straw, the leftover residue (sodium carbonate) is a product similar to baking soda which is seen to be mildly alkaline. This means that it may potentially neutralize some acidity in the horse’s gut depending on the amount of NIS being fed.
Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Better
Natural can mean different things to different horse owners. To some, natural may mean it is made from something derived from nature, it may mean something not caused by humankind, or it may mean something your horse would eat in their natural habitat. Feed materials used in horse feeds all originate from plants such as molasses, for example. Molasses is derived from the sugar cane or sugar beet plant; however, it is occasionally considered an unnatural feed material for horses due to human intervention.
The word ‘natural’ may allow you to think ‘good’, however, it’s important to note this isn’t always the case when it comes to horse feed as some plants may be poisonous and therefore should be avoided. As well as this, vitamins in a lot of cases may be synthetic. Vitamins are essential nutrients and whilst your horse can get these nutrients from natural sources, they may be less stable and very reactive which in turn may be useless to the horse
Glyphosate Risks Horse Health
Glyphosate is a chemical that is used to treat crops pre-harvest to reduce grain and moisture levels. This chemical helps to preserve crop quality whilst reducing the risk of moulding and mycotoxins.
It is important to note that there are strict legal limits for residues of chemicals in human and animal feedstuffs. Eating organic products would be the only way to guarantee a product was completely free from any chemical residue. It is important to differentiate between the risk of handling the neat chemical versus minute amounts of residue that might be present months after the chemical was applied to the crop. In May 2018, the European Food Standards Agency issued a report stating there is no risk to any livestock species including horses.