Horse feed Scoop
Fillers, by their very definition, lack a nutritional purpose. Most feed manufacturers use fillers as a cheap ingredient to bulk up a horse treat that will make its other, more costly, ingredients stick to it. That gives fillers a human purpose, but not a worthy, nutritional purpose.
Some of the more commonly used fillers used in “natural” horse treats include:
- rice bran
The deceptive thing about these ingredients is that they do have a natural, pure form. But that natural, pure form is rarely, if ever, used. Instead, these foods are almost always genetically modified or chemically modified, or at the very least, so overly processed that there is absolutely no nutritional vitality remaining in them by the time they hit your local feed store shelf.
Processed rice bran is a cheap and useful filler for manufacturers because it has a consistency much like a gritty flour. Nutritionally, rice bran is touted as a food rich in Vitamin E. In its pure form, this is true. But few, if any, manufacturers use unadulterated rice bran. Instead they process mass quantities of rice bran with heat, which causes it to lose its natural source of Vitamin E. That’s why on package labels you will often see the phrase “fortified with Vitamin E.”
“Always, always, ALWAYS -- when you read the word fortified with vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Cassie Schuster, ND, MH, master herbalist and doctor of naturopathy, explains, “that means that they have synthetically applied a vitamin after the food has lost its natural source in processing.”
This fortification process gives you a substance (a filler) from which horses’ bodies must work hard to absorb nutrients, Dr. Schuster says.
How do you know if the rice bran in a cookie or treat you are buying is natural or fortified? Unless you contact the manufacturer, you probably won’t know. But you can generally rule out a natural source of rice bran if the cookie is inexpensive.
“Real food costs more because real food makes a real difference and because there is something to it,” Dr. Schuster says.
There are two kinds of molasses – plain table molasses and unsulphured molasses. Unless a molasses is specifically labeled as “unsulphured,” it is merely the by-product or “waste” from processing sugar cane or beet into table sugar. Refined table sugar creates blood sugar and insulin instability while providing no nutrients. In fact, if consumed in great enough quantities, refined sugar is known to pull nutrients, especially minerals, out of the body.
Unsulphured, black strap molasses is high in iron and contains folate, a natural source for folic acid, along with some other B vitamins. Some high quality feed manufacturers are willing to spend the extra money for unsulphured molasses. Others are not. Again, it is very important to read labels.
Invariably, soy is genetically modified.
A leading cause of allergies in horses, soy is known to cause all kinds of chaos in the human body, says Dr. Schuster. “It’s not in a form the body can process,” she says. The only exception to this is fermented soy.
“The number one reason not to use soy is that when you delete soy from the nutritional programs of horses with problems, the horses are so much better off,” says Dr Schuster, from her ranch in Waller, Texas, where she runs a medical after-care center for horses recovering from surgery.
The fermentation of soy is the one time when processing is positive, as it alters the enzyme in soy that causes the body to react negatively to it in the first place, Dr. Schuster explains.
Fermented soy can be found in Miso and tempeh but not, at least to her knowledge, in livestock treats.
BECOME A LABEL READER!
The bad news is that you likely won’t find any truly natural treats at your local feed store, as natural treats do not contain preservatives, binders or, as it turns out for the reasons explained here, fillers.
The good news is that natural treats contain real, whole foods. These will help your horse thrive.
Some manufacturers are willing to take the time and the money to make natural treats. You just have to recognize them when you see them. Become an astute label reader on the lookout for the real names of fruits, for example, instead of words like “flavors.” Remember to skip phrases like “fortified.” Avoid soy altogether. But be willing to give a second look to the descriptions that raise the high-quality flags: descriptions like “organic,” “unsulphured,” “whole food” and “non-GMO.”
When it comes to fillers, Dr. Shuster sums it up: “A good cookie doesn’t have fillers because a good cookie doesn’t need them.”
After healing her own horses of various illnesses with whole food nutritional programs, Lori Yearwood devoted her professional life to making whole food horse treats. Her company is Skode's Low Sugar Horse treats at www.skodeshorsetreats.com