Understanding the benefits of “real” horse feed

Just because you can see, smell and touch your horse’s feed doesn’t make it real. Here’s what constitutes “real” horse feed and what to look for when buying a product.

Horses have been eating “real” food for thousands of years. Simply put, “real” food is what’s provided by nature – whole ingredients without fillers and preservatives. It’s not highly processed using high pressure or temperature techniques that reduce nutritional value and digestibility – it’s pure, unadulterated, and bioavailable.

So why is real food better for horses than the processed feeds on the market? Let’s take a look.

Why is real feed better?

As we’ve seen, real feed has minimal ingredients. Your horse’s body – and yours – knows how to effectively process whole ingredients because they have naturally available components that are easy to digest. This is called natural bioavailability.

On the other hand, our horse’s bodies don’t know how to deal with preservatives and chemicals such as those found in many commercial feeds and supplements. Human and animal supplements were created to fill in nutritional gaps, but these gaps can often be filled simply by feeding whole foods.

There are more ingredients in commercial horse feed today than ever before. There is also unprecedented levels of arthritis, cancer and inflammation. Can these be related? While we don’t know for sure if there’s a connection, something is causing all this illness – and it likely has something to do with the food and water we consume.

Examples of real food


The best real feed is live green plants for grazing. Good green grass, for example, provides a source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Of course, the amount of time that green grass is available is limited, which is why we started baling hay.


Historically the closest to real feed we have is hay, whether it’s grass or alfalfa. The problem is that through the drying process many of the nutrients leave the plant and that is why we have created supplements and pellets.

So how can we make sure our horses are getting what they need? The first step is to find the best quality hay we can. For example, it is well known that some of the world’s best alfalfa comes from the San Luis Valley in Colorado.

Hemp seed as feed

Protein with essential fatty acids are missing from hay, so they must be provided and consumed through the horse’s diet. The key is to feed the correct balance of Omega 3s (anti-inflammatory) and Omega 6s (inflammatory). Studies show that the best balance is between a 1/1 and 1/3 ratio of these fatty acids. Hemp seed feed naturally provides
the highly beneficial GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which also is anti-inflammatory.

One of the best ways to feed this ratio is by offering your horse hemp seed products. Hemp is quickly becoming known as a superfood. It has a complete protein makeup (all 20 amino acids including the 9 essential ones), and a near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and 6. Hemp seed products are currently labeled by the FDA as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. More importantly, animals instinctively know what is good for them to eat – and they love hemp feed!

The important thing to remember is that it’s not what’s in your horse’s feed that matters – it’s what not in it. When shopping for a real feed for your horse, look for a lack of ingredients, and reach for the whole ingredients listed above. The less preservatives and additives, the better!