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Many assume that it’s harmless to dry out stale bread and offer it to their horse as a special treat. There’s nothing bad about it, right? Especially when our equine companion enjoys it so much.

However, from a nutritional standpoint, bread is a highly processed food that should not be included in a horse’s diet.

Modern bread production involves more than the simple combination of flour, yeast, salt, and water. To streamline profitable automated manufacturing, a multitude of additives are utilised.

There are approximately 200 additives approved for bread production, with up to 20 employed in a single dough. These additives serve various purposes: acidifiers extend shelf life, sugar and malt extract lend a dark “wholemeal” color, and whey powder, a byproduct of the dairy industry, enhances the crust’s appearance. All of these additives are meant to make bread visually appealing to us.
Additionally, enzymes and compounds are used to expedite production processes. Cysteine, for instance, aids in better kneading and prevents dough from sticking to equipment. This compound is often sourced from pig bristles or poultry feathers.

Unfortunately, most of these additives do not need to be disclosed under food regulations, leaving consumers unaware of the less appetising substances hidden within bread.

Even if homemade bread is produced without such additives, the core ingredients of most bread—wheat and, perhaps, some rye flour—can pose issues for horses.

Both these types of grains contain gluten proteins that are challenging for equine digestion and can lead to digestive disturbances. Moreover, wheat starch is problematic for horses to digest and contributes to gelatinisation, inflammation within the digestive tract, and even laminitis.
Historically, literature advised against feeding these cereals to horses more than a century ago.

Beyond these concerns, the general problem of starch in horse feed should also be noted.
Bread contains starch, which current research recommends avoiding in equine diets. When starch is digested in the small intestine, it converts into blood sugar. If not expended through physical activity, this sugar is stored, which can result in metabolic issues and obesity.
The prevalence of conditions like EMS, insulin resistance, laminitis, PSSM, and Cushing’s symptoms in horses has been linked to diets high in sugar and starch.

Taking all these factors into account, it is clear that bread, whether fresh or dried, is unsuitable for feeding to horses due to its composition and potential adverse effects on equine health.

Team Sanoanimal
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