Horse

Palatability: Are Your Horses Picky Eaters?

Life Stage : Breeding & Growing

Life Stage : Mature - Performance

Life Stage : Senior

Nutrition : General Nutrition

Kelly Vineyard, M.S., Ph.D.

Senior Nutritionist, Equine Technical Solutions

When choosing a horse feed for your entire barn, you probably consider cost, storability, pelleted vs. textured, starch and sugar content, and maybe even special additives.

While these considerations are vitally important, palatability should also be included on your list. If your pickiest-eating horses won’t eat, you may lose time and money, while risking the health of the horse.

Your horse: Foodie or finicky? 

Everyone knows a foodie- that person who enthusiastically tries new food and finishes every bite on the plate. While some horses fit the “foodie” description, not all horses are as open-minded. Finicky eaters will turn up their nose if the taste and texture isn’t just right.

That’s why we have a herd of taste-testing horses at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center’s Equine Palatability Lab. Voracious eaters need not apply, as these specially-trained horses have a discerning palate to help us determine which formulations are most appealing to even the pickiest of eaters.

Horse feed taste testers at Purina Animal Nutrition Center The Purina Animal Nutrition Center tests horse feed palatability with highly-trained equine feed connoisseurs.

When conducting a palatability test at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center, the horses enter specially-designed individual stalls to monitor specific variables, including the time it takes to finish the meal. The equid feed critics are offered two feed options in a divided trough, which weighs feed intake in real-time.

By changing variables, including ingredient inclusion rates, the palatability tests help us as scientists determine which feeds, flavors and textures horses prefer. The tests also help us monitor for optimal levels of feed consumption without promoting over-consumption or rapid eating.   

But I don’t want to eat that…

Horses are extremely sensitive to the taste and texture of feeds. Encouraging horses to maintain their appetite is critical to a feeding program that supports overall health and condition.

When choosing a feed to appeal to all the horses in your barn, palatability ultimately affects more than you think:
  • Nutrition: A highly-palatable feed ensures every horse eats a balanced diet at every feeding.
  • Economics: When horses eat every morsel, you ultimately save money and eliminate the need for expensive supplements and time-consuming mixing to fulfill nutrient requirements.
  • Convenience: Choosing a highly-palatable feed designed for any life stage makes it easy to feed an entire barn without compromising nutrition.

The proof is in the research 

In a head-to-head study, horses preferred Purina® Strategy GX® horse feed over a similar competitor product. Now with the addition of Outlast® Gastric Support Supplement to the Strategy GX® formula. Additionally, the new Purina® Strategy GX® with Outlast® has a tag guarantee of 25% starch and sugar.

When choosing a feed for your entire barn, consider the reformulated Purina® Strategy GX® – a highly-palatable, research-backed product designed for all life-stages and performance levels while providing gastric support in an easily-stored, pelleted form.