Do herbs affect the palatability of horse meals? Researchers are investigating

Five herbs are tested in oats in a study carried out by the University of Life Sciences in Poland.

The research team assessed the horses’ response to five different herbs. (File Image)

Many horse owners add herbs to their horses’ meals, but could it affect the taste?

Researchers from the University of Life Sciences in Poland conducted an experiment to assess the response of horses to different herbs added to their daily oats.

Anna Stachurska and her fellow researchers, writing in the journal Animals, noted that the commercial horse feed industry uses flavorings to mask undesirable tastes in certain feeds and improve product acceptance. However, an unfamiliar smell or taste can also interfere with food intake.

In their experiment, involving 20 adult horses, five different grasses were alternately added to dry, wet or sweet oats. The study team used field mint, yarrow, common chamomile, common sage, and common nettle consecutively once a day.

Common herbs were harvested and packaged by a company in Poland and distributed, in dried powder form, by a store that sold products for horses.

The herbal inclusion rate was 10 grams (or 3 grams in the case of common sage). It was a third of the producer’s daily recommendations.

Each herb was mixed with 0.5 kg of oats with a wooden hand stirrer to obtain a dry feed. For wet foods, 100 ml of water was added, and for sweet offerings, 50 grams of sucrose was added. Meals that served as controls had no added herbs.

The researchers assessed the horses’ willingness to consume the meals. They recorded the time spent smelling the food, the duration of its consumption and the number of breaks taken, including to fetch water. They also measured the weight of the remains.

The results showed that the properties of the herbs studied did not interfere with meal consumption. Only the smell of dry common sage delayed setting.

Wetting, or wetting and watering down the diet, accelerated the setting.

“The lack of significant differences in the response to the addition of different grasses indicates that the horses identified the grasses in the amount offered weakly and that their feeding behavior was indifferent to grass species,” the team said. ‘study.

“It can be assumed that the properties of the herbs studied, with the exception of common sage, were not distinct enough to affect the sensory experience of horses during feed intake.”

Discussing their findings, the researchers said that the most important factor affecting food intake in the study was not the amount of weed offered, but the presentation of the food (dry, wet or sweet).

“Regardless of added herbs, moist sweet foods are generally ingested most readily, that is, not smelled until consumed; wet regimes take second place, while dry regimes are felt for longer.

The average leftovers from the meal with dry common sage were higher than those from the dry control diet, showing that the herb was eaten against its will, they said.

They said more research was warranted using larger amounts of herbs. “However, it cannot be excluded that an increase in herbal content in the diet may limit consumption instead of increasing it.

“The addition of herbs should be increased with caution as some herbs can affect the animal’s health. This study examines the effects of just five herbs offered in novel diets on certain aspects of horse feeding behavior. It can be suggested that many other herbs warrant investigation in this regard.

“Interestingly,” they continued, “horses interrupted their intake to drink water only in the case of wet dry and sugary feeds. The wet diets did not elicit a need to drink water. .

Horses interrupted their meal to drink water in the case of dry yarrow, wet and dry common sage and common chamomile.

The yarrow traditionally used in human medicine has a pleasant smell of meadow; common sage has a camphor smell with a citrus undertone, while common chamomile has a strong herbal smell. All three have a slightly bitter taste, and this may have been the factor that triggered the need for water, they said.

“In conclusion, herbs in small amounts do not significantly affect willingness to consume feed. Although wet and sweet wet diet presentations may be new to horses, they do increase feed flavor.

The study team included Stachurska, Ewelina Tkaczyk, Monika Różańska-Boczula, Wiktoria Janicka and Iwona Janczarek, all from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland.

Stachuska, A.; Tkaczyk, E.; Różańska-Boczula, M.; Janicka, W.; Janczarek, I. Response of horses to a new diet: different herbs added to dry, wet or sweet oats. Animals 2022, 12, 1334.

The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.