Feeding in 1856

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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#1
I just read this and thought it very interesting, on facebook there seemed to be comments of surprise and 'how different' but is it really that different?, pretty sure I have fed most of those things bar potatoes and bread at some point or another and have heard about the other countries list so it doesn't seem that strange to me, does it to you?
https://blog.biostarus.com/feeding-...dt6XYGRI2oeGzth4R_rl4j7IQgyZTR28gx5YesuRu-hKw

For those who can't follow the link;
What Horses Used to Eat: Feeding Horses in 1856

by Tigger Montague · October 13, 2014








A veterinary surgeon named John Stewart, professor of veterinary medicine in Glasgow, Scotland, wrote a book that was published in 1856 called The Stable Book: Being a Treatise on the Management of Horses. With regard to what we know about feeding horses today, it’s fascinating to do a little compare-and-contrast with Stewart’s observations.
Readers in the twenty-first century might chuckle at the frequent mentions of draughts and cordials for horses (according to Dr. Stewart, a cordial helps many an ill or over-worked horse), tonic balls (an herbal preparation made into a ball with honey that is fed orally) and a physic (herbs and other concoctions directed by a veterinarian). Blood letting is mentioned as treatment for some disorders. But the real focus of the book is feeding horses.
It is interesting to note, that veterinary surgeons were referred to as Farriers until they were re-named in 1796 by the British Army’s Board of General Officers and became known as Veterinary Surgeons.
It is quite surprising to read about some of the items used for feeding horses in the 19th century: turnips, potatoes, parsnips, sugar beet, mangel-wurzel (beets), carrots, and yams. These root vegetables are all boiled or steamed before feeding with the exception of the carrot., and mostly fed in winter. “A work horse getting from between eight to twelve pounds of grain may have four pounds deducted for every five pounds of carrots he receives.” Dr. Stewart recommends turnips for farm and cart horses as well as the horses in coaching stables. He recommends the Swedish variety of turnips, which per 100lbs equals in “nutriment 22 pounds of hay.” As a modern day horse owner, it’s hard to imagine feeding 100 lbs of turnips per day.
Other foods:
Wheaten bread (recommended for horses that are invalid or off their appetite), linseed, hempseed, oats, barley, and beans were commonly fed to horses. Dr. Stewart does not recommend bran except for a horse that is off his feed because he says: “ bran has no nutriment; its laxative properties can not be true since bran is constipating to dogs. A shillings worth of oats is a great deal more nourishing than a shilling’s worth of bran.”
Foods Fed from other countries:
Dr. Stewart provides a travelogue of diets used for feeding horses in different countries: pumpkins, apples, sweet potatoes, and corn stalks in America; figs and chestnuts in Spain and Italy; dates mixed with camels’ milk in Arabia; dried fish in Iceland and Norway; black bread, rye, malt, and rye bread in Germany and Holland. In the East Indies “meat was boiled to rags to which is added some kinds of grain and butter”; and “sheep heads were boiled for horses during campaigns in India”; cows’ milk in England was given to stallions during the “covering season.” Horses living near the sea in England could be fed dried and ground seaweed.
Feeding Horses in 1856:
Dr. Stewart provides various feeding schedules based on the type of horse: cart, carriage, hunter, cavalry, race -horse, and saddle horse. For most horses he recommends feeding five times per day: 6am, 9:00am, 1:00pm, 5:00pm, and 8:00pm with a total consumption of 12-16 pounds of grain (oats and beans) with 12 pounds of hay. He recommends feeding boiled food in the winter at the last meal of the day and adding turnips. He believes carrots should be given raw throughout the day. His recommendations include adding barley for horses in laborious work. The ratio then being 6:3:3 (oats to beans to barley) plus hay.
Herbs and Hedgerows:
Although Dr. Stewart explains how important pasture is for young growing horses, he is strongly against daily turn out for working horses because of “weight gain and a tendency to laziness”. He does recommend one day per week that the horses get pasture time, particularly access to hedgerows of various plants. He also suggests feeding native herbs like dandelion leaf, hawthorn, milk thistle, mint, and marshmallow root.
What to avoid when feeding horses:
Dr. Stewart does not recommend distillery grains or brewers grains, which he calls “the refuse of breweries”. He claims when fed regularly “they produce general rottenness, which I suspect in these cases is caused by disease of the liver. They also contribute to producing staggers and founder.” Dr. Stewart also doesn’t recommend raw wheat because “fermentation, colic and death are the consequences”; however, he says that if wheat is boiled and given with beans, some oats, and chaff that it “can be useful.” He also stands strongly against the feeding of eggs (so stated because some stallion owners recommended it to increase the stallions’ sexual potency), because he believes that eggs play no role in stallions’ “readiness”.
Keep in Mind:
It is clear from reading Dr. Stewart’s book, that feeding horses largely depended on what food was available, which varied from country to country. And while we may think of horses in the 19th century as living bucolic lives, in truth these horses worked daily, worked hard, and had limited access to pasture because they worked 6 days a week either carrying riders, as mail or stage horses, pulling coaches, carts, plows, and wagons, or galloping into battle. The amount of feed required for a working horse in the 19th century vastly outweighs the feed requirements of most present day sport horses.
The Take Away:
We know a lot more about the nutritional needs of horses than horseman did in the 1800’s. Yet, there are important insights to be gained from understanding what feeding horses used to entail.
  • From turnips to oats, horses were fed whole food; not turnip skins, or turnip flour, not oat hulls or oat protein powder. Feeding whole, real food makes a whole, real difference.
  • It is interesting in 1856, that a veterinarian would caution the use of grain by-products: distillery grains, as well as uncooked wheat. We see these same ingredients today in many commercial horse feeds and supplements as dried distillers grains or dried distillers grains with solubles, or wheat middlings. The distillers grains now used in animal and equine feeds are the by- product of the ethanol industry and are made from corn. Some feed companies like Pennfields have removed dried distillers grains because they are a potential source of mycotoxins. The other concern is the antibiotics used on the corn mash for ethanol production. The USDA tested 42 samples in 2012 and found antibiotic residue in 22 samples.
  • Dr. Stewart’s recommendation of frequent feedings is a good reminder today for those horses that are primarily stabled with limited turnout: small amounts of food more often is the best feed plan for the health of the equine GI tract.
  • The amount of calories expended by horses in the 19th century, required significant amounts of carbohydrate, fat, protein, and fiber foods to replace the calories burned, and provide energy to work 8-10 hours per day. Many horses today don’t have such high caloric needs.
 
Likes: Trewsers

Bodshi

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Apr 23, 2009
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#2
That's interesting, especially the last few paragraphs where the author points out that some of the modern practices (eg feeding grain) are not necessarily better than the older ones. I think it's also important to remember that foods have changed in that time period, bread for instance will have been much closer to it's constituent ingredients - none of the preservatives and bleaches used today, likewise the produce from the fields probably wasn't coated in chemical pesticides etc. Even the basic grain wheat has evolved since then, as efforts have been made to produce grains with more gluten (as a coeliac I have learned this!) which has no nutritional value, but which gives the elastic and binding property to bread, cakes etc.

On a holiday in Egypt several years ago I asked the guy who had the horses on the beach (to give rides to tourists) what they ate - given that there's no natural grass to be seen. He told me they were fed on bread and milk and he even encouraged me to bring bread from the hotel for them. They didn't look unhealthy though, thinner than we're used to here, but still covered and nice shiny coats and good feet.
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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#3
That's interesting, especially the last few paragraphs where the author points out that some of the modern practices (eg feeding grain) are not necessarily better than the older ones. I think it's also important to remember that foods have changed in that time period, bread for instance will have been much closer to it's constituent ingredients - none of the preservatives and bleaches used today, likewise the produce from the fields probably wasn't coated in chemical pesticides etc. Even the basic grain wheat has evolved since then, as efforts have been made to produce grains with more gluten (as a coeliac I have learned this!) which has no nutritional value, but which gives the elastic and binding property to bread, cakes etc.

On a holiday in Egypt several years ago I asked the guy who had the horses on the beach (to give rides to tourists) what they ate - given that there's no natural grass to be seen. He told me they were fed on bread and milk and he even encouraged me to bring bread from the hotel for them. They didn't look unhealthy though, thinner than we're used to here, but still covered and nice shiny coats and good feet.
That's a really good point about bread being very different back then, when ever I have tried bread at historical fairs it has been very different to what we are used to.
 

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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#4
from Horse in the Field (i.e. at the front in the First World War) by Edward Miller - This is rather long but some may want to read it in full. I learned a lot about horses from Miller who ran a polo yard and was a strong advocate of turn out even for valuable horses.

" In all units a skilled feeder should be selected who should be permanent and know his horses.

Grazing is most important. One reason why I have managed to keep my horses in France on the big side was that in the spring, summer and autumn, I usually manage (d?) to combine exercise with grazing, and in any case every man got his horse a bit of grass whenever he could, even in winter. By grazing in hand on the sides of the road, the earth torn up with the grass aids digestion. Bulk is essential, and if you cannot get hay, the purpose will be served by chaff from straw, cut grass, lucerne, or comfrey or clover. Of course, I am talking of conditions in France when we were halted; when troops are on the move the difficulties will be multiplied, but even then much can be done. Wastage must be avoided; if you feed on the ground, spread out an old sack and put the corn on it. But every horse should have a nose bag and a hay net, which must be removed as soon as the horse has finished feeding, or they will be damaged.

Turn a horse out to grass on every occasion you can.

Shy feeders and thin horses should be fed by themselves apart. Five times a day, in small quantities is not too often, provided that there is enough corn to give them a bellyful at night. Bulk is of primary importance. A horse will live and thrive on grass or hay alone, but he will die if fed on corn alone for a long period. In order to get bulk under war conditions it is frequently necessary to make use of whatever is obtainable, and the following may with advantage be given:-

(a) As a substitute for Hay. Oat, wheat, barley or pea straw, in the form of chaff if possible.

(b) As a substitute for Oats. - Maize, small quantities of barley linseed cake, linseed, peas and beans.

(c) As a laxative Diet and to make Bulk. – Bran, turnips, beetroot, mangols, carrots, green crop, and brewers and distillers grains.

Crushed oats are invaluable for debilitated horses, and are desirable in so many cases that

I would advise all the oats to be crushed for thin horses or for horses with poor digestion if a crusher is available; but in doing so it must be remembered that the meal, which is the most nutritious part of the oats, drops to the bottom of the sack when crushed.The feeds should therefore be crushed separately into each nosebag. This is quite easily managed for a small number of horses. The nosebags are filled with uncrushed oats, each man files past the crusher, empties his feed it the hopper and catches the oats as they are crushed in his nosebag, he then passes on to the chaff heap, gets his allowance and falls in opposite his horse. These methods are only applicable to England, as there is no opportunity of crushing oats in France, unless the unit is in the vicinity of a mill. Linseed or linseed cake should be begged, borrowed or stolen whenever possible for thin horses. In France 3 lbs of oats have to be given up for 1 lb. Of linseed, and the linseed is well worth it. Linseed must always be given crushed, soaked and mixed with other food. Bran and linseed are unobtainable in the forward areas in France except in very small quantities for sick horses.

If a horse is thin, feed him little and often and separate him from the others. Light doers and bad feeders will often pick up and do well on chaff, well pressed in payers with a sprinkling of salt between each layer. This can be prepared in a large box and kept for ten days before using; it will keep indefinitely. Horses can be fed in nosebags when turned out to grass and they will soon learn to come up to the man in charge to have their nosebags removed.

If a delicate feeder is fed in large feeds he may blow on it and refuse it. Some horses do not want as much corn as others. If a horse leaves some of his corn give it to a glutton; but if a horse leaves any of his corn in his manger, see that it is removed before the next fee. One horse will get fat on 8 or 10 lbs. Of corn, and another want 12 or 14 lbs.; watch them and arrange accordingly.

COMPRESSED FOODS.​

Of whatever materials these consist they should be broken up and mixed with any procurable fodder which will give bulk, such as chaff or grass. Owing to the dust that this always contains it should be damped.

DAMP FOOD​

I have always maintained that horses should be given their food dry, as too much sloppy food is apt to soften them and render them unfit. Also, the natural saliva should be sufficient, and dry food causes a horse to masticate better and to eat more slowly. Still, when the forage is inferior and dusty, there are most undoubted advantages in giving horses their food well damped, at any rate as regards animals in poor condition, as well and transport and other heavy horses. A successful remount officer in charge of a convalescent depot in France tells me he feeds the debilitated horses on damp food, and when they get fit on hard stuff.

My transport officer who converted a lot of very sorry looking animals into a creditable stable maintains that the improvement was partly due to the fact that he dampened his chaff. But this was in England, and his method is not possible in the forward areas of France, nor under the ordinary circumstances of active service. The methods was a follows:- The chaff was well damped before feeding, with the object of preventing the dust from irritating the horses’ nostrils; this also prevents a snorting horse from blowing his food away. (Much of the chaff served out was from wheat straw and was too hard and prickly in its natural condition.) Two gallons of water to one 4-bushel sack of straw chaff soaked for six hours would be about right. The oats were always added dry, just before feeding and well mixed. The best method is to add the oats separately to each horse’s feed. The morning feed was soaked all night. Some samples of chaff are so dirty that the material should be screened before use. A sieve can be improvised with hay wire of rabbit wire secured to a wooden frame, 5 or 6 feet long by 2 or 2½ feet wide, supported horizontally about 2½ feet from the ground. The chaff should be soaked in a tank, but if one is not available a tarpaulin cover can be utilized in the following manner:- Turn up the sides about 9 inches deep; drive heel pegs at each corner with two pegs along the sides; secure eyelets in tarpaulin to heel pegs.

A horse cannot be fed continually for weeks on end with nothing but oats and hay, without losing his appetite and getting hidebound. Under such circumstances his oats should be cut down, and bran mashes with linseed of thoroughly boiled barley, and plenty of hay and green food substituted. If you get his digestion right he will soon put on flesh. Nothing equals the spring grass; if he gets that through his system he will feel the benefit for a long time. It must be understood that the boiled food advocated must only be given in small quantities as a change in order to restore his digestion. Boiled food of any kind in large quantities and given continuously is bad.
 

Bodshi

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Apr 23, 2009
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#5
That is really interesting too @Skib. So different to modern methods of being persuaded by feed manufacturers that your horse needs a particular product because otherwise he will be lacking in x, y and z and then worrying that you may have chosen the wrong manufacturer, because their competitor's equivalent feed contains 2% less sugar etc. Miller appears to truly have the knowledge of experience (and not just from what he's read on the Internet!)

I wonder if it was actually easier to feed horses with confidence prior to the introduction of complete concentrated feeds? Obviously there would have been a lot more messing about preparing feed, instead of scooping it out of a bin, but would the experience have been more satisfactory for the owner and possibly actually healthier for the horse? One thing we're still agreed on (I think) is that there's nothing like spring grass for picking up a horse, unless the horse is already overfed and/or prone to laminitis of course. Were there less cases of laminitis back then I wonder?

I don't think it is too long ago that things changed is it? YO talks of boiling barley for hours and giving horses a pint of stout in their mash when they'd been hunting and she's 60 (probably that is a long time ago :p )