Horse bread

Ran across this article about old horse feeding methods :
Would love to know how the nutrition compares to modern feeds.



In France we always fed the horses our leftover bread as long as it was hard and dry and crunchy. Horses loved it, but it wasn’t their sole source of food.

When I moved here (New England) years ago, I discovered that this practice was apparently unknown, and frowned upon…


One of my animal science professors, Dr. Borton, used to feed stale bread to his Arabs back in the 1970’s.

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I grew up in an area with lots of “rescues” and even a kill shipper. They were known for feeding lots of bread and corn to fatten the horses up quickly for shipping or adoption.

At the end of the day, it’s empty calories, and any weight they gain is fat, not good body condition. I’d so much rather spend the time putting good nutrition in, letting the horse gain slowly, which is far more healthy.


we’ve now ordered and have all the necessary ingredients for trying one of these recipes. We shall see how many of my horses go for it!


Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for sharing! I’m tempted to try and make some as well @eightpondfarm!

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Not that I’m advocating for feeding bread, but that is not an accurate statement.


It would be like comparing bananas to watermelons.

“made from a dough of bran, bean flour, or a combination of the two, and typically was flat, coarse, and brown.”

If enough bean flour was used, and it was whole-bean flour and not some bean leftovers ground up, then decent protein. But all around, not all that nutritious

Increases in body fat are mostly due to an excess of calorie intake. Bran and bean flour is hardly empty calories. Modern bread isn’t even empty calories.

It’s just a lot of starch (and today, most of it is a lot of sugar as well, with all that’s added), which was tolerated by the hard working horses, and even necessary for their muscles to be able to work like that, day after day. It kept their bodies from cannibalizing muscle tissue for energy. So while it would contribute much, or any, to muscle development, it could contribute to mitigating muscle loss.


Modern milling extracts all the flour from the grain so that the ‘wholemeal’ or ‘brown’ flours today have bran and wheat germ added back in. Times past, the milling process was far less efficient so the waste product had sufficient flour, bran and wheat germ to make a high fibre, protein-rich bread for horses and hounds and hawks. Horses aren’t so expensive to keep if fed on grass, beans and biproducts of human food production. Horse bread, for centuries, was a “famine food” for the poor because, obviously, everyone, even the most lowly peasant, wanted to eat more refined, whiter breads: tasted better, easier to eat, less wear on their teeth. For work horses it was excellent because bread provided a consistent diet as they moved around the country (think colic), easy to store and fairly rat proof compared to raw grain.

In England, by the 1630s there was sufficient food, regularly available, that feeding grain was easier than making special bread for horses and by the 1700s it was considered very old fashioned horse care, often seen as something for sick horses. This is possibly the root of the idea of a hot bran mash after a hard day’s work, right up until the 1970s. Modern bran has no value as horse food. I suspect modern bread isn’t much good either.

Gervase Markham, in his many books about horsecare (and cooking) in the 1590s -1630s, took horse bread to the ultimate by making it into a luxury food for racehorses, made with milled white flour, yeast (barm from ale) and multiples of eggs and, the night before a race, served to the horse lightly toasted and soaked in wine. After Markham, horse bread was no longer the cheap way to feed work horses but became emblematic of the ludicrous luxury in which aristocrats kept their horses, feeding them better quality bread than most people ate regularly. “Cavalier” was a term of abuse given to aristocratic “riders, horsemen” by the Parliamentarian side in the English civil war.


It’s a good way to add phosphorous (and fat, and calories) to a diet. Rice bran is a common commercial bagged feed ingredient, and while wheat bran isn’t as widely used, it can be useful for the phosphorous.

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It is a perfectly acceptable dietary component.
And it’s ~17% CP, which is higher than oats.
Wheat bran gets a bad rap because people freak out about the phosphorus.


I just love the mental image of serving a racehorse lightly toasted (god forbid it be moderately toasted!), wine-soaked bread :joy:


We used to have one of those bread shop outlets. They had a bin of bread for animal feed. 10 c a bag. Middle of winter it was good heat calories. I know I couldn’t wolf down a whole loaf of bread calories! Our horses went nuts over it. It was a game saver back when we had a collection in the barn.

An old racehorse breeder was in her 80s and owned her last racehorse broodmare. She had always fed bread. A loaf per day. Her vet said the only side effect she saw was excess sweating.

A small, very poor, dairy farmer in my home town (1980s) would pick up the day old doughnuts, pastries etc from shops, as well as stale (white) bread from groceries. They would collect it in giant black trash bags. It was fun to pick out a donut or piece of bread, and hold it out for cow to grab it with her tongue.

Not sure they had delicately balanced ration (they got real feed, too), but the confections gave them extra calories for sure.

If they’re like the contrarians in my barn, they’ll turn up their horsey noses in direct proportion to how much labor you invested in baking the bread :smirk:
Despite all the reports I’ve read of how much horses looooovvve bananas, my 3 gave the fruit a Universal Phlemen of Disgust.
OTOH, Dollar Tree gingersnaps are Food of the Gods.


ha ha ha ha ha ha!! You’re probably right about that. “universal phlemen of disgust”<<<<Good one!

I buy four bags of dollar tree gingersnaps at a time!
i also found Palm Sugar cubes at a Chinese grocery store…omg…talk about special treat! I love biting off a bit for them :upside_down_face:

My mustangs are really suspicious of anything that is not a carrot. Only two of them will even take an apple slice! They do like alfalfa cube bits…but then, that’s alfalfa, a known food item. They’re really picky…

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The schoolmaster I ride comes from the Netherlands, and his owner (my instructor) said that all the horses in the barn were fed day-old bread as treats. When she got him as a young horse, he didn’t “understand” peppermints, though he does now!

Oh some folks still do this with their cattle. It this is still a thing. They have some connection to a local bread producer/bakery or 99 cent day old bread outlet and back their truck on up the the back door for the cast off crap that’s too old to sell to anyone. Load it all up including crappy white bread, fake whole wheat loafs, the cakes and pies and the generic little debbie cakes type things still in their plastic wrappers and bags and even retail cardboard boxes. Fed as-is. Rumen acidosis the norm but the plastic wrappers and boxes are a also a problem.

Using bread etc as a supplement to an otherwise balanced diet of forage, etc, is one thing. Most of the people doing this with stale bread are totally stuffing their animals with this crap aren’t doing this at all…