Generally the horse-owner is content to leave the selection and preparation of the horses' food to his coachman or groom, leaving them to arrange with the dealers as to the quality of the oats, hay, and other articles of fodder which will be supplied.

This system has the advantage of saving a good deal of trouble, and in small establishments it would not be possible to appoint a responsible person to examine samples of provender before the purchase is made, and to see that the bulk corresponds with the sample. But the owner would very often find it economical, as well as advantageous to his animals, to examine the samples himself, and to see from time to time if the quality is maintained. It is true that this presupposes a certain amount of knowledge which the owner may not possess, but it is certain, on the other hand, that a good many who do possess the necessary knowledge do not take the trouble to apply it to a useful purpose.

The ordinary articles of food of the horse are oats, bran, and hay, straw being employed only in admixture with the hay to form chaff. Oats are placed first, as the most important, and there is no article of provender which differs more in quality. Between the best and the worst it is not difficult for even a tyro to distinguish. Anyone can recognize bright, plump grains, having a sweet odour, containing no shrunken or broken grains, free from dust and other foreign matter, firm to the touch and also to the pressure of the teeth, and weighing not less than 40 lb. a bushel. It is also an important character of a good sample of oats that the grain must vary very little in size. In judging a sample, the observer has to note particularly that the oats have not been artificially dried by heat after they have become damaged by water. Dark-coloured oats, and those which have a peculiar odour, are always open to suspicion. At the present time, however, the methods of preparation to disguise the colour, as well as the taste and smell, of kiln-dried oats are so skilfully applied that damaged oats may very frequently pass muster, unless the observer has the skill which is only to be acquired by practice.

In some private stables it is customary to give a feed of oats entirely unmixed; but there are certain disadvantages attending this procedure. Horses are disposed to swallow rapidly or bolt oats which are given alone, and the quantity ordinarily given would be insufficient in itself to satisfy the appetite of a hungry animal. A similar quantity, peck of good chaff and a handful or two of bran, combined with the feed of oats, will force the animal to masticate the mixture and avoid waste. Crushing oats is undoubtedly a useful mode of preparation, and certainly facilitates digestion, and especially in the case of ravenous feeders which "bolt" their food without sufficient mastication.

Although oats constitute the staple food of a horse, other grains are occasionally given. Barley is very rarely employed as food for horses, and it is admitted, by those who are disposed to favour its use in mixture with other food, that it should be boiled previously to being given. Brewers' grains are also occasionally used for horse food in moderate quantities. They are the refuse of malted barley left after the brewing of beer.

Grains and malt sprouts - the latter containing nearly six times more nitrogenous matter than exists in the grains themselves - are exceedingly useful for horses when given in small quantities mixed with other food. They constitute a grateful change and stimulate the appetite of delicate feeders; and as they contain a considerable quantity of carbohydrates, besides some fatty matter, they are likely to prove beneficial to horses in poor condition, whether in consequence of excessive work or from an attack of a debilitating disease. Dried grains have recently come into use, and they, as a matter of course, having got rid of a large proportion of the water, of which between 70 and 80 per cent exists in the grain, may be looked upon as a somewhat concentrated food.