The grass family furnishes by far the largest number of articles consumed by animals as food, for however diverse in external aspect hay, oats, wheat, maize, barley, rice, rye, and millet may appear, yet they all belong to the genus grami-nacce, though there are plants generally regarded as grasses - as the clovers and sainfoin - which in reality do not belong to them. The grasses, notwithstanding their wide geographical distribution, are remarkably uniform in structure, the greatest diversity being in their height; though it may be noted that the British grasses are only annual, while those of warm climates are often perennial.
This has now become a very common diet for horses, especially for those doing moderate and slow work. Compared with oats, it contains more heat-forming, and rather loss flesh-forming, elements. The difference between the price of the two is generally in favour of maize, and influences its use on economical grounds. It should be at least a year old and clean. New maize is distinguished from old by its softness. In this country it is usually given combined with oats, as when horses are fed upon it alone, it is considered too heating.
Barley is generally too expensive in this country for horses. If used at all, great care must be observed, as it is liable to cause derangement of digestion, and irritation of the bowels and skin.
Rye is better and safer than barley, but inferior to oats.
Beans constitute an excellent ingredient in the feed of horses doing very hard work, as they contain more nutritive and stimulant matter. English beans for feeding should be one year old, weigh from 60 lbs. to 64 lbs. per bushel, and be hard, full, sweet, and free from perforations caused by insects which devour the kernel. The skin should be thin, and easily removed. Egyptian beans are largely used because of their lower price; if they are clean, dry, and sound, they are not very inferior to English beans.
These have somewhat the same composition as beans, and are, therefore, almost equally nutritious; being weight-for-weight cheaper, they are often substituted for these. They should also be at least a year old, sound, clean, and free from perforations.
This can scarcely be looked upon as an article of substantial diet, as owing to the improved wheat-dressing machines, very little nutritious matter is allowed to adhere to it. It is, however, often given as a laxative to sick horses, or those which are resting; and it is palatable and refreshing. It should be dry, free from mould, sweet-tasting, and clean.
This is not usually given to healthy horses, but for patients. It is employed in the form of mucilage, tea, or gruel. Linseed-cake water is sometimes used to moisten manger-food, when this is of a constipating nature, and with advantage. It has been recommended that in large G establishments the cooking-house should have a trough for the preparation of this fluid.
These are the best of all roots for horses, and especially for hunters and others performing hard work, as well as for unthrifty horses. Indeed, were it not for the high price, they might be recommended for all horses.
These, when of good quality, are useful adjuncts to the food of horses standing idle, or doing little work in winter. They are best given raw and pulped.
Where these are largely cultivated they are often given to horses as an article of diet, especially when more or less damaged by disease. Though they possess only a small amount of flesh-forming material, yet they are supposed to be about one-third as nutritious as oats, and when steamed or boiled, mixed with chopped hay and straw, and a small proportion of oats, they are found capable of maintaining horses, doing slow work, in good condition.
During the season green forage is frequently given to horses as part of their diet, even when performing moderate work; but grass, when very succulent, and especially that which has been grown on water meadows and sewage irrigation land, is best for idle or sick horses, as, though refreshing, it contains very little nutriment. Clover, tares, and vetches are much liked by horses, and may be given mixed with their hay; when sown in spring and cut late in the summer, they are very useful, as then the pastures become bare; and for farm horses, winter tares come in useful for spring feeding on arable farms. Under all circumstances, green food, when wet with rain or dew, should not be given to horses until some of the moisture has been got rid of by drying. When green forage is given in the early spring as part of the feed ration, it should at first be allowed sparingly, and after the other food has been consumed, as horses devour it greedily; after a time it may be increased in quantity without danger. It is usually found most economical and safe to have the green forage chopped, and mixed with the hay, chaff, and corn, especially for town horses.