Nutritional Terms

Nutritional terms used to describe and analyse horse feed products can sometimes seem confusing, so we have popped a list of commonly used terms below.

Usually referenced when discussing forage feeding, ad-lib offers a constant supply.

Amino Acids
Twenty-two amino acids are often called the ‘building blocks’ of protein, and they are integral to all body tissue, especially muscle. The horse can produce some amino acids itself; however, others (termed ‘essential’) must be supplied through the diet.

Natural chemicals that help to ‘mop up’ and neutralise free radicals.

How easily nutrients can be absorbed from the digestive tract and used by the horse.

A unit of energy. Two hundred thirty-nine calories make one megajoule of digestible energy.

Carbohydrates are a source of energy for all bodily functions. Soluble carbohydrates include starch and sugar, which are broken down in the stomach and small intestine into glucose. Insoluble carbohydrates (such as cellulose and lignin), derived from plant-based materials, are broken down by the microbiome of the hindgut into Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs).

Usually, it consists of chopped oat straw, alfalfa, grass, or a blend of these different fibres. Chaff is added to feed to make it last longer, especially for good doers who do not receive much feed and to slow down the rate of eating. 

Chronic Progressive Lymphedema (CPL)
This condition mainly affects cobs, draft horses, and ponies. It occurs when the lymphatic drainage in the legs fails, causing a build-up of lymph fluid in the lower legs. Affected horses usually have some degree of skin folds on the legs and hyperkeratosis (an overproduction of keratin). Owners report success in feeding herbs such as marigold and cleavers to support the lymphatic system.

Concentrate Feed
A term used to describe a fully balanced product, including mashes, cubes, or mix to feed alongside forage, is also known as bucket, compound, and hard feed.

Promotes weight gain and provides nutrients to support muscle development for horses and ponies prone to weight loss.

Condition Scoring
This is a means of assessing the body fat coverage of your horse or pony. There are two main scales used: 0-5 and 0-9. Allen & Page use 0-5. This is a valuable way of monitoring bodyweight as you can often catch changes that you may not notice by eye.
Find out more about Assessing Condition here.

Cushing’s Disease
This endocrine disease, also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), requires a diet containing less than 10% combined starch and sugar. Find more information in our Nutrition Hub.

Indicates that the horse can absorb and utilise the feed or nutrient.

Digestible Energy (DE)
The estimated energy content of the feed is usually given in megajoules per kilo (MJ/kg).

Minerals that help to maintain water balance and metabolism in the horse’s body include Sodium Chloride (salt), potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are lost through sweating and urination. Significant losses do not have to be present before performance is inhibited.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
A condition characterised by insulin dysregulation and obesity. Horses and ponies with EMS are at a greater risk of laminitis and require a diet of less than 10% combined starch and sugar.

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome (ERS)
Commonly known as ‘tying-up,’ ERS is characterised by muscle damage due to lactic acid build-up. Careful management and a diet high in oil and fibre and low in starch and sugar are required.

Fast release energy
Energy from cereal sources that are digested quickly, resulting in increased blood sugar levels and readily available energy. All horses need this energy to some degree; however, it may be best to look at alternative energy sources for excitable horses.

Fatty Acids
The molecules or ‘building blocks’ that make up fats and oils. When fats are broken down in the digestive system, fatty acids are produced, some of which you may be familiar with, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6.

The most important part of the horse’s diet! Fibre is a structural carbohydrate broken down in the hindgut by microbial fermentation, providing slow-release energy sources.

A term used to describe the fibre/roughage portion of the horse’s diet, which includes grass, hay, and haylage.

Free radical
An unstable molecule produced during normal cell metabolism. They can build up in cells and cause damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA.

Fructans are a water-soluble carbohydrate made up of short chains of fructose, predominantly found in forage. Unlike sugars (e.g., glucose or sucrose), fructans are not broken down by digestive enzymes but are instead fermented in the hindgut.
Soaking hay will reduce fructan levels.

Fully balanced
Supplies the recommended daily intake of nutrients (protein, vitamins, and minerals) when fed at recommended levels for bodyweight and workload.

Gastric Ulcers (EGUS)
Lesions to the stomach lining that can be mild or severe.

A simple sugar that is an energy source for the horse.

Surplus glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver. When the horse requires additional energy, the glycogen is broken back down to glucose.

Good Doer
A horse or pony that maintains weight easily or tends to put weight on.

Hay Replacer
A means of replacing the fibre in a horse or pony’s diet when they can no longer chew grass, hay, or haylage.
Find out more in our Nutrition Hub here.

The large intestine (caecum and colon) where fibre is broken down by microbial fermentation.

Insulin Dysregulation
A term that refers to one or any combination of:

  • Insulin Resistance (IR)- the failure of cells to respond to insulin
  • Hyperinsulinemia- a high level of circulating insulin in the blood
  • An exaggerated release of insulin into the blood after consuming relatively low amounts of starch and sugar

A fibrous protein that is the main structural component of hair, feathers, and hooves.

The inflammation or weakening of the sensitive laminae. This can lead to complete failure, leaving the pedal bone detached from the hoof wall, able to sink downwards and protrude through the sole. Horses and ponies prone to laminitis require a diet with less than 10% combined starch and sugar.
Fine out more information in our Nutrition Hub here.

Low calorie/low energy
Feeds with a digestible energy of 7-10MJ/kg. Our range of low-calorie feeds is fully balanced, supporting optimum health. They are fed in smaller quantities while providing ‘bulk in the bucket’.

Minerals that are required in larger amounts in the horse’s diet such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium. They are expressed as percentages on the feed label.

The overproduction of keratin leads to thickened scabs behind the knee of the forelegs. Owners report flare-ups in the springtime when there is a fresh flush of grass, and we recommend horses are fed a diet low in starch and sugar, with no added biotin or alfalfa.

A chemical process within the body, such as energy production,

Minerals required in small amounts in the horse’s diet, such as zinc, copper, and selenium, are expressed as mg/kg on a feed label.

There are macro and micro minerals, which have a range of bodily functions. They must be supplied in the correct balance, as some minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, interfere with the absorption of others.

A feed that is lower in starch and sugar, therefore less likely to result in excitable behaviour.

Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances. These substances are prohibited in sports and racing horses, occurring naturally within the environment—for example, morphine in poppies or theobromine in chocolate.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
PSSM is a muscular disease characterised by the disruption of normal glycogen metabolism in the muscles, leading to sore, stiff muscles and pain. There are two types: PSSM I and PSSM II.
Type I is a genetic disease caused by very high muscle glycogen levels.
Type II is a similar condition but is not caused by a gene mutation, yet we do not know the cause.
Affected horses and ponies will benefit from a low starch and sugar, high-fibre oil diet with additional vitamin E supplementation.

Poor doer
A horse or pony that struggles to maintain weight or can be prone to losing weight easily.

Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of body tissues. They are made up of amino acids, some of which are essential and can only be provided by diet.

Quality Protein
This term indicates that the protein source contains a high level of essential amino acids, supporting tissue repair alongside muscle and topline development.

Dropping balls of partly chewed feed from the mouth. This is usually seen more with long-stem forage such as hay or haylage and is often a sign of declining dental health.

The overproduction of keratin leads to thickened scabs at the front of the hocks. Owners report flare-ups in the springtime when there is a fresh flush of grass, and we recommend horses are fed a diet low in starch and sugar, with no added biotin or alfalfa.

Slow-release energy
Energy that is provided over an extended amount of time, usually from oil and fibre. Horses or ponies requiring stamina should have a slow-release energy diet.

A non-structural carbohydrate made up of glucose molecules. Starch is broken down by amylase in the small intestine and delivers fast-release energy.

Individual ingredients such as oats, barley, and maize are not manufactured to be fully balanced. Straights are available in different forms, such as whole (uncooked) or micronised (cooked). Care must be taken if adding straights to a diet as they will often unbalance the vitamins and minerals in the feed.

The topline refers to the muscles along the horse's neck, withers, back, and bottom. Diet alone cannot create a topline; however, feeding a balanced diet high in quality protein alongside a correct exercise regime supports good muscle development.

More commonly referred to as hives, this describes itchy, raised bumps on the skin caused by an allergic reaction.

Vitamins are molecules that can be termed fat-soluble or water-soluble, which affects how they are stored, absorbed, and excreted. Vitamins are essential for many bodily functions and must be supplied in balance with each other and minerals.

Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs)
Products of the microbial fermentation of fibre in the hindgut. The most common we discuss in the equine world are acetate, propionate and butyrate which are used as an energy source by the horse.

Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC)
Carbohydrates that are soluble in liquid, including starch, simple sugars and fructan. All feeds, both forage and ‘bucket feeds’, contain WSC, but the amount in the diet should be controlled for horses and ponies prone to laminitis.

A single-celled fungi that is included in horse feed to support the microbiome of the gut and enhance fibre digestion.


Sometimes, it can feel like you need a special degree to read the label on your feed bag. Below is a list of commonly used ingredients to help you find the best feed for your beloved horse or pony.

A member of the legume family of plants. Alfalfa (also known as lucerne) is very popular in horse feed because it is an excellent source of energy, protein, and minerals that are great for your horse's or pony’s health. It also has a high fibre content and relatively low fructan levels, making it ideal for horses and ponies prone to laminitis, providing it is unmolassed. However, it is not a feed that suits all horses and can cause some to react negatively in their behaviour or develop a skin condition. All the feeds in the Barley & Molasses Free Range and Specialist Ranges are also free from alfalfa, allowing owners to avoid alfalfa in their horses’ feeds.

Apple Pectin
A type of water-soluble fibre found in the cell walls of apples. In the presence of a low-pH, pectin forms a like-like substance and binds to the bile acids in the stomach. This creates a mucous-like barrier in the upper region of the stomach.

Brewers Yeast
A natural by-product of the beer-making process, Brewers Yeast is rich in protein, selenium, and B vitamins. It is known to support skin, hoof, and coat condition.

Calcium Carbonate
Also known as limestone flour, calcium carbonate is a natural source of calcium that supports muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and bone health. There is also evidence that it buffers stomach acid—think Rennies!

Carrot Flakes
Slices of dehydrated carrot.

Cereal Syrup

Chopped Oat Straw
A straight, high-fibre chop made from oat straw. Oat straw is very low in calories, starch and sugar, making it an ideal ingredient in low-calorie feeds.

An herb commonly known as ‘sticky weed’ is used to support the lymphatic and urinary systems. Cleavers are also rich in silica, which supports skin and coat condition.

An herb high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and a range of vitamins. Used to support the liver and kidneys, dandelion is known to promote urination.

Di-Calcium Phosphate
A mineral supplement providing calcium and phosphorus.

Field Beans
Field beans, also known as fava beans, broad beans, or horse beans, are an excellent source of protein for equines. We use field beans rather than soya to preserve our non-GM status and reduce food miles.

An herb that is useful for increasing palatability for fussy eaters. Evidence shows that fenugreek supports weight gain and condition when fed in larger quantities.

A popular herb to feed horses, Garlic supports overall health, including immune, respiratory, skin, and coat condition.

Grass Pellets
Made through the drying of tall fescue, cocksfoot, and timothy grasses. Grass pellets are added to the feed as a source of fibre and protein.

Linseed Expeller
A product of the extraction of oil from linseed. Linseed Expeller is rich in protein and oil, with a fantastic Omega 3 content.

Maerl is a sustainably sourced calcareous marine algae from the Northwest coast of Iceland. It is a bioavailable source of calcium and magnesium, and research shows that it supports the maintenance of a healthy stomach pH and promotes bone health.

Marigold flowers are known to support skin and coat condition. They support the lymphatic system and correct fluid distribution when used alongside cleavers.

Micronised Flaked Peas
Peas that have been cooked and flaked to improve digestibility and palatability are included in diets as an excellent source of protein and to add texture/colour to a mix.

An herb that is included to support palatability and to support a calm digestive tract.

An herb that contains naturally high levels of vitamins and minerals. Nettle is often fed to aid skin and coat condition.

Nutritionally Improved Straw Pellets
It is produced from wheat straw and is an excellent source of fibre. In making nutritionally improved straw, sodium hydroxide is used to increase digestibility—the straw is not soaked, and only a tiny percentage of sodium hydroxide is used. In addition to its uses in animal feed, sodium hydroxide is commonly used in human foods such as chocolate, ice cream, butter, noodles, and olives.

Oatfeed consists of oat hulls, bran, and husks, which are highly fibrous materials. Despite being part of the oat plant, oatfeed is not very high in starch as it does not contain cereal grain.
Its high fibre and low energy profile make oatfeed ideal as a component of feeds formulated for horses in lighter work or those that naturally hold their weight.

Provides a good source of slow-release energy which is less likely to cause excitable behaviour than energy from cereals and sugar. A diet high in oil can help to improve condition and stamina levels. Allen & Page feeds contain linseed to provide the horse with omega-3 oils.

Organic Soya Oil
Soya oil has been cold pressed from the bean instead of extracted harshly using the solvent hexane. Our organic soya oil is sourced from Italy, reducing the food miles compared to other countries producing soya beans. As far as we know, none of our ingredients promote any deforestation.

Pea Protein
Pea protein is a high-quality protein with an excellent amino acid profile. It is low in starch, sugar, and digestible energy, so it is fantastic for low-to-mid-calorie feeds or feeds for those requiring a low-sugar diet.

Postbiotics are the end products or ‘metabolites’ of microbial fermentation found in the gut naturally, including VFAs, B vitamins, peptides, and microbial cell wall components. They have been shown to promote the stability of the gut microbiome during stress, improve recovery rates, and increase fibre fermentation. You will see Postbiotics listed as ‘Yeast’ in the ingredients list.

A prebiotic is a non-digestible feed ingredient that improves the digestive environment for beneficial microbes or limits the number of harmful microbes. It is a type of fibre that cannot be digested by enzymes in the foregut (the stomach and small intestine), so it travels to the hindgut to be broken down by the beneficial bacteria. In horse feed, two types are commonly used: Short–Chain Fructo–Oligosaccharides (scFOS) and Mangan-Oligosaccharides (MOS), which you will see listed in the ingredients.

A probiotic is a live bacteria or yeast that ‘tops up’ the population of beneficial microbes in your horse’s gut. Currently, no bacteria probiotics are approved for use in horses, so we use live yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is listed in ‘Zootechnical Additives’ on the feed label.

Seaweed is an excellent, natural source of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

Sodium Bicarbonate
Also known as baking soda or ‘bicarb,’ Sodium Bicarbonate is included in feeds to aid in maintaining a healthy stomach pH.

Unmolassed Sugar Beet Pulp
A root vegetable that is processed (during sugar manufacture) to remove most of the sugar, making it a fantastic source of fibre and calories whilst remaining very low in starch and sugar. Unmolassed sugar beet pulp is a brilliant source of beta-glucans, a soluble fibre that thickens the stomach contents, moderating the rate of passage through the gut.

The outer fibrous husk of wheat is derived from the flour milling process. It is included in feeds as a source of fibre, starch, and protein.