Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Only stale bread is safe?

All German horses eat bread. At my riding school last year, all the kiddies fed dried slices and rolls to thier ponies after their lessons. Sacks and bucketfulls of day-old bread are a normal part of every barn here.

Baasha won't touch it - "Bread's for people, where's my carrot?"

If you've been to Germany you understand the bread culture here. You don't buy bread at a grocery store, rather, you walk to your local bakery and get it there. It really is amazingly good. Germans enjoy teasing Amis about our floppy, crushable bread. It's true, German bread is something special, and since so incredibly much bread is baked in this land every day, it makes sense that much of it ends up in riding stables as a treat for horses.

Sometimes I bring the heels of our crusty loaf to the barn for the other horses. The other day I was throwing them into the feed buckets (not Baasha's), and the barn owner stopped me with urgency. "What, stop! NO! You can't feed horses soft bread!"

I got a long lecture about how fresh bread is a colic danger to horses, because of the yeast in it. But stale bread, dried by letting it sit on your radiator for a few days, is perfectly safe for horses to eat.

How on earth was I supposed to know this? And, is it even legitimate? Is the yeast in a slice of bread dangerous? Does drying bread remove the yeast?

The barn owner finally stopped lecturing and said, "You honestly don't feed bread to horses in America?" "No. We feed apples and carrots. There's no way I could have known that fresh bread is dangerous."

All my subsequent research was not very helpful. What I get from the english-speaking horse forums is that the starch in bread is the risky bit, because too much starch of any kind is not good for horses. Yeast? Nothing. (OK, I should probably brave the german-speaking ones now!)

Oh well, I won't be bringing any bread to the barn anymore.

(p.s. I've posted my german horse forum research results in the comments!)


lytha said...

Here is what I've learned on the German forums. It's the starch, not the yeast (and I wasn't translating wrong, my barn owner said clearly "the HEFE in bread is the danger" and hefe is yeast.*

Why is starch dangerous? Probably just like when we eat too much, it converts quickly to sugar and isn't a healthy carb.

But the main danger in feeding white starchy fresh bread - it can clump in their guts and cause a blockage. It is even known to clump in horses' mouths and rot. It is sticky when wet. Dry bread isn't sticky when wet, so they say.

The whole-wheat bread heel I was putting in the bucket probably wouldn't cause a problem because it has less starch. But why risk it if it becomes sticky? I won't bother.

BTW, I was astounded in my research, to read like a hundred shrill posts, "Never, EVER feed fresh bread to horses! It can cause colic and laminitis!" but almost no one said *why*, pffffft!

I was amused by some of the theories I read. "White bread is bad for horses' legs!" and "Bread is bad cuz it ferments in their system!"

(Uh, food is supposed to ferment in horses' guts, that's what the cecum is for.)

*Yeast, I've learned, is actually beneficial to the good bacteria in the cecum of the horse.

Like everybody else, I need to be careful, and not naive, with new horse-care information. When I'm told things like, "horses' soles cannot become calloused" and "yeast causes colic" - I need to just open up this laptop and start reading.

I'm in a whole 'nother horsey culture here, and I'm trying to learn as fast as I can, and remain open-minded to their ways. But I'm not taking anything as fact without a little research first. Silage? I won't feed it. Pavement? I don't worry about riding on pavement anymore. I even jog (barefoot) Baasha on it *gasp*!

See, I can change, but Baasha's still holding out for carrots: )

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

My husband tells me stories of how when he was in the military and only had a few minutes to eat his meals, he would ball up a fresh slice of bread and shove it in his mouth, then chew bits off during his drills and swallow them over a period of time to keep his stomach full. The fresh bread soaks up saliva and stomach juices, making you feel more full. So, it expands. If you sucks on a hard crouton, it stays the same size. I could see how a horse could choke or colic with fresh bread if it expands, but I've never thought of feeding a horse bread anyway.

Reddunappy said...

Wow what culture shock, they do do things so differently over there. Hey you only have what 1000 years worth of horse "tradition" over there? we have oh 200 some years here in the states? LOL, bucking tradition is a hard road, but have fun with it, sounds like you are! and LOL I would never feed bread to my horses LOL well I used to share my peanut butter sandwhich with my pony when I was young LOL
I love hearing about your culture challanges with your horse.

cdncowgirl said...

If its the starch that's dangerous it kinda makes sense.
After all that's why spring and fall pasture is a concern... the grasses under stress have higher levels of starch.
But does drying out the bread remove starch?

lytha said...

nm - you pass the test. you are american.: ) "never thought of feedin ga horse bread" *chuckle* me neither. (but i feel bad for your husband, he had to cherish a piece of bread so long!)

redduna - there's so much here that's astonishing to me with regard to horse care. i have a whole nother blog where i talk about all other aspects of german life that i find strange (but that's kind of a private blog for family). i'm trying not to forget any of the strangeness i encounter here!

cdncowgirl - you ask hard questions: ) i would have to guess that the starch content remains the same, but the stickiness of it goes away, and like what nm said, the way it expands.

hm, this seems fitting: i'm eating popcorn right now, and my husband, being a real german, doesn't eat popcorn. so i make this huge bowl, and have no trouble eating the entire thing. what's up with that? i guess it's already expanded, right? and it shrinks down to kernel size again when i chew it? ah, who knows! just a strange coincidence, that i just made popcorn and then read about nm's husband's long-lastaing bread snack.

Anonymous said...

I lived in an apartment once that had miniature donkeys in the backyard (it was a weird apartment...I tend to live in strange places...). The donks were absolute maniacs for stale bagels.

Heck. What else was I going to do with bagels gone stale? Here ya go, guys.

OTOH, my old mare Story (gone 2 years now, it seems like yesterday) was crazy about beer--not the good local microbrews, but the cheap watery stuff that hunters drink. She would steer us all kinds of crazy so we'd end up in some hillside hunters' camp and she could beg for beer. They thought it was cool and always gave her some. I never thought (or worried) about yeast...or bad carbs. Hmmm.

A guy offered her Coors one time. "No, honey," says me, "that's non-union beer, you aren't allowed to have that."

--Aarene (I haven't tried giving Fiddle beer yet...or stale bagels, either...she will do anything for pears)

Melanie said...

Oh Lytha...you apparently have a lot to learn...lol!!! And I am totally being silly!!! ;)

I can just imagine the look on the barn owners face as you were placing fresh bread in the horses bucket!! Like you said...how were you supposed to know?

I am glad that you share all of this with us, and I am sorry to say that I have no clue about starch and horses colicking either...lol!!

Flying Lily said...

Hey, today is the day you finalize the property acquisition! Best wishes and much jealousy from across the big pond - I hope it all goes smoothly.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I am a horse carzy German in the UK and here they feed polo mints for treats. As far as I know yeast is safe for horses and we sometimes feed bakers yeast as a supplement for the B vitamins. Too much starch and other soluble carbohydrates are not good for horses, especially laminitcs as they can pass on into the large intestine where they ferment and indeed may cause laminitis. However, I don't think it matters whether the bread is fresh or dried.

Stacey Kimmel-Smith said...

Wow, people who don't eat popcorn are truly missing out...