Friday 4th of December 2020

How to choose your horse’s forage



We met with Jack Sherborn-Hoare to hear all about how lockdown has affected the launch of his new venture Forage Direct and how a nutrient test should be a factor in determining your choice of forage.




A regular with the Bicester & Whaddon Chase, Jack cut his teeth working for high end hay and haylage suppliers in Newmarket and Lambourn before becoming Farm Manager at Culworth Grounds where the seed was sown (excuse the pun) to provide bedding from by-products of the farm. He has spent several years getting the machinery set up in order to launch Forage Direct and he received his first orders just as lockdown started. 

Jack, welcome to The Gaitpost. I suppose we should start with lockdown and the launch of your new business, Forage Direct. How has that been?

Firstly, thank you for inviting me on to The Gaitpost. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of a ride these last few months but I don’t think anyone has escaped unscathed from what the entire planet has gone through due to Covid-19. Looking back on things, I could never have envisaged launching at such uncertain times but livestock still need to be fed and bedded down and the quality of our range has emphasised the importance of traceability from our fields to your stable door. Since launching, sales haven’t stopped, which is very reassuring!

Tell us about the build up to launch and your bedding range.

I have always enjoyed hunting, racing and farming, so it just made sense to link my passion for sustainable agriculture with my equestrian background. We have always supplied hay and haylage but I wanted to be able to provide a full service which is where the idea for ThoroughBED came from. To get from the idea to now has taken longer than we hoped but that has come down to ensuring the efficiency of the incredible machinery we have built to ensure a consistent quality. We produce two types of our ThoroughBed bedding, ThoroughBED PRO, made from oil seed rape straw and ThoroughBED GOLD, made from cereal straw. Both are milled, which reduces its length whilst exposing the absorbent inner core. This shorter length makes mucking out quicker, cleaner and produces less waste as it is more absorbent.  It is double dust extracted and is very similar to shavings in terms of mucking out but without the hefty price tag, and biodegrades faster breaking down into a nutrient rich compost.

You are also trusted by some of the leading trainers, studs and eventers to supply their hay and haylage. What should we be looking for when choosing our forage?

I get asked this question a lot! There are so many different factors to look at when choosing forage, but here are a few pointers, which should help steer you in the right direction.   

1) Remember horses are grazers: The most important thing for a horses digestion is quality forage. Too much hard feed and not enough forage often leads to gastric ulcers. Nothing beats grazing grass so if you are unable get it fresh out the field, the next best is preserved grass i.e, hay or haylage. It is the horse equivalent of frozen peas!

2) Ask for an analysis: This looks at the protein, sugars, contamination and spore count. Seek advice as to what suits your horse needs.                                                                   

3) Don’t humanise your horse: Just because some hay looks green and smells fantastic to us does not necessarily mean it is what is best for your horse!                                       

4) Use someone that specialises in equine forage: Yes you may get it cheaper from the farmer down the road, but he has more than likely made it with his cows in mind and not your horse.  Good quality horse hay and haylage is made from grass cut at a completely different time of year, and using fodder cut at the wrong time can have a detrimental effect on your horse.

5) Use the analysis to alter hard feed programmes: Not only is this better for your horse, but if you feed the right forage it should be better for your bank account! 

Great advice. Thank you for chatting to The Gaitpost, Jack, we wish you every success with Forage Direct.

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