Languages change. I understand that. But, in the horse industry in the U.S.A., the urbanization of our society has resulted in language changes, which completely alter the original meaning of some words.

Increasingly, horse owners are not from an agricultural background. They are from cities or from suburbia. Therefore I am going to list some words, which, I hope, will reduce confusion.

1. Barn – Nowadays many people say “barn” when they mean “stable”. A barn is where hay is stored. A stable is where horses are lodged. Traditionally the buildings were often combined. For example, the horses may be kept downstairs in a barn, while hay is stored above, in a loft. But, if a facility has no hay stored in it, it’s not a “barn”. It’s a “stable” (if horses live in it).

2. Grain – Grain is grass seed, such as oats, barley, wheat, etc. Nowadays many people say “grain” when they mean “pelleted feed”. Many pelleted feeds contain grain but they are “pellets” not “grain”.

3. Hay – There is some confusion here, too. I have had clients say, “I don’t feed hay. I feed alfalfa.” They mean alfalfa hay.

Again, there is some confusion. I see “hay” defined as “dried grass”. That is incorrect. Hay is dried forage. It may be dried grass, such as oat, wheat, barley, timothy, or orchard grass, etc.

Or, hay may be a dried legume, which is not a grass, such as alfalfa or clover.

Also, I hear “I don’t feed hay. I feed cubes” or, “I feed pellets”.

Well, hay is often processed into cubes or pellets, but it is still hay.

Pellets often contain grain and other supplements along with the hay. Read the label. Ask the feed store or your vet how to feed. It’s important to understand, thoroughly, your horse’s diet. Feeding errors are the single most common cause of accidental death in horses.

One more thing. “Forage” the basis of the equine diet, can be a pasture, or it can be hay.

One more thing. “Straw” is not “hay”. It is the leftover stems after grain has been harvested. So, there is wheat straw, oat straw, barley straw and so on. Makes good bedding.