Young scientists discover Fenugreek may be key to feeding horses

Tension mounts among impressive competitors as BT exhibition reaches climax

Robots, explosions and students with bright ideas - here are five things to see at the 2015 BT Young Scientists Exhibition.


A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in humans but when it comes to horses, try fenugreek.

Seven out of 10 horses agree that fenugreek or other flavouring in their feed makes a tastier meal than the feed alone. The hidden value of fenugreek emerged as part of Kate Madden and Annie Madden’s project entry at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS.

The two were the same students from Loreto College, St Stephen’s Green who last year determined that giving your racehorse a Mars bar in the hopes of making it run faster was a bad idea. The treat actually reduced the horse’s performance, they found.

They are back again with a study of how horses that have gone off their grub can be encouraged to resume normal feeding.

Their plan was to add certain flavourings that might tempt a horse, but what to choose?

They set up a number of trials testing vanilla and caramel and also the herb fenugreek, which is often used in Indian cooking either as leaf or as crushed seeds. They also offered feed with no flavouring as an alternative.

Flavoured feed

A definitive 70 per cent of horses preferred flavoured to unflavoured feed. The clear favourite in terms of flavour went to fenugreek, preferred by 38 per cent of animals compared to 30 per cent choosing no flavour, 17 per cent going for caramel and 15 per cent choosing vanilla.

Animals of all sorts find their way into Young Scientist projects, with the mix changing every year. Stephen O’Connell of Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna, did a project about lobster preferences when entering a lobster pot.

Aisling Round, Saoirse O’Donnell and Katie Aylward from Loreto Abbey Secondary School, Dublin, studied the diets of barn owls living on the coast and the midlands for differences.