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The work we ask our horses to do often calls for energy intakes above those supplied by forage alone. This means sometimes horses are fed reduced quantities of forage and increased amounts of higher energy feedstuffs such as cereals. The nutrition experts at WINERGY® explain why this isn’t such a good idea.
The horse has evolved to eat for up to 18 hours a day, with 65% of the gut devoted to digesting fibre. The horse’s stomach produces acid continuously, but they can only produce acid-neutralising saliva when they chew. This means horses on a restricted forage diet that have nothing to eat over long periods are more susceptible to gastric ulcers. Feeding meals high in cereals can also increase the risk of gastric ulcers due to excess fermentation in the stomach.
Exercise itself may also increase gastric acid production as it can increase pressure in the abdomen, which can result in gastric acid ‘splashing’ onto the upper region of the stomach.
Studies have shown that in some competition disciplines up to 60% of horses are affected by gastric ulcers. Often the signs associated with gastric ulcers, if shown, tend to be lack of appetite, poor coat, discomfort and general irritability – all of which can have a detrimental effect on your horse’s behaviour and performance.
“Don’t leave horses for more than six hours without forage,” says Clare Barfoot WINERGY® nutritionist. “It’s also best to restrict starch intake to less than 2g/kg bodyweight per day. Adding chopped fibre, particularly alfalfa, is also helpful. It will extend eating time and the high protein and calcium content may help to buffer stomach acid to help maintain a fibre mat in the stomach to help to prevent ‘gastric splashing’.”
WINERGY Equilibrium® feeds provide a higher fibre diet and all include alfalfa. Find out more by visiting www.winergy.com