21/09/2017 at 08:19 #204181
I have a well respected friend who has bred top level horses for 45 years. We differ on opinions but never judge or interfere.
She feeds her horses oats and barley, they look absolutely stunning so what would be wrong about that?
Happy to learn about the science and also the nature as I am a great one for naturopathy and as close the nature as possible whilst still giving my horse the nutrition she needs.21/09/2017 at 13:48 #204182
Great question! and I’d like to offer my take on this Trisha. In this specific case, it would be good to know a bit more about the ratio of grains used to forage and also if the grains are processed in any way as this is crucial information to give an answer specific to the horses you mention. Plus what the work load is for these horses, another important fact in the mix. There could be all sorts of reasons why they look great that have nothing to do with grains. I would also question how they feel inside, do they have any so-called vices such as cribbing, which might indicate ulcers etc.
Generally though, grain or concentrates aren’t suited to a horse’s digestive system. This is because grains lower the pH in the upper part of the stomach as well as providing much less saliva from lack of chewing (due to lack of fibre compared to forage). The consequence of a lowered pH and not enough buffering saliva or protective forage, makes the gut susceptible to acid damage, and ulcers.
It’s important to understand a little about the equine digestion – after being in the stomach the food moves to the small intestine where the starch is digested but only in limited amounts at one time. If too much starch comes into the small intestine at one time, such as from a grain / concentrate meal, undigested starch can enter the hind gut and upset the balance of intestinal microbes there. It’s in the hind gut where digestion is finished off and where the fibre is digested. In here the bacteria balance is crucial. Horses are hind gut fermenters and don’t produce enzymes to digest fibre. The digestion and adsorption of fibre is entirely dependent on microbial fermentation. Grain feeding can upset that process because when undigested starches and sugars reach the hindgut they negatively affect the balance of intestinal microbes, impair digestion and can cause health issues such as colic, hind gut acidosis and laminitis.
I would always advise caution with feeding grains to horses due to the health consequences of a diet high in concentrated sugars and simpler starches which goes against the horse’s natural dietary requirements. My advice is that the majority of a horse’s diet should come from free access / ad lib forage.21/09/2017 at 15:59 #204185
It is a long winded one to answer too. I get your points re the digestion, lets presume, like all of us know in this group, the horses are on adlib hay and grazing but they are elderly, losing weight/condition and equally undernourished – or perhaps the overweight horse (like my Fresian) who is still possibly undernourished as often times you can find in an overweight human.
Now, also presuming the hay or grass is not giving any value other than fibre.
So, what can we do?21/09/2017 at 22:56 #204189
Excellent explanation Midi! Thank you!!
I was talking to the owner of another horse at the stables and trying to explain how important grass/hay analysis IS as we don’t know for certain what to feed our horses until we know exactly WHAT they are eating and how much.
I’m afraid it ‘fell on deaf ears though.22/09/2017 at 10:08 #204191
It’s really too big a subject to answer Trisha as there as specifics in every case e.g. there are many reasons why a horse has difficulty keeping on weight and reaching for a high starch / sugar feed of grains isn’t necessary the solution. Cereals are not a natural food for horses and as an equine naturopath I don’t consider them a first choice for a healthy diet. I’d love to hear other views on this though, but for me looking at the horse holistically is the first step and that includes, teeth, parasites, age, intestinal function, saliva production, workload, lifestyle, diet etc.22/09/2017 at 10:10 #204192
Totally agree Chuck, with equine nutrition, the place to start is by finding out what the majority of the diet contains before you can move on from there and start adding in additional nutrients.22/09/2017 at 13:54 #204193
It’s the same with mineral blocks. There could well be a mineral the horse needs in that block. And will continue licking/biting it for that reason.
But at the same time can be overdosing on the some of the other minerals they are inadvertently consuming in the process. 🙁22/09/2017 at 14:50 #204194
I also agree with you Midi and Chuck. Too much is thrown at a horse in the HOPE of getting it right which is why we are seeing so much more laminitis and other problems.
It is the same in humans, so many problems around digestion, an epidemic of type 11 diabetes seen in children, it used to be ‘late onset diabetes’ to many prepared meals and absolute junk, same for horses really…
I just remember being at the riding school when I was about 8 and feeding the horses buckets of oats and molasses at the end of the day lol! it has always stuck in my mind and this is many more years ago than I care to mention, however, that was how people fed their horses, that and grass, I can’t even remember hay, am sure there was some!
It would have been interesting to have charted the lifespan of those horses. I am sure someone has, we now have horses living into their 40’s some somebody somewhere has it right.
Luckily for me I have not joined the ranks of giving mine hard feed but have trialled, for over three months at a time, with each of the follow, herbs for parasites, herbs for immunity, minerals, turmeric and so on. Herbs never did the job, am sure they helped and I am a big herbal fan too. I have tried western salts with lecithin for weight loss/maintenance, so feel now I need to take Willow into winter with good nourishment, she will naturally lose weight but due to her physical size being Fresian it is difficult to tell when she has lost condition and I would like to work on that.
She is dull, lacks lustre and energy – until she is scared of something, then she shows she has something about her lol. Also, keeps having a high worm count, I think she may have come here with pinworms but the red worms too and this year she has had mites and a bacterial problem around her lower legs something she never had the first year she was here. So feel I am battling, probably for perfection, but why not ?
I have started the Astrids Oils, it has the highest Omega 3 I have seen, plus all the vits and minerals that come from that. She has herbal muesli from Thunderbooks as the chaff to put it in plus some pieces of apple, carrot, and other fruit or veg depending on what I have.
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