Feeding horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
Team Marketing | 01.12.20
Feeding and Management StrategiesThere are many scientific studies describing feeding and management strategies for horses suffering from metabolic syndrome, such as obesity, laminitis or insulin resistance. However, there is a lack of information available for nutrition and management strategies of those horses that recovered from laminitis or have a sensitivity to sugars and starches and that are now returning to competition. These horses are difficult to manage because calories must be provided for weight maintenance or gain, without causing a relapse of metabolic syndrome or laminitis. This becomes even more important when horses are exercising and using more calories. Feeding recommendations should therefore be tailored to the individual horse. The following guidelines should serve as a starting point.
Feeding frequencyIdeally, feeding strategies for horses kept under intensive conditions would mimic the pattern of a grazing animal. For stabled horses, foraging (grazing) behavior should be encouraged by increasing the availability of hay (or even a variety of different forages) and pasture. Provision of more frequent and smaller concentrate meals throughout the day is also recommended (e.g. three times a day rather than twice a day). Extending eating time by diluting the energy density of the meal (e.g. chaff mixed with concentrates) or feeding forage such as hay, HYGAIN FIBRESSENTIAL or HYGAIN MICRBEET before grain or concentrate may be helpful.
Adequate forage/fiberFor hard working horses with high DE requirements, the provision of roughage is often restricted in favor of grain concentrates to ensure adequate energy. However, there is considerable evidence associating low roughage diets with digestive disturbances (e.g. hindgut acidosis, colic, gastric ulcers) and behavioral problems. A minimum amount of roughage ranging from 1 to 1.5 % of body weight (BW) has been recommended (e.g. 500 kg horse = 5 – 7.5 kg roughage). It is difficult to determine the sugar content of hay without having it analyzed. There are many different environmental conditions that can alter sugar accumulation in hay, for this reason if you have a horse currently suffering from a metabolic disorder it would be prudent to have the hay analyzed to determine actual sugar content. Alternatively, fiber intake can be increased by feeding other sources of roughage such as sugar beet (HYGAIN MICRBEET) pulp or HYGAIN FIBRESSENTIAL nutritionally enhanced chaff nuggets, all of which are highly digestible fibre sources. This approach also helps to decrease the reliance on grain or sweet feed for energy, thereby decreasing risk of digestive disturbances associated with high starch intake. So called “super fibers” contain a large component of digestible fiber and levels of non-digestible fiber, which means more fiber available for microbial digestion. Super fibers contain digestible energy equivalent to oats while not while not producing symptoms of grain overload.
Grain concentrate considerations
- Size of grain-concentrate meals: The feeding of large meals rich in starch and sugar can overwhelm the digestive capacity of the small intestine and upset the microbial population of the hindgut. No more than 2 kg of grain or sweet feed mix should be fed in a single meal (500 kg horse).
- Feed starch sources with high digestibility: Starch digestibility varies with the type of grain and the nature of any mechanical or thermal processing. Milling, grinding, and various heat treatments (e.g. steam flaking, micronization, extrusion) improves the starch digestibility of oats, barley and corn. Heat micronization substantially increases the starch digestibility of corn and barley. Overall, oats appear to be the safest source of starch for horses.
- Use alternative sources of energy: The energy demands of performance can be readily met by provision of alternative energy sources such as vegetable oil (fat) and non-starch carbohydrates (e.g. MICRBEET, soya hulls). Commercial concentrates made with these ingredients will contain varying amounts of starch and sugar, but in general amounts will be substantially lower when compared to straight cereals or sweet feed mixes. When compared to more traditional fiber sources like hay, soy hulls and beet pulp contain lower indigestible material (e.g. lignin) and higher amounts digestible fibers which translates to a higher energy yield. Adding HYGAIN RBO - Equine Performance Oil to a horse’s diet will increase the calorie content (250 ml of oil provides 9.74 Mj of digestible energy). It is recommended to feed up to 75-100 g oil per 100 kg bodyweight/day. This daily amount should be divided into 2-3 meals and introduced gradually (e.g. starting at 50 ml/day).
Probiotic SupplementsThere is considerable interest in the use of feed additives such as live yeast culture, and bacterial species as a strategy to minimize the negative effects of cereal-based diets. Yeast cultures might be beneficial for stabilization of the hindgut environment, when high cereal diets are fed.
ExerciseDietary therapy alone may not be sufficient to reverse insulin resistance. Research has shown that both obese and lean horses had improved insulin sensitivity after seven days of moderate exercise training. Exercising your horse is beneficial; however you should first consult your veterinarian to develop an appropriate exercise regime.
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