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Horse Diet and Behaviour

It is a simple fact of life that if we want our horse to perform at its best, we need to feed it well. An underfed horse won't have the energy to perform weekend after weekend during competition season as well as put in the training hours needed for a top finish. Not only will an underfed horse not have the ability to concentrate, but it won't have the stamina to complete a jumps or cross-country course safely. A tired horse could be a danger to the rider and itself.

The problem is though, you want to feed your horse adequately, but run the risk of causing behavioural issues as a result of overfeeding or over heating, and during spring / autumn you may be restricting grass to avoid issues with high sugar levels that can be found in some grasses during these growth periods.

So what are the keys to ensure your horse is getting an adequate level of nutrition to allow it to perform, whether that is cross country, hunting, show jumping, endurance or trekking?

Firstly, make sure you are providing enough fibre. Fibre is essential to keeping the hind gut mobile and is used by gut microbes to produce volatile fatty acids used for cellular energy. If high volumes of low fibre soluble carbohydrates such as cereal starches are fed, the ability to process and absorb these in the small foregut is overloaded and the excess will escape into the hindgut changing the fatty acid profile giving rise to acidosis leading to irritability etc and potentially, laminitis. How much fibre? The horse will require around 1% of its bodyweight in dry matter to be a quality fibre source  such as hay, silage, chaff etc. For an average 500kg horse, that is 6 - 7kg of hay which is 85% dry matter.

Secondly, look to use cool energy sources such as oil along with beet pulp or soyabean hulls both of which are high in soluble fibre but low in starch and lastly, use cereal starch and protein to top up the diet without placing a heavy reliance on them as the dominant feed sources.

Finally, consider the use of pre & probiotics to help stabilise the gut microbiome and minimise any possible effects of feed overloading the gut and spilling into the hindgut or worse, into the large colon.

Equi Minerals Plus horse supplement contains two different probiotics, a prebiotic mannan oligosaccharide along with S.cerevisiae yeast and digestive enzymes to help improve the horse's natural digestive efforts, stabilise the gut microbiome and help prevent the potential negative effects of pathogenic bacteria if they colonise the gut due to overfeeding and poor digestion.