RER, PSSM, Azoturia, Monday Morning disease, Set-fast…
So what exactly is tying up in horses? These muscle problems have previously had a variety of different names which have described the symptoms rather than the disease. However, advances in research have resulted in a better understanding of the disorders and more appropriate names have been introduced. Two distinct disease processes have been identified. Each one seeming to be prevalent in certain breeds, suggesting that a genetic factor is likely to be involved. Furthermore, it might be worth checking what you’re feeding…
Trigger Factors for Tying Up in Horses
One of the questions that frustrates owners of horses that suffer with tying up is why does it happen one day and not the next? Often, there’s no obvious reason why the problem occurred on any given day. However in some cases it can be that a number of trigger factors all coincided sufficiently to tip the balance. Possible trigger factors include
- not reducing the feed prior to a day off,
- not warming-up or cooling down properly,
- high starch diets,
- viral infections.
On their own, the horse can often tolerate one or other of these factors but when several combine, problems can occur.
Symptoms of Tying Up in Horses
The degree of severity of the symptoms of tying up in horses can vary enormously. A horse may appear slightly stiff but is still able to work to some degree. Alternatively, it could be a complete seizing of the muscles so that the horse can’t move. If the symptoms are only very slight then it’s very difficult to diagnose the problem as there could be several other causes. When seeking advice from a vet or nutritionist it’s very important you give details of when the problem occurred. For example, was it before, during or after the horse had worked? You will also need to provide details about the horse’s regime that day to enable them to advise you on a suitable diet.
DIET SUGGESTIONS FOR TYING UP IN HORSES
POLYSACCHARIDE STORAGE MYOPATHY (PSSM)
- Quarter horses, Warmbloods and draught horses are most commonly affected
- Typically, quiet laid back animals but with no gender bias
- Prevents normal metabolism of glycogen which is how the horse stores starch and sugars in his muscles
- Eliminate cereal grains and molasses from the diet
- Use oil and fibre as energy sources according to the horse’s bodyweight and workload
- Provide a balance of vitamins, minerals and protein
How to achieve this:
Step 1 – Feed plenty of forage – Forage should form the basis of all horse’s diets but is particularly important in horses that can’t tolerate large amounts of grain. Select as good a forage as possible as this will provide more energy and nutrients which will help to meet the horses overall requirements.
Step 2 – Select a balancer – Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal for horses in light to moderate work or Fibregenix Platinum Pro for horses and ponies in moderate to hard work. These will provide the nutrients required to maintain health and condition and for work.
Step 3 – Add oil or highly digestible fibre – A high oil supplement can be fed alongside a balancer and provides a concentrated source of slow-release calories. Sources of highly digestible fibre, eg beet pulp, are also useful.
(RECURRENT) EXERTIONAL RHABDOMYOLYSIS (RER/ERS)
- Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds most commonly affected
- Excitable, highly-strung increases risk, with fillies more prone
- A stress-related disorder involving disruption of normal muscle calcium regulation
- Reduce the starch content of the diet
- Ensure that any cereals in the diet have been cooked
- Ensure the diet is balanced
How to achieve this:
Step 1 – Choose a feed with as low a starch content as possible – Feeds which contain high levels of digestible fibre and oil, as energy sources. These will be lower in starch than those which are primarily cereal-based. Generally, pellets/cubes will also have a lower starch content than a mix with an equivalent Digestible Energy content.
Step 2 – Check that the feed used is appropriate for the type and level of work the horse is doing and fed at recommended levels to ensure a fully balanced diet – Feeds are formulated to be fed at certain levels. However, using the wrong one or feeding less than recommended can mean that the horse isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients. Unfortunately, increasing the feed can result in over-exuberant behaviour or weight gain. Therefore a good alternative is to add a Fibregenix balancer to provide nutrients without energy.
Step 3 – Add an electrolyte supplement – ERS is most common in horses in hard, fast work and so an electrolyte supplement is vital to replace salts lost in sweat.
Management Tips for Tying Up in Horses
- Warm up and cool down the horse thoroughly
- Do not confine the horse to the stable for long periods
- An episode of ERS often seems to occur after the horse has suffered with a virus. If you suspect your horse has a virus then reduce the workload, particularly if the horse has had RER/ERS before.
Electrolytes are minerals that, when in solution, dissociate and have electrical charges. The concentrations of electrolytes affect the movement of body fluids between cells. Most of the sodium, chloride and much of the water, lost in sweat comes from the extracellular fluid. This fluid consists of the plasma portion of blood and the interstitial fluid which surrounds the cells in the body. Most of the potassium and some of the water comes from the intracellular fluid (water inside the cells).
The most effective way to re-hydrate a horse is to supply water and electrolytes. This is more effective than either on their own. Ideally, electrolytes should therefore be added to the water. However, if this puts the horse off drinking, add them to the feed but make it wet and slushy.
Take home message:
Follow appropriate management procedures and nutrition for tying up in horses. This will help reduce the likelihood or frequency of episodes even for those with an underlying genetic susceptibility.
If you’ve ever wondered what is a low-starch diet for horses, and more importantly, should my horse be on one, then you’re not alone. However, it isn’t ideal for all horses. Ultimately, it will depend on their caloric requirements, the work they’re in and existing health conditions..
Forages should of course be the basis of any diet and are 75-90% carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, and some fibre. These carbohydrates found in pasture and hay fall into two broad categories: nonstructural and structural. So horses actually rely on carbohydrates as the largest portion of their diet. Especially soluble and insoluble fibres that make up forage.
Carbs, sugars and starches in forage.
Non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) in forages are simple sugars and fructans and can be readily digested or fermented by horses. They are produced in plants during warmer weather, and are higher in more immature forages. Pasture is usually lowest in NSCs in the early morning unless overnight temperatures are cold. However, these carbohydrates can affect some disease processes, so you need to monitor how much your horse eats.
Carbs, sugars, and starches in your horse’s hard feed
Grain based hard feeds contain carbohydrates, including simple sugars and starch. Grains such as barley, maize and oats are high in NSCs, mostly starches. Starches are long chains of attached sugar molecules. These sugars get broken apart during the digestive process and the simple sugars (glucose) readily absorbed. Most horses can digest and absorb sugars and starches in the small intestine through a process called hydrolysis. From there, glucose in the bloodstream triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Then the glucose molecules move into cells for storage as glycogen. This is the fuel for the working muscles.
If there’s more starch in a single meal than the horse can digest, starch will enter the caecum, (the first part of the hindgut after the small intestine). Any undigested starch here is rapidly fermented creating lactic acid. This lowers hindgut pH, killing the good bacteria that live there. The endotoxins released from microbial death can then contribute to both colic and laminitis.
So, just how much starch is in a low-starch diet for horses?
A “low-starch” feed usually contains less than 15% starch, but some feed companies might classify low-starch as any feed below 20%. Compare this to a traditional hard feed with grains such as barley, maize and oats as its base. These types of feed might be as much as 40-60% starch. A “mid-level” starch content is usually between 20 and 25%. Whilst many horses are fed high starch feeds seemingly without problems, the key consideration that still remains for any horse is how much starch is fed in any one meal.
Ultimately, there is no single definition of a “low- starch” diet as both sugar and starch concentrations are important. Therefore, it’s better that feeds are referred to as ‘low-sugar and starch’ or ‘low nonstructural-carbohydrates (NSC). NSC is a laboratory measure containing starch plus all water-soluble carbs (sugars and fructans). The recommendation for horses with metabolic issues therefore is not actually low-starch but low-Non-Structural Carbohydrates. So, if f low starch/low NSC is a primary concern for your horse and it’s not quoted on your bag of feed, then contact the feed manufacturer directly to find out.
Starch Content of Common Feed Ingredients
|Legume hay (besides lucerne)
|Mixed, Mostly Grass, Pasture
|Beet Pulp, Dried, No Molasses
|Maize, Whole Grain
Data collected from Equi-Analytical Laboratories
When should your horse have a low-starch diet?
For some horses with certain health conditions, vets and nutritionists might recommend a low-starch diet to help maintain blood glucose at a steady level. These are conditions that cause horses to become more sensitive to sugars and starches. This then means that owners will need to reduce these levels in both forages and concentrates. Individual horses have variable responses related to a variety of factors, including age, body condition, fitness, metabolic status, and disease status.
Obesity and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)
These metabolic conditions are of major concern and there needs to be an overall reduction in calories consumed, not just from starches. Some breeds, especially pony breeds are “metabolically thrifty”, so they’re able to readily convert glucose into fat for storage. They will benefit from a lower-quality forage and no hard feed. This is where a quality feed balancer supplement such as one from the Fibregenix range, is ideal. It will provide vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids and other essential nutrients to bridge nutritional gaps in forage.
Insulin dysregulation (ID)
Insulin dysregulation is considered a component of EMS. In affected horses or ponies, insulin is not effective at transporting glucose from the bloodstream into cells, so both remain elevated. This can increase susceptibility to laminitis. Horses with this condition are extremely sensitive to starches. Ideally, they should be on as low a starch and, specifically, soluble-carbohydrate diet as possible.
Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, formerly Equine Cushing’s)
This endocrine disease mostly affects horses or ponies over the age of 15. Some, but not all, PPID horses will require a lower-starch diet. PPID horses that are also insulin-dysregulated are the ones which will benefit. However, some PPID horses are thin, non-insulin-dysregulated, and they need calories. In such cases a more traditional NSC level is fine.
Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM)
Horses with this muscle disorder often have a normal glucose/ insulin metabolic process. They’re unable to use the form of glucose stored in their cells as energy and are also susceptible to tying-up (exertional rhabdomyolysis). This is the breakdown or destruction of skeletal muscle cells associated with exercise.
Laminitis prone horses and ponies should also have diets low in soluble carbohydrates and starch. Elevated levels of starch reaching the hindgut can lead to hindgut acidosis, killing off the good microbes. This releases endotoxins, which can negatively affect enzymes involved in maintaining the integrity of the laminae in the hoof leading to laminitis. Susceptible horses should not be allowed to graze immature or lush, rapidly growing pasture routinely found in spring and early autumn.
Gastric ulcers (EGUS)
Signs of this condition include poor performance, poor attitude, and mild colic. Horses prone to ulcers and hindgut acidosis benefit from a low-starch/high fibre diet. This is because chewing and consuming fibrous carbohydrates produces more saliva which in turn helps reduce acidity in the stomach.
Anxious or hyperactive horses may also benefit from less starch in their diets. Multiple studies (Bulmer et al., 2019; Destrez et al., 2015) have focussed on the diet’s effect on behaviour. But more recently, they’ve focussed on the “why” behind this. The latest studies have revealed that glucose is a sugar that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Elevated glucose levels are associated with increased dopamine production. And this can lead to elevated awareness or hyperexcitability.
Should you change your horse to a low-starch diet?
If your horse doesn’t have any of the aforementioned conditions, then he probably doesn’t need a low-starch diet. In fact, performance horses benefit from a diet with readily available carbohydrates needed to replace the stored glycogen in skeletal muscle. Especially those that do anaerobic exercise (short bursts of high-intensity training) during work. When muscle glycogen is low, the muscle adapts by slowing contraction rate and power to conserve fuel (glycogen). This is obviously not desirable in a competition horse. Traditional hard feeds with grains such as barley, maize and oats as its base might be as much as 40-60% starch. A “mid-level” starch content is usually between 20 and 25%. Whilst many horses are fed high starch feeds seemingly without problems, the key consideration that still remains for any horse is how much starch is fed in any one meal.
Similarly, hard keepers might not be good candidates for low-starch feeds either, unless you increase the fat content in the diet. These horses need more readily available calories than the fibrous ingredients often used in low- starch feeds.
The table below shows ideal targets to follow when considering how much starch your horse should have.
||% starch in your hard feed
|To avoid starch overload,rapid fermention in the h/gut
||50-65% for sweet feeds, 45-75% for straight grains
|To avoid risk of gastric ulcer syndrome
|For metabolic disorders such as IR, Cushings, laminitis etc
Making Changes To a Horse’s Diet Safely
Any changes MUST be slow and gradual so as not to upset the hindgut microflora. Gut microbes must have time to adjust to a new diet, so it’s generally accepted to make the complete transition over about two weeks.
For horses needing a low-starch concentrate, transition them the same way you would to any new diet. Start with a meal that is ¼ of the new feed and ¾ old feed and stay at this level for four days. Move up to ½ and ½ for another four days. Then switch to ¾ new feed and ¼ old feed for another four days. By the end of this period, you should be able to feed a full meal of the new feed. If you are concerned about NSC levels in forage, then limit pasture access when they’re elevated (e.g. during spring grass growth). Soak hay before feeding. Just remember to discard the soak water, so the horse doesn’t drink it.
What if a sudden change can’t be avoided?
Sometimes, the transition to a low-starch diet has to happen suddenly. For instance, after a metabolic event (e.g., laminitis) where the horse is moved from lush pasture to being yarded. Or begins to wear a grazing muzzle. In these cases, you don’t have days or weeks to make the change. So watch your horse carefully for signs of digestive disturbance such as diaorrhea. If signs develop (and if possible), back off the transition rate and make the conversion more slowly.
What if you have more than one horse and only one requires a low-starch diet? You might be tempted to think you could feed all the horses the same feed. However, whilst it may make feeding more convenient, you still have to consider each individual horse’s needs and feed accordingly.
Feeding for individual needs
What if you have more than one horse and only one requires a low-starch diet? Tempted to feed all the horses the same feed? Whilst it may make feeding more convenient, you still have to consider each individual horse’s needs.
5 Take-home messages
- A low-starch diet might be a suitable option for your horse, but it depends on his health status.
- Horses in good body condition, fit for their discipline, with high caloric demands can cope on a more traditional feed containing higher starch levels. Even so, care must still be taken with how much starch is fed in any one meal.
- Before making any changes, talk to your vet or an equine nutritionist.
- Find out how much starch is in your horse’s feed when the term “low starch” is used. This will ensure you are making decisions based on the best information available.
- Always make any changes to the diet gradually so as not to upset the digestive microbes.
Feeding for energy can be a confusing prospect. Providing your horse with the ideal balance of energy for his needs requires some consideration of both diet AND workload.
In this blog, we take a closer look at the main energy-providing nutrients. We look at how to decide what your horse needs and provide energy to young horses for sparkle without fizz.
It seems that energy itself, even though it’s a relatively simple concept, can be quite hard to grasp. So first of all, what do we really mean by energy?
Fact – Energy cannot be created or destroyed
Yep, you read correctly. Energy is simply converted from one form to another. The easiest way to think about its origin is that it’s released from another nutrient upon its breakdown. The main energy source nutrients within your horse’s diet are proteins, carbohydrates and fats and oils. Each differs in their energy content.
Feeding your horse for energy – Where does energy come from?
Proteins – Proteins are primarily used by the horse for muscle growth and development. Proteins are actually inefficient and furthermore an expensive source of energy. Protein as energy is only used when carbohydrates and fats are not available or in short supply.
Fats and Oils – Both are energy-dense containing 2.25 times the amount of energy that’s stored in the same mass of carbohydrates. What separates them, however, is the type of fatty acids they contain. The healthier and better quality oils come from expensive crops such as linseed (flaxeed) and contain a higher rate of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acid than Omega 6. By comparison, the more common and cheaper fat products eg rice bran or canola, provide higher levels of pro-inflammatory Omega 6 than Omega 3. Any feeds high in fats are very conditioning and should, therefore, be fed with caution.
Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates come in several forms and are the main energy source in the equine diet. Simple sugars, such as glucose, are water-soluble forms of carbohydrates found in cereal grains. These provide a quick-release source of energy. Complex carbohydrates, eg those found in fibre, make up the greater proportion of the diet. Fibre contains structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and hemicellulose. Due to their properties and method of breakdown, they release energy over a longer period. This makes fibre an excellent source of slow-release energy.
Feeding your horse for energy – Weight Gain or Work
Energy for work and energy that causes weight gain is essentially the same. So if your horse gets more energy than he can use through exercise and metabolic processes, he’ll store it as fat. Obviously, this will contribute to weight gain. This fact can be exploited and implemented in a positive way when feeding thin horses that need to gain weight. But it’s also a no-brainer that horses who struggle with being overweight shouldn’t be fed energy to excess.
When considering energy for work, horses that are training harder will, of course, require a higher calorie input. Therefore, they should be fed to accommodate the additional exertion their bodies will undergo during exercise. This diet, however, wouldn’t be suitable for a horse in light work as it could contribute to weight gain. That’s why it’s so important to strike the correct balance between energy provided and energy being utilised by the horse.
What is Digestible Energy?
The Digestible Energy of a feed component is the Gross Energy minus the energy lost in the faeces. It’s not actually a legally recognised measure of energy for horses, so it doesn’t have to be declared on feed bags. Having said that, it’s a really helpful way of indicating the energy content of a given feed. It’s also very useful when calculating overall digestible energy intake and fortunately most feed companies detail it anyway.
The table below shows the DE differences in some common feedstuffs. Digestible Energy is one of the first things you should check to assess its suitability for your horse,
Look at the Digestible Energy (DE) per kg of the fibre. It’s quite low, so it can’t provide too much energy per gram of dry matter. This would correspond with the volume at which you would feed it. After all, fibre should be making up the largest proportion of the diet. However, look at the conditioning mix. Whilst fed in much smaller quantities, it has a much higher DE per kg. Therefore feeding too much of a high DE feed in the incorrect quantity could affect your horse’s weight and condition!
Feeding your horse for Energy – How do we measure it?
Energy is measured in the same way as it is for humans – in Calories (cal) and Joules (J). One Calorie is 4.2 Joules, however, the energy levels of horse feeds are usually measured in Megajoules (Mj), (one million Joules). This may seem like a lot, but horses require a higher level of energy input than humans to sustain vital metabolic processes.
Why does my Horse lack Energy?
Here are 6 reasons why your horse might be lacking in energy.
- You’re not feeding him enough energy
- He has a naturally laid-back temperament
- There’s an electrolyte imbalance
- He may have worms or a reduced digestive function
- He’s had a high starch diet within 4 hours before competing
- Underlying illness
Common Scenario Question 1:
My competition horse needs more energy – can I add some oats before he competes?
Here’s the thing…An abrupt dietary change can a) increase the risk of colic. b) This ‘instant’ energy will disrupt the digestive microbes causing ‘acid’ guts resulting in behavioural issues in some horses. This is the last thing you want before a competition! c) Notwithstanding that, during exercise, horses, like humans, use stored energy sources, not energy directly from their previous meal.
This means he’d need to be consuming oats daily to safely receive the full energy benefits they provide. Not just on or before the competition day. Oats are useful for adding quick-release energy into the diet for horses that are lethargic or lacking energy. But this shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for ensuring adequate fitness.
Another common misconception is that feeding ‘high energy’ feeds can help improve energy levels without causing weight gain. You need to remember that calories are just units of energy, so high energy feeds are also high in calories. Whilst feeds such as competition mixes or straight oats can work to an extent, they’re best used as part of a fully-balanced diet. And in combination with a suitable fitness regime.
Common scenario Question 2:
Your young horse is ridden four to five times a week but you’re finding he lacks energy. Though he’s getting fitter, he lacks that drive you think could be to do with him lacking energy from his feed. So how do you feed him to provide more energy without making him ‘fizzy’? And also, will it promote muscle build-up for his topline?
Finding the right balance of condition and ridden energy can be tricky for horses of any age, particularly youngsters. However, remember the rules of feeding for energy before you go about changing too much.
Basically, energy and calories are the same thing. So you can’t supply energy for ridden work without supplying calories that might fuel weight gain or vice versa. One way of assessing whether your horse is receiving the appropriate level of energy is evaluating his condition.
Body Condition Scoring
The best way of doing this is by body condition scoring. It’ll give you an idea if his diet is providing sufficient energy to cover his energy needs. Remember, body condition scoring only evaluates external fat coverage not muscle development. Bear this in mind, as feeding alone won’t increase muscle tone or topline. This is more influenced by appropriate schooling and making sure the diet has adequate levels of quality protein.
On a scale of 1-9, you’re looking for your horse to be a 5 as this is described as the ‘ideal’. If your horse is carrying too much fat you’ll need to reduce his energy intake. At the same time, you should maintain an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals to keep his diet balanced.
If he’s not carrying enough condition, you’ll need to increase the calories in his diet. This can be achieved by feeding an oil, preferably one high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Alongside this, a quality fibre-based diet will provide non-heating calories. Try and avoid high quantities of cereal-based feeds which can cause digestive issues. If feeding less than the manufacturer’s recommended daily serve, provide a boost of nutrients and protein with an appropriate balancer. The best balancers will contain digestive enhancers to increase fibre digestibility. This, in turn, helps maximise the nutrients and calories he gets out of his diet.
If your young horse is an ideal weight, changing feed is unlikely to be the answer for more ridden energy. It’s his fitness level or ultimately his temperament that’s more likely to influence this. Remember, some breeds are more ‘laid-back’ than others, lacking that natural ‘oomph’, so they’ll often seem to lack energy.
Feeding high starch feed to gain instant energy can increase the risk of many digestive or metabolic conditions. Eg gastric ulcers, colic, tying up and laminitis to name a few. In many cases, it won’t provide more ridden energy, and more often than not contributes to excitability or ‘fizzy’ behaviour.
The best strategy is to work on your horse’s fitness levels and provide a balanced diet. Ideally, one which maintains him in an ideal body condition. This will allow your horse to make the most of his diet keeping him in top condition all year round.
Reduce Feeding Costs
Feeding horses can get really expensive. Are you worried about the cost of your horse’s supplements and hard feeds? Are you looking to reduce feeding costs? How will you do this without it impacting on your horse’s condition, topline or coat and hooves?
Maybe you’ve had to make cutbacks in your horse’s diet due to a reduced workload or to simply save dollars. If you’ve had to opt for a simpler fibre-based diet, what should you feed alongside it? A vitamin/mineral supplement? An additional gut supplement? Extra protein plus something for hooves and coat? All or some of these things?
If you’re currently feeding any of the above supplements, why not consolidate EVERYTHING into just one product? But which product should you choose for the most effectiveness, ease of use, dollar saving, peace of mind and the best results?
To help you choose, we explain the most common types of feed products and what they do for your horse.
Complete feeds, Hard Feeds, Fibregenix balancer supplements – What’s the difference?
Reduce Feeding Costs with a Complete feed – What is it?
A feed that contains everything your horse needs in his diet including the forage.
It can be fed as the sole ration—no need for hay or pasture – just provide water and the complete feed.
High fibre and is ideal for senior horses that can’t chew or fully utilise hay or pasture
Tends to have very large serving sizes, often around 1.5% of the horse’s bodyweight so a bag won’t last very long.
People often provide additional forage/grazing, so your horse can be getting too much for his daily needs.
Adding additional forage or supplementation defies the purpose of a complete feed making it cost-ineffective.
Reduce Feeding Costs with a Hard feed – What is it?
A processed feed that’s generally cereal-based and is fortified with a vitamin and mineral premix. It may or may not also contain some lower quality or least cost digestive aids. It needs to be fed alongside an appropriate amount of forage, (usually recommended as no less than 1% of bodyweight)
It provides energy and calories, plus essential nutrients in one feed. Just add forage and you’re good to go.
Because the concentration of vitamins and minerals per kilogram is quite low, your horse must be fed the recommended daily feed rate. This is to ensure he gets adequate levels of nutrients. It also inevitably means feeding multiple kilos.
The high levels of starch/sugar and energy that the horse will be getting to satisfy his essential nutrient requirements, can often mean horses put on weight. They may become hyperactive/excitable. Worst case scenario can cause digestive issues eg stomach ulcers or ‘acid guts’ from over-consumption of starch in any one meal.
Not ideal for grain sensitive or metabolically challenged horses or ponies.
High starch meals will need to be broken down into several smaller meals per day which isn’t time effective for anyone who can only feed twice a day.
A bag won’t last very long if fed at the recommended daily feed rate, so it can be expensive. Eg a feeding rate of 3kg per day for an average 500kg horse means a bag will last just over 6 days.
Reduce Feeding Costs with a Fibregenix Feed Balancer – What is it?
Think of it as an all in one multi-supplement. In essence, a heavily fortified feed product containing fibre, protein and fatty acids, superior digestive aids and essential nutrients. It’s designed to be fed alongside forage and complements common forages’ nutrient profiles. A Fibregenix feed balancer may seem more expensive than other feed products, but being concentrated, only a small amount is fed. This makes it versatile and far more cost-effective long term.
- Gives your horse a healthier digestive system with specific digestive supplements. These can help process his fibre more efficiently extracting the most nutrients out of it, and help reduce the risk of digestive upsets
- Keeps your horse in great condition
- Maintains that precious topline you’ve worked so hard to build
- Promotes the shiniest and glossiest coat
- Promotes healthy hooves
- Provides all the essential nutrients needed on a daily basis in the most absorbable form. We’ve made no compromise in the selection of the ingredients for Fibregenix feed balancers. Only the best has been selected irrespective of the premium price some of them carry.
- Low feeding rate, palatable and can be fed by hand at the paddock gate or those on spell that doesn’t need an additional bucket feed.
- Save dollars too as NO OTHER SUPPLEMENTS needed and can reduce or eliminate the need for additional hard feed.
- Whole cereal and molasses free so Non-heating
- Very low in starch and sugar
- Low feeding rate and cost-effective – just 100g per 100kg of bodyweight meaning a bag will last an average 500kg horse 30 days.
- A range of balancers are available, so there’s a solution for every horse and pony whatever the dietary dilemma.
Not calorie providers. However, the specialised digestive aids in a Fibregenix balancer supplement have been proven to double fibre digestibility and enable an improved nutrient absorption. This improves calorie intake and is the reason why Prime Original and Platinum Pro can be fed alongside fibre to provide the sole source of energy and calories. Especially in the case of good-doers and even those in light to moderate work.
The simplest solutions are often the best. Fibregenix is the balancer product range that will revolutionise your horse’s diet and keep him healthy for his lifetime.
Feeding Oils and Fats to Horses – The Natural supplies of Omega 3 and 6
Feeding oils and fats to horses is commonplace in today’s modern nutritional practices. As a herbivore, horses are adapted to a diet naturally higher proportionally in Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA) compared to Omega 6 (LA).
This natural supply of Omega 3 and 6 comes from fresh grass. Although low in total fat (2-4%) a significant proportion of that fat (39-56%) is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) compared to Linoleic Acid (LA.) The ratio is approx 4:1 ratio of ALA to LA. Once grass is cut and dried to produce hay however, the naturally occurring unsaturated fatty acids are destroyed by oxygen. So, if hay is the main forage source for your horse, you need to add a fat source offering more omega 3 than omega 6.
Omega 3 and 6 are regarded as Essential Fatty Acids, meaning the horse cannot manufacture them for itself. Supplementing with oils or fats that contain higher levels of Omega 3 than Omega 6 has proven to be beneficial to all horses. Especially those that aren’t eating fresh grass pasture for at least 18 hours per day.
Feeding Oils and Fats to horses – What’s the difference?
Oils and fats are essentially the same. It’s just that oils describe fats that are liquid at room temperature, whilst fats are solid at room temperature. There’s plenty of choice when it comes to feeding oils and fats to horses. And they can come in a number of different forms such as oils, seeds, pellets or ground ‘meals’.They’re considered slow release energy sources which mean they gradually release energy into the horse’s blood stream. This helps to reduce the risk of hyperactive behaviour. Feeding oils and fats to horses alongside a good quality fibre can also be of considerable benefit for improving condition. This is because they have twice as many calories as carbohydrates making them very calorie dense. For example, did you know that one cup of oil provides the same amount of digestible energy as approx 0.55kg of oats?
Depending on the source, oil has Digestible Energy levels of 20-38 MJ/kg. This compares to a typical value of 8MJ/kg for hay, 12-14MJkg for super fibres and 9-11MJ/kg for cereals.
Triglycerides and omega 3, 6, and 9
Oils such as linseed, sunflower, corn and soya contain a lot of different fatty, acid-rich substances called triglycerides. Triglycerides themselves are made up of different types of fatty acids, including the omega-6 or omega-3s. They’re often referred to as poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
When it comes to deciding which oil you should be feeding your horse, it’s important to remember that all oils have the same amount of energy and it’s their ratio of Omega 3 and 6 which separates them. Omega 3, is known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and Omega 6 is known as linoleic acid (LA)
Omega 3 and 6 EFAs play a very important role within the equine diet. They work synergistically within the horse’s body and balancing these essential atty acids is paramount to optimal digestive health. Research has shown that the appropriate ratio would be in the region of 2-5:1 Om 3:6.
Deficiencies of Omega 3 can, for example, affect your horse’s temperament, and deficiencies in Omega 3 can even lead to hoof problems and allergic skin conditions.
Two very important omega-3 fatty acids
These are eicosapentaenoic acid, (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). They’re the building blocks for hormones and also have an important role in the following:
- The structure and formation of the wall of red blood cells. This is essential for competition and performance horses where oxygen transportation can be improved by the structure of the red blood cells.
- Essential component of soft tissue structure
- Hormone activity
- Central biochemical role
- Energy storage system
- Providing energy that by passes the anaerobic stages that are associated with muscle fatigue and “fast release” energy
- Being an excellent source of concentrated energy
- Physical insulation and protection of body organs
- Maintaining conformity and combatting excessive heat loss
- immune function and tissue repair within the horse’s body
Most oils contain Omega 9. This is a non-essential fatty acid and very little is known about the horse’s requirements. It can be synthesized by the horse from unsaturated fats. However, if Omega 3 and 6 intake is low then of course Omega 9 must come from the diet.
Feeding Oils and Fats to Horses – The best sources of Omega 3 and 6 and Their Benefits
Linseed oil is almost 60% pure Omega-3 fatty acids and is one of the richest plant based sources of Omega-3. Omega-3 is a natural anti-inflammatory helping to reduce prostaglandins responsible for pain and inflammation in the horse’s body.
- Omega-3 is a natural anti-inflammatory helping to reduce prostaglandins responsible for pain and inflammation in the horse’s body.
- Omega 3 oils have been shown to have an important role in the structure and formation of the wall of red blood cells, which is essential for competition and performance horses where oxygen transportation can be improved by the structure of the red blood cells.
Deficiencies in Omega 3 can lead to
- hoof problems
- allergic skin conditions.
- temperament issues
Conversely, Omega 6 is equally important to the equine diet and is most commonly found in corn, canola, rice bran, primrose, and sunflower oils. Soya oil is also a rich source of Omega-6 at almost 50% Omega-6.
Omega 6 is a natural pro-inflammatory and is essential for immune function and tissue repair within the horse’s body.
Too much Omega 6 can have adverse implications on your horse’s health for example:
- inflammation in joints and muscles. The aging joints of older horses are more painful when omega 6 fatty acid is fed in large amounts.
- tissue damage from oxidative stress caused by inflammation.
The table left, shows some of the commonly fed oils and their proportion of Omega 3 and 6.
How much should I Feed?
This will depend on your feeding goals. It may take only half a cup of oil a day to add shine to a horse’s coat. However, if you’re adding oil for performance benefits then 1-2 cups of oils for a 500kg horse may be needed. Any supplemental oil should always be added gradually to the horse’s feed to avoid digestive problems. Remember also that when feeding oil, additional vitamin E at a rate of 1IU of vitamin E per 1ml of oil may be required to help prevent peroxidative damage. Some oils may already include this, likewise fat pellets may already have vitamin E included for this purpose.
As with any other nutritional rule, moderation is the key. A daily intake of 2-5% of feed as oil is sufficient for most situations. It can be increased slightly for the onset of winter, or where a moderate to heavy level of activity is anticipated.
Supplementing your Horse with Oils and Fats – Can I feed too much?
Yes. As with any nutrient it’s possible to feed too much. When feeding fats and oils to horses, there are some important considerations to make:
- Be attentive to nutrient imbalances when top-dressing oil onto an existing ration. Eg high levels of fat in the diet may mean a higher need for antioxidants such as vitamin E
- Remember that higher rates of fat inclusion may increase the risk of digestive disturbances.
- Higher rates of fates may reduce calcium absorption via formation of mineral-fat soaps.
- Palatability may also be another factor to consider with some horses disliking oils but accepting it in a ‘meal’ form.
- Be mindful that ponies, donkeys, mules and minis are unable to tolerate high levels of fats.
- Fats shouldn’t be fed to horses that are already overweight/obese, or those prone to hyperlipemia.
- Avoid fats as part of an initial re-feeding programme for starved or severely malnourished horses. Many of these horses will have compromised gastrointestinal and organ function and will have a poor tolerance to digest them.
What’s a good alternative to oil?
Cereals and Fibres
You could fulfill the majority of energy requirements using a combination of cereal and fibre, especially super fibres. But not all horses need or can tolerate cereal feeds. Having said that, it’s actually impossible to feed a diet without fat, as it’s found in most feed stuffs albeit often as a seed meal. In this case small supplements of oil are all that are needed.
A High Quality Feed Balancer Supplement
Feeding a balancer with the correct, balanced level of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids such as one from the Fibregenix range is a great way to ensure your horse or pony is getting everything he needs on a daily basis to ensure a nutritionally balanced diet. It can take approximately 30 – 90 days until the benefits of feeding these essential fatty acids can be seen. But once your horse has a balanced diet with the correct levels of Omega 3 to 6 oils, it will have an improved immune system, indicated by a glossy coat and his overall health and well-being.
Copra – A viable Alternative?
Coconut oil or more often coconut meal (copra) is commonly added to horses’ diets to promote condition. It is low in Omega 6 and crucially contains zero omega 3s. Therefore, if you feed this as your only source of fat and your horse has no access to grazing, your horse will become deficient in Omega 3. Coconut oil and copra are more than 90% saturated fatty acids consisting of over 60% medium chain triglycerides which don’t exist in grasses. One therefore has to query the value of feeding a saturated fat which a horse doesn’t usually get in his diet…
Whilst rich in the long chain Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, fish oils are higher in LA than ALA and can be contaminated with heavy metals such as copper or mercury and organic pollutants such as PCBs or dioxins. This poses the question as to whether it’s worth the potential risk. Palatability can also be an issue for some horses. After all, a horse doesn’t normally eat fish!
Horses are very well adapted to utilising oils and fats in their diet, particularly as a source of energy. Always try and follow a horse’s natural vegetable diet and choose your oil/fat accordingly.