Fibregenix Frequently Asked Questions
With so many horse feeds and supplements on the market, selecting the right feed to suit your horse, can be a challenge, if you are confused, you’re not alone.
We have compiled the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers directed to Fibregenix Nutritionist to assist you. Search through the categories and if the answer to your question is still pending, you can always contact us direct, we are happy to assist. Call Anita 040 892 0707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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We all have our own way of doing things and with feeding horses, it’s no different. But have you ever considered why you do what you do and whether it’s actually for the right reasons?
I always add chaff or lucerne to my horse’s feed
If your horse is getting ad-lib forage (grass, hay), does he really need extra fibre in his bucket? Half a scoop or so is not providing a significant amount of additional fibre anyway and is merely adding to the overall size of the meal. Since a horse has limited stomach capacity, the overall compound ration should be divided into as many small meals as possible.
However, many of us can only feed twice a day so, if your 500kg horse in light to moderate work needs 3.7kg of commercial compound hard feed (the recommended amount) per day, that’s 1.8kg per feed and will provide potentially too much starch in one feed.
Personally, I would always add in some chaff/fibre if a concentrate (grain or compound feed) is being given because….
it slows down the rate of consumption of the hard feed and promotes more thorough chewing which is better for saliva production. A horse produces far less saliva chowing down a kilo or more of hard feed on its own, as it’s easier for them to eat. This means the gastric acid is not being buffered and too much acidity in the stomach will overwhelm it and can create problems such as ulcers.
Meal Size Guide
Do not exceed a total of 1.6 – 1.8kg per feed for a horse and 1.4 – 1.6kg for a pony (including additional chaff or sugar beet, if fed)
Adding more to it, even fibre, is risking overloading the stomach and feed flowing on into the intestine before it has been properly digested in the stomach. At best this is a waste of feed, at worst it can cause problems when it reaches the hindgut.
Alternative fibre sources can be useful if a horse is a poor forage eater but need to be fed in significant quantities, perhaps in a separate bucket, to replace the fibre the horse is missing out on by not eating forage.
I always add soaked sugar beet pulp to my horse’s feed
Sugar beet pulp is rich in “super fibres”, like hemicellulose and pectin; different from the structural fibre, cellulose, which is abundant in forage. Super fibres are more easily digested than cellulose and yield more energy, so sugar beet pulp is ideal where additional slow-release calories are required but care must be taken with the overall meal size when adding it to other hard feeds (see above).
As far as adding sugar beet as a way of making the meal wet, this can be useful at times, when there’s a risk of the horse dehydrating or not drinking, such as when travelling or at competitions. Normally though, feed shouldn’t need damping if the horse always has access to fresh, clean water. Chewing triggers the horse’s saliva production and the more he chews, the more saliva is produced.
I always feed less than it says on the bag
Feeds are carefully formulated to ensure they deliver all the nutrients and calories a horse requires, alongside forage, within a manageable daily amount. This is calculated according to bodyweight and workload so feeding less could mean a horse misses out on essential nutrients.
If feeding the recommended amount of a compound feed means your horse gets fat or has too much energy, you need to switch to a feed with a lower Digestible Energy (DE) which supplies the required nutrients with fewer calories per scoop. If you still can’t feed what it says on the bag, choose a Fibregenix balancer instead or top up the reduced levels of compound feed with a Fibregenix balancer to ensure your horse receives a fully balanced diet. Balancers, such as Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal, provide essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals, but minimal calories.
I always feed a hoof supplement
One of the most visible signs that a horse is missing out on essential nutrients, and not receiving a balanced diet, is poor hoof quality. A range of nutrients are necessary for healthy hooves and they include B vitamins, like Biotin, minerals, like zinc and calcium, and amino acids, like methionine. All these should be supplied in the required quantities by the recommended amount of a good quality compound feed or balancer so, if that’s what your horse is getting, you shouldn’t need to add a supplement. It takes 9 to 12 months for new horn to grow from the coronary band to the ground so expecting any improvement in under this time is wishful thinking. Supplementing an already balanced diet is a waste of money and choosing a product that supplies only Biotin is also not particularly useful since a range of nutrients are necessary.
I feed a chaff with added vitamins and minerals to my laminitis-prone pony but don’t actually feed the amount it says on the bag
Just like any complementary compound feed, “chaff-based all-in-one” products are formulated to be fed at certain levels to ensure the horse or pony receives all the nutrients he needs for health and well-being. A scoop here and there may seem like an excellent low-calorie snack, with vitamins and minerals to boot, but will not be providing the recommended daily amount of these essential nutrients so you might as well feed an ordinary low sugar chaff and cut your costs!
A balancer, like Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal, is great for good-doers and those prone to laminitis as it contains essential nutrients, like quality protein, vitamins and minerals, but minimal calories, the bulk of which can be supplied by forage. Fed in small quantities, Lami Low-Cal can give you peace of mind that your horse or pony is receiving the nutritional support he needs whilst you control his calorie/forage intake as necessary. Fibre remains very important to the good-doer, but lower-calorie sources are important, such as coarse, stalky hay as opposed to soft, leafy hay, and controlled access to grazing.
I like to feed a bran mash once a week
Whilst this was once common, it is now considered “bad practice” as it constitutes a sudden change of diet when changes should ideally be made gradually to avoid disrupting the sensitive bacterial population of the horse’s hindgut. Even a “regular” change, ie. a bran mash once a week, is enough to upset the bacterial balance and means the horse’s digestive efficiency is compromised.
Rather than feed a mash when a horse has a day off, reduce the horse’s normal feed by up to half and, if the horse is off work for a while, top the reduced feed up with a Fibregenix balancer, to maintain nutrient levels without the calories, or change to a lower energy feed which can be fed at recommended levels. Modern wheat bran is now devoid of much of the fibre and wheat germ for which it was once valued. Its addition to an already balanced compound ration will unbalance that ration and can upset the calcium: phosphorus ratio which, in turn, can compromise bone tissue formation and integrity, something which is particularly risky in growing youngstock.
I/my horse prefers a muesli mix to a pellet
It’s pretty rare for a horse to have a preference and the vast majority will find pellets equally as palatable as muesli mixes. The ingredients used to make pellets are of the same high quality as those used in muesli mixes but, whilst nutritionally they may be equal, aesthetically to us as humans, muesli will look more palatable. Pellets do have advantages over muesli mixes, particularly for horses with excitable temperaments, since they tend to be lower in starch than their mix equivalent. And, whilst ingredients are of the highest quality, the production process is less costly, so pellets tend to be cheaper! Give it some thought the next time you choose a feed; who are you aiming to please? After all, horses never tire of eating grass!
I need to avoid protein because my horse is fizzy
Riders often worry about protein levels in feed and usually for the wrong reasons, since this nutrient is rarely used by the horse’s body as a source of energy so is unlikely to “heat him up”. Protein is important however, as it supplies essential amino acids which are the building blocks of body tissues, including muscle fibres, so particularly vital for working horses. Since the body’s requirement for protein increases with workload, performance feeds contain more protein and coincidentally more calories, and it is the calories which may affect temperament.
I need to avoid cereals because my horse is fizzy
Having eliminated, or at least identified, any obvious causes of fizzy or fractious behaviour, then consider your horse’s diet. The amount of energy/calories that goes in should equal the amount that he needs for maintenance and work, as any excess will either be laid down as body fat or expressed as excitability or both. For excitable horses who need help maintaining condition, a balancer on its own or alongside a reduced amount of concentrate, plus plenty of good quality, digestible forage is the most effective solution. The important thing with the cereal content is that it must be cooked thoroughly to be as digestible as possible for the horse. Cooking methods like micronising and extruding have now superseded steam flaking as they gelatinise (cook) more of the cereals’ starch content. This reduces the risk of undigested starch reaching the hindgut and causing problems which can include crabby behaviour. Meal sizes must also be kept small for the same reason, whilst forage intake should be a minimum of 1% of body weight to avoid compromising gut function which could lead to colic or gastric ulcers.
Feed manufacturers never suggest that cereals are a replacement for fibre, rather that they are a useful and effective addition to a forage-based diet when fed correctly. Harder working horses, need the readily available glucose cereals supply as fuel for the brain and other organs, thus helping to maintain concentration and stamina. There are now feeds available which contain a blend of energy sources, alongside cooked cereals, with an emphasis on slower release energy, if required. Pellets also tend to be lower in starch than their muesli equivalent so are ideal for the fizzy type.
Whilst your horse may calm down on reduced quantities of a cheap, low energy mix, or on no complementary feed at all, consider his overall condition, health and well-being and whether this is likely to be sustainable as work-load or the demands of performance increase. Many horses “perk up” when their overall plane of nutrition is improved, and they start to feel well in themselves; many will settle again when they become accustomed to the feeling of well-being.
Food for Thought
Hopefully, if any of these situations apply to you, you will give a little thought to your reasoning and consider whether you are feeding entirely for your horse’s benefit. There is nothing wrong with keeping feeding simple; plenty of forage and the manufacturer’s recommended quantity of a compound feed or balancer should be all your horse needs. The key is in choosing the right feed for the job and not adding extras to it just for the sake of it. After all, by streamlining your feed room and making things as cost effective as possible you could free up cash to spend on other things!
Feed Allergies or Intolerances
There’s an increasing awareness of the possibility of feed allergies or intolerances among horses, but how prevalent are they?
We know that the human body can have dramatic and potentially drastic reactions to certain foods. However, true feed allergies in horses are relatively rare. Allergies involve the stimulation of the immune system to react excessively against a certain protein or protein-like molecule (allergen). Something that would not normally happen in the non-allergic horse. This reaction results in the release of excess histamines. These can cause symptoms such as sneezing and wheezing, itching, swelling, hives (lumps on the skin) or diarrhoea.
Allergies can be hard to diagnose and in severe cases, a vet will carry out tests with varying degrees of success. Feed allergies can include swelling of the lips and mouth but are more commonly seen as diarrhoea and/or hives. However, symptoms alone are not necessarily indicative of an allergic reaction to something the horse ate.
A more common occurrence are hypersensitive reactions to substances which don’t involve the immune system. These tend to be referred to as intolerances. They can result in many varied symptoms which may not necessarily initially, be attributable to a feed-related issue. As such, they can be equally hard to diagnose. Indeed, it’s only in recent years that intolerances to feeds or feed ingredients have become recognised. So, although there’s a perception they’re becoming increasingly prevalent among equines, it’s more likely we are more aware of their existence.
Symptoms of feed intolerances can include “crabby” or “jumpy” behaviour, hives, dry itchy skin, loose droppings or a tendency to colic. However, these can also be the result of environmental and management issues. Any horse which is uncomfortable in its gut, for example, is likely to be crabby, unsettled and prone to colic. Therefore, eliminating all which could be causing this can help settle the situation. For instance stress is a primary factor in gut discomfort. This can have innumerable causes from insufficient turn-out or bullying in the field to travelling, competing over-zealous training. The list goes on…
One common consequence of a “stressed-out” equine is EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome). This occurs as a result of acid attacking the lining of the horse’s stomach. therefore, any horse prone to ulcers or any digestive discomfort MUST have constant access to forage. Not only that, the starch content of any supplementary feed also should preferably be kept to a minimum. The simple provision of ad-lib forage can help reduce stress levels by satisfying a horse’s physiological need to chew. It also ensures there is always some food in the stomach to stop the digestive acid reaching areas it shouldn’t.
A constant flow of fibre through the digestive system also ensures that any gases produced during digestion are carried through. This avoids a build-up which could cause colic. Fibre from forage is also essential to maintain a healthy population of gut bacteria which are instrumental in digestion. An imbalance can not only affect digestive efficiency but gut pH (acidity). Gut imbalance symptoms can include, loose droppings, diarrhoea or colic.
Digestive Enhancers for Feed Intolerances
Any horses with loose droppings, whether continuously or during times of stress, would benefit from a digestive enhancer. These are usually pro and prebiotics found in Fibregenix balancers. Live yeast Probiotics can be fed to replenish gut bacteria populations which may have been depleted. Prebiotics support the existing populations of beneficial bacteria by acting as a food source and help them flourish.
another function they perform is to disable pathogenic bacteria and facilitate their removal. These actions help maintain a healthy bacterial balance, supporting gut efficiency and helping alleviate loose droppings and discomfort.
Scurfy or itchy skin can be a sign of a dietary imbalance. Checking the overall balance of the diet should always be taken before giving supplements or special feeds to alleviate specific symptoms. A fully balanced diet, supplying correct levels of essential vitamins and minerals and quality protein, helps support health and well-being. The visual signs of this will include, strong healthy hooves and a shiny coat. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for soft, supple skin and may be found in a Fibregenix balancer. Alternatively, they can be added to a fully balanced diet in the form of a high oil supplement or straight oil.
Elimination Diets for Feed Allergies or Intolerances
Should problems persist and remain unexplained, then feed allergies or intolerances are possible. But the only way to find out what is causing the reaction is to put the horse on an elimination diet. Whilst this can be difficult for the hard-working horse or poorer-doer, it may be the only option. And it will involve cutting out all supplementary feeds and giving just ad-lib forage for a minimum of four weeks.
By this time, unless the cause is within the pasture or forage, symptoms should have subsided. Other feed ingredients can then be reintroduced one by one until a problem recurs. In that way it can be attributable to what has been added to diet. Your vet or feed nutritionist can help you plan the process and discuss feeds or feed ingredients. You can then decide which you can add separately to aid in the identification of the culprit. It’s entirely possible that the problem is within the horse’s grass, hay or haylage. But this should become apparent if problems persist despite the elimination of the usual suspects in hard feed.
Elimination diets can be time consuming and complicated to exercise. So there’s an increasing tendency to assume that an intolerance exists and it’s due to one or more commonly implicated ingredients. There are feeds which avoid these ingredients, which offer a potential “quick fix”. Unfortunately, this means that neither the specific cause nor any environmental implications are ever addressed. If an elimination diet results in the recognition of a reaction to a specific ingredient, then such feeds can re-establish a fully balanced diet whilst avoiding intolerance reactions.
Feed ingredients which have been identified as causing hypersensitive reactions include certain cereals, lucerne and molasses. If a horse is truly allergic to any of these, it’s a protein which they contain that will be the actual allergen. The fact remains that oils, starch, cellulose or sugars are not allergens and cannot cause an allergic response.
Sugar often receives bad press which is unwarranted. It is both an essential nutrient and a natural component of the horse’s diet because grass has a high sugar content. Molasses is often perceived to be “high sugar” but is not 100% sugar. It’s what’s left after the sugar has been extracted. It is often used in feeds at an inclusion rate of less than 5%. This means the actual amount of sugar it contributes to a horse’s diet is minimal.
Take Home Message: There’s no doubt that horses can have feed allergies or intolerances to something in their diets. However, there are other factors to consider when presented with potential symptoms. Always ensure your chosen feed products come from a reputable manufacturer as these will contain carefully prepared natural ingredients. They’ll also be backed by meticulous research ensuring they provide the very best and safest nutrition for your horse.
HOW CAN I TELL WHETHER MY HORSE IS TOO FAT OR TOO THIN?
It can be difficult to accurately describe your horse’s condition as people can have very different perceptions of what constitutes a fat and or thin horse. The most objective way to assess your horse’s condition is to give him a Body Condition Score, which involves looking at and feeling areas of his body to determine levels of body fat. As a rough guide, you should be able to feel a horse’s ribs but not see them, however, there is much more to consider than that! You can also evaluate your horse’s muscle development and top line as well as using a weigh tape or weighbridge to find his bodyweight.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO HELP A HORSE LOSE WEIGHT?
Like any human, in order to lose weight, a horse needs to burn more calories than he consumes. The dilemma with horses is that they are designed to eat and chew for at least 18 out of every 24 hours and need a constant flow of fibre through the digestive system in order to stay healthy.
Losing weight is tough and it’s even tougher if you’re an animal like the horse that is designed to spend most of its life eating. Stop your horse eating for too long and you may end up with a horse with serious health and behavioural problems – problems far more serious than nipping out in your pyjamas in the middle of the night to buy a chocolate bar! Let him eat though and you could be dealing with laminitis and obesity. Finding the happy medium is what managing a good doer is all about and hopefully the following tips will help you to keep your horse in good shape both mentally and physically.
The digestive tract of the horse functions most efficiently when it has an almost constant supply of fibrous material to break down. We are all told to eat more fibre to promote regular and healthy bowel movements and the same applies to the horse. Fibre passing through the digestive tract pushes out any gas bubbles that have formed. If the horse is receiving very little to eat to try and control his weight, then the gas can accumulate, causing the gut to become distended which is very painful and may result in colic symptoms. The other problem with enclosing good doers in a stable with very little to eat is the risk of them developing stereotypies or “stable vices”. As horses are herd animals reducing their contact with other horses can cause considerable anxiety and result in problems. It has previously been assumed that boredom was the main reason horses receiving very little fibre started to develop stereotypies as they had long periods of time doing nothing. However, research is suggesting that in fact, some stereotypies are a response to increased acidity in the digestive tract. When the horse chews he produces saliva, which contains bicarbonate that helps to neutralise the acidity in the gut. If a horse isn’t receiving much fibre, he won’t be spending very long chewing and so the gut may remain very acidic. This is the reason antacids are starting to be promoted for use in horses with stereotypical behaviours.
There are several things you can do to try and reduce the risk of these problems occurring. The most important are the basic rules of feeding. We all think that feeding little and often just relates to the concentrate ration but with good-doers it applies to the forage as well. For example, if your horse is a good doer and you put all its hay in at 4 pm and then don’t return until 8 am the next morning, the chances are that your horse will spend from 4.30 pm until 8 am without anything at all. This is really too long to be without some source of fibre and so if you know someone goes to the yard much later, ask them to put a haynet in when they leave. If there really isn’t anyone else to help then try and put the hay in small holed nets, put several nets inside one another and put several nets around the stable so it takes as long as possible for your horse to extract the hay.
In the summer when most horses are enjoying lots of time in the field, the poor old good doer has to spend more time in the stable. It is the safest place for the overweight horse to be in terms of avoiding obesity and laminitis, but it does mean that they miss out on a lot of valuable nutrients that grass contains. Although hay and haylage provide an alternative fibre source for the stabled horse, they do not provide as many nutrients as grass and as many people tend not to feed their good-doer at all in the summer, it can mean that they miss out on certain nutrients. There are various ways to provide these nutrients as most manufacturers now have a feed designed for good-doers. One option is to use a low-calorie balancer such as Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal which provide a concentrated source of nutrients without the calories that are found in a normal mix or cube. These are fed in very small quantities and can be fed with a simple, low-calorie white chaff. An alternative option is to use a chaff-based feed that has added nutrients. These are fed in much larger quantities and can be fed alongside or instead of hay. Whichever type of product you choose it is important to feed the levels recommended by the manufacturer or your horse may still not be receiving the nutrient levels it requires.
I just give my horse a handful of a high fibre, low energy feed to keep him happy?
One of the most common feeding strategies employed by owners of overweight horses and ponies is to give a token offering of a high fibre, low energy feed. As these feeds are designed to be fed in much greater quantities, a handful provides very little of the vitamins and minerals the horse needs and some calories that he doesn’t need. The table below shows the differences in nutrient levels provided by a concentrated balancer which is designed to be fed in small amounts, and a handful of a high fibre, low energy pellet feed product which is designed to be fed in much larger amounts.
Amount provided by 500g of a high fibre, low energy pellet
Amount provided by 500g of Lami Low-Cal balancer
I have a lazy, overweight horse. What do I do?
One of the most common problems with good doers is that they also tend to be lazy. Putting more energy in increases the risk of weight gain which can make the laziness worse. The first objective is to try and get some weight off and then think about trying to generate a bit more energy. Quite often, horses feel better and have more energy once the diet has been balanced as their lethargy was due to a lack of nutrients in the diet. The first step is, therefore, to ensure that the diet is balanced. If this doesn’t generate more energy from your horse, then it is possible to combine a low- calorie balancer with oats. Oats are the cereal most often associated with causing lively behaviour in horses and so adding a few to the diet may produce a livelier horse. Combining the oats with a balancer like Lami Low-Cal means that the balancer provides a balanced diet and so the amount of oats can be adjusted according to the horse’s workload and requirements. When the horse isn’t working as hard the amount of oats can be reduced right down to a handful so that extra calories are not being added when they’re not needed. Make sure that if you try adding oats that you introduce them very slowly as they can have quite a strong effect on some horses and ponies. This feeding regime works very well with competition horses, particularly Warmblood dressage horses, as they are often good-doers but still need lots of energy for the work that they do.
Before and After
If you feel that your horse needs to go on a diet then prepare a fitness and diet plan. It is a good idea to keep a record of your horse’s measurements and so get yourself a weigh tape and measure your horse each week – make sure you are consistent when you measure e.g. at the same time of day and with the tape in the same place each time. Take a photo before you start so that you can refer back to it as small changes day by day are hard to see whereas if you look back after a couple of weeks you should be able to see more of a change. If you have implemented a good exercise programme and a suitable diet you should find that the weight starts to come off.
What is Condition?
Horses carry different proportions of muscle and body fat according to their type and level of fitness or training. It is our aim, as horse owners, to ensure that these proportions are appropriate to the work we are expecting of the horse and adjust his diet and workload accordingly. Body Condition scoring, using a numerical scale where 1 is “poor” and 9 is “obese”, can be a useful way of objectively assessing condition by looking at the horse’s neck, ribs and rump. Ideally, you should be able to feel but not see the ribs and the horse should carry “top line” in the form of muscle not pads of fat, so correct work is imperative to encourage muscle development in the right places.
Whatever method of condition assessment you use, it should be both visual and “hands-on” – you need to feel through a thick coat in the winter, which can cover the true picture, and take a good step back from time to time to look at the whole horse. It is also useful to monitor your horse or pony’s body weight by using a weigh tape or a weighbridge. This will not only help you in your calculation of how much to feed but is particularly useful in assessing progress, especially when you are hoping to make considerable changes to your horse’s condition.
The Right Condition
Having established your horse or pony’s current condition, the next step is to decide whether that is how you would like him to stay or whether you need to make changes in order to help change his condition. For this, you will also need to consider the work the horse is expected to undertake and the level of fitness he needs to attain. A dressage horse, for example, needs stamina and muscle tone for physical effort but may carry more “condition” than a three-day eventer who must gallop and jump.
Show producers are continuously accused of presenting horses and ponies which are carrying too much body fat, in an attempt to ensure they have a “well rounded” appearance. It can be difficult balancing fitness and muscle tone with levels of body fat, but it must be done; an overweight horse risks damage to joints and laminitis, as well as other health issues, and will often simply not exhibit the enthusiasm for work that a slimmer horse can. Those who seem to live on fresh air can be a nightmare to keep weight off but it is possible to maintain a balanced diet and control calorie intake, whilst those who struggle to keep the weight on must be fed with consideration to the limitations of the equine digestive system.
Putting it On
A common approach to promoting weight gain is to feed more of the existing feed or to add straights, such as barley or maize, and gradually the costs mount up but the condition you’re looking for may not. Not only is it unbalancing the ration by adding straight cereals to an already balanced compound feed, but you are also likely to be feeding ever-increasing volumes which the horse’s stomach, with its limited capacity, simply cannot take.
What you risk when feeding large volumes in each feed is that some will pass on out of the stomach and small intestine before it has been fully digested. This presents a couple of problems – firstly the risk of digestive or metabolic upsets, such as colic or even laminitis, as a result of undigested starch reaching parts of the hindgut that it shouldn’t. Secondly, the feed will not be fully utilised so some of its nutrients will be lost, resulting in a simple waste of money! It’s therefore much more efficient, more cost-effective, and safer, to feed for the job in hand by selecting a compound feed formulated for weight gain and condition.
Feeding frequent smaller amounts of a high calorie concentrated feed allows for less starch to be fed in order to promote the desired weight gain.
Oil is another useful concentrated source of calories which is non-heating and helps to increase the energy density of the ration without significantly increasing volume. Specially developed high oil supplements are now available, which are more palatable and less messy than straight oil, and contain the necessary additional antioxidants which are required by the body to help it utilise the oil more efficiently.
The art with promoting weight gain, particularly for the show ring, is knowing when to stop! Continue to monitor your horse’s progress and consider the changing contribution that forage makes as the spring grass comes through – be prepared to alter the diet again to one with a lower energy content once your horse is looking how you want him and finding it easier to maintain his condition during the spring and summer months.
Getting it Off
If your horse or pony is at the other end of the scale and you are always struggling to keep that tummy trim, then a different approach will be required. Feeding less than the recommended quantity of a low energy mix or cube will deprive your horse of essential nutrients needed for health and well-being whilst still providing some calories that he doesn’t need. The fact that your overweight horse is dull and lacklustre may not be so much to do with lack of energy in his diet but with a lack of vitamins and minerals. An ideal solution here is to choose a feed balancer, such as Fibregenix Lami Low-Cal.
This provides a very concentrated source of nutrients without extra calories and enable you to feed a balanced diet to ensure your horse is receiving all the nutrients for overall health and body maintenance. With correct work, you should be able to encourage weight loss, whilst the protein content of the balancer will help promote muscle tone. So, on a fully balanced diet, and losing some weight, your previously dull good doer should develop a brighter outlook on life!
Again, be prepared to change what you are feeding throughout the year to suit the changing weather conditions, routine and workload. For the exceptionally good-doer, a balancer may be an excellent year-round solution whilst for others, once the weight is lost, you may find that as workload increases and the nutrient content of the grass drops off in late summer, you need to reintroduce some calories by choosing a low or medium energy concentrate eg lupins or even oil alongside the balancer.. Remember that keeping things balanced is the key to optimising performance.
The Role of Forage
We all know how important fibre is to maintain gut function and satisfy the horse’s natural requirement to chew, so forage, including hay and grass, will be the basis of a healthy diet but will also make a nutritional contribution which should not be forgotten. For example, feeding forage with a very low nutritional value may mean that even when using the recommended quantities of a compound feed, the overall diet may not be balanced, and this is where a quality balancer such as Fibregenix comes into play. Feeding a good quality hay that is soft and leafy, will ensure that your horse receives plenty of nutrients as well as essential fibre – this is especially important when feeding poorer doers.
However, your fat pony or native cob type, for example, still has the same requirements for fibre and should be fed a clean, dust-free forage that is stalkier, less digestible and lower in nutrients to ensure that fibre intake is not restricted. Creativity is essential when feeding good-doers to ensure that even a limited amount of forage takes them plenty of time to eat; small-holed haynets and one net inside another will keep them occupied, whilst low calorie chaffs offer an alternative source of fibre which also takes up chewing time.
Keeping it Right
Having achieved the level of condition that suits your horse and the work you require of him, careful monitoring will help you make the adjustments necessary to keep him that way. Try to avoid the massive condition fluctuations which may result from any “downtime”, whatever the time of the year, as it will take you longer to achieve your “ideal” again. Keep a watchful eye, or use a weigh tape, and above all, be prepared to alter your regime accordingly to ensure your horse remains on a balanced diet and is fit and healthy to perform.
A horse who is underweight is basically not receiving enough calories from his diet to meet his requirements for work and body maintenance. This could be a case of simply not feeding enough or of not using a feed with a high enough calorie/Digestible Energy (DE) content. Weight loss can be caused by a number of other different factors, for example, problems with teeth and poor worming regimes may cause weight loss, regardless of what or how much you are feeding.
Equally a stressful environment, injury, a horse’s age or extreme heat/cold weather can have an effect. All these aspects of your horse’s management regime should be considered and addressed, where necessary, as changing the diet alone may not provide the solution if the horse is still suffering other problems.
In the wild, horses will use winter to lose some weight in preparation for the inevitable weight gain which occurs in the warmer months when pasture is more available- this is a survival tool which horses today still possess. In most cases, horses will put back on any weight lost over winter naturally with increased time in the paddock and access to spring grass, although some horses can need a helping hand.
Weight gain should be a gradual process and improving your horse’s condition isn’t just about pumping him full of food which may speed up the process but isn’t going to be good for your horse’s health in the long run. Horses are routine animals and their digestive system isn’t suited to rapid changes.
Very often, a look at what you are feeding now will reveal a shortfall, either because your horse is not getting enough feed or because the feed isn’t suitable for the job in hand. In order to increase your horse’s condition, you need to increase the number of calories he consumes, not necessarily the amount he is eating.
And it’s not just the calorie content and digestibility of the feed that counts. Other nutrients like protein, oil, vitamins and minerals, all contribute to the development of the top line, muscle tone and coat shine that go with outstanding condition. The skill lies in selecting ingredients that supply these in the most useful and available form so the horse gains maximum benefit from each mouthful. It is not just a numbers game and high levels of a nutrient, vitamin or mineral are not always the answer, particularly if they are provided in a form that the horse cannot effectively absorb and utilise.
Fats and oils are slow-release energy sources and unlike high starch feeds won’t rapidly increase your horse’s blood sugar levels which can lead to fizzy behaviour. Oils contain 2.25 times the amount of energy (calories) than carbohydrates and can be a great way to increase your horse’s calorie intake without increasing his feed intake.
Feeding a high-quality feed balancer such as Fibregenix that contains the recommended amount of probiotic will help to increase the digestibility of your horse’s fibre which can enable him to get twice as many calories out of the same amount of feed, essentially increasing calorie intake without increasing the amount you are feeding. The superior form of Actisaf live yeast Probiotic in Fibregenix Prime Original and Fibregenix Platinum Pro can also help to support gut health allowing your horses to maximize yield and efficiently absorb nutrients essential for optimal health.
Feeding a fully balanced diet all year round through work, rest or recuperation, will help your horse maintain internal nutrient reserves (not just fat), avoid huge fluctuations in condition and be a credit to you wherever you go.
WHY NOT JUST MORE FIBRE?
If your horse is given ad lib forage, he should be getting all the fibre he needs to keep his digestive system healthy and his mind happy. Complementing this with a comparatively small volume of a Fibregenix balancer is the most effective way to promote weight gain and will suit even the most highly strung of horses.
It’s important to be patient when it comes to increasing your horse’s condition, but when feeding a Fibregenix feed balancer you can expect to see a change within 3 weeks, with many of our customers noticing an improvement in as little as a week to 10 days, but certainly, before you finish your first bag. Additionally, investing in a quality balancer such as Fibregenix will help reduce your overall feed bill in the long run.
What should I now feed him on?
If he is prone to being a good do-er feed plenty of fibre but still monitor his weight and give him Lami Low-Cal. You’ll be able to feed the recommended amount of Lami Low-Cal to ensure a balanced diet and healthy horse without encouraging weight gain. We would always recommend Lami Low-Cal for any overweight horse – regardless of their individual circumstances, even broodmares in foal. If he is the type that will stress weight off or lose a lot of muscle then give him Prime Original, or if he is an ‘oldie’ – Platinum Pro.
Per day for a 500kg horse:
500g Fibregenix Platinum Pro
2kg oats (assuming 50% starch) OR 4kg racehorse mix (assuming 25% starch)
7-9kg early cut hay
Unmolassed sugar beet pulp is also a good source of fibre, and will help for condition. When a horse is on an easy day/box rest, the amount of oat/mix can be reduced, increase hay and continue with 500g per day of Pro and oil to maintain weight.
If feeding a straight, cereal oats would be best as they contain the most digestible starch. Obviously they need to be prepared as appropriate. 50% starch means that this 2kg per day of oats is assuming that the starch content of the oats is 50%.
Oil – vegetable is fine, although linseed oil is preferable as it contains the correct ratio of Omega 3: Omega 6. However, any oil will be calorie dense, and will help to promote weight gain and good condition, as well as being an excellent source of long lasting energy to help aid fitness and stamina. It’s not that there isn’t enough oil in Pro, as the oil in Pro is quite adequate to help keep the skin and coat healthy, but the additional oil is instead of feeding additional hard feed that we appreciate harder working horses may require. Oil is just a better way of doing this as it suits the horse’s digestive system.
The jury is out as to whether a yeast probiotic can positively affect the gram positive bacteria (the ones that produce acid). However, as the yeast has to pass through the stomach before it gets to work on the hind gut, it is possible that this could help from this point of view. So although we can’t say ‘your horse will not get ulcers when fed on Prime Original’, we can help you to alter your feeding regime accordingly to help reduce the risk. Hence reduced amounts of hard feed and lots of fibre, combined with the digestive aids in Fibregenix to generally help to settle the gut.
Yeast is a biological buffer, so it takes slightly longer to work than pouring alkaline solution down a horse’s throat. The yeast manipulates the bacterial population in the hind gut, increasing the number of fibre digesters as well as increasing the number of lactate utilising bacteria.
Another advantage is the inclusion of purified nucleotides. Nucleotides play a role in improving cell turnover, repair and growth. They optimize the natural protective mechanisms of the mucosal lining, helping to maintain a healthy GI tract. Supplementing a horse’s diet with nucleotides increases mucosal thickness and protein levels through increased availability of genetic precursors. Therefore Fibregenix may play a valuable role alongside veterinary treatment, in recovery/repair of the gastric mucosal lining affected by ulcers.
My performance horse is in hard work six days a week but I am worried which balancer to put him on as if he is just on fibre and Fibregenix will he get enough energy for his high requirements?
Firstly, let’s be quite clear – Fibregenix feed balancers are additives/supplements and not a standard hard feed. This means they won’t provide the calories (energy) needed for more intense work. We wouldn’t normally expect a performance horse in regular hard work to be overweight. However, whilst insulin resistance is more commonly linked to obesity and laminitis, it’s not just a an issue in overweight horses. Even a fit eventer can be insulin resistant as it’s an abnormal metabolic state. If your performance horse is carrying a few too many kilos and has insulin resistance then give him Lami Low-Cal. Once the weight has been lost then Platinum Pro is fine as it will help to provide those extra nutrients that a hardworking horse needs.
Next, ensure there is sufficient fibre in his diet, preferably with an NSC value of less than 10%. This will form the bulk of his calorie/digestible energy intake. You can also add some oil. Both fibre and oil will provide cool digestible energy. We always suggest simple veggie oil or a cold pressed or equine approved linseed oil. Starch intake will of course need to be limited to no more than 2g per kg of the horse’s bodyweight to avoid overloading the hindgut. Split feeds into smaller portions, and look for low starch feed mixes. Don’t forget, soluble fibres such as beet pulp can also provide medium energy and are a good substitute for grains.
The Difference with Fibregenix in a Fibre Diet
|Fibregenix balancer supplement||Hard feeds||Other perceived balancer products|
|Specific tailored range||👍||👍||❌|
|High quality digestible protein providing balanced level of essential amino acids||👍||❌||Can vary|
|Chelate minerals include glycinates for superior bioavailability||👍||❌||❌|
|Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids||👍||Mostly Omega 6||Some have Omega 6|
|Protected forms of antioxidants||👍||❌||❌|
|Purified nucleotide supplement||👍||❌||❌|
|Actisaf yeast probiotic||👍||❌||❌|
|Hoof improvement supplement||👍||❌||❌|