Is Feeding-stress Keeping Your Horse Overweight?
Horses are unique creatures and have very unique feeding requirements too.
Did you know that your horse’s stomach is only about the size of a rugby ball? It comprises just 10% of the horse’s digestive system and can only hold between 9 to 15 litres at a time.
Without a consistent feed supply, their physical bodies react with a stress response. The stress created in this way also interferes with their hormonal balance (if you have teenage boys in the house, I probably don’t have to push this point…).
Fear can ultimately lead to obesity and has been linked to laminitis and Cushing’s disease too.
How Regular Feeding Affects Your Horse’s Physical Health
- Unlike humans, the horse’s stomach produces acid even when no food can be detected. An empty stomach that constantly produces acid creates the perfect environment for ulcers to form in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Horses don’t have to eat until their stomachs are full. Since horses are hindgut fermenters, they actually need to eat small quantities continuously until their caecum is full. This is where the fermentation of fibre takes place. Without it, you run the risk of impaction and sand colic.
- The horse’s digestive tract is made up of muscles that contract and release as forage passes through. This form of exercise prevents the tract from becoming ‘flabby’ and prone to twisting. In turn, this decreases the risk of colic.
- Elevated stress levels interfere with the functioning of your horse’s immune system, which in turn makes your horse more susceptible to allergies and infections. They may also show more negative reactions following vaccinations.
Apart from the fact that a continuous flow of small portions through the horse’s digestive system keeps it functioning at optimal levels, horses that are cut off from their feed often experience physical and emotional distress.
During a stressful period, in this instance – going without food, a power struggle reminiscent of a “Housewives Of” episode ensues between your horse’s hormones, causing inflammation to soar and the horse’s I-am-now-full response to weaken.
This kicks off a response cycle that does great damage to the horse in the long run.
How to De-stress Your Horse Back to Health
- Never let your horse run out of food, even if it’s just for a short while. By giving them free access to hay or pasture that is low in starch, sugar and calories, you will not only increase his metabolic rate, but also improve his overall health.
- If your horse has a hay-based diet, supplement with the necessary vitamins and minerals to address any nutritional shortfalls. This also inhibits overeating in order to satisfy its craving for nutrients.
- Whole feeds, free of toxins and additives, seem to be what nature intended: Alfalfa, beet pulp, hay pellets, split peas, copra meal, ground flaxseeds, hemp seeds, soaked chia-seeds, blue-green algae and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Combine a variety of protein sources by mixing grasses and adding whole foods.
- To reduce inflammation effectively, boost your horse’s diet with anti-inflammatory herbs, antioxidants, and the correct balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. These should preferably come from supplements filled with nourishing ingredients minus any harmful additives.
Elite Equine 100% Organic Rosehip Supplement is free from additives and fillers and naturally boosts your horse’s immune system, while at the same time regulating its own inflammatory response. It has also been proven helpful in restoring damage caused by gut ulcers.
To read more, or to place an order, please visit www.eliteequinesa.com/products