2008 Cherry Hill ©
Killing with Kindness
we are winding up another year, looking for gifts for our family, horse friends,
and our horses too
and as we are headed to that time of New Year's Resolution,
here's something for you to chew on.
we kill with kindness? Do we give gifts to friends and family that are loaded
with sugar, refined carbohydrates and fats? Do we feed our horses that way too?
is a well-known fact that most horses (like most Americans) are overfed and under
And many horses and their humans are "easy
keepers", that is, they seem to stay pretty round on what seems like
just air and water, as opposed to "hard
keepers" who have a hard time gaining and keeping weight.
in reality, it boils down to being overfed and underexercised.
I am sure you know that overfeeding can lead to laminitis, did you know that horses
can suffer from diabetes-like
metabolic disorders just like humans?
it is important to carefully regulate what you feed your horse, how much you feed
him and when you feed him.
it is essential that he have the opportunity to get some sort of exercise regularly
- active turnout, longeing, riding, driving, or ponying.
Carb Diet for Sweetums???
A horse can't really be put on
a lo-carb diet because carbohydrates are a natural and necessary part of a horse's
diet. But many horses, just like people, will benefit from a low glycemic
diet - one with more complex carbohydrates like roughage from hay and with fewer
simple carbohydrates like sugar, molasses, refined grains, or sweet young pasture.
get energy from fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include simple sugars,
starches and cellulose. Grains, grass and hay all contain varying amounts
of sugars and starches and fiber. But if you feed excess fats and carbohydrates,
it can lead to nervous energy, obesity, and other health problems.
state it simply, it is healthier for a horse to eat oats than sugar; but even
better that he eat beet pulp than oats; better that he eats grass
hay than third cutting alfalfa hay; safer for him to be turned on mature pasture
than new vigorous growth; and there might be a place in your horse's ration for
oil (a fat).
Grains in general, such as corn, oats
and barley, are lower in fiber and higher in energy than roughage like grass hay.
But of the grains, oats are the safest to feed with hay because they are
relatively high in fiber and low in energy, and higher in protein than corn. Corn
has the highest energy content of any grain and can put weight on a horse quickly.
Barley is an intermediate source of energy and protein content.
is a complex carbohydrate - it is the fiber or roughage portion of grass and hay.
A horse digests cellulose in the cecum where small microbes break it down slowly
over a period of time.
Fats are found in grains and
roughages at a low level (2-4%) but horses benefit and can tolerate a ration that
contains as high as 10% fat. A ration higher in fat than that can cause runny
stools. Fats are necessary for metabolic functions and are associated with healthy
sleek haircoats. Fats produce 2.25 times the amount of energy as an equal weight
of carbohydrate and they produce less heat. (Adding oil to your horse's diet during
cold weather won't keep him as warm as adding more fiber in the form of grass
Pasture can be a perfect part of a horse's diet
or it can be disastrous. I am never in a hurry to turn my horses out on spring
pasture. First, because dryland mountain pasture is fragile, I like the plants
to get a good head start before the horses start their eager grazing. And secondly,
I want the grass to be safest for my horses, that is low in sugar. Fast-growing
grasses are usually lower in sugar concentration than slow -growing grasses. So
in drought years (slow growth) I have to be watchful and err on the side of caution
with turnout, but in normal years, once the grass is 4-6" tall, if environmental
conditions are right (see below), I allow the horses monitored grazing. As our
pasture grasses mature over the summer, they usually becomes safer for longer
periods of grazing, both for the health of the pasture and the horses. But each
locale, weather scenario, and forage type will result in different grazing recommendations.
Night time temperatures are a big factor in the safety of grass for grazing.
in the foothills of the Rockies, after a hard freeze in the late fall, when the
plants are completely brown, the pasture that is left is usually safe for light
grazing. But I keep a close eye on it because leaving some plant matter in winter
pastures will help catch and keep the precious winter snows.
more information on the current research on low carb feeding and laminitis prevention,
of my part-Warmblood mares began showing signs of EMS (Equine Metabolic
Disorder) and I found a nutritional supplement that I have been feeding them.
2008 Cherry Hill ©