Feed Routines and GI Disease in Horses

April 22, 2013 (published)

Dr. Frank Andrews is an equine veterinarian at LSU and is considered an expert in equine gastrointestinal disease. He indicates in Veterinary Practice News that there is a large number of myths when it comes to feeding horses. In today's program we are going to dispel some of those myths with actual facts about gastric ulcers in horses. A diet high in non-structural carbohydrates combined with heavy training and stall confinement is a recipe for stomach ulcers to form. Horses on pasture spend about 12 hours a day eating, which allows them to maintain a full stomach, and continuous grazing keeps the pH of the stomach higher than when the stomach is empty.

Dr. Lou Anne Epperly indicates that one study found the risk of ulcers increased when the forage feeding interval exceeded six hours. Dr. Andrews indicates the biggest problem with performance horses today is they are stalled with little turnout and are only fed two to three times per day when they should have some hay or pasture available 24 hours a day. He recommends feeding lower amounts of corn and more oats and barley in the concentrate rations and cattle feed does not need to be fed to horses. When feeding concentrates, you should never feed over 5 pounds of grain per feeding per 1,000-pound horse but you can feed everysix hours if necessary. Probably more GI upsets are caused by people changing their horse's feed than anything else. The first question I ask when examining a horse with colic is if you have changed the feed, since 90% of colics have been shown to have a feed change in the last three days. Most people answer no and after questioning them further, when they think feed they are only thinking grain. Changing hay and pasture is still a feed change and will cause problems unless the changes are very slow over a 10 to 14 day period.

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