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A rider’s worst fear is arriving at the stable one morning and finding the competition horse that has been training well and seemingly in good health is now showing signs of extreme soreness in its front feet. The veterinarian performs the necessary diagnostics and determines the horse has a very mild case of laminitis. How could this occur? The horse’s diet hasn’t changed, it’s not excessively overweight nor has its training regime been changed. Unfortunately, laminitis is a condition that can occur for many different reasons with one potential cause being sensitivity to sugar and starch in the diet resulting in insulin resistance and ultimately laminitis. If the horse is a competition horse, this situation raises the question of how it can be fed to maintain performance and prevent the reoccurrence of the disease. There is a lack of information available for feeding and management strategies for horses suffering from Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), such as obesity, laminitis or insulin resistance. There is even less information available for feeding horses that were previously affected and are now returning back to work. To understand what to do nutritionally, it is important to start at the beginning. The horse, a non-ruminant herbivore, is well suited to a high-carbohydrate diet consisting predominantly of plant forages. Plant carbohydrates in equine feeds can be divided into: structural carbohydrates (SC), which largely make up the fibrous portion of the diet and originate from the plant cell wall, and the nonstructural carbohydrates(NSC) – sugar and starch (NSC), which originate from inside the plant cells. Together, the NSC and SC constitute the main energy-yielding portions of the horse’s diet. The desire to have horses perform under saddle elevates their requirement for energy and necessitates the use of higher carbohydrate feeds. Specifically, performance horses are often fed cereal grains with high NSC (sugar and starch) content. Sugar and starch provide fuel for performance that is quicker and metabolically more efficient than structural carbohydrates. Sugar and starch are rapidly broken down in the horses’ small intestine while structural carbohydrates must be fermented by bacteria in the horses’ large intestine. For this reason, this quick and efficient fuel, such as oats, corn and barley are important for performance horses. Unfortunately, the consumption of sugar and starch-rich meals may increase equine digestive and metabolic disorders linked with carbohydrate metabolism. The common practice of feeding sugar and starch-rich cereal grains with high glycaemic indices may promote insulin resistance in horses and ultimately lead to laminitis. Insulin Resistance (IR) is becoming more common in horses. IR is a disease in which tissues (muscle and liver) have become resistant to the affect of insulin, the hormone that facilitates the uptake of glucose from the blood into the tissues of the body. When a horse becomes resistant to insulin, they must produce more insulin to clear the blood of glucose. Horses with IR have chronically high levels of insulin and often have high levels of blood glucose which can have damaging consequences for circulation and is thought to potentially facilitate laminitis. HYGAIN® Feeds offers two forage-based low starch feeds completed with vitamins and minerals: HYGAIN ZERO® and HYGAIN® ICE®. HYGAIN ICE is designed for ponies in work prone to metabolic related disorders, maximizing performance while keeping them calm and cool. HYGAIN® ZERO® is a unique Low Carb - Low GI feed for all horses, with less than 1.5% starch, less than 5.5% non structural carbohydrates (NSC) and absolutely no grain or grain by-products. HYGAIN® ZERO® was developed to support the specialised dietary requirements of horses and ponies with conditions such as Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Laminitis, Cushings, Tying-Up or Grain Intolerance. The unique Low Carb – Low GI profile however is suitable for any equine requiring a low sugar and starch diet. While low carbohydrate feeds (low GI), such as vegetable oils, beet pulp and lucerne chaff, provide an alternative energy source for horses sensitive to starch with a history of digestive and metabolic disorders. Exercising horses require some dietary sugar and starch in order to provide enough energy to fuel performance. Sugar and starch are broken down and metabolized almost twice as fast to generate ATP for muscle contraction. So any speed work or jumping effort that requires explosive muscle contraction will benefit from sugar and starch in the diet.
There is considerable interest in the use of feed additives such as live yeast culture, and bacterial species as a strategy to minimize the negative effects of cereal-based diets. Yeast cultures might be beneficial for stabilization of the hindgut environment, when high cereal diets are fed.
Dietary therapy alone may not be sufficient to reverse insulin resistance. Research has shown that both obese and lean horses had improved insulin sensitivity after seven days of moderate exercise training. Exercising your horse is beneficial; however you should first consult your veterinarian to develop an appropriate exercise regime.
Library | 08.08.23
Library | 01.03.22
Library | 23.02.22