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Facing The Challenge Of Feeding The Metabolically Challenged Horse

Published: 2019-06-12

For best equine gut health in a special needs horse, a high fiber, low sugar and low starch grain can often be the best place to start. The grain should provide adequate amounts of fat for energy and fiber such as alfalfa stems that encourages saliva production to reduce stomach acidity.

By Nikki Alvin Smith

Consumers are inundated with a barrage of suggestions for feeding the metabolically challenged horse that often yield more questions than answers. Confusion is best addressed by more education and taking a scientific approach is the only route to find your way out of the mayhem.

When you discover that your horse suffers from ailments such as insulin resistance, laminitis, PPID (Cushing’s disease), polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), tying up, stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal issues, or muscle and colic problems, horse rations and general daily management of the horse can become problematic.

For the healthiest outcome for the horse it is prudent to address these issues holistically and not just treat the symptoms.

For best equine gut health in a special needs horse, a high fiber, low sugar and low starch grain can often be the best place to start. The grain should provide adequate amounts of fat for energy and fiber such as alfalfa stems that encourages saliva production to reduce stomach acidity. These factors can be the key in keeping these common equine ailments under control.

Let’s delve a bit deeper. Most feed manufacturers that provide feeds designed with low starch and sugar levels don’t add any type of forage to their feed. One of the only feeds currently on the market that recognizes the importance of the presence of forage in a balanced feed ration for metabolically challenged horses is Cavalor North America, a leader in equine nutrition.

The inclusion of alfalfa stems in their specially formulated Fiberforce product translates to increased chewing satisfaction on the part of the horse, as the long stems of alfalfa not only produce a lighter, more voluminous feed. The alfalfa stems encourage the horse to chew, increasing the production of saliva, which benefits the horse’s entire gastrointestinal system.

Think of alfalfa as nature’s natural equine antacid. The combination of alfalfa stems and flax fibers in the feed not only helps protect the lining of the horse’s gut from ulcers and inflammation, but also stimulates the horse’s large intestine to produce Vitamin B, improving the health of the horse’s hindgut.

Why is the health of the hindgut so important?  The horse’s hindgut can be a reservoir of pathogenic bacteria if the pH levels drop to acidic levels. Cavalor’s Fiberforce also includes active live yeast cultures that stimulate good bacteria in the hindgut to consume the lactic acid that would otherwise cause acidification. Good bacteria are further encouraged with the inclusion of a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria, and makes the horse less susceptible to gastrointestinal upsets and disease.

The low levels of sugar and starch in Fiberforce help to provide an even glycemic response and prevent the rapid spikes in blood sugar that are known to aggravate existing metabolic disorders. This Cavalor feed is the lowest NSC (non-structural carbohydrate) feed on the market and the low glycemic index can help horses lose weight, which is helpful in controlling metabolic disorders. For horses with PSSM (sensitivity to glucose), a low NSC diet results in lower glycogen formation.

Stomach and intestine discomfort can hinder your horse’s performance. Research shows that as many as 90% of active performance horses struggle with ulcers and other gastric issues. In response to this need Cavalor created Fiberforce. Fiberforce is:

  • Low in sugar (3%) and starch (5%)
  • High in fat (7%)
  • High in fiber with a unique mixture of long stem fibers (29%)
  • No whole grains
  • Scientifically proven*
  • Formulated without wheat gluten

*Glycemic and insulinemic response in healthy thoroughbred mares after consumption of a commercial horse feed low in non-structural carbohydrates. C.M.M. Loos1, K.L. Urschel1, T. Barnes1, D.A. Van Doorn2; University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA1; Cavalor Equine Nutrition Research

Cavalor Fiberforce uses only the highest quality ingredients, with a carefully balanced formulation of fat and amino acids in addition to the components above, to ensure that the gut, immune system and anti-oxidant capacity of the horse is properly supported.

The Cavalor® line of horse feeds offers a full range of special care rations. In addition to Fiberforce, special care feeds include Pianissimo for hot horses, Mash & Mix for stressed horses, Whole Gain and Strucomix Original and Senior that also offer low NSC levels and provide necessary fiber while still addressing the energy needs of a competition horse.

Baffled by the variety of choices? You don’t need to be – for every type of metabolic ailment or disease, Cavalor provides scientifically backed knowledge in how nutrition is best modified for the individual horse through correct formulation of the feed ration. 

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About Nikki Alvin-Smith: Internationally published freelance writer in such world renowned publications such as The Chronicle of the Horse, Horse and Hound, Dressage and CT, Warmbloods Today, The Horseman’s Yankee Pedlar, Reiter, The Equine Journal, Spur, Hoofprints, Horsin’ Around, Horses All, Field & Stream, Western Horse and Gun, Pony Quarterly, Horses All Canada, Catskill Horse to name a few. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing copy either direct with manufacturer or for agencies, copy editing and editor services also available. Nikki also produces catalog copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures and advertising copy for international corporations and PR/Marketing for celebrities.

As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York.

Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her services.

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