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8/ JULY 2018 THE RIDER The Way of Horses: Hay Before Grain?


the more buffering agent he introduces into the stomach. The bulky mixture of forage and saliva helps protect the delicate lining of the upper stomach region from the acid. Without this protec- tion gastric ulcers can form. Studies have shown lesions can occur in less than 12 hours if stomach acid is not kept at bay. In order to get the pro-


By Eleanor Blazer Copyright @ 2018


It’s feeding time and the horses


know it. Feed buckets are rattling; there are nickers and the banging of hooves against gates. In most stables the concentrate or


“grain” is given first - to satisfy the immediate need and calm the stable. Even if hay is given simultaneously the concentrate will be eaten first. But is that wise? First we need to understand some


basic facts regarding the equine diges- tive system. Horses are designed to utilize forage; they are animals that graze – requiring a constant trickle of long-stem fiber moving through the digestive system. The chewing of forage produces


saliva which helps buffer the produc- tion of acid in the stomach. A horse with access to adequate amounts of forage will produce five to ten gallons of saliva a day. The more he chews


tection long-stem fiber and saliva provides against ul- cers, an adequate amount of forage must be fed at least an hour before the grain or concentrate portion of the meal. Tossing in a flake of hay and then feeding grain 10 minutes later is not going to be of any benefit. Plus the horse will probably not eat the hay as he knows the grain is coming in a few minutes. After the feed leaves


the stomach it enters the small intestine. This is where starch, complex sug- ars, protein from the grain portion of the diet, fat, fat- soluble vitamins (A, D, and E), and most minerals are utilized…and then it is on to the large intestine where the remaining material enters the cecum.


The cecum is a fer-


mentation vat. Within the cecum are microbes and bacteria that aid in the di- gestion of cellulose and fiber. If excessive amounts


of starch and complex sug- ars reach the cecum (in- stead of being utilized in the small intestine) a condi- tion known as cecal acido- sis can occur. The starch and sugar accelerates the fermentation process lead- ing to a high acidic level. The acid kills the beneficial bacteria and microbes which creates a toxic envi- ronment - resulting in diar- rhea, colic and possibly laminitis. We do not want this to


happen. Feeding high starch


grain or concentrates on an empty stomach will allow it to move through the equine digestive system quickly – possibly reaching the cecum before becoming fully di- gested in the small intestine. The presence of fiber (for- age) will slow this move- ment.


Management and


choice of feed can lessen the chances of horses devel- oping gastric ulcers or cecal


acidosis…or both. In a perfect world our


horses would be allowed to roam and graze – as nature intended. But few domestic horses have that option. The alternative is to allow plenty of turn-out time with access to free-choice long- stem forage (hay) and offer a low-starch concentrate that provides the nutrients that are lacking in the for- age.


Feeding schedules


should be small frequent meals in a 24-hour period, instead of two large meals - morning and late afternoon. Many stables feed the evening meal around 5 pm and the next meal not until


morning. This guarantees an empty stomach and di- gestive tract by breakfast unless an adequate amount of forage was provided the evening before. The use of slow hay feeders or nets can assist in making the forage meal last longer. Purchase one of the


low-starch feed formulas on the market. These products are nutritionally balanced and are safer than high grain mixes. Find a product de- signed for the age, health and activity level of your horse, then feed according to the directions…this means feed by the pound - not by the scoop. Every feed room should have a


Yor equine soutios patne since 1987 87


scale, and remember to make all feed changes grad- ually when introducing a new feed. Horses are creatures of


habit. They also have very sensitive digestive systems. It is our responsibility to en- sure they are fed in the healthiest manner possible.


* Earn a Bachelor of Sci- ence Degree in Equine Studies or certification as a Professional Horse Trainer or Riding Instructor. Start your new career as a riding instructor, horse trainer, or stable manager. All courses are


online. Visit


www.horsecoursesonline.co m for information.


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