Have you ever thought about whether the order you feed various things to your horse will make a difference to his health?
Chances are you haven’t.
I know before I was a nutritionist the thought would not have occurred to me!
But new research is showing that feeding a small amount of hay before you feed your concentrates/grain reduces the post-feeding inflammatory effect of non-structural carbohydrates (starch and sugars).
In other words:
Feed hay first (about 1 kg, 2.2 lb). And then feed your grains/concentrates.
Researchers from Ohio State University and Virginia Tech have recently published research showing that feeding non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) in amounts of 1.14 g/kg of your horses bodyweight (which roughly equates to 1 kg (2.2 lb) of a 50% NSC feed, 2 kg (4.4 lb) of a 25% NSC feed) causes post-feeding inflammation.
Suggesting that sub-clinical ‘digestive stress’ occurs at much lower levels of intake than that required to cause noticeable physiological changes.
The ‘post-prandial inflammation’ measured was an increase in plasma concentration of interleukin-1b. Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine. When present in excess, IL-1β will contribute to unhealthy levels of inflammation.
These same researchers have now shown that when you feed 0.91 kg of grass hay (approximately half of a flake/biscuit) before feeding any higher NSC concentrate feeds, the recorded levels of post feeding IL-1β were lower than if horses were fed their concentrate first and then hay!
Feeding hay first also reduces post feeding blood glucose levels
What I find really interesting is that in humans, exposing human intestinal tissue to IL-1β reduces ‘tight junction’ integrity and may be contributing to leaky gut syndrome! Yikes!! This is all getting pretty technical… suffice to say that inflammation in the gut won’t end well (for us, or our horses!).
What should you do?
Well, either make sure your horse is able to graze or eat hay right up to when you feed your concentrates. OR if your horse is meal fed, feed 1 kg (2.2 lb) of hay BEFORE you feed your concentrates.
Combining this practice with also feed alfalfa (lucerne) before you ride is going to improve your horse’s gut health immensely! And it’s so simple. Hay before you ride, hay before you feed!
Thanks for reading this far!
These small changes can make such a huge difference to your horse’s health and wellbeing! And that is truly what gets me, and everyone on the nutrition team here at FeedXL to work every day with a smile on our faces!
As always, if you have any questions about anything to do with feeding and nutrition, head on over to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Group on Facebook, you are so welcome, FeedXL member or not!
Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?
We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!