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Spiller_Feed Supplement_p1 cover v3_FeedGuideNov11 17/10/2011 13:05 Page 1

feed THE BRITISH HORSE SOCIETY

IN ASSOCIATION WITH SPILLERS

Your

FREE E D I U G itish With Br gazine a Horse m

GUIDE


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INTRODUCTION

HANNAH BRIARS

HANNAH BRIARS

Distributed with British Horse, November/December 2011.

The British Horse Society Abbey Park, Stareton, Kenilworth Warwickshire CV8 2XZ T: 02476 840506 W: www.bhs.org.uk British HorseTM is a registered trade mark of The British Horse Society.

SPILLERS® 29 Old Wolverton Road, Old Wolverton Milton Keynes MK12 5PZ T: 01908 222888 F: 01908 222800 W: www.spillers-feeds.com Written by: Clare Barfoot is a registered equine nutritionist and the research and development manager at SPILLERS®. She is responsible for innovation, product development, all aspects of technical support and for the communication of research to the horse owner. Lee Hackett is responsible for The British Horse Society’s Welfare department. He has BSc (Hons) and MSc in Equine Science and has previously lectured on topics such as nutrition, behaviour, breeding and genetics. Lee sits on the management board of the National Equine Welfare Council and, together with his team, answers countless enquiries from horse owners looking for advice and support in caring for their horse. Edited by: Alison Coleman

Introduction I

f you don’t feed your horse properly you won’t get the best out of him, it really is that simple. It isn’t just a case of feeding your horse to make sure he isn’t too fat or too thin (although this is of course important), we need to take into account more than just calories. Like us, horses need a wide variety of nutrients and the way in which these nutrients are delivered is also incredibly important. The science of equine nutrition is a complicated business and it takes years of dedicated study to really understand all of its intricacies – even then there is still much we don’t know and research is ongoing. However, all horse owners really should have an understanding of the basics. This is why The British Horse Society is delighted to be working with SPILLERS® to bring you this booklet. We can’t pretend that everything you will ever need to know is included, but there is a great deal of useful information in here on topics ranging from the anatomy of the digestive system through to understanding nutrients and preventing colic. Remember though, there is lots of help and support available if you want to know more. All large feed companies like SPILLERS® have dedicated advice lines and the BHS Welfare Department are always happy to talk things through with you. Getting the diet right will mean you have a happier and healthier horse giving you his best possible performance. That surely must be worth investing a little time and money in. Lee Hackett, BHS Welfare

Contents 3

The horse’s digestive system – what you need to know

4

Understanding nutrients in feed

7

Choosing the right feed for your horse

10 Golden rules of feeding

4

12 Watching the waistline – top tips for controlling your horse’s condition 15 How to condition score your horse 16 Coping with the laminitic 18 Feeding the horse prone to colic

10

12

Design and production: Fellows Media Ltd, The Gallery, Manor Farm, Cheltenham GL52 3PB www.fellowsmedia.com T: 01242 259241 E: jo@fellowsmedia.com

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DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

Lee Hackett, Senior Executive (BHS Welfare) gives you the lowdown on...

The horse’s

HANNAH BRIARS

DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

Your horse’s teeth should be checked annually by a British Association of Equine Dental Technician member, or by a vet who is registered with the BAEDT. Older horses are more likely to have problems and therefore should be checked more regularly.

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he digestive system of a horse has evolved to be very different from our own and this has implications for the type of diet they need. One of the most important things to be aware of when feeding your horse is that he has evolved to spend the majority of the day eating – usually around 75 percent of the time. Horses are trickle feeders; meaning that their digestive system has adapted to be continuously digesting forage rather than large individual meals with periods of starvation in between. Although it is beyond the scope of this article to explain the equine digestive system in detail, there are some facts that are helpful to know in order to feed your horse in the best possible way.

The mouth The horse is different to us in that while we produce saliva almost constantly, the horse produces it only as a consequence of chewing. Saliva is an essential lubricant and the more the horse chews, the more it will produce. Although it will vary with size and the diet being fed, the average horse will produce 10-12 litres of saliva per day – around 10 times more than you or I. Our teeth are also different. Unlike humans, the horse’s teeth grow continuously throughout its life. This means that the teeth need a regular check-up in order to keep them in peak condition. If a horse has poor teeth it will not be able to chew and break down its food properly. If the food is insufficiently broken up it will mean that many nutrients are not digested, causing the horse to lose weight and condition. It can also lead to blockages within the digestive system.

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The stomach

The equine stomach forms proportionally a much smaller part of the digestive system than in humans. Our stomachs make up around 30 percent of the digestive tract, whereas in horses the figure is closer to 10 percent. As horses are trickle feeders, the equine stomach, which is around the size of a rugby ball in a 16hh horse, does not need to be large. However, the relatively small size of the stomach has implications for the size of bucket feed we give our horses – if a meal is too large the horse simply can not cope. (See the Golden rules of feeding, page 10).

The small intestine This is the site of digestion for protein, starch, sugars and fat. Food normally stays in the small intestine for around an hour. In an average 16hh horse, the small intestine is around 27m long with a volume of 40-50 litres. It provides a home for many bacteria and is the site that probiotics target. Because food spends such a short time here, if you are feeding cereals it is important to feed cooked (by the manufacturer) cereal as it is more easily digested.

The large intestine This is the most important part of the digestive system and is the site of fibre fermentation. Horses have adapted to become efficient users of fibre, something that cannot be said of humans. This is because of the millions of friendly bacteria and other micro-organisms that reside within the horse’s large intestine. They ferment the fibre to grow, survive and proliferate and the horse uses the by-products of this fermentation to provide it with vital protein and energy, as well as the bacteria producing B vitamins and vitamin K. A healthy horse on a forage-based diet therefore has no need for vitamin B supplementation. In a 16hh horse, the large intestine is around eight metres long, but it has a huge capacity of 70+ litres, which gives it its name. Food will spend upwards of 36 hours in the large intestine before it is passed as faeces. Given the lengths of an equine’s small and large intestines, it almost goes without saying that they are tightly packed within the body. It is relatively easy for food to become trapped leading to blockages and, therefore, colic. Feeding plenty of fibre helps to minimise the risk of this as forage keeps food moving through the gut. (See Feeding the horse prone to colic on page 18 for more detail).

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NUTRIENTS

Nutrients in FATS AND OILS

&

FOOD what they do

Horses do not require a high fat diet; however fats and oils are digested very efficiently, and thus make a great source of energy. In fact the energy provided by oil is two and a half times higher than for the same weight of cereals. Fats and oils (lipids) consist of glycerol and fatty acid molecules. They are broken down in the small intestine by the enzyme lipase.

Which oil? The most popular oils fed to horses tend to be vegetable-based such as soya, corn, sunflower or linseed oil. Animal fat is perfectly safe to feed to horses and they digest it well but usually find it unpalatable. In terms of the best oil for horses, all yield similar amounts of energy. Corn oil has been shown in some studies to be most palatable, but any vegetable oil, as long as it is fresh and preferably human grade, is normally well accepted by most horses and ponies.

Benefits of feeding fat • Fat helps to keep the skin and coat in good condition • It provides slow release energy which is ideal for low intensity, prolonged exercise and for horses that are prone to excitability • Fat is energy dense, meaning that, gram for gram, it contains a higher number of calories than many other foodstuffs. It can therefore be useful in helping horses to gain or retain condition without over-relying on cereals • Some horses may need a low starch diet for clinical reasons. Fat can be a useful way of providing them with energy in such cases.

Clare Barfoot, equine nutritionist at SPILLERS®, helps us to understand what we are feeding...

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e all enjoy eating but fundamentally the reason for eating is to obtain nutrients. The same is true for our horses and ponies. A nutrient is simply a chemical that is needed for a person or animal to live and grow. Nutrients are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy. There are seven main dietary components, these are: 1. Water 2. Fats and oils 3. Carbohydrates: • Structural • Non Structural

4. Protein 5. Vitamins 6. Minerals 7. Energy

WATER

content in the Water is often the most diet increases, the overlooked component of a less a horse will drink. horse’s diet but in fact it is the This is why horses drink most essential. Horses simply less when out on lush grass. can’t survive without it. Water • Environmental conditions is present in every cell in the e.g. temperature, humidity. horse’s body and is needed for An increase in work load or the gut to work properly, to hot climates can lead to an allow the transport of increase in sweating; nutrients around the body, consequently the demand for for thermoregulation, water and thus thirst will metabolism and for the increase to replace lost fluids. excretion of waste products. An increase in temperature Water loss, also known as from 13 to 21ºC will increase a dehydration, will soon have an horse’s requirement for water effect on horses (a loss of water by 15-20 percent. by as little as two percent can result in a decrease in performance) and in severe cases can lead to death Look out for signs (a loss of 10-15 percent of dehydration can be fatal). The water • Skin elasticity is reduced requirement of an • The horse may appear weak individual horse • The horse may have a high resting heart rate depends on • Capillary refill will be slow (more than a number 3 seconds). This can be tested by using a of factors: finger to apply gentle pressure to the gum • Age and timing how long it takes for the gum • Exercise level to return to its normal colour after the • Type of feed – finger is removed. as the moisture

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NUTRIENTS

Myth buster Myth 1: Sugar is unnatural to the horse. Grasses photosynthesise to produce sucrose (the same sugar that you put in your tea!) as their primary output product. The horse’s digestive system has evolved and adapted well to digesting and absorbing sugar. The problem comes when they

CARBOHYDRATES Carbohydrates are the collective name given to the starches, sugars and dietary fibres, all of which are digested in some form to provide energy. As far as equine diets are concerned carbohydrates fall into one of two categories, structural carbohydrates and nonstructural carbohydrates; the term structural carbohydrates covers dietary fibre whilst non-structural carbohydrates include sugar and starches.

Myth buster Fibre is just bulk helping to keep horses occupied and doesn’t provide energy – FALSE. Fibre provides valuable energy and many horses may be able to maintain their condition on fibre alone.

• Structural carbohydrates: fibre After water, fibre is the most important component in a horse’s diet – after all fibre is what horses have evolved to eat. Fibre comes in many forms but predominately plays a structural role in the cell walls of plants and is therefore classified as a structural carbohydrate. It is found in its highest concentration in forages such as hay, straw, alfalfa, haylage, sugar beet pulp and other by-products

become overweight and unexercised as they can then become unable to handle the amount of sugar in their diet which can lead to insulin resistance and laminitis. Myth 2: Molasses are unnatural sugars. Molasses is a by-product of the processing of sugar cane or sugar beet for sugar (sucrose) both of which are natural sources. Molglo is often

from the human food industry (such as oatfeed and wheatfeed). Although chemically fibre comes in many forms, it shares a common trait – it cannot be broken down by gut enzymes. Fibre has to be fermented by bacteria predominantly in the large intestine, also known as the hind gut, in order to supply energy to the horse.

• Non-structural carbohydrates: starch and sugars Starch: Starch is a large molecule consisting of repeating units of glucose. It is found in its highest concentrations in cereals such as maize, oats and wheat. It is broken down in the small intestine by enzymes, with the end product being glucose, which is absorbed within the small intestine. Although horses can digest starch, their ability is lesser than in other animals as the activity of the starch digesting enzyme (amylase) is lower. When a large amount of starch is received over a short period of

used on coarse mixes instead of molasses and is a mix of soya oil and molasses. Myth 3: Horses can be allergic to sugar. Horses simply can’t be allergic to sugar as they need it to survive! In fact the brain can’t function without glucose. If you need to manage your horse or pony’s sugar intake focus on the largest provider of sugar in the diet – grass!

time the small intestine may become overloaded, which means the starch cannot be digested fast enough. This excess is then passed into the large intestine. The large intestine is a large fermenting chamber and does not possess the enzymes capable of breaking down starch; instead it is fermented by the bacteria present. The consequence of this is the production of propionic acid and large amounts of lactic acid, which make the conditions unfavourable (highly acidic) and can consequently lead to conditions such as laminitis and colic. Sugars: Sugar is a carbohydrate and is broadly categorised as either a monosaccharide (consisting of a single saccharide unit e.g. glucose, fructose, mannose or galactose) or an oligosaccharide (consisting of more than one saccharide unit). Sugar is digested in the small intestine and overload can lead to the same negative affects to those of starch.

Sugar-o-meter Based on a pony’s daily intake (350kg pony) Grass 7.5% sugar – For a pony out 24/7 grass provides up to 1.3kg sugar (nearly 1.5 bags)!

High energy mix or cubes 6% sugar – 2kg provides up to 120 grams of sugar (10 tablespoons)

Chopped hay Hay 5% sugar – replacer 5% sugar 5kg of hay – 5kg provides provides up to up to 250 grams 250 grams of sugar of sugar (20 tablespoons) (20 tablespoons)

SIMON PALMER

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Low energy mix or cubes 5% sugar – 2kg provides up to 100 grams of sugar (8 tablespoons)

Balancer 5% sugar – 0.5kg provides 25 grams of sugar (2 tablespoons)

And in your horse’s favourite snack... One apple – provides 12 grams of sugar (1 tablespoon) One sugar cube – provides 4 grams of sugar (1 teaspoon) One carrot – provides 4 grams of sugar (1 teaspoon) One Polo – provides 1.5 grams of sugar (½ teaspoon)

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NUTRIENTS

ENERGY Energy is required for all bodily and metabolic processes in the horse and the amount needed will vary depending on the individual horse and work level. Whilst energy is not truly a nutrient, it is the fuel that is derived from nutrients. Certain nutrients in the diet, e.g. carbohydrates and oil provide the horse with energy and are described as energy sources. In the UK, energy is described as digestible energy (DE). The units are described as mega-joules (MJ). In human nutrition energy is described as kilo calories often referred to as ‘calories’. The units of energy: 1 MJ = 239 kilocalories or a Cadbury’s Twirl!

Sources of energy There are two main energy sources that horses use from their diet: 1. Fat (oils) 2. Carbohydrate (starch, fibre and sugar) Fat (oils) and fibre are broken down and utilised relatively slowly and are therefore considered as slow release energy or non-heating energy sources, which may sometimes be better for: • Endurance based exercise • Fizzy/excitable horses. Starch and sugar are broken down relatively quickly and are referred to as instant or fast release energy sources. They can cause a ‘heating effect’ (excitability) in some horses and therefore may sometimes be better for: • Laid back horses • Horses requiring sudden bursts of energy.

Did you know? Energy and calories are the same thing. Many people make the mistake of thinking providing the horse with more energy will make him more lively – this isn’t really the case. More energy (calories) will simply make the horse fatter!

VITAMINS AND MINERALS Vitamins and minerals are required in relatively small amounts but are essential to balance the diet. Minerals: There are two types of minerals: macro minerals, needed in relatively large quantities (grams per day (g/day)) such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium; and micro minerals or trace elements, needed in tiny quantities (frequently measured in milligrams per day (mg/day)) such as iron, copper and selenium. Vitamins: Vitamins are needed in the body in very small amounts; however they are fundamental and are involved in many processes in the body. Vitamins can be split into two categories: • Fat soluble (includes vitamins A, E, D, K) • Water soluble (includes vitamins C, B complex vitamins).

Myth buster Protein is not used by the horse as a primary energy source so it doesn’t cause excitability, nor does an excess in protein cause laminitis, tying up or protein bumps!

PROTEIN Amino acids are recognised as the building blocks of protein. The type and sequence of amino acids defines the type of protein. Protein is broken down into amino acids in the small intestine and is absorbed and either used directly by the body or to synthesise other amino acids. Some amino acids can’t be synthesised by the horse and must come from the diet. These are called the essential amino acids. It is important to feed protein sources that contain sufficient levels of essential amino acids – good quality compound feeds will be designed to supply these. Essential amino acids that need to be supplied in the diet include:

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• Lysine • Methionine • Threonine • Isoleucine • Leucine • Valine • Arginine • Tryptophan • Histidine • Phenylalanine

What is protein needed for in the body? • Proteins are an essential part of all structural and connective tissues including muscle, skin, hair and cartilage. • Enzymes are proteins. The role of enzymes is to control the rate (both speeding up and slowing down) of essential chemical reactions within the body. • Many hormones (chemical

messengers that regulate bodily processes) are proteins. • Many components of the immune system including antibodies are proteins.

How much protein does your horse require? • For an adult horse at maintenance or in light work 8-10 percent of the total diet should be made up of protein. • For the older horse, horses in heavy work, in late pregnancy and early lactation this increases to 10-12 percent. • For a young growing foal protein as much as 14-16 percent of the total diet should be protein.

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CHOOSING THE RIGHT FEED

How to design

YOUR HORSE’S DIET Knowing what and how much to feed your horse or pony can be a daunting task – Clare Barfoot from SPILLERS® advises...

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here is plenty of help available when considering what to feed your horse, including feed company care lines, websites and literature. However, even when asking advice, it is useful to know what may impact on your horse’s diet – this will help the person advising you to give you a more tailored recommendation. In order to design the most ideal diet for your horse you need to consider the following: 1. Condition 2. Workload 3. Routine, for example grazing/stabling 4. Clinical problems 5. Temperament 6. Breed 7. Height and Weight 8. Current diet including concentrates and forage

1. YOUR HORSE’S CONDITION The current condition of your horse is an essential consideration as it will dictate whether more or less energy is required. For example, if your horse is currently overweight the energy/calories provided should be reduced. On the other hand, if your horse is underweight then the energy/calories provided should be increased – it is a simple as that! (See page 15 for advice on how to condition score your horse or pony).

2

HIS WORKLOAD

The amount of work your horse is doing may influence the amount of energy he requires from his diet, although don’t fall into the trap of feeding an overweight horse a competition feed just because he is in medium work. If he is overweight he is already getting enough calories! Remember increased energy demands don’t just come from physical exercise. An increase in energy requirements also occurs in growing horses, lactating mares, actively breeding stallions and pregnant mares (months 8-11). There is also a highly individual variation in metabolisms which can affect the energy requirements of the individual horse. The following table gives a general indication of how nutritionists class different activities in terms of workload.

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Did you know? Energy is the only dietary component that you can be confident your horse is receiving the right amount of – if he is too fat he is receiving too much, if he is too thin he is receiving too little!

Maintenance• Horses and ponies not working (at rest). Light work The vast majority of horses in this country are in this category

Medium work

• Hacking – leisure riding (approximately one-two hours per day) • Show horses – Novice level • Dressage – Prelim/Novice • Showjumping – Novice (Newcomer’s level) • Racehorse – early fittening work. • Showing – Working Hunters • Dressage – Medium • Showjumping – Foxhunters/Open (grades B and A) • Eventing – Novice/Intermediate • Endurance – 20-50 miles • Racing – fast canter work.

Hard Work

• Hunting – once or twice per week • Dressage – Grand Prix • Eventing – Advanced • Endurance – 75 miles race ride • Racehorse – pre-race fittening, Point-to-pointing/Steeple chasing, Flat and National Hunt (e.g. The Grand National) • Endurance – 100 miles ride (e.g. The Golden Horseshoe) • Pregnant (8-11 months) • Stallion actively breeding • Lactating mare (0-3 months) • Growing horses.

If you are unsure of the level of work at which your horse is performing, the best way to tell is simply to look at him. If he is too fat he needs less energy, if he is too thin he needs more.

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CHOOSING THE RIGHT FEED

3

YOUR HORSE’S DAILY ROUTINE

How your horse spends his day will influence his dietary requirements. You need to ask yourself: • How often are they stabled and for how long? • How much time do they graze per day? • What is the grass quality like? • How many horses/animals are grazing the land?

5. HIS TEMPERAMENT Your horse’s temperament may have a bearing on the source of energy you choose. Fibre and oil are sources of slow release energy and may be more beneficial for excitable horses. Feeds with more cereal starch may be more suitable for laid back horses requiring more instant energy, although whether this works or not is highly individual.

6. HIS BREED Knowing his breeding can be important in determining whether your horse is a good or a poor doer. For example, Thoroughbreds are typically poor doers and breeds such as cobs, natives, Arabs, Irish Draughts and warmbloods tend to be good doers, although it is still very much down to the individual.

Hands 10-11.3 12-12.3 13-13.3 14-14.3 15-15.3 16-16.3 17+

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Approximate Weight (kg) 150-200 200-250 300-350 400-450 500-550 550-600 600+

RS

Where possible it is useful to know the actual weight of your horse. The most accurate way of determining a horse’s weight is to use a weighbridge, although few of us are lucky enough to have access to one. There are a number of weightapes available commercially which can be useful when used correctly. The following table can also be used as a very approximate guide.

BR IA

Certain clinical problems can be influenced by nutrition so it is important to know whether or not your horse or pony has had any conditions such as laminitis, colic or tying up, all of which can be managed by specialised nutritional management.

7. HIS BODY WEIGHT AND HEIGHT

HAN NAH

4. ANY RELEVANT HISTORY OF NUTRITION RELATED PROBLEMS

HIS CURRENT DIET

In order to make effective changes to your horse’s diet it is important to gather as much information about your horse’s current diet as possible. This may include: • Quantity (weight) and type of compound feed • Quantity (weight) of forage – this is the amount he eats, not just the amount he is given! • Any additional supplements • How long he is turned out for and the estimated grass intake (consider the quality of the grass when making this assessment). If you find it difficult to calculate how much food your horse is actually getting you are not alone. Most horse owners are able to list how many scoops or slices they feed, but not the exact weights. Below is a quick guide to the approximate weight of measures. Approx Weight

Slice of hay (small rectangular bale) 2kg Large haynet 8kg Bale of hay (small rectangular bale) 20kg Small bale of haylage 25kg Large bale of haylage 200kg Scoop of cubes –– Scoop of mix –– Scoop of pellet fibre blend –– Scoop of chaff –– Double handful of chaff 250g

Stubbs scoop –– –– –– –– –– 1.5kg 1 kg 500g 250g ––

Large rectangular Small rectangular scoop scoop –– –– –– –– –– 1.5kg 1 kg 500g 250g ––

–– –– –– –– –– 450g 300g 150g 75g ––

Above: Cobs tend to be good doers.

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SO WHAT NOW?

After your have gathered all the information about your horse, it is time to design their diet.

HANNAH BRIARS

CHOOSING THE RIGHT FEED

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOUR HORSE EAT IN TOTAL? Most domestic horses rely on us to choose when or how much they eat. In the wild, horses tend to spend around 75 percent of their time eating. If we don’t provide food in a way that mimics this as closely as possible it can have a negative effect on wellbeing – the horse may become bored, stressed and show stereotypical behaviour (like box walking or weaving). However because some horses can consume up to five percent of their own bodyweight per day if they are given ad lib access to forage or grass, we still need to manage intake carefully in many cases, particularly if the horse is overweight or susceptible to laminitis. A horse’s appetite is affected by many factors and is very individual, but for the purpose of designing a ration nutritionists assume an average total intake of 2-2.5 percent of bodyweight but this can vary: for example an overweight horse on a low calorie forage based diet may need their total intake further reduced or in the case of a growing foal their intake might be slightly higher than 2.5 percent. Remember that the number of calories is not just dictated by how much you feed but also the energy density of the diet: for example in the case of a poor doer or a mare in late pregnancy, choosing a high energy compound feed will increase the number of calories.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT COMPOUND FEED Choosing a product or type of feed for your horse or pony can be a real headache as there are so many different feeds on the market. However, it needn’t be this way. The following guide is designed to help you through the minefield of brands and products. Cubes or Nuts are small cylinder kibbles and come at every energy level from low calorie, high fibre versions like SPILLERS® High Fibre Cubes to high energy performance versions like SPILLERS® Racehorse Cubes and everything in between. The advantage of cubes is that they provide uniform nutrition in every mouthful as some horses pick out their favourite bits from mixes. Cubes also tend to be higher in fibre and lower in cereal starch than their mix equivalent, this is because they include more fibre based ingredients such as wheatfeed and oatfeed and less whole cereal grain. The lower starch level means that many cubes are classed as ‘non-heating’, meaning they are less likely to contribute to excitable behaviour.

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This is particularly true with high oil feeds which supply more calories in the same volume. Type

Total amount to feed (forage & compound feed) % of Bodyweight

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Overweight Maintenance diet Light exercise Pregnant (0-8 months) Stallion not breeding Medium exercise Pregnant (8-11 months) Growing horses up to 24 months Lactating mare (0-3 months) Heavy exercise Stallion actively breeding Underweight

1.5

2

2.25

2.5

When a horse spends time at grass it is hard to monitor total intake. We assume that if the average horse is turned out for 12 hours a day, he will consume 50 percent of his appetite, depending on the quality and availability of grass. Poor grazing may require supplementary forage.

Myth buster: Cubes contain lesser quality ingredients because manufacturers can hide what’s in them – FALSE. Cubes contain similar ingredients to mixes and are of equal quality, feed manufacturers are governed by strict codes of conduct. Mixes are muesli type mixes of flaked cereals, grass nuts, oatfeed nuts and vitamin and mineral pellets. Again mixes cover all energy requirements and applications from growing, competition and senior horses through to those requiring extra condition. Usually the name gives a clear idea of how the feed should be used, for example SPILLERS® Conditioning Mix. Avoid mixes if you have an excitable horse or one prone to tying up, colic or laminitis because the starch level in mixes is nearly always higher than in cubes. Balancers are concentrated pellets that are typically fed at around 500 grams. They are ideal for horses and ponies that don’t need the calories that the typical feeding rate of 2-3kg of traditional mixes or cubes provide. Feeding less than the recommended amount of feed means that your horse or pony may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals they require for a balanced diet but feeding a balancer ensures this is corrected. Many

HOW MUCH FORAGE? HOW MUCH COMPOUND FEED? In all cases, the majority of a diet should be made up of forage and it is extremely important that the horse’s requirement for forage is met. Most horses at maintenance or in light work will be fine with a diet of 100 percent forage although it is prudent to supplement this with a feed balancer to ensure that they are getting all of the nutrients they need. In medium work (see table on page 7) typically around 30 percent of the diet will need to be provided in compound feed form rising to up to 50 percent in genuinely hard work. None of these rules are hard and fast however; whatever the level of work, if the horse is too thin it may need more compound feed (i.e. energy dense food) and if it is overweight the level of compound feed should be reduced to lower the energy density of the diet.

balancers also contain additional support for hooves, joints, digestion and the immune system, for example SPILLERS® Original Balancer. Chopped fibre and chaffs are often added as a double handful to cubes and mixes to slow eating time down. Many of these products are based on chopped straw and molasses although some contain additional components such as grass nuts and vitamins and minerals like SPILLERS® Cool Fibre. There are also complete fibre based feeds available such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® that are suitable for those prone to laminitis.

Top tip There is a wealth of high quality advice available to owners out there – use it! Organisations like the BHS and feed companies like SPILLERS® are only too happy to advise owners on how to feed. If you are confused about which product is the most suitable for your horse or pony why not give the SPILLERS® Care-Line a call on 01908 226626.

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THE GOLDEN RULES

The Golden Rules

OF FEEDING The saying you are what you eat is certainly true of horses. As owners and carers it can be difficult to know what to give our four-legged-friends for the best, and a big responsibility to get it right. Here Lee Hackett offers some key tips for keeping your horse happy and healthy.

Forage first Forage must form the basis of any horse’s diet but why is it so important? ® Fibre takes time to eat and chew. A kilogram of fibre will keep the horse busy for far longer than a kilogram of cereal. Horses naturally spend around 75 percent of their time eating and have a psychological need to chew. If we don’t meet these natural behavioural drives it can be distressing to the horse and may lead to undesirable behaviours like weaving, crib-biting or damaging the stable. ® Chewing forage stimulates saliva production. A lack of saliva is associated with choke. ® The fermentation of forage in the large intestine produces a lot of

heat. This heat is important to help the horse maintain the correct body temperature, particularly in winter. ® The equine digestive system has evolved to be constantly processing fibre rather than large cereal meals. If insufficient forage is provided this can disrupt the health of the system leading to conditions such as acidosis and colic (see page 18). Ideally all horses should have access to ad lib forage – i.e. available at all times. This is easy to achieve when a horse is at grass but it is worth monitoring a stablekept horse’s appetite to ensure you provide him with enough hay (or other forage) without over-doing it and causing waste. Remember: If your horse needs to lose weight, consider switching to a lower energy forage – for example swap half of the ration of hay for oat straw (care should be taken in elderly horses with poor teeth and in Thoroughbreds as feeding straw may increase the risk of impaction colic). If weight loss is not achieved, restricting total intake may be required.

Feed little and often As we have said when we looked at the digestive system, horses have small stomachs (about a third of the size of a human’s as a relative proportion of the whole digestive tract). If we feed cereal ‘bucket’ feeds that are too large, food is pushed through the stomach too fast and not digested properly. If you are feeding cereal concentrates, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure proper digestion and avoid overloading the stomach: ® Feed hay before concentrates to slow down the passage of food. ® Feed three to four small meals a day rather than one or two larger ones (no more than 2kg per feed, less for ponies under 400kg). ® Dilute concentrate cereal feeds with plenty of chaff.

Do not make sudden changes to the diet The horse’s gut is full of friendly bacteria that break down the fibre in forage with the horse making use of the by-products. When the diet changes, these bacteria must adapt to the new regime. If they are not given sufficient time to do so, many of the helpful bacteria

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THE GOLDEN RULES

will die which may result in poor performance or colic, endotoxaemia and laminitis. The need to change the diet slowly applies to forage and concentrated feeds. Remember that grass is a forage so changes in grazing should be introduced gradually too. The most common reason for sudden changes in diet is running out of the relevant feed, so plan ahead and monitor supplies to avoid this. If you do have to change the diet, do so over a period of 10-14 days, gradually introducing the new feed while feeding slowly declining amounts of the previous diet.

Keep to a routine Feed at the same time each day. Horses are creatures of habit and like a settled routine.

Do not work fast after feeding

Feed only high quality feed

Exercise causes blood to be diverted away from the digestive system to the heart, lungs and legs. Unless the food has been absorbed before exercise starts, it might not be digested properly. A full stomach will also press on the lungs and compromise performance. Remember though that horses have evolved to run straight from grass and therefore if meals are small you can work your horse after one hour. Horses can have ad lib forage until they are worked even if this work is hard work. There is no need to withdraw forage. Endurance horses can be given forage and water up to the start of work.

To ensure that your horse receives all of the nutrients he needs it is worth investing in high quality forages and compound feeds. Going for the cheaper lower quality option is often false economy as your horse may lose condition and performance. Low quality feeds are also often dusty which can have serious implications for your horse’s respiratory health. Avoid dusty, mouldy or old feed.

Always provide fresh, clean water Water is absolutely essential. If a horse cannot drink, he will rapidly stop eating. He is also likely to dehydrate and this will have a serious effect on his performance and health. It is normal for horses to drink small amounts during and immediately after eating (although if the feed has a high water content this is less likely). Each day you should scrub the water bucket out thoroughly; refill with clean water; and make sure it is secure so that horses cannot kick it over. Keep an eye on how much your horse normally drinks, if you are using automatic waterers this is more difficult to monitor. Generally horses will drink less water when it is cold so keep an eye on his droppings during winter to make sure they don’t become too hard. In these conditions add warm water to encourage drinking.

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Every horse is an individual No two horses are the same and their diets should reflect this. When selecting a diet, many factors need to be taken into consideration (see page 7). It isn’t safe to assume that because one 16hh Thoroughbred is doing well on a particular diet that another will fare the same. It is vital to monitor your horse’s condition and be prepared to make dietary changes as necessary. For all of the scientific advances we have made in equine nutrition, feeding remains an art as much as a science.

Seek advice Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Getting your horse’s diet right is hugely important and there is advice there if you need it. Most feed companies have their own advice line like SPILLERS®, your vet may be able to make recommendations and the BHS Welfare Department are always happy to discuss feeds and feeding if you give us a call.

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SIMON PALMER

WEIGHT CONTROL

WEIGHT WATCHING Not a day goes by without a news report highlighting the increasing problem of obesity in the human population. You may even have seen your local vet running weight watching clinics for cats and dogs. So should we be doing the same for horses? Clare Barfoot investigates...

Why do our horses and ponies become overweight? • Ponies have evolved over thousands of years to graze poor quality pasture on hillsides, plains, and moorland. • As we domesticated horses and ponies and began riding them for pleasure and sport we totally changed the environment in which they live. • Our horses and ponies are now turned out on pasture far higher in calories than they have evolved to eat.

Top tip… Use the winter wisely! Horses and ponies have evolved to put on weight in the summer and live off their fat reserves in the winter. So let them do this; it is ok to have your horse or pony lean at the end of the winter ready for the spring grass. This is not only more natural for them and suits their metabolism better but is also much easier for you to try to keep them slim rather than trying to manage an already overweight horse going into spring.

• The amount of exercise our horses and ponies take walking around their field will be much less than they would have taken browsing hillsides in their natural environment. • Often our horses and ponies simply don’t work hard enough. Carrying you up the road three times a week doesn’t actually require a lot more energy than walking around the field. • In the winter ponies particularly would have grown a thick winter coat and used a lot more energy to keep themselves warm. Today, you will have probably bought your horse or pony the latest new rug to keep him warm and cosy – this will greatly reduce the amount of energy he uses keeping himself warm. Overall our horses and ponies are eating a richer diet and not using up as much energy on a daily basis as their ancestors and are therefore much more prone to ever expanding waistlines.

Why does it matter anyway? When you ask owners what their main concern is when managing their overweight

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horse or pony, ‘laminitis’ is a common answer. However, this is not the only risk. Insulin resistance and the resulting metabolic syndrome, reduced fertility, heat stress, problems with heart, lungs and joints, worsened signs of arthritis and lethargy are amongst the long list of problems associated with the overweight horse.

How can you tell if your horse is overweight? First, the simple answer is look at him; watch out for visual fat pads which are often seen on the crest, behind the shoulder, around the withers, over the rib cage and at the tail head. If you can see dimples before you even touch your horse this is a sure sign he is carrying too much condition! The next stage is to have a good feel. Run your hands over his body, paying particular attention to the areas mentioned above. Does his crest feel hard? Does his shoulder run smoothly into his body or is there a bulge? Can you feel his ribs? Is there a gutter running down his spine? This method of assessing your horse is the basis of all condition scoring systems.

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WEIGHT CONTROL

Whether you use the 0-5 method (see page 15), or 1-9, the principles are the same. To keep your scores consistent always use the same person to score the same horse. Another method you can use is a weigh tape. Although it may not give you a totally accurate weight for your horse it will give you an idea of whether his weight is going up or down! Lastly, if you are lucky enough to have access to a weighbridge this will give you an accurate weight and is a very good way of assessing weight loss if your horse or pony is on a diet. However, be warned – like with people, weight in horses can only give you a piece of the jigsaw as build and type also play a huge role. This is why it is always better to use a weighbridge in conjunction with condition scoring.

What is insulin resistance?

Research news… Recent research has suggested that anywhere between 50 percent and 80 percent of ponies in the UK are overweight and as owners we have become accustomed to seeing horses and ponies that carry too much weight. All too often overweight horses are becoming the norm and go unrecognised.

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Insulin is a hormone responsible for amongst other things regulating blood glucose. When carbohydrates (starch and sugar) are digested in your horse's small intestine, the glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, signalling the release of insulin. When everything works properly, the insulin removes the glucose from the bloodstream shifting it into surrounding tissues, returning glucose concentrations to normal. When insulin resistance develops the insulin receptors located in the surrounding tissues become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, therefore the horse becomes less able to deal with glucose entering the body

So how can you slim your horse or pony down? The success of any weight loss programme will be improved if you take a holistic approach. Thinking about your horse or pony’s lifestyle and management is just as important as monitoring his feeding. Whether he is stable kept, out at grass or wearing lots of rugs, these are all factors that will need to be taken into careful consideration when managing your horse or pony’s weight. Grass is the biggest contributor to excess calories in the majority of horses’ diets. Horses and ponies that are out on pasture for 24 hours a day can consume three times their energy requirement just in that one day. Therefore restricting grass intake in line with an increase in exercise is essential.

from the digestive tract. Since blood glucose levels remain high, insulin continues to be released. This leads to elevated concentrations of insulin in the bloodstream. What effect this high level of insulin and glucose has on the body is the subject of a lot of research; although it is thought that insulin resistance does play a role in laminitis and the risk of developing it is much greater in overweight and obese horses and ponies. The largest dietary contributor to insulin resistance is likely to be from high cereal starch based meals and possibly at certain times of the year high sugar grass. The small amount of sugar in horse feed is only really likely to contribute if it is on top of an already high cereal inclusion.

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WEIGHT CONTROL HANNAH BRIARS

Research news… Recent research has shown that ponies restricted to three hours turnout over a six week period were found to be eating 40 percent of their daily intake in those three hours by week six!

Soaking hay (right) and using a grazing muzzle (above) can help control your horse’s weight.

It is well worth noting that it may only take some small changes in a couple of areas of your horse or pony’s management to make a big difference.

Top tips for watching weight ® Fundamentally remember calories and energy are the same thing and you can’t have one without the other. I am frequently asked for advice on giving a horse more energy without calories but the only answer here is work your horse more, slim him down and hopefully he will have more natural energy! ® Look at your overall feeding regime. Are you feeding a feed appropriate to the amount of work your horse or pony is doing? Consider dropping to a lower calorie feed or using a feed balancer to supply vitamins and minerals without unwanted calories. ® How much hay or haylage are you feeding? Most horses or ponies will do well and

maintain their weight on a diet that supplies two percent of their bodyweight in total per day, for example 10kg for a 500kg horse. If your horse or pony is overweight and you are supplying more than this try adjusting the ration. ® Just like managing horses and ponies prone to laminitis, it is most important to restrict access to pasture when the grass is available in large quantities and is most calorific, for example during the spring until the grass flowers around June time and during the autumn. ® Restricting grass intake may involve turning out for shorter periods of time, but be aware that ponies soon learn to maximise their intake during any restricted time. It may be wise to also turn out on a sparser paddock or use a grazing muzzle, or at the very least compensate for this increased intake! ® Turn out overnight, as the sugar and fructan levels (one of the main sources of calories

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in grass) are lower at night. ® Alternatively strip grazing can be used. This is when you section off a small amount of grass and allow your horse or pony to graze the area before moving the fence a bit at a time. ® Using a grazing muzzle can be highly effective. Do make sure it is properly fitted, that your horse or pony can drink and that their teeth are checked regularly. ® If your horse or pony spends time in the stable, make sure you are not using bedding he can eat. Greedy ponies on straw beds will munch on their bed, adding to the calories they are receiving, alongside increasing their risk of impaction colic.

Research news… In a recent weight loss study where horses and ponies were restricted to 1.25 percent of their bodyweight as total feed intake per day it was found that some horses and ponies were eating up to 3kg of shavings per day. So if you have a very greedy pony rubber matting may be the only option!

® Try to source a mature fibrous hay, such as a timothy hay as this will be lower in calories. You could also try mixing good quality oat straw to your hay to dilute the calories. Soaking hay for 16 hours in tepid water will also help to reduce the sugar and therefore calorie level. ® If you feed haylage, go for a high fibre type. These will be lower calories than ryegrass mixes.

® To extend eating time, use double haylage nets. As long as your horse has some time each day eating from the ground e.g. grazing, there is no evidence this will damage their teeth. ® Be careful about the rugs your horse or pony wears. Most horses and ponies, unless they are clipped, do not need thick rugs. In the cold weather horses and ponies will use energy to help keep themselves warm, so try taking their rugs off as this will help burn off a few more calories! ® For specific advice on really slimming an overweight horse down please contact a registered nutritionist or your vet for a tailored programme.

Where does exercise come in? The main principle of weight loss is to burn more calories than are consumed, therefore any additional exercise will make the whole weight loss process more effective and you will have a thinner horse or pony sooner.

Top exercise tips 1. Don’t over-work an unfit, overweight horse. Build up his exercise slowly starting with some slow road work 2. If you don’t have time to ride consider putting your horse or pony on a horse walker while you muck out, or try lungeing or loose schooling him for twenty minutes. 3. Take full advantage of hills and consider trotting up them. This uses up more energy than trotting on the flat. 4. Prolonged low intensity exercise is very useful at burning up those fat stores, whilst faster work will help to improve fitness. Therefore a combination of both is good in any exercise programme and both will help weight loss.

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CONDITION SCORING

FATSCORING advises on how to condition score your horse.

I

f your horse is too fat he needs to be fed less energy (calories). If he is too thin he needs more. It sounds simple, and it is, but it can be difficult to accurately gauge your horse’s fatness, particularly when so many of us are used to seeing overweight horses as the norm. This is where fat scoring comes in. A guide to the various scores is below and you should

Pelvis

Back and Ribs

Neck

• Angular, skin tight. • Very sunken rump. • Deep cavity under tail.

• Skin tight over ribs. • Very prominent and sharp backbone.

• Marked ewe neck. • Narrow and slack at base.

1 Poor

• Prominent pelvis and croup. • Sunken rump but skin supple. • Deep cavity under tail.

• Ribs easily visible. • Prominent backbone with sunken skin on either side.

• Ewe neck, narrow and slack base.

2 Moderate

• Rump flat either side • Ribs just visible. of back bone. • Backbone covered • Croup well defined, but spines can some fat. be felt. • Slight cavity under tail.

• Narrow but firm.

3 Good

• Covered by fat and rounded. • No gutter. • Pelvis easily felt.

• No crest (except for stallions) firm neck.

4 Fat

• Gutter to root of tail. • Ribs well covered • Pelvis covered by fat. – need pressure • Need firm pressure to feel. to feel.

• Slight crest. • Wide and firm.

5 Very Fat

• Deep gutter to root of tail. • Skin distended. • Pelvis buried, cannot be felt.

• Marked crest very wide and firm. • Fold of fat.

• Ribs just covered and easily felt. • No gutter along the back. • Backbone well covered but spines can be felt.

• Ribs buried, cannot be felt. • Deep gutter along back. • Back broad and flat.

Contact us Please contact the BHS Welfare department on 02476 840517 for more information on fat scoring.

Image

0 Very Poor

Table right: (Based on the Carroll and Huntington Method). To obtain a body score, score the pelvis first, then adjust by half a point if it differs buy one point or more to the back or neck.

be aiming to keep you horse at a score of 2.5 – 3. There is an art to fat scoring and you cannot do it accurately just by sight, you need to get in and feel the horse and his fat. Don’t be distracted by muscle or conformation, it is only fat that you should be interested in to produce an accurate score. For more in depth information on fat scoring, please contact BHS Welfare.

Reproduced with the permission of the NEWC.

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FEEDING THE LAMINITIC

What you need to know about

LAMINITIS Clare Barfoot from SPILLERS® offers the latest thinking on this painful and debilitating condition.

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HAN NA H

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f you take anything from reading these pages let it be this, don’t be fooled into a false sense of security that laminitis only affects fat ponies; it can strike any horse or pony at S any time including competition, brood AR RI mares and racehorses. Horses and ponies that are not overweight can still get laminitis so it pays to be aware of the subtle warning signs which may include a cresty neck, sore feet or a change in hoof shape. If you spot any of these early signs this is your window of opportunity to take preventative action because waiting until it happens could prove disastrous for your horse. In the coming years laminitis really could be the single biggest risk to your horse’s health.

Watching your pasture Grass is the natural diet of the horse whether they are a Shetland pony or a Thoroughbred. But there’s grass and there’s grass! Horses have evolved eating a variety of grasses, plants and shrubs that are typically of low nutrient value and in particular are lower in water soluble carbohydrate (sugar and fructans) than some of the pastures Research news…. we keep horses on today. • Recent research into water The other problem we soluble carbohydrate (WSC) losses have with grass today is in hays has found that the losses are how much it physically very variable and don’t necessarily grows. Grass only grows make the hay suitable for the very when the mean air laminitis prone. However, the most temperature is above reliable method in this study 6ºC, therefore was in water over 16˚C for 16 hours traditionally during which resulted in average WSC losses of the winter months 43 percent. grass growth slowed • A recent study using ponies has shown down considerably that grass intake in a three hour period and during the can be reduced on average by 83 percent coldest months by using a grazing muzzle, making them stopped totally. an ideal way to restrict grazing. However, now we

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have shorter milder winters, grass is now growing all year. In fact recent research suggests that the nutrient value of winter grass is now very similar to spring/ summer grass. This less seasonal, more consistent grass growth has many implications for your horse and the way you manage him. Laminitis is one such implication and although traditionally this condition is seen more often during seasonal grass growth, namely in the spring and autumn, laminitis is now a risk throughout the whole year, so you must manage your horse accordingly.

What to do Following these simple feeding and management tips can help reduce the risk of laminitis and assist you if unfortunately your horse or pony comes down with it. ® Call the vet straight away if laminitis is suspected; laminitis should always be treated as an emergency. Corrective shoeing to reduce the risk of the pedal bone moving is always more successful when done immediately. ® Provide a deep clean bed, ideally shavings over rubber matting, to help support the feet and provide comfortable footing. ® If your horse or pony has laminitis remove him from any grazing and follow the advice of your vet as to when it is safe to turn him out again.

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FEEDING THE LAMINITIC

Above: Strip grazing can help restrict grass intake. ROYAL VETERINARY COLLEGE

Above: A weighbridge is the ideal way to monitor your horse’s weight.

® Make sure his diet is high in fibre and low in sugar, starch and fructans. Most ponies do not need the various cereal mixes available on the market. They are able to work well on a balanced high fibre diet such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF®. ® If your horse or pony is overweight you need to decrease his calorie intake; feed clean, low nutritive value seed hay or oat straw. Alternatively soak your hay overnight in tepid water to reduce the sugar content. ® Don’t starve a horse or pony that is overweight, this may lead to a serious condition called hyperlipaemia. ® In order to supply a balanced, appropriate diet choose feeds that are approved by The Laminitis Trust as these feeds will have met strict criteria making them ideal for laminitis prone horses and ponies.

Ongoing management When your vet has indicated it is safe to turn your horse out his grazing should be closely monitored. Ways to do this include: ® Use sheep to graze down spring and autumn grass. Alternatively, use a specially designed muzzle to prevent excessive grazing (it is not recommended that muzzles are used continuously, ensure that drinking is allowed, and that teeth are checked regularly). ® Strip grazing can be used but don’t give too much grass at one time. Some owners find that using an

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Above: A pony suffering with the condition.

electric fence set out in a circle in the middle of the paddock with water at one end and the gate at the other can encourage horses to walk longer distances. ® Don’t turn your horse out on recently cut hay stubble. ® Keep your grazing well managed as stressed pasture can be higher fructans. ® Turning your horse or pony out late at night bringing him back in no later than mid morning will potentially reduce the amount of sugars and fructans he eats. ® Don’t turn horses out onto pasture that has been exposed to low temperatures in conjunction with bright sunlight eg. sunny frosty mornings. ® In some horses and ponies zero grazing may be the only option, in this case turn them out in a manège or bare paddock.

Top tip For known laminitics keep the water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) level in your forage below 10 percent (dry matter). Most feed companies offer a forage analysis service so they can advise you whether or not your forage is suitable for a laminitic horse or pony.

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COLIC

Colic simply means pain within the abdominal tract do so safely without getting cast or damaging itself on hard surfaces or projections. Treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of the colic. The majority of cases can be successfully treated by drugs administered by a vet. More serious cases may be referred for surgery. Colic surgery is a complex procedure and may not be an option in every case. It can be expensive and carries a high level of risk for the patient. Early treatment is essential.

Prevention

COLIC Lee Hackett (BHS Welfare) offers some advice on dealing with colic.

C

olic simply means pain within the abdominal tract. It is a symptom, not a disease. Because there are many causes for this pain, the horse’s behaviour when suffering with colic will vary greatly.

The most common types of colic are: 1. Impaction Can be caused by indigestible, dry feed such as unsoaked sugar beet pellets or grass cuttings that stick together and cause a blockage. Likewise a build up of sand ingested from grazing poor grass on sandy soil or drinking from a silty water source may have the same effect. 2. Spasmodic The most common type of colic, often associated with stress or excitement. Bouts of short sharp pain caused by spasms of the intestinal walls may be experienced, with loud gut sounds. Recovery may be spontaneous, but veterinary attention is required. 3. Flatulent Results from an excessive gas accumulation in the large intestine and commonly associated with high pitch gut sounds. Caused by food materials fermenting in the digestive tract and commonly seen in horses fed large quantities of fermentable food such as fresh, rich spring grass. 4. Obstructive There are various types of obstructive colic, including strangulation and mechanical pressure on the gut – potentially the most serious types of colic.

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A strangulating obstruction disrupts blood flow, usually when a piece of the intestine becomes twisted – commonly referred to as a ‘twisted gut’. 5. Non-strangulating infarction Occurs if a blood vessel becomes blocked, usually an artery that feeds a section of the intestine, and then dies. Parasites are a common cause of this type of colic.

Signs of colic Signs depend greatly on the severity and type of the colic. They may include some, or all, of the following: • Changes in eating habits, including loss of appetite • Continuously getting down to roll, then getting back up again • Pawing the ground • Pacing the stable • Limited or no passage of faeces • Straining to excrete faeces • Turning round and looking at the flanks • Kicking at the abdomen • Shivering • Sweating • Abnormal temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate. The better you know your horse in his ‘normal’ state, the more likely you are to recognise changes in behaviour and quickly identify a potential colic case.

Treatment All cases of colic must be treated as an emergency and veterinary advice sought immediately when colic is suspected. Ensure that if the horse does go down to roll it can

There are many simple steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of your horse suffering from colic. ® Feed a diet composed predominantly of forage (such as hay, haylage or grass). The fibre in forage promotes a healthy digestive system and maintains gut motility. ® If you are feeding your horse compound feed then do so ‘little and often’. Horses have small stomachs which should not be overloaded. ® Do not make sudden changes to your horse’s diet. Introduce new feeds in gradually increasing quantities while progressively reducing the quantity of the previous feedstuff. This is vital to allow the microbes in the horse’s gut to acclimatise and adapt to the new feed. ® Use only good quality feeds. Choosing a cheaper, lower quality feed or forage may compromise the horse’s health and precipitate the onset of colic or respiratory disorders. ® Feeds should always be stored in vermin- and horse-proof containers to prevent horses gorging themselves on the content of open feed bins. ® Horses will eat certain types of bedding. This may lead to intestinal blockages. Keep an eye on your horse’s bed and if you believe he is eating it, it may be necessary to use an alternative. ® Do not allow horses to graze where grass is sparse and soil sandy. Prevent horses from drinking from shallow, silty water sources. ® Ensure a constant supply of clean, fresh drinking water is available. ® Feeding and watering horses in large quantities prior to hard exercise is not recommended. Similarly, feeding too soon after exercise, before the horse has completely cooled down, also poses a risk. ® Water may be offered in small quantities after exercise, but giving very cold water to a hot horse is best avoided. Once the horse has cooled down normal watering may be resumed.

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BHS Feed Guide in association with Spillers