Page 105 - March 2020
P. 105

                  VETERINARY VIEWS
 To keep the equine digestive tract at its healthiest,
a horse should receive 1 1/2 - 2 percent of his body weight in roughage (fiber) each day when possible.
 It takes a bit more effort for a horse to pull out hay pieces from a slow feeder system than if flakes of hay are thrown loose on the ground or in the stall. Working around the meshed holes lengthens the time it takes for a horse
to acquire his food; this is more similar to normal consumption intake a horse uses when grazing pasture. This enables you to control his groceries and calories, so he is fed the appropriate amount each day. And, it shortens the fasting periods between refills, keeping his stomach and intestines in a healthier state. It also helps your pocketbook by lessening the amount of wastage caused by a horse stepping or defecating in his hay.
Vitamin E is a key nutritional ingredient that may be deficient for horses that have no access to green grass. Inadequate intake of vitamin E can cause muscle, neurologic, or immune system problems, and at the very least may affect performance. In a Canadian study, horses that had pasture access in summer months had vitamin E plasma concentrations that were 63% higher than non-pastured horses that consumed only hay or pelleted feed. This is a particular concern for young, growing horses as well as adult and athletic horses.
In addition, horses that are supplemented with high-fat diets to improve calorie intake may be deficient in vitamin E if it is not supplemented as an anti-oxidant along with the fat. The vitamin E supplement of choice to use is d-alpha-tocopherol, a natural vitamin E that is readily absorbed.
Vitamin A or carotene may also be present in inadequate amounts if horses are fed old hay or hay that has lost its green color. Most commercial feeds contain ample vitamin A, so feeding small amounts of pelleted feed is likely to provide a sufficient supply of this nutrient when there is concern of vitamin A deficiency in the forage.
Horses with limited access to pasture
or forage may consume the dirt or bedding around them to appease their desire for fiber,
leading to “sand colic” or impaction colic. There is great benefit in using psyllium treatment for 6-7 consecutive days each month to help clear the intestines of ingested sand and dirt. Intake of sand and dirt can be curtailed in the first place with appropriate feeding systems that limit access to dirt, and by using the slow feeder method.
Salt is an important dietary ingredient for any horse. Provide a plain salt block that a horse can access voluntarily. This is safer than adding salt to the feed as any excess salt is simply urinated away, making more work for the kidneys.
Depending on the geographical location where your horse’s hay is grown, there may be a deficiency of selenium in the soils, leading
to a deficiency in the hay. Check with your veterinarian before supplementing with selenium as over-supplementation can cause serious signs from toxicity.
With some common sense and creative imagination, you can find ways for horses in your care to acquire their food intake more in keeping with natural “trickle feeding” tenden- cies. The ability to eat small, intermittent meals throughout the day also works wonders on
a horse’s mental health and behavior. These suggestions are starting points, which can be fine-tuned for each individual horse’s needs and eating habits.
  Horses with limited access to pasture or forage may consume the dirt or bedding around them to appease their desire for fiber, leading to “sand colic” or impaction colic.
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