Tipping the balance: why the levels of equine obesity are escalating *H&H Plus*

  • Even forage and pasture can contribute to an excess of sugar and starch, triggering a cascade of health problems. David Rendle FRCVS offers dietary advice

    HORSES evolved on pastures that were high in fibre and low in sugar and starch. As a result, they have adapted to meet most of their energy requirements by fermenting grasses and other plants to release the energy contained within the plants’ fibrous structure.

    By harnessing the ability of bacteria to ferment fibre, horses are able to satisfy their nutritional needs through the ingestion of forage alone. With domestication, however, it has become commonplace to increase their energy intake through supplementation with feeds high in sugars and starches.

    Feeding energy-dense cereals was more convenient and practical than large volumes of forage, particularly when horses worked long hours, under heavy loads, in urban environments. These days, only horses performing extreme levels of exercise require supplementary feeds high in sugar and starch.

    This feature is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (22 April, 2021)

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