Going Grain Free: The Reasons & Benefits
Do you have a horse or pony who gets hot or fizzy? A horse that can’t focus? A horse that you suspect of having hindgut acidosis or stomach ulcers? Or perhaps a pony prone to laminitis or EMS?
Going grain free may just be the key to solving your horse’s underlying issue.
Horses need sufficient levels of energy in their diets for optimum performance and function, however high sugar and starch are one of the leading causes of health issues in horses today. Typically the feeds with the highest sugar and starch levels are those containing grains and grain bi-products.
The most common reasons for going grain free include:
- Feeding the hot fizzy horse
- To help prevent or manage hindgut acidosis
- Feeding the laminitis prone horse
- Feeding for horse with tying up issues
- Feeding the horse who suffer from Cushings, Insulin Resistance or Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
- To help prevent and manage stomach ulcers
- Feeding the hot fizzy horse: The type of feed you use may make a difference in your horse’s behavior. Sugar and starch are found in large quantities in cereal grain and when this is digested in the small intestine of the horse the end product is glucose, which is absorbed into the blood. Fluctuations in blood sugar may be the cause of behaviour changes such as hotness, fizziness, and an inability to concentrate. If your horse seems reactive to grain-based feed, try a fibre and oil-based feed that contains lower starch and sugar content, which could potentially result in less negative behavior.
- To help prevent or manage hindgut acidosis: Many health disorders, such as laminitis and colic, are associated with hindgut acidosis, which results from a starch overload in the digestive system. Hindgut acidosis occurs whenthere’s excessive acidity in the horse’s hindgut, coupled with a drastic drop of the pH value, most commonly caused by a high grain and low forage diet. 60% of performance horses have hindgut acidosis with the most common cause of it being a diet high in grain.
- Laminitis: When a laminitic horse needs extra feed in addition to the low sugar forage it is very important for owners to not feed grain-based feeds. A laminitic horse should not be fed any of the following ingredients - oats, corn, wheat, rice or barley, millrun, millmix, bran (rice or wheat), pollard, any form of steam flaked, micronised or extruded grain. Ideally, feeds for laminitic horses should have a sugar and starch level of less than 12%.
- Feeding for horses with tying up issues: Close dietary management of horses that tie up can help to reduce the incidence or severity of the disease in affected horses. Minimise starch and sugar intake. Diets high in starch and sugars (mainly those that contain large amounts of grain) are well known to make tying up occur more frequently and severely.
- Feeding horses who suffer from Cushings, Insulin Resistance or Equine Metabolic Syndrome: Horses who suffer from any of the mentioned disorders benefit from a low starch and sugar diet, with grain free most often being the safest option for these horses.
- To help prevent and manage stomach ulcers: Studies have also shown that 60% of performance horses and up to 90% of racehorses have stomach ulcers, this is in part from the way these horses are fed and what they are fed. Large grain meals and extended periods of fasting in stables leads to excessive gastric acid output without adequate saliva protection, paving the way for ulcer formation. One of the best ways to prevent stomach ulcers is through the liberal feeding of forage (hay and pasture). A horse’s digestive system is design to constantly be processing small amounts of food. Changing to a feed containing less starch and sugar and more fiber and fats is good feeding practice to help prevent ulcers.
These are our top picks for grain free feeds: #BenchmarkFeeds Perfect Mash, #Johnsons Alfalfa Plus #Prydes Easisport and #Hygain Zero