Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
This edition is sponsored by the W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine) of East Longmeadow, Mass.
Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: While this is not a hoof-related question, several clients are wondering whether hay or grain should be fed first to their horses.
By Juliet M. Getty, PhD
If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is a moot point because the horse should have access to forage in hay and/or pasture 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse's digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it.
But if you were to feed starchy cereal grains (oats, wheat, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse would produce more acid than normal, which could potentially lead to ulcers. Furthermore, grains leave the stomach quickly, increasing the risk that they will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the resident bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.
A better approach is to have hay present in the stomach before feeding grain. The hay or forage creates a physical barrier for the grain, keeping it in the stomach for a longer period of time. The fiber in the hay mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine to be digested. While fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, its presence slows down the digestion of starch and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin levels.
Juliet M. Getty, PhD is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Located in Lewisville, Texas, her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horse person with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.
Click here to read Part 1 of the February 15, 2018 installment: Is it OK to feed bran to a mare with poor quality hooves?