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Thursday
Oct252012

Horses shouldn’t be fed before workouts: Fact or fiction?

Dr. Juliet Getty, Equine Nutritionist

The popular view is that horses should not be fed before workouts. This opinion appears to originate largely from the fact that humans usually don’t feel comfortable exercising after a large meal.

Dr. Juliet Getty, Getty Equine Nutrition LLC, says the old myth is part fact and part fiction. Dr. Getty owns Getty Equine Nutrition LLC, a firm that provides education on equine nutrition topics for horse owners and stable operators.

“If the question is whether to feed a commercially fortified feed out of a bag for instance or oats along supplements, feeding before a workout is not a good idea.  This type of ration is low in fiber and high in starch, protein and fat,” Getty says. “Forages (hay or pasturing) should be fed before horses are worked. Forages are actually beneficial to horses about to be worked,” she adds. Restricting forages prior to workouts actually produces, rather than avoids, digestive upset.

Here is why, according to Getty. The equines stomach, unlike that of humans, secretes acid constantly. Chewing produces saliva, a natural antacid. Acid accumulates in the stomach of a horse with nothing to chew. The acid settles along the bottom of the stomach. The lower portion of the stomach (the glandular region) has a protective mucus layer, but the upper squamous region has no such layer. When horses move, the acid sloshes around reaching the unprotected area which can lead to an ulcer. When the acid flows through the small intestine, cecum and large colon, it can cause further damage along its wake, possibly leading to colic or ulcerative colitis.

“Allowing horses to eat hay or graze a pasture prior to a workout (15 minutes should be enough). Feedings like this tend to keep horses healthy and free from physical and mental discomfort,” she adds.

Dr. Getty has been quoted widely in magazines such as Horse and Rider, Equus and others.  To find out more about her educational offerings, go to gettyequinenutrition.com

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