The soluble carbohydrate content of ingredients in
feedstuffs are typically sugars and starches. The amount
of soluble carbohydrates in feedstuffs can be very
different. An example is that alfalfa hay has a soluble
carbohydrate content that is twice the amount of timothy
hay. The amount of soluble carbohydrate content may be
nearly double the amount found in alfalfa hay with some
textured feeds. The digestive enzymes in the small
intestine take the sugars and starches in a horseís diet
and convert them into glucose before they are absorbed
into the blood.
When horses are fed diets that have a high soluble carbohydrate content their
blood glucose levels are higher and the more food you give them the higher these
levels are going to get. The increasing blood glucose causes insulin to be
released as a response. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body cells to
absorb the glucose this means that the more glucose secreted then the more
insulin that is released by the body in response.
There has been no study yet to prove that horses that are sensitive to high
soluble carbohydrate diets are more likely to have hyperactive behavior.
However, studies involving humans and rats have shown evidence that suggests
manic behavior may result from higher circulating levels of glucose and insulin.
Feeding less grain and more hay is one way that you can lower the glucose and
insulin peaks in an affected horse and therefore possibly decrease any
hyperactive behavior. Feeding a larger proportion of hay in a horseís diet will
lower the dietary levels of sugars and starches since hay is lower in soluble
carbohydrates. A horse that weights 1,100 pounds and has light work can have
their daily digestible energy needs met with eleven pounds of hay and eight
pounds of textured or pellet feed per day or by giving sixteen pounds of hay and
just five pounds of feed.
Another thing that can help is to feed your horse grain more frequently. The
recommendation for grain concentrate is typically no more than a half-percent of
body weight per individual feeding. This means that for a 1,100 pound horse they
would be fed no more than 5.5 pounds at one time. You should divide your daily
feedings into three equal feedings instead of two if you are feeding your horse
over eleven pounds of grain each day.
It is a good idea to use alfalfa based feed or beet pulp. These types of feeds
have lower soluble carbohydrate content than a grain-based, low-fiber feed. It
is also helpful to feed fat-added feeds since they have a higher energy density
as a result of more calories per pound than feeds that donít have added fat.
These high-fat feeds also have lower amounts of soluble carbohydrates and leave
more room for hay since less grain is required. A lower concentrate feeding rate
is a good feeding program since is means less soluble carbohydrate content for
Less grain and more hay is also allowed with fat supplements which have a more
concentrated source of calories. As greater performance demands cause a great
need for energy then this is important. Consider just how you would have to meet
the digestible energy needs of a 1,100 pound horse with a moderate work
schedule. Fourteen pounds of hay and nine pounds of supplements would be needed
for meet digestible energy needs or you could feed sixteen pounds of hay and one
pound of rice bran and six and a half pounds of supplements.
After feeding it may be a good idea to delay riding for about four hours. After
about four hours the peak blood glucose and insulin level will have returned to
normal ranges. From a management aspect this may be a bit difficult especially
if you have a horse that is particularly difficult, but you may want to try it.
The only thing you risk loosing by doing this is your temper and contact with