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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Do Not Withhold Forage from Your Horse

Before Exercise 

A tip from Dr. Juliet M. Getty, PhD

 

November 2011 issue

 

Truth or myth? The horse’s stomach should be empty while exercising to avoid digestive upset.

 

      Myth. Mostly.

      We don’t feel comfortable exercising after a large meal and we therefore assume that our horses don’t either.

      But define a “meal.” We generally think of a meal as feeding a commercially fortified feed—something that comes out of a bag.

      Or we may feed a meal of oats along with supplements. And in this instance, the myth is actually truth. This type of meal—low in fiber and high in feedstuffs that provide starch, protein, and fat—should not be fed immediately before exercising your horse. But forage should! It’s just the opposite: Restrict forage before exercise and you’ll produce, rather than avoid, digestive upset. Here’s why…

      The horse’s stomach, unlike our own, secretes acid all the time. That’s right—it never stops. Chewing produces saliva, a natural antacid. But left without anything to chew, the acid will accumulate in the stomach and settle along the bottom (as water would in an empty jar).

      The lower portion of the stomach (the glandular region) has a protective mucus layer, but the upper squamous region has no such lining. Ask your horse to move, and the acid sloshes around, reaching the unprotected area, leading to an ulcer.

      And, as the acid flows through the small intestine, cecum, and large colon, it can cause further damage along its wake, potentially leading to colic and ulcerative colitis.

      Allow your horse to graze on hay or pasture before asking him to move; 15 minutes ought to do the trick. You’ll keep him healthy and save him from physical and mental discomfort, which will all add up to his being more relaxed and receptive.

 

            Dr. Juliet Getty has taught and consulted on equine nutrition for more than 20 years. Her website, www.gettyequinenutrition.com, offers a library of helpful articles, a forum on nutrition, and a calendar of appearances, teleconferences and interviews. Dr. Getty’s comprehensive reference book, Feed Your Horse Like A Horse: Optimizing your horse’s nutrition for a lifetime of vibrant health, is available in hardcover and CD-ROM (pdf file) through her website or at Amazon.com. Dr. Getty offers a free monthly e-newsletter, “Forage for Thought”; sign up through the website.

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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