Healthy Forage Idea's For Weight Loss
STRAW-is it your horse’s new best friend?
Thankfully, most owners are now becoming switched on to understand that horses cannot go for longer than a couple of hours without forage, or they risk developing digestive ulcers and other diet-related medical conditions. Going too long without food causes our Equine friends significant stress to the body through the overproduction of stomach acid and distress to the psyche and their mental well-being, as it prevents them from carrying out species-appropriate behaviour.
This is because horses always produce stomach acid and need a constant slow flow of fibrous matter trickling through their digestive systems to keep these gastric acids at bay. Hence, their digestive system continues to work correctly. Therefore, eating little often meets our horses’ instincts as a species, providing them with a slow feed conveyor belt of food and the psychological comfort that comes from that for a much happier and healthier horse.
Due to this information now being available to many more horse owners through more detailed research into the horse’s digestive system, finally feeding adlib hay is becoming the new norm for most owners, and we are seeing impressive results to both the horse's mind and body when hay is being fed this way.
Even more so when paired with using slow-feed hay nets. This approach not only mimics more natural feeding patterns but also cuts down on many of the high-risk sugars previously found in a diet made up of just pasture grasses. Slow feeder hay nets also reduce waste to save the owners money, plus they help the horse to feel there is always food on offer, often improving domestic feeding behaviours and helping our equines to adopt a more positive attitude towards food in general.
Therefore, feeding like this is a big win for all involved, so we sell our own Natural Horse Brand of Slow Feeders.
However, we also know that some horses will eat themselves to death with this approach. Therefore we have found a great way to address this with the introduction of Straw added to the hay, preferably through the Slow Feed Haynets.
We are aware that straw and horses have previously had a bad rap and have not been recommended to be fed to horses due to their low nutrient value, as well as plain straw contains high levels of lignin, which are indigestible fibres. However, more recent studies and research have shown that horses that are being fed with hay and straw in a 50-50 ration, that this balance can work well to provide forage to feed the digestive biome, along with giving our horses a good balance of nutrients, whilst still keeping their waistlines in check.
As with any dry forage, we recommend feeding your horse this hay and straw mix through a slow feed hay net for all the benefits that it brings, including helping moderate their insulin levels and induce a healthy weight loss, and for weight maintenance for a more species-appropriate way of feeding our domestic equines.
The study on the attacked link below supported our findings further. It was conducted by Edinburgh Veterinary University, which showed that using a 50-50 mix of straw fed with hay was a safe way to help your horse lose weight.
Using this approach, many horses, ponies, and donkeys with metabolic risks, such as those with Cushing’s, EMS and Laminitis, will benefit enormously from this feeding approach. It will also help to prevent so many more horses from ever developing these conditions, which is all down to providing plenty of roughage, but with much lower calories and without the high plant sugar risks.
So let us now talk about Straw….
Firstly, which straw to use?
We recommend using clean, good-quality straw, preferably not sprayed with chemicals or fertilisers, and our research has shown Barely or Oat Straw to be the best, as it provides excellent roughage to our horses which helps to moderate insulin levels without the higher calorie content.
Straw pricing and availability?
Our research has shown that straw is readily available in most locations ranging from $4-$14 per bale (*within New Zealand). We have found, in general, that straw is also often much cheaper than hay and, due to its bulk, will often go a long way.
Do horses like straw?
In many of the horses we evaluated, we found they did not like the straw as much as the hay. This is all about how it tastes, as straw has little sugar and is not as sweet. However, we found that some horses did not seem to mind and were quite happy eating it, while others would only eat it once the hay had gone.
The main take-home message from feeding straw is that our horses are not going without any forage and overproducing stomach acid.
So, if you have a good doer and would like to see a smaller waistline on your horse for all the health benefits that brings, or you have an
at-risk equine, we recommend trying to feed them straw as recommended above to help with your horse’s dietary management.
Edinburgh University Study Abstract: https://bvajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/.../vr.105793