Horses and People
Magazine

We share your passion

At newsagents in Australia and New Zealand,
in print, as an app or by subscription.
App Store - Logo Google Play Store - Logo

Low Sugar, Low Starch Diets for the High Performance Horse

28/08/2017 by Gail Sramek, BAppSc Agr, Nutritionist to Mitavite, www.mitavite.com

High performance diets have historically been based on a cereal grain ration fed with roughage.  The high level of sugar and starches in the grains provide energy for the horse to perform, but it can come with complications.  

Raw, cracked and rolled grains are poorly digested and can lead to acidosis, laminitis or colic by overloading the digestive tract. Although more modern processing methods, such as steam extrusion, improve the digestion of grains, owners and trainers are finding not all horses need a high cereal grain diet to obtain the energy they need to compete at elite levels.  

Well digested, low starch, low sugar, high oil, nutrient dense concentrates are becoming more popular to provide horses with the correct level of energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, without the complications of a cereal grain based ration.  

By feeding a nutrient balancer with no added grains, such as Mitavite® Munga® with a steam extruded rice-based energy supplement, such as Vitamite® Show Primer®, and added oils and super fibres, such as Performa 3® oil and Speedibeet®, sugar and starch levels in the ration may be lowered.  

This type of ration can have the following benefits:

  • Improved behaviour - by keeping sugar and starch levels to a minimum, horses that are easily excited or hard to manage may be kept calmer.  Poorly digested sugar and starch in the small intestine can pass through to the hindgut and produce heat, acid and gas that may contribute to agitation and excitability seen in some horses.  
  • Reduce the effects of metabolic disorders - poorly digested and high levels of sugar and starch can exacerbate some metabolic disorders.  
  • Minimise digestive disorders - lactic acid, heat and gas are produced in the hindgut when sugars and starches pass through the small intestine undigested. This can affect the delicate pH and balance of microbes in the hindgut, which may lead to disorders. such as hindgut acidosis, colic and diarrhoea. 
  • Provide an alternative energy source – high oil feeds offer an alternative form of energy to a cereal grain based ration. Oils are digested in the small intestine taking the load off the hindgut to provide a slow release, cool energy source, which provides an alternative to feeding sugar and starch to horses.  

Cereal grains certainly have a place in some rations, although feeding a ration that provides energy in a cool, well digested form that is low in sugar and starch, and balanced for protein, vitamins and minerals can be a favourable alternative for high performance horses.  

For more information on feeding your horse, please visit the Mitavite website at www.mitavite.com or enrol at www.advocate.mitavite.com for a free online equine nutrition course.