Promotional Feature with NAF
Kate Hore RNutr(Animal) Nutritionist at NAF
As we all aspire to improve with our horses, we need them to be sound, happy and healthy to work to the best of their ability and achieve their athletic potential. However increasingly we recognise that the modern equine life of stabling, performance work and regular travel can challenge gastric health. Imagine how you would feel if asked to run in a race or perform a set of gymnastic movements, while you were feeling less than 100%. Maybe you’d got a niggling tummy ache? The chances are you wouldn’t be able to give your best. However this is the reality for a large number of performance horses. Research shows that up to approximately 60% of sport and leisure horses are affected by gastric stress, and that rises to pandemic proportions when considering racehorses, as well as those taking part in endurance competitions.
Surely our horses will tell us if they’re uncomfortable? Not necessarily. Certainly there are signs, like discomfort on girthing, a dull coat or poor performance; but signs may be subtle, vary with individuals and aren’t always proportionate to the issue. Indeed it is understood that many horses have evidence of gastric discomfort without showing any outward signs at all.
So how can we help our horses to feel more comfortable, and so perform to their best?
Starting with the overall diet, we need to feed in a natural, high-fibre way, reducing the levels of concentrate, starchy feeds as much as possible. Ensure the diet does not exceed 1g/kg bodyweight of starch per meal, and that concentrate feeds (if required) are split between multiple feeds through the day. For performance horses, the energy lost by reducing grain ration needs to be redressed, and this can be done by feeding additional oil. Oils are a safe and easily metabolised form of energy for horses. Look for oils providing omega 3 fatty acids to support anti-inflammatory processes, and do ensure that, if feeding for energy, the level fed is increased gradually and balanced with supplementary Vitamin E.
Once we’re feeding a balanced diet, what else can we do? We are increasingly recognising the role of targeted supplementary nutrition in maintaining comfort for working horses.
Feeding pre and probiotics is recognised for the stability and health of the microbiota particularly in the hind-gut. However if we want to support the whole digestive tract, including the stomach, we need a more complex approach. Probiotics are still important, to support the gastric microbiota, but in that acidic environment we also need to ensure pH is maintained and stomach walls soothed. For these horses we would recommend feeding NAF GastriAid for total digestive tract support. GastriAid contains herbal support for gut health from psyllium, to condition the stomach and gut lining, together with the soothing antacid properties of sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate, and pre and probiotics for total microbiome health. By supporting the whole digestive tract, GastriAid is the ideal choice to maintain immune function and condition in all horses and ponies, maintaining health and vitality whatever the weather!
Finally, don’t forget the electrolytes for all working horses. Research shows that to maintain gastric comfort we should avoid concentrated electrolytes given by syringe¹, but products such as NAF Electrosalts or Electro Liquid, given in feed or water, do not represent a risk.
1: Holbrook TC et al (2005) Effect of repeated oral administration of hypertonic electrolyte solution on equine gastric mucosa. Equine Veterinary Journal. Nov 37(6) p501-4