Feeding Regiment and Nutritional Effect

Feeding and the gut

The evolutionary horse was forever moving and covered large distances on a daily basis. While on the move, they would continuously graze. Horses are non-ruminant herbivores. The stomach capacity is approximately able to carry 8L at a time. This small pocket limits food intake per feeding. The stomach releases enzymes to initiate the digestion process and is unable to absorb nutrients. The small intestine digests most the nutrients and absorbs sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, trace elements, vitamins and minerals. The large intestine ferments fibrous materials and undigested matter passed through the small intestine. Its main function is to absorb water. The microbial population of the hind gut, dynamically adapt approximately over 14 days to match new dietary intake. Sudden feed changes cause a digestive upset as the gut bacteria present in the large intestine are not formulated to process the new food intake without sufficient time to process the feed changes.

Horses do not have a gall bladder, making it difficult to digest fats. Horses are unable to regurgitate food, making then unable to vomit should they over eat.

Problems arising from the intestinal tract

Gastric Ulcers

An ulcer is a lesion in the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. A small lesion may heal itself, while severe lesions may leave scarring or ultimately may result in death if untreated. Ulcers are generally related to stress, added processed foods in the diet and bulk meal schedules that leave the horse without access to food for long intervals in-between meals.  Clinical signs include poor appetite, decreased energy levels, weight loss and changes in the horse’s attitude. They may exhibit sensitivity to being girthed or even develop stable vices such as crib-biting or weaving.


Colic is an abdominal pain resulting from the disturbance of the gasto-intestinal tract. Colic can be caused by abrupt feeding changes, parasite infestation, ingestion of sand/soil, climate changes, stress and poor mastication.

There are many types of colic, all varying in severity

Gas Colic Accumulation of gas in the stomach and intestines, causing gut distension and abdominal pain. Normally a result of consumption of large quantities of grain or ingesting mouldy feed.

Spasmodic Colic This presents itself as painful contractions of the smooth muscles of the intestines. Anxiety or over excitement could be the trigger

Enteritis Inflammation of the intestines due to dietary changes in volume and type of food ingested

Impaction Colic The large intestine flexes dynamically and fluctuates in size. At the point of reduction entering the cecum, food blockages may occur and block further movement through the intestines. Impaction colic is normally associated with dry dehydrated food or a decrease in water intake. An accumulation of sand/soil may also disrupt the flow of food.

Displacement Colic The small intestine is suspended in the abdominal cavity and floats freely in the gut. Displacement colic can be caused by gas or a twist . Blood supply is cut off at the twisting point while food movement becomes restricted. This type of colic needs immediate surgery to repair the portion of the damaged intestine due to the restriction of blood flow.

Stomach distension Caused by the ingestion of large amounts of grain at one serving. Could be fatal if the stomach ruptures.

Signs of colic include sweating, rolling, pawing, bloating, back legs tucked under, back legs stretched out, absence in gut sounds, increased pulse and loss of appetite.


Laminitus is the inflammation of the sensitive laminae in the horses hoof. The laminae secure the pedal bone to the hoof wall. If blood supply to the laminae is disrupted, inflammation occurs, weakening the structures and ultimately resulting in the sinking of the pedal bone. The pedal bone may even protrude through the sole of the hoof, this called a solar prolapse.

Causes of laminitus

Nutrition induced Laminitus is often seen in horses. Horses are designed to digest carbohydrates, starches and sugars in the small intestine and fibres in the hind gut. With a Non Sructural Carbohydrate overload, the small intestine is under strain, the digestion of some sugars and starches overflows to the hind gut for assistance. The microflora levels in the hind gut become disrupted which then increases acidity levels as the bacteria try break down the sugars and starches. The bacteria that normally stabilize digestion, slowly die from the excess acid, these then release toxins into the bloodstream through the gut wall. The release of these toxins disrupts blood flow. When the hooves are deprived of blood, they become laminitic.

Other forms of laminitus are obesity dependent laminitus, stress, severe toxaemia infection, concussion, Cushing’s Disease and insulin resistance.

Symptoms of laminitus include reluctance to move, visible lameness, increased digital pulse and a tendency to lie down. Chronic laminitus will present temperature rings on the hoof wall. The heel tends to grow faster, elevating the toe slightly.

Detoxification and bowel flush

We detoxify our horses weekly on their rest day. The process decontaminates the system from the ingestion of toxins and free radicals, replenishes the major organs and ultimately supports the metabolic system. Ensure that your horse has free access to water.

Start your first detox with 10 g of Epson Salts and move the scale up by 10 grams each week till you reach a maximum of 70grams

  • 400g Wheat bran
  • 400g The meal you are currently feeding
  • 10-70g Epson Salts
  • Warm water

Thoroughly mix all the above ingredients together and feed

Royal Feeds




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