With how large horses are and the power they can exert, you would expect their digestive tract to be just as hardy. This is not the case! Digestion in a horse is a finicky process that can be easily disrupted by the wrong foods, lack of nutrients, or an excess of nutrients. Fiber will always be important in your horses’ diets to give them energy, but what are the advantages of a forage first diet for horses?
First and foremost, forage gives your horses the energy they need to stay active. Because horses may have difficulty digesting high-fat content food, the bacteria in a horse’s hindgut process fiber into volatile fatty acids that can be absorbed as nutrients by the horse. Long strand fiber will digest slower than shorter flakes or cubes, which can be an advantage when fed in the correct amount. Slower digesting fiber is how your horse was designed to eat, which may help with weight gain and behavioral issues.
Often, high fiber feed will supplement some healthy fat to make up for the calories burnt while eating. Be sure to read through all the ingredients on anything you feed your horses.
Preventing Health Problems
One of the main health concerns that every horse owner wants to avoid is colic. An advantage of a high fiber diet for horses is that fiber helps to keep the digestive tract moving smoothly, which reduces the risk of many types of colic. However, impaction colic is different from displacement colic and is caused by a blockage of sand or dirt that can be consumed while eating food off the pasture ground. While forage can help your horse digest sugars found in grain, it can’t help them digest indigestible material.
Fiber can also assist in preventing dehydration, as the dryness of the material while chewing can inspire your horse to drink water afterward. Not only that, but the fiber also digests slowly and promotes the retention of water in the lower intestine. Higher water retention means that your horse can go longer before getting dehydrated.
It’s also easy to prevent and manage dental issues when you feed forage. If you watch your horse carefully while they eat, you’ll quickly see if they can chew the food properly. Feed that is high in fiber can come in cubes or easy to chew chopped hay, so if their dental problems aren’t fixable, their digestion doesn’t need to suffer.
Fibrous Feed Relieves Boredom
If your horse doesn’t have access to pasture or areas to graze, they can get bored fast. Providing high fiber hay for horses, such as Lucerne Farms’ Hi-Fiber Forage, can give your horse a lot to chew on, so to speak. Feed mixes that add molasses can also improve the taste, so even your pickiest horse will eat it!