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Understanding the structure and function of the horse’s gastrointestinal (GI) system is critical to making rational decisions about the nutritional program.
The foregut of the horse is comprised of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
Proteins are absorbed as amino acids, fats as fatty acids and glycerol, starch and sugar as simple sugars (glucose) and minerals and vitamins as the simple vitamin or mineral or as a small complex. The fermentation of fiber results in the production of volatile fatty acids (VFA; usually acetic, propionic and butyric), vitamins B, C and K, and microbial protein.
Additionally, the horse in the wild is typically grazing on sparse vegetation, not the lush pastures often seen today. The horse’s evolutionary response when on lush pastures for long periods of time will be to eat continually, often leading to obesity, colic and laminitis. When keeping horses in stall or drylot confinement, it is preferable to feed as many times per day as feasible. Horse with large daily calorie requirements, like lactating mares, growing foals and certain horses in hard work, can do well on pasture, but do not let these horses become overweight.
Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC) - carbohydrates solubilized and extracted in 80% ethanol.
Why Do Fat & Fiber Behave Differently than Sugar & Starch in the Diet of the Horse??
The digestion and absorption of NSC (starch is absorbed from the small intestine as simple sugar - glucose) causes an increase in blood GLUCOSE which, in turn, causes and increase in blood INSULIN. Fibers are digested at varying rates in the hindgut by microbial enzymes and are metabolized to volatile fatty acids – again, no significant metabolic effects.
Fiber digestibility is related to the amounts of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin in the feedstuff. It is reasonable to hypothesize that many hours of elevated insulin per day for many years could certainly lead to insulin resistance, as the body becomes less sensitive due to over exposure. NSC Content of Feedstuff (% NSC) – the concentration of NSC in a feed, in combination with amount of feed and rate of intake are related to the response. It is evident that IR horses had higher resting glucose levels than normal horses, even though both groups were within the reference range.
As insulin causes the major issues of concern, like laminitis and hyperactivity, we can concentrate on insulin responses. A more detailed look at the data shows an interesting difference between IR and normal horses. The blue lines show the ratio of insulin to glucose for insulin resistant horses, the brown lines show the ratio of insulin to glucose for the normal horses. We see that, at all levels of NSC intake, the IR horses have a much greater insulin response to glucose levels than normal horses.
It is prudent to supply as many calories as possible with non-NSC calorie sources like fat and digestible fiber. 1 starch plus ESC simple sugars 2 horses who are diagnosed with, or at risk for, Cushing's disease, equine metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
Protein quality (essential amino acid balance) is critical for muscle structure and function as well as overall tissue repair.


HYPP positive horses are sensitive to high levels of potassium in their diets, as well as sudden changes in potassium levels.
Provide balance of nutrients with concentrate formulated with low potassium (<1%) and highly digestible fiber source, such as beet pulp and soy hulls . FORAGES Alfalfa (pasture) Alfalfa (early bloom hay) Alfalfa (mid-bloom hay) *Beet Pulp (20% CF) Ky.
What feed can be used to minimize NSC but assure adequate intake of other critical nutrients (amino acids, vitamins, minerals)? Many nutrition-related health issues we see in horses today are related to feeding HIGH NSC DIETS. It is important to consider the horse’s TOTAL DIET when determining the proper course of action.
Supplying needed calories with FAT and HIGHLY DIGESTIBLE FIBER is the safest way to manage horses with metabolic issues related to high NSC diets. Effect of dietary starch, fat, and bicarbonate content on exercise responses and serum creatine kinase activity in equine recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis.
The ranks of obese Americans are expected to swell even further in the coming years, rising from 36% of the adult population today to 42% by 2030, experts said Monday. Kicking off a government-led conference on the public health ramifications of all those expanding waistlines, the authors of a new report estimated that the cost of treating those additional obese people for diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions would add up to nearly $550 billion over the next two decades. The sobering projections also contained some good news, the researchers said: Obesity's growth has slowed from the record pace of most of the last 30 years. The findings are based on data collected from 1990 through 2008 as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a survey by the CDC and health departments in the states.
In January, two CDC studies suggested that obesity rates were stabilizing at 17% for children and 35% for adults.
Public health experts have concluded that the best way to attack the obesity crisis is to prevent people from becoming obese in the first place. For weight gain to be averted ? let alone reversed ? policymakers would have to move beyond politically palatable initiatives such as removing sugary sodas from schools and planting community gardens in urban food deserts, said Robert Jeffery, an epidemiologist and weight-loss researcher at the University of Minnesota. Honestly, WALL-E's view of the future of technology and convenience compared to our ever growing bodies sitting in a chair with a world of entertainment at our fingertips is pretty accurate at a basic level. Socialization accomplished in an online environment to replace direct human interaction also seems inevitable.
The primary function of the foregut is the digestion and absorption of protein, fat, sugars, starch, vitamins and most minerals.
Two of the primary functions of the hindgut are digestion of dietary fiber and reabsorption of water. As mentioned above, the cecum positioned after the small intestine minimizes the utilization of some of the fermentation products, mainly the microbial protein.
Had a horse in the wild come across a lush area of vegetation, he would consume it, not sure when his next large meal would be found. Sugars are metabolized to LACTIC ACID when used for energy in the muscle and other body tissues. Thus, aggravates the hormonal environment of the Cushing’s horse and contributes to developmental disease in young horses by inhibiting growth hormone. When used for energy by the muscles, fats are metabolized to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) – no significant metabolic effects.
The most digestible is hemicelluloses, next is cellulose, while lignin is totally indigestible to the horse.


The difference in insulin to glucose responses between IR and normal horses become less at higher levels of NSC intake. Maximum concentrate NSC1 recommendations for metabolically challenged2 and normal horses (metric version). Maximum concentrate NSC1 recommendations for metabolically challenged2and normal horses (US-English version). The Veterinarian’s Practical Reference to Equine Nutrition, American Association of Equine Practitioners. Role of dietary carbohydrate and fat in horses with equine polysaccharide storage myopathy. Plasma glucose and insulin responses of Thoroughbred mares fed a meal high in starch and sugar or fat and fiber.
Measures of obesity were based on body mass index, which is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. They place a particular emphasis on children, based on a statistic that emerged from the landmark Bogalusa Heart Study: 77% of obese children become obese adults, while only 7% of non-obese children do. Very likely, junk food would have to be taxed to discourage consumption, and advertising for those products would have to be prohibited, he said. I just hope that eating healthy continues gaining popularity so that my generation might be saved. One of the main differences is the functional cecum in the horse that behaves much like the rumen of a cow.
Digestion is aided by enzymes secreted by the horse itself and occurs mainly in the early part of the small intestine.. Enzymes secreted by the microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa and fungi) break down fiber from cell walls, which is primarily made up of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. As a result, the horse has the smallest stomach compared to his body size of any domestic animal.
Such a practice can increase the horse’s feed efficiency up to 10% and reduce likelihood of colic and laminitis. In a horse fed twice a day, this means insulin may be elevated for 8 – 12 hours each day. Just the % NSC alone if a relatively small factor – case in point, if a horse eats one kernel of corn at 75% NSC, they will be little to no response.
An important difference is the horse’s cecum is positioned DISTAL to the small intestine, while the rumen of the cow is PROXIMAL to the small intestine. During the elevation, many of the negative effects of insulin discussed above are in action.
What we see in these studies is a much more pronounced insulin response in the IR horses compared to the normal horses, even when glucose if within the reference range. Thus, many of the benefits of microbial fermentation are lost due to the position of the cecum in the horse. The blue lines show the data for insulin resistant horses, the brown lines show the responses of the normal horses.



Glucose levels vs a1c levels
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