Horses love grains. If you left the door to the feed shed open, your horse would happily eat until there was none left behind. Alas for your grain loving horse, though, grain is far from a necessary part of their regular diet, and not all grains are created equal. Colic in horses is caused by several key factors, but one of them is when grain passes undigested through the stomach and into the hindgut to ferment. Too many sugars and starches in a diet can also ferment in the hindgut. This fermentation is where the trouble begins.
Colic in horses happens more often in grain fed horses
In the wild horses only really encounter grain in the form of seedheads on plants and not in the volume they get in their feed bucket in a stable. Equine teeth are more than capable of grinding seeds. However, their digestive system isn’t as able to process it. Horse digestion is made for high-fibre, low carbs whereas grain are just the opposite. Colic in horses happens more often in grain fed horses compared to those who only eat forages such as hay and grass. As many of us know, excess grain can result in all sorts of dire consequences not limited to colic or founder.
In their natural form, grains supply very little in the way of vitamins, which is why commercially mixed feeds typically have supplements added. However, they do provide the critical phosphorus that may be lacking in a horse’s forage only diet. Hay and pasture provide lots of calcium, but without phosphorus, bones aren’t built and maintained, and muscles aren’t repaired. A balance must be preserved. So, to prevent grain overfeeding while still providing the necessary minerals, a slow feeder is a fantastic idea which is better than having you running out to your stable to feed your horse half a dozen times a day.
High fibre grain is best to prevent colic in horses
Not all grains are created equal, and different sections of the planet have different grains readily available which is why you’ll probably want to buy a pre-mixed feed. When you’re buying your feed, it’s a very good idea to look at the stats on the side of the feedbag or ask for them if they’re not readily available. You want as high as fiber as possible and low as carbs as possible while still getting the extra goodies your horse wants. Your equine athletes wants the yummy tasting feed while you want to prevent colic in your horse. Food, as is life, is something to keep in balance.