A British equine nutritionist is urging owners to consider adding more fibre in their horses’ diet in order to maintain hydration in warmer weather.
Winergy Equilibrium horse feeds nutritionist Clare Barfoot said that as little as 2% dehydration can affect performance.
“Our research suggests that opting for a higher fibre diet may increase water-holding capacity, giving the horse a larger reservoir to draw on for more efficient hydration and performance. ”
Barfoot said the research showed that horses fed a high fibre diet were less dehydrated after exercise than those fed a diet with limited forage. “This is because fibre allows more fluid to be stored in the hindgut, providing an additional source of water and electrolytes.”
The hindgut of a 500kg horse may contain between 35 and 80 litres of fluid, providing a source of water and electrolytes during exercise. Fibre forms a complex matrix of inter-connecting fibres that hold and bind water in the hindgut allowing it to be absorbed by the body to support hydration.
Horses lose water continuously through their skin and from their respiratory system. During exercise in hot weather they may lose up to 15 litres of fluid per hour, including vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium. Electrolytes are critical for efficient body function and excessive losses can contribute to serious conditions including Equine Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome (ERS), also known as tying up.
Winergy Equilibrium produces horse feeds based solely on scientific research and trials with horses in Britain. Its feeds provide a higher fibre diet and all include alfalfa, which is thought to have a better water holding capacity than grass hays. This potentially encourages the development of a larger hindgut fluid reservoir without necessarily adding significant weight.