What should you be feeding your horse?
A study conducted by veterinary researchers at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México in Toluca found that supplementing a horse's diet with fibrolytic enzymes (agents that help break down the components of plant matter) maximizes nutrient digestion, absorption, and utilization.
The study, headed by Prof. Dr. A.Z.M. Salem, took two groups of mares and offered both groups a basic diet of low quality wheat bran, oat straw, and a commercial concentrate, but supplemented one group's feed with two fibrolytic enzymes: cellulase and xylanase.
The researchers found that after 15 days, the group of mares whose diet had been supplemented with the enzymes had a higher overall intake of forage, and a higher total nutrient intake than the control group. The study also found that the enzymatic supplement led to decreased coliform counts (an indication of diarrhea-causing bacteria) and gas production in the mares.
These results suggested that the enzymatic supplements helped the mares digest dry matter more efficiently. The researchers did not observe any adverse effects of supplementation in the test group.
The Toluca study was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. The research team noted that further studies using different types of forage as a basal diet would be worthwhile in this vein of research.
According to veterinarian Stacey Oke, horses have evolved to forage for at least two-thirds of the day, so constant access to grass and hay is essential to equine health. However, in the absence of high quality forage, dietary supplements of fibrolytic enzymes such as those used in the Toluca study can help fill the holes in a horse's diet.
Do you feed your horse supplements? Tell us in the comments below.
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