Horses will actively seek out roughage
Horses will actively seek out roughage

The link between concentrates and behavioural issues – interesting recent research on equine nutrition from Shelhi Horne.

  • Foals weaned onto concentrates have a four times higher chance of crib-biting than those weaned onto forage diets.
  • Horses fed moderate starch levels (22% of the diet) had increased heart rates compared with those on high-forage diets, which could indicate more reactivity and increased tension (like spookiness or hot behaviour) in the starch-fed horses.
  • Feeding 1.1 to 2g of starch per kilogram of body weight showed a higher insulin response than horses fed less than 1.1g of starch per kilogram of body weight.
  • Stabled horses fed with multiple forages showed more foraging behaviour and no incidences of weaving among test horses compared with when they were offered a single forage source.
  • Horses fed low-fibre complete pellet diets searched for food 11.5% of the day and ate for 10% of the day compared with those fed forage, who searched for 1.5% and ate for 61.5% of the day.
  • Faecal pH is lower (more acidic) in low-fibre diets.
  • Cribbing has been shown to increase immediately after feeding a concentrate meal, indicating it is linked to concentrate feeding.
  • Switching from a moderate to high-grain diet did not increase weaving or cribbing in horses with already established habits, suggesting even moderate grain intake results in these behaviours.

Text: Peta Daniel
This article appears in the November issue of HQ.