Equine Gastric Ulcers (EGUS) affect many horses. The disease can have a significant impact on horses’ daily life and overall wellbeing. For the past two years, gastric disorders including colic and ulcers, were the number one cause for Horse Insurance claims being made at SEIB Insurance Brokers*.
Following veterinary treatment for Gastric Ulcers, knowing what to feed your horse to keep him fit, healthy and ulcer free can sometimes be challenging.
Dr Katie Williams MSc (Dist) R Nutr, Technical & Product Development Manager at Dengie Horse feeds answered our questions relating to forage and ulcers and shared the findings from the latest studies and research trials.
Can I use alfalfa for horses with ulcers?
Yes, and leading researchers around the world recommend you do! The latest study (Julliand et al, 2023) reported that clinical success in horses with EGGD was 47.7 times more likely when alfalfa pellets were included as part of the ration compared to those on concentrate rations. The natural buffering potential of alfalfa and the much lower levels of starch compared to cereal based feeds mean alfalfa is a logical choice for those wanting to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers. This is why Dengie Healthy Tummy and Dengie Alfa-A Oil both carry the BETA approval mark for horses and ponies prone to EGUS. It is an independently assessed scheme involving the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so you can trust approved products are safe to use.
Can a horse perform hard work on a high fibre diet?
Yes! A study published in Frontiers in Physiology (Martin et al, 2023) showed that horses in high intensity exercise fed high fibre diets, performed to the same level as those fed high starch diets. The study continued for 8 weeks and was carried out in Standardbred horses in training. The researchers suggest that the results indicate metabolic benefits exist from training performance horses to utilise more fibre which is in addition to the health and behavioural benefits associated with high fibre rations.
Can I use haylage for a horse with ulcers?
Concerns about using a true haylage relate to levels of acidity – a fermented forage is more acidic and so not ideal for horses with ulcers. But, many so-called haylages are actually better described as wrapped hays as little or no fermentation has occurred. This means the levels of acidity are no different to hay and so there is no reason not to use them especially for horses needing more energy for work or condition. Analysing your forage to establish the level of acidity is really important – ask your supplier or visit dengie.com/forage analysis for more information.
Is it safe to use straw for horses with ulcers?
Yes, a recent study (Jansson et al, 2021) showed that replacing up to 50% of haylage with straw did not result in ulcers. Misunderstanding comes from an older study where straw was identified as a risk factor but only when fed as the sole or majority source of forage consumed. Replacing half of a grass-based forage with straw reduces the energy intake by around 15-25% which will make a massive difference to a horse’s weight and long-term health. Straw is a key ingredient in Dengie Ulser Lite as it means we can provide a low calorie, high fibre feed with additional ingredients to help maintain gastric health.
For more information on feeding horses with ulcers please visit www.dengie.com or call the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188.
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