Equine Nutrition FAQ’s – Providing Energy
Please click on the question to see the answer
Ask Dr. Bray a Question
I cannot feed my horse anything that has grain. My horse seems to get high at the site of alfalfa or the smell of grains feeds. What can I feed my horse to give him energy but not make him high as a kite?
You need to first take a look at what is being fed compared to how the horse is used. This page on How to Determine What to Feed Your Horse offers a series of questions that helps me have the necessary understanding of your horse to suggest an appropriate balanced diet.
Early commercial formulas were grain-based with corn, barley, and oats as three of the first four ingredients. Those early formulas did not have added fat and only contained about 2.5% fat. Today, rice bran and oil are added to formulas and fat content will vary from 4-12 %. As a young horseman I never cared for those heavy grain-based feeds which influenced how I developed balanced formulas for Integrity Horse Feeds. Integrity Lite contains 4.5% fat with the fat sources from rice bran and oil.
There is a lot of confusion in the industry on “hot feeds” or what causes a “hot horse.” Experience has showed me time and time again that there are other reasonable explanations for this behavior. While I am also not a fan of heavy grain-based feeds, it may not be the cure you are seeking for your horse being at the higher spectrum of energy or having excitable reactions to their surroundings
I have a horse that is very hot when riding. What do you recommend feeding?
The “hotness” is more likely associated with breeding (genetics) or other management factors and not with diet. There is a lot of confusion in the industry on “hot feeds” or what causes a “hot horse” and usually there are plethora of other reasonable explanations for horses that are at the higher spectrum of energy or have excitable reactions to their surroundings.
I cannot feed my horse anything with grain it in. He seems to get high at the site of alfalfa or the smell of grain-based feeds. What can I feed my horse to give him energy, but not make him high as a kite?
Early commercial formulas were grain-based, with corn, barley and oats as three of the first four ingredients. Those early formulas had approximately 2.5% fat content and did not contain added fat. Today, rice bran and oil are added to formulas, and fat content varies from 4% to 12 %. As a young horseman, I never cared for those heavy grain-based feeds; this influenced how I developed balanced formulas for Integrity products. Integrity Lite contains 4.5% fat, with the fat sources from rice bran and oil.
There is a lot of confusion in the industry about “hot feeds,” or what causes a “hot horse.” Experience tells me that there are other reasonable explanations for horses that burn higher levels or energy or have excitable reactions to their surroundings. Perhaps the “hot horse” syndrome is analogous to the hyperactivity in children who eat candy, which is interesting since every child study summary I have read demonstrated that sugar/starch consumption does not make a child hyper.
I have a cutting horse that's just coming back from a suspensory injury and I have to ride him at a walk for an hour at a time. He's trying to be polite but he has way too much energy. I'm currently giving him just a half-scoop of the same Integrity Senior I've fed him forever. Would that small amount make a difference in his energy level? Should I stop giving it to him while he's recovering? Right now, less energy is better.
Nevertheless, with the recovery program that you noted, I would suggest the Integrity Lite. It’s a balanced formula that supplies the required nutrients, produces lower energy and contains more fiber, yet contains no grains. Once you start to work him to a jog and lope with some extension, then you can make the switch back to Integrity Adult/Senior. The Integrity product line was developed using similar ingredients so that switching from one Integrity product to another can be more safely expedited, when compared to switching between feeds that have uncommon ingredients.
The amount of Integrity Lite depends on the horse’s body weight and condition score, as well as the amount and type of hay it’s being fed, among other factors. However, if I assume your horse is in the 1050 – 1100 lb. weight range, then I would suggest starting with about 2.5 lbs. of the Integrity Lite and adjusting the amount as you go along to maintain a body condition score of 5.5. As your work intensity increases, you will need to increase his food as well.
I am feeding 4 cups of Integrity Adult/Senior each day with alfalfa and my horse has more energy with his ground work and the hair coat looks so shiny. Will that make him hot and are starches bad for him?
The way you know that oats are a small amount in the formula is by noting that oats are the sixth ingredient on the feed label, and that beet pulp and soy hulls, the first two ingredients on the label, are the major ingredients in the Integrity Adult/Senior.
The opinion that “grains will make a horse hot” has been around a long time. As noted in a similar question, every time I have experienced a horse that was energetic, hyper, or “hot”, there was a behavioral or management explanation-it was never due to the horse’s feed.
I am a new horse owner and I was just told that grains will make them hot. What do you think?
I have been feeding horses for 50 years. Every time I have experienced a horse that was energetic, “hyper,” or “hot”, it could be explained behaviorally. It was never related to the feed. Hot-horse syndrome is often paralleled to children eating candy-and numerous studies have demonstrated that sugar and starch consumption does not make a child hyper.
By the way, Integrity Products do not contain corn or barley. The NEW Integrity Performance formula (available soon!) also does not contain corn or barley. Its major fuel sources are rice bran, oil and oats.
My 10 yr. old Andalusian was a stallion until he was 8 years old. I have had him a year and started him on Integrity Lite when he arrived from Spain. He is fed 1-1/4 cups 3 times per day along with Timothy. He is in good condition but could have more energy. His blood test recently was normal. Any suggestions?
You need to add “groceries” so there are two reasonable options for your horse to gain weight. You can increase the current amount of Integrity Lite or you can add Integrity Rice Bran. The Integrity Rice Bran is a new Integrity product that is balanced for calcium and phosphorus and has added probiotic and prebiotic for gut health and integrity. Depending on workload you may be better feeding Integrity Adult/Senior.
I have been happy how my Icelandic mare has been doing on the Integrity Lite feed. In the summer/hot weather months I'd like to give her feed that peps her up a little. Would the Integrity Senior be a safe solution? Or, should I mix the Integrity Lite with the Integrity Senior half and half? She is in proper weight and has no health issues. She is 14 years old.
I am going to do a thru-ride of the Pacific Crest Trail. I have a 1250 lb. horse and an 800 lb. mule. The conditions of our ride are: 2,650 miles over 5-6 months, temperature changes of freezing to over 100 degrees, altitude changes from 500 ft. to 13,000 ft. and 10-12 hours a day with 1 day of rest per week. I am working on the feed regimen for my equines. Are there any publications or published papers on this topic? Do you have any suggestions for helping me work through this problem?
Your endurance journey is an impressive venture. There is of course popular press articles written about endurance riding but without reviewing the literature I do not recall any publication or popular press article that I can recommend. Obviously you will need to be sensitive to conditioning prior to the PCT ride and sensitive to changes in weight during the ride. A few considerations I would encourage:
- Long stem forage daily; important for gut health relative to consistency in gut motility and there is an increase in water consumption with long stem forage consumption compared to processed forage (hay pellet or cubes).
- Although many readers know that I am selective when recommending alfalfa hay, this level of work will require alfalfa to be part of the daily forage. Alfalfa will deliver higher levels of protein, which increases water consumption. Alfalfa also contains higher energy levels than grass forages. I suspect you should be considering alfalfa to be at least 50% of the total forage intake and perhaps even higher.
- Beet pulp, a soluble fiber source, has several attributes for endurance riding with which I am sure you are already familiar. Beet pulp has been documented as a good fuel source for endurance riding because of its affinity for water and it promotes gut integrity. The Integrity Adult/Senior formula’s first two and major ingredients are beet pulp and soybean hull pellet. Both feedstuffs have attributes that are favorable to endurance competitive horses.
- In the previous bullets points emphasis has been placed on forages and the relationship of the fiber source to water. These recommendations are for promoting gut integrity but also for providing a water reservoir in the gut to support hydration during the daily work load.
- You will need to feed a balanced concentrate that is high in fat but not the only fat source. Based on the work load you will want the flexibility to also top dress fat (oil) to provide an addition source of energy when needed. Studies have demonstrated that dietary fat has a sparing effect on utilization of glycogen stores thus delaying the onset of fatigue via lactic acid accumulation. The Integrity Adult/Senior formula has the attributes of the balanced formula required for an endurance horse.
- Include an electrolyte additive during each feeding, 2 hours before the ride, every 2 hours of the work load, and 2 hours after the horse has competed the daily work. There are commercial electrolyte additives but they are expensive. You may want to make your own which is a combination of regular slay and lite salt.
Be sure you acclimatize your horse to the feeds and feeding regime. For this type of endurance endeavor feed amounts will vary, especially on the rest day. Nevertheless consistency in the feeds will be an important nutritional management consideration.
I have a 10 year old paint/pinto horse. She is very healthy and I ride about twice a week and get her out and exercise about 3 times a week. I want to start getting her in shape soon. I just started giving her orchard hay. What else I should be giving her?
I started training my 3 year old Quarter horse but my trainer said he needs more energy and to start feeding oats. Which oats do I use, roll, whole or crimp?
There are a couple exceptions to this recommendation. I am an advocate of adding (or top-dressing) fat (i.e. oil) to the diet as a fuel source. In addition, there are occasions in which I will recommend adding beet pulp to a horse’s diet for the additional benefits of promoting “gut integrity”. So, if you want to add energy to your horse’s diet, feed a balance formula but the formula you need does not have to be loaded with corm, barley or rice bran. Our Integrity Growth would be my recommendation for this age and beginning training level.
I have a 20-year-old warm blood mare in very good health. She is fed a commercial complete formula, rice bran and a joint supplement, with good grass hay. I'm looking at Integrity to maintain her weight, her excellent condition and energy level for her work, but to take her sharpness down a few notches! Would you suggest Integrity Senior or low starch?
The commercial product you are now feeding contains 12% crude protein, 15% crude fiber and 12% crude fat. The first 4 ingredients of your textured feed are beet pulp, cane molasses, whole oats & oil. High fat feeds, such as this one (8% and higher), have their place with horses that are working at the intense to heavy levels of competitive performance or during the first 10 weeks of lactation. However for light to moderate working horses (which I am assuming your mare is in that range), I prefer a balanced formula that is 4 – 7% crude fat and has more variety in the Ingredient panel before the molasses ingredient shows up. Molasses is the 2nd ingredient in the formula you are feeding. The amount of molasses in a texture feed can vary from as low as 3% to as high as 16%. Since ingredient panels list feed quantities of the formula in descending order then molasses is the 2nd ingredient in total weight in that formula. Molasses is NOT one of the ingredients I want to see in the first 4 ingredients listed.
In Integrity Adult/Senior the first four ingredients are beet pulp, soy hull pellet, soybean meal & rice bran. Molasses is the 6th ingredient. This Integrity formula’s guarantee analysis is 13% crude protein, 6.5% crude fat and 16% crude fiber. The 6.5% fat content of this formula is for a very good reason. Fat is an excellent source of fuel and also is an alternative to high starch grains. My approach is that if a horse needs more energy via fat during periods of more intense workouts then I can just add (top-dress) oil to the amount being fed.
One of the benefits with oil is that unlike other feedstuffs oil provides fat, an energy feedstuff that does not contain other nutrients that when top-dressed would adversely influence the nutrient content of the original formula. If a horse needs more or less fuel for work then the flexibility of when to add or reduce the energy via oil does not significantly alter the amounts of feed being fed and does not adversely influence the levels of nutrients being fed. In other words, minimizing the type of feed changes that have the potential of influencing the gut environment unfavorably. Next to meeting energy & nutrient requirements, my number one goal in feeding horses is taking care of gut integrity thus consistency is important.
I was hoping for a feed recommendation for my 18 year old OTTB. She is a hard keeper, excitable, hot, and reactionary. More horse is 16 hands, weights approx. 1,000, and is 18 years young. The vet said she is a 4 Henneke body conditioning. My OTTB does not like the orchard grass hay and barely eats it. She cleans up everything else. I have resorted to putting the grass hay into a hay net for free choice and refilling when it gets low. I have started the hay net this week. Morning: 1 flake of alfalfa Lunch: 1 flake of orchard grass hay Dinner: 1 flake of alfalfa hay & 1 orchard grass hay Snack: 5 lbs of Integrity Adult/Senior without Molasses - feeding time various Work: On average light use. I walk and trot her right now. On average she gets out four to five times a week. I aim to get her out 6 to 7 days a week for an hour at a time. During rainy days I will walk her by hand for an hour. She is high strung and a hard keeper. Her teeth have been done and she is on a deworming schedule. Would transitioning her over to Integrity Lite help with her attitude?
I am reasonably confident that the feed is not the issue. The only grain in Integrity Adult/Senior is oats – and there’s very little considering it is the sixth ingredient in the formula. Additionally, Adult/Senior is one of the lowest sugar/starch balanced formulas on the market, second only to Integrity Lite. There are a multitude of factors that influence a horse’s attitude that are not related to feed. They could be a change in routine or exercise program; change in weather, confinement, paddock routine, or equipment.
For the amount of work and food supply, your OTTB should be able to maintain body weight. Nevertheless, if the BCS is a 4 then you need to add calories or distribute the calories in smaller meals. You may consider feeding three times per day so that there are smaller meal sizes. Older horses tend to have a faster gut mobility once it enters the gut. There are number of physiological/genetic reasons for this response but experience suggest smaller meals maybe helpful.
The dislike for orchard may be a preference issue rather than a dislike for orchard grass. Some horses fed alfalfa along with grass hays will consume the alfalfa and other feeds first and leave the grass hays to the end when their appetite seems fulfilled. You may want to substitute one of the orchard flakes with a grass hay pellet and mix the hay pellet with the Integrity Adult/Senior. In addition you can add 1 lb of rice bran or ½ cup of a vegetable oil per day; you will need to divide the additional fat between at least two of the meals. The fat additive is just a fat source and the amount you are feeding will not equal the calories via rice bran or oil. Most likely cheaper as well. I understand the omega-3 fatty acid “talk” but we are feeding a non-ruminant herbivore, not an omnivore or carnivore where the relationship of omega 6 to omega 3 is important and has been demonstrated scientifically. In the wild or pastured only, the dietary daily fat is less than 3%, so not an issue unless feeding a total diet that of 12 – 15% or higher; …that’s total diet which includes the forages fed.
One last consideration, assuming you are bolus deworming. With horses that have difficulty with gaining weight, I have seen positive results switching to a daily dewormer (will still need a boticide twice a year). The lower level of pyrantel tartrate also is available in generic form which is less expensive than the brand name.
I would try these suggestions before increasing the Integrity Adult/Senior from 5 to 6 lbs. If you follow your proposed work schedule then 6 lbs/day world not be too much but let’s see if the addition of fat and replacing hay with hay pellet adds the extra calories for the weight gain. Within 3- 4 weeks you should be able to see a difference.