Why Feed Keep Pace®? A Brief Lesson In NutritionLet's look at how the horse was designed to digest foodstuffs.
The horse’s digestive system is divided into the foregut containing the stomach and small intestine and the hindgut, which is the cecum and colon.
The lack of much amylase (an enzyme needed to digest grain) in the horse’s saliva limits how much grain the horse can successfully digest before it reaches the cecum and hindgut. Undigested grains will pass on through the cecum and acidify the hindgut with negative side effects for the horse. These include gastric ulcers, lack of concentration, laminitis, being “hot” or spooky, and tying up.
The cecum is the fermentation vat of the horse's digestive system. Digestible fibers are fermented in the cecum and readily provide energy without the negative effects of a diet containing grains.
Such fibers are found in grass and hay which is the horse's natural diet. Other good sources include beetpulp, soybean hulls, alfalfa meal and wheat middlings. These fermentable fibers supply energy without excitability for almost any discipline that your horse does. A diet high in digestible fiber allows the cecum to digest food the way nature intended. Such a feed ration does not place stress on the small intestine (where the horse tries to break down grain products) nor make the hind gut too acidic.
A diet high in fat and fiber readily provides energy for hunters, eventers, cutting horses, dressage horses and polo ponies while being safe for the backyard pony or horse that is not in consistent work.
Also found in the grass diet of the horse is a fat content of between 4-5%. Grass contains roughly a 4:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats which is also very similar to the fat content and ratio found in flax seed. Quality flax seed is a very important addition to the horse’s diet, especially horses that don’t get enough grazing time as hay loses most of its fat content when cured.
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