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Healthy Forage Idea's For Weight Loss 

STRAW-is it your horse’s new best friend?

Thankfully, most owners are now becoming switched on to understand that horses cannot go for any longer than a couple of hours without forage, or they risk developing digestive ulcers and other diet related medical conditions. As going too long without food causes our Equine friends significant stress to the body, through the over production of stomach acid, as well as distress to the psyche and their mental well-being too, as it prevents them from carrying out species appropriate behaviour.

This is because horses produce stomach acid all the time and need to have a constant slow flow of fibrous matter trickling though their digestive systems to keep these gastric acids at bay, so their digestive system continues to work properly. Therefore, eating little and often meets our horses’ natural instincts as a species, which provides them with a slow feed conveyor belt of food and the psychological comfort that comes from that, for a much happier and healthier horse.

Due to this information now being available to many more horse owners through more detailed research into the horse’s digestive system, finally feeding adlib hay is becoming the new norm for most owners, and we are seeing impressive results to both the horse's mind and body when hay is being fed this way.

Even more so when paired with using slow feed hay nets. As this approach not only mimics more natural feeding patterns but also cuts down on a lot of the high-risk sugars previously found in a diet made up of just pasture grasses. Slow feeder hay nets also reduce waste to save the owners money, plus they help the horse to feel there is always food on offer, often improving domestic feeding behaviours and helping our equines to adopt a more positive attitude towards food in general.

Therefore, feeding like this really is a big win for all involved for sure and is why we sell our own Natural Horse Brand of Slow Feeders available on this link:

However, we are also aware that some horses will literally eat themselves to death with this approach and therefore we have found a great way to address this with the introduction of Straw added to the hay, preferably through the Slow Feed Haynets.

We are aware that straw and horses have previously had a bad rap in the past, and has not been recommended to be fed to horses due to its low nutrient value, as well as plain straw contains high levels of lignin's, which are indigestible fibres. However, more recent studies and research has shown horses that are being fed with hay and straw in a 50-50 ration, that this balance can work really well to provide forage to feed the digestive biome, along with giving our horses a good balance of nutrients, whilst still keeping their waistlines in check.

As with any dry forage, we recommend feeding your horse this hay and straw mix through a slow feed hay net for all the benefits that brings including helping moderate their insulin levels and induce a healthy weight loss, and for weight maintenance for a more species-appropriate way of feeding our domestic equines.

The study on the attacked link below supports our own findings further and was conducted by Edinburgh Veterinary University, which showed that by using a 50-50 mix of straw, fed with hay was a safe way to help your horse lose weight.

Through using this approach, many horses, ponies, and donkeys with metabolic risks such as those with Cushing’s, EMS and Laminitis will benefit enormously from this feeding approach and it will also help to prevent so many more horses from ever developing these conditions, which is all down to providing plenty of roughage, but with much lower calories and without the high plant sugar risks.

So let us now talk about Straw….

Firstly, which straw to use?

We recommend using clean, good quality straw, preferable not sprayed with chemicals or fertilisers, and our research has shown Barely or Oat Straw to be the best, as it provides great roughage to our horses which helps to moderate insulin levels without the higher calorie content.

Straw pricing and availability?

Our research has shown that straw is readily available in most locations ranging from $4-$14 per bale (*within New Zealand). We have found in general that straw is also often much cheaper than hay and due to its bulk will often go a long way.

Do horses like straw?

In a lot of the horses that we evaluated, we found they did not like the straw as much as the hay. This is all to do with how it tastes, as straw has very little sugar in it and is not as sweet. However, we found that some horses did not seem to mind and were quite happy eating it, whilst with others, they would only eat it once the hay had gone.

However, the main take-home message from feeding straw is at least our horses are not going without any forage and overproducing stomach acid.

So, if you have a good doer and would like to see a smaller waistline on your horse for all the health benefits that brings, or you have an 

at-risk equine, we can highly recommend trying to feed them straw as recommended above to help with your horse’s dietary management.

Edinburgh University Study Abstract:

The information on this website is intended to offer you written support and should not replace the advice of a registered veterinarian for your horse. Natural Horse NZ will not be responsible for the incorrect use of these products as you are responsible for the safety of your equine so please follow the instructions and only use the dose rates provided in the recommended way.