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The energy needs of horses with intense and repeated efforts (competition and racing) reach more than double their maintenance energy needs.
The easiness to cover these needs is to increase the part of cereal (and therefore starch) in the total ration. But the horse digestive physiology have its limits in terms of amount of starch ingested and its excess is at the origin of many digestive problems.
Starch is the main component of cereals, to explain it simply, it is made up of glucose molecules (sugar). It is one of the main sources of energy for sport horses or horses in physiological stages requiring significant energy intake such as foal growth or lactation in mares.
It should be noted that not all cereals are equivalent in terms of “fermentable reaction”, this is why we often find often oat, barley or corn cereals and that we avoid native wheat with strong fermentable power. If the origin of the starch has all its importance, the different heat treatments and its presentation (granulated, flake or extruded) also have a significant importance in the digestibility of starch compared to that provided by native cereals.
The energy efficiency of starch is linked to a balance between its transformation into glucose by enzymes and its degradation into volatile fatty acid by microbial activity.
The enzyme stock being limited the digestive function cannot manage excess starch and the first consequence is the accumulation of lactic acid and the drop in stomach pH and the direct link with the appearance of ulcers on the non-glandular part of the stomach (upper part of the stomach not protected for acid attacks).
This acidity will be found throughout the digestive tract down to the cecum where all the cellulolytic flora responsible for the degradation of fibres is very important for the digestive hygiene of an herbivore. This flora, which is very sensitive to variations in pH, will lose its effectiveness and lead to weight loss and the possibility of colic. This is the second negative effect of excess starch.
It is for this reason that Royal Horse (www.royal-horse.com ) has voluntarily limited the intake of cereals in all formulas of its feed for many years and promotes the supply of energy in its food by incorporation of vegetable oil and diversification of fibre sources.
All our formulas are designed not to exceed a maximum of 500g of starch per meal on the basis of a 500kgBW horse which would receive 5kg of Royal Horse feed per day in three meals.