Cold Weather Feeding

As the country rapidly slips into winter, questions on cold weather feeding increase.  People want to know what to feed and how much more in winter. The short answer is, it depends.

If you have done any reading on this you have come across the term “critical temperature”.  This is the environmental temperature below which the horse’s body has to work to maintain normal body temperature.  For horses with a summer coat, it is 40 degrees F (4.4 C) and with a thick winter coat it is 18 F (- 7.7 C).  For coats that are in between slick and full, the temperature will also be in between but it’s important to realize that length per se does not predict the warmth of the coat. Most important is the presence of a dense undercoat.

For every drop of 1 degree F, the horse needs 1% more calories.  For example, a 500 lb pony eating 10 lbs of hay/day needs an extra 0.1 lbs = 1.6 ounces of hay.  This is a very small amount and it’s perfectly reasonable not to make adjustments until you reach a more easily measurable amount such as at least half a pound (8 oz) so in this case you would adjust by adding half a pound for every 5 F drop below critical temperature.  If you had a 1000 lb horse eating 20 lbs/day you could adjust sooner because every 2.5 F drop would = an 8 oz change in hay.

You could also make more frequent adjustments using something more easy to measure than hay – pellets or cubes. Keep a scale in your feed room to measure ounces accurately and just add the pellets or cubes to your feed bucket.  A fish scale works well.

If your horse is eating both grain and hay, you can either increase both by the same % or  convert the increase in grain to extra hay instead.  This will keep you from overfeeding grain. It is also of benefit because the fermentation of hay in your horse’s intestinal tract generates heat.  To convert from grain to hay, multiply the amount of extra grain by 2 if plain grains, 2.5 if sweet feed and 3 if high fat feed. In other words, to go from 1/2 lb of extra grain to hay, it would be equivalent to 1 lb of hay for plain grain, 1.25 pounds of hay for sweet feed and 1.5 pounds of hay for high fat feed.  These are approximate.  You may need slightly more or less.

Several things can influence your horse’s critical temperature and how much you need to feed. Young or small horses have a higher ratio of body surface area to weight so lose heat faster. Thin animals have less fat insulation.  Horses without good shelter lose more heat (use the wind chill corrected temperature in this scenario). Heavy blanketing or obesity reduce the extra calorie requirement. The individual’s metabolism will also play a role.

Remember that more food can’t guarantee the horse stays warm and horses don’t always hold weight as predicted by equations.  Any horse that is shivering is cold.  Palpate deeply through the coat to feel for ribs on a regular basis and increase calories if needed.

As mentioned, hay is the best thing to feed because heat will be generated in the intestine in the process of fermenting it.  The same is true of high fiber feeds such as beet pulp and soy hulls. Horses that don’t drink well won’t eat well either so feed salt and provide water at a comfortable temperature. Finally, if you have increased hay or feed it free choice but are still detecting weight loss, don’t hesitate to feed a more dense calorie source of grain, fat or high soluble fiber from flax, beet pulp or soy hulls.

Note: If your horse is overweight consider not increasing his winter feeding unless you can feel his ribs. The calories he needs to stay warm can come from his stored fat rather than more food.  In the cold, the horse also produces internal heat by making energy generation in the mitochondria less efficient, a process known as uncoupling. The fat calories that don’t go to making ATP are converted to heat.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Hard Keepers

Overweight horses are grabbing all the headlines but horses that tend to be very thin can also be a major headache for their owners.  While obesity is clearly to be avoided, there is such a thing as too thin.

Photo:  Endurance World

Successful endurance horses are fit and lean but never gaunt

Horses that are underweight have reduced performance capacity, reduced immunity, less tolerance for cold, reduced fertility and poor physical reserves in the face of a serious injury, illness or major surgery. They are at increased risk of side effects from even common things that are normally distributed to the fat tissue such as vitamins A or D and moxidectin.

If the horse has developed trouble holding weight as a new issue, with the usual offenders of dental issues or parasites taken care of, you need to involve your veterinarian to rule out a serious disease as the cause.  Some things are very treatable, like PPID/Cushing’s which is  a common cause of unexplained weight loss in older horses.

When the horse is otherwise healthy, low weight is a nutrition and digestion issue.  The place to start when weight gain is needed is free choice hay.  Hay racks or nets will reduce waste so you can gauge intake more accurately. The average adult at maintenance or light work needs to be eating about 2% of body weight in hay per day.  If the horse is eating this much or more, and won’t increase further, it’s time for other measures.

Senior horses often have poor chewing force even if their teeth look good. They will do well on soft grass but not hay, even if there is no quidding. The solution here is to use hay cubes or pellets, well soaked, and soak all other feed as well. This makes it much easier to chew and digest.

Otherwise, things to try include:

  • The horse needs both adequate calories and adequate protein to hold a normal weight.  If hay is of questionable quality, add a few pounds of alfalfa for a protein boost.  If hay crude protein is adequate, an essential amino acid supplement is good insurance.  Lysine is most often deficient, followed by methionine and threonine
  • Reasonable amounts of fat are a good way to add calories without excessive bulk because fat is more calorie dense than carbohydrate, fiber or protein.  The Uckele Coco- line gives you many options. The original CocoSoya is an incredibly palatable oil that will also ensure the horse eats all meals well.  CocoOmega  can be used to boost intake of omega-3s when horses are not on pasture. CocoSun uses a special high oleic acid sunflower oil to produce a blend which does not add more omega-6 to the diet. Most horses can have up to 8 oz/day but do not exceed 4 oz in horses with insulin problems.
  • Older horses, horses with a history of intestinal problems or surgery and horses with erratic appetites may benefit from support of digestive efficiency from supplements with generous levels of probiotic yeast and bacteria with digestive enzymes.  This helps them extract as much nutrition as possible from their food.

It takes some experimentation but with perseverance you can get your hard keeper to a healthy weight.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Getting Nutrition Advice

Nutrition is a science which incorporates physiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and biology.  Nutrition is also as much a specialty as Orthopedics, Pharmacology, etc.. Nutrition can be studied at the Masters degree or Ph.D. level.

Veterinarians are not taught much nutrition in school.  Neither are M.D.s.  Farriers/trimmers, chiropractors, body workers, barn owners, trainers, fellow owners, clerks at the feed store and anyone else you can think of that does not have an advanced animal science or nutrition degree know even less.

Does a horse owner know more than a cat owner?  They know more about what is fed to horses but not necessarily why.  The why is where the true knowledge of nutrition comes in. What are the calorie, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements? What types of foods and supplements are digestible, bioavailable and well tolerated? What things are toxic and at what level? That’s just the beginning.

Like all science, equine nutrition evolves as we learn more.  Some people say changing recommendations means science is basically unreliable and worthless because it can change but that change means it is evolving, refining and improving. It still has a core of basic facts that is the foundation.

Despite the fact that nutrition is a complex science there are myriads of unqualified people doling out nutritional advice, either to sell something or because they want to make a “discovery”.  The latest claim I heard is that equine metabolic problems, arthritis and navicular can all be significantly improved by removing sulfates from the diet. This seems to refer to supplements in sulfate form, e.g. copper sulfate.  The claim is that sulfate is pro-inflammatory and increases iron absorption.  Problem is, that’s not true.

The second problem is the vast majority of the sulfate in the horse’s body comes from water, sulfate in foods and sulfate produced from the sulfur-containing amino acids.  Stopping supplements in sulfate form would not have any significant effect – which is a good thing because sulfate is absolutely essential for life and health including production of the most widespread detoxifying, antioxidant and antiinflammatory compound in the horse’s body – glutathione.  Bottom line is that the whole thing is ridiculous.

Another one trending at the moment is “whole food” feeds and supplements that claim to provide every nutrient the horse needs, with no supplementation of individual nutrients.  I’m surprised the FDA and state Ag departments haven’t caught up with some of these feeds yet.  Their own analyses show they are not complete and adequate. The supplements don’t measure up either.

The truth is the more of these unsupplemented “whole foods” you give the horse in place of hay or grass, the more likely you are to have protein and mineral deficiencies. The only thing you can be guaranteed this type of feed gives in adequate amounts is calories.

This list goes on and on.  Some of it is  just wacky, some actually dangerous especially for special needs situations like metabolic syndrome or myopathies and groups with very high needs for growth, lactation, pregnancy or performance.  Remember, nutrition is one of the few major contributors to your horse’s health that is completely within your control. There’s no place for unsubstatiated advice.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Nutrition Advice

Nutrition is a science which incorporates physiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and biology.  Nutrition is also a specialty

 

Veterinarians are not taught much nutrition in school.  Neither are M.D.s.  Farriers/trimmers, chiropractors, body workers, barn owners, trainers, fellow owners, clerks at the feed store and anyone else you can think of that does not have an advanced animal science or nutrition degree knows even less.

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Weanlings Have Special Needs

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Nutrient dense diets are those that have high levels of protein/amino acids and minerals per calorie. As you might expect, mineral requirements are extremely high during periods of rapid growth. At 4 months, the horse has higher daily total mineral needs than they do as a yearling despite having lower daily calorie needs. If you really think about this, it is immediately clear that trying to feed weanlings the same diet being fed adults is going to be severely inadequate.

Calories:  Calories are actually the easiest part of feeding weanlings.  In fact, most are too heavy and this has been linked to developmental orthopedic disease.  A 6 month-old weanling requires 7% fewer calories than he will at maintenance at his full adult weight.  If feeding him 93% of the adult diet, he will also only get 93% of the adult protein and minerals, much too low.

Minerals: The foal’s body can’t create the minerals it needs for growth and stores at birth are minimal to none. This is where the needs of the weanling and those of the adult show the greatest difference.  For example, the 6 month-old weanling needs almost twice as much calcium and phosphorus as he will when he’s a full grown adult.  Obviously 93% of the adult diet won’t get the job done.  The weanling may be falling short by as much as 20 grams of calcium.  This has been linked to developmental orthopedic disease and may set the stage for joint disease and breakdowns when started in training.

Protein: While calorie requirements were lower than adults, protein needs are 7% higher and lysine 10% higher.  If you are feeding the adult diet at the 7% reduction, the gap gets wider.  For a horse that will mature to 50o kg this amounts to a deficit of 90 grams of protein overall and 4 grams of lysine *if* the adult diet was adequate for lysine in the first place (many are not).

The Solution:  What to do about this? You can scrap the idea of feeding your regular adult diet entirely and go with a specialty mare and foal feed according to directions.  If you do that though, the diet can be 50 to 60% grain based with much of your protein and minerals tied to grain calories.

It is well known that overfeeding in general is linked to early orthopedic problems across the board and high grain feeding rates put some horses at higher risk for osteochondrosis.  It also used to be believed that weanlings had to have a high percentage of grain in their diet because they couldn’t handle a high fiber diet as well as an adult.  Recent research has proven that false.

Going back then to the adult diet with modest levels of grain/concentrates and heavily based on forages, how can it be fortified for the weanling?  Assuming the adult diet meets minimum protein and mineral requirements, look for a supplement with about 25% protein, lysine minimum 1.5% and 5% calcium with a balanced mineral profile.  Feed 1 pound per day of this.

Some diets have adequate trace minerals for the weanling but come up short in the critical nutrients for building bone. If that is your situation, a broad spectrum bone support supplement with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins A and D will fill the gap. Consult your veterinarian or nutritionist regarding dosing.

If you are already feeding enough supplemental minerals across the board and don’t need to add more, it’s very useful to have an unfortified high protein source.  Look for 40+% protein, at least 2% lysine and a mixture of milk/whey protein with vegetable sources.  Feed 1/2 lb/day.  If total protein is adequate but all or most from hay with unknown lysine content, supplement with an amino acid supplement containing 10 grams lysine and 2 grams threonine per dose.

Finally, for fall and over the winter with no pasture available you need to think about essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are fragile and largely destroyed when hay cures and during storage.  Adequate supply is required by the eyes, heart and may even influence disposition.  Flax and Chia are good sources, 4 to 6 ounces/day.

Tweaking your diet to fill weanling needs is not terribly difficult or expensive but the pay back in terms of growth, health and soundness can be enormous.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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Treats

There are many behavioral and safety reasons not to give your horse treats but for those who can’t resist, this is for you.  If you must give treats, at least do no harm.

This feral horse skull shows remarkably clean teeth.

In choosing treats for your horse, please avoid the temptation to go with things that remind you of your grandmother’s kitchen or the pastry wall at Starbuck’s.  Cookies, buns, biscuits and muffins are not for horses.  While the horse is equipped to appreciate sweetness to help guide him to calorie rich plant material, feeding high sugar items is not good for oral health.  The fact he will eat fries, creme donuts or peanut butter and jelly on white bread then wash it down with Coke or Pepsi doesn’t mean you should let him do it!

The bacterial population in the mouth depends on what is in there to feed it. Sugar or starch rich foods support bacteria which thrive on these carbohydrates and release acid which damages the teeth and inflames gums. These are common issues in domestic animals and nonexistent in feral ones.

If purchasing treats, you have to be careful to actually read the ingredients list. One treat that calls itself  natural,  crunchy and carrot has wheat as the first ingredient.  It also contains wheat midds, molasses, corn and a long list of inorganic minerals.  The name doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s in them.

Why not keep it truly natural, simple and good for the horse at the same time?  There are many things the horse would appreciate eating that don’t belong in a candy dish or cookie jar.  Some you will have thought of  – others not so much.

To our senses they have all the appeal of driveway gravel but split dried green peas are relished by most horses.  I don’t know how they can tell it’s even something edible but horses will readily snatch up the rock hard little green peas. Avoid dried beans though. They interfere with digestion unless cooked.

Another one you would probably not think of is cubed Kudzu root. This is available inexpensively from bulk herbal suppliers.  The little cubes look like cork and have no human detectable aroma but the horses eat them right down. They are loaded with antioxidant bioflavanoids.  Speaking of crunchy antioxidants, many horses love Rose Hips as well.

Oldies but goodies on the list of things you can safely carry in your pockets are peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, carrots and celery.  Very healthful but more of a challenge to carry around are grapes, prunes, bananas and berries of all kinds.

Last but far from least is a simple handful of freshly picked grass and/or clover. There’s really nothing they like more.  If you are going for the convenience of a bagged treat, look no further than alfalfa or grass hay as the base.  If you want to  mix up the flavor a bit, apple,  cherry, banana, fenugreek and peppermint are all favorites.  You can get the appeal of grains, without the high starch, from Brewers or Distillers dried grains which are grains with the starch fermented out of them.  Avoid molasses, dextrose or maltodextrin (all sugars) in favor of the natural herbal sweetness of Stevia which has been proven to not cause an insulin rise in horses.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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Equine Probiotics – Where Are We Now?

The World Health Organization definition of probiotic is a live organism which, when consumed in sufficient amount, confers a health benefit

The microbiome is the microorganisms inhabiting a specific environment, like the gut.

The number, complexity and diversity of organisms in the intestinal tract has captured everyone’s imagination. The idea that they may influence health is both exciting and a little frightening. It’s also the most controversial but everyone can agree the intestinal microbiome is of critical importance to normal function of the digestive tract of the horse.

The upper intestinal tract [stomach and small intestine] is populated primarily by organisms which break down and ferment starch and other simple carbohydrates.  This benefits the horse by reducing the amount of glucose that will be absorbed and by helping to protect the large intestine [cecum and colons] from too much simple  carbohydrate.

Once the large intestine starts, in the cecum, there is known to be an abrupt change in the number and types of organisms. There are two major phyla (Firmicutes and Bacteroides) but many smaller populations as well. The density and diversity of organisms is much greater and while some generalizations can be made it’s also true that every horse has a microbiome that is unique to them.

The hind gut population is capable of breaking down sugars, starch, complex plant carbohydrates, fiber and protein. The organisms often work together. For example, some may ferment sugar and starch to lactate while others use the lactate themselves thus buffering the intestine.

Probiotics have been appearing in basic feeds and all sorts of supplements for about a quarter of a century now.  Supporting normal intestinal function is something everyone can get behind but how are the organisms chosen? Does it matter?

It certainly does matter. While the safety profile of probiotics is quite good, it has been shown that using the wrong strain can have negative GI effects, especially in the fragile gut environment of foals.  For many years the strains used in equine products were largely based on what was beneficial in people and to a lesser extent in other farm animals.  We can now do better.

Recent improvement in genetic techniques has led to a mini explosion of studies on the  makeup of the equine intestinal microbiome.  We can now at least identify the common equine specific species and focus on supplying a blend of organisms that is more appropriate for the horse.

For example, Lactobacilli are in the larger family Firmicutes. They are found throughout the equine intestinal tract but different species are present in the stomach/small intestine than in the hind gut. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most well known probiotic species but we have found many other strains that are specific to horses such as L. reuteri and L. salivarius for the upper part of the digestive tract and L. equi, a horse specific strain in the hind gut.

Other important bacterial strains include Bacilus subitilis which favors the growth of beneficial bacteria over pathogens and Propionibacterium freudenreichii which metabolizes lactate and helps control pH.  The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is perhaps the best researched equine probiotic of all, assists fermentation with any type of diet and should be a prominent ingredient in all equine probiotic products.

Look for these specific organisms and counts in the billions (BCFU = billion colony forming units = billion organisms) to give your horse the most state of the art support possible.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

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Does Your Overweight Horse Have An Insulin Problem?

Easy keepers and overweight horses and ponies have been around forever.  Laminitis has also always been with us, and it’s no secret that overweight animals are at high risk. We now know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels – hyperinsulinemia. Does this mean being overweight/obese causes insulin problems?

It might seem that way superficially but the logic is faulty.

There is an important principle in science which states “Correlation (or association) is not causation”.  Observing that things occur together does not mean one causes the other.  Let’s say that the native horses of the country Muropa are observed to regularly consume the leaves of the Bajunga plant, which only grows in Muropa.  It has also been observed Muropa horses never develop sweet itch.  Does this mean Bajunga protects from sweet itch? While there could be a link, this doesn’t prove it. It could be a genetic  factor protecting them –  or simply that there are no Culicoides midges in Muropa!

Many horses that develop laminitis are overweight or obese. We know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels. The correlation has always been obvious and it didn’t take long for an assumption to arise that obesity is a laminitis risk factor and causes elevated insulin.  There’s just one thing. It’s not true.

A study (Bamford) published in the Equine Veterinary Journal in 2015 fed horses and ponies a control diet or one designed to cause obesity by feeding either excess fat or excess fat and glucose.  The weight gain did not reduce insulin sensitivity in either group.  Dr. Bamford has also clearly shown that insulin responses to oral or intravenous glucose have marked variation by breed in horses of normal weight.  You can read all of Dr. Bamford’s work in detail in his thesis here: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/148423/Bamford%20PhD%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1.

Selim et al 2015 followed two groups of Finnhorse mares on either native pasture or intensively managed improved pasture. At the end of 98 days grazing, the mares on improved pasture went from a body condition score of 5.5 to 7 and gained 145 pounds but this was not associated with insulin resistance.

If obesity isn’t a cause, why is more insulin resistance seen in obese horses – 25 to  50% IR depending on the study versus 10 to 15% of horses in general?  The answer is simple.  The IR increases appetite and weight gain. Yes, there is an association between obesity and high insulin but obesity is the result, not the cause.

This is more than just splitting hairs.  If you think obesity is a cause then weight control becomes a treatment, even possibly a cure. When you realize it is a consequence, not a cause, expectations for results of weight loss become more realistic.  There are many benefits to weight loss and it should be aggressively pursued but it won’t make insulin resistance go away.  Approximately 50% of IR horses are normal weight.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

 

 

 

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Failing Pastures

I’m going to define failing pastures as those that no longer can meet the nutritional needs of the horse.  This can happen a lot sooner than you  might think.

Brown, dormant grass is easy to spot but very mature green grass also lacks sufficient nutrients

Grasses stressed by extremes of weather – drought, heat or cold – will either die or go dormant to protect their carbohydrate reserves until growing conditions improve. They lose their green color because production of chlorophyll and other pigment ceases.

Another pigment is carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, and vitamin A activity in these grasses is low, as is vitamin E and essential fatty acid level. Calories are lower than young green grasses and fiber much higher.  Protein is deficient, typically around 5%.  Even mineral levels may be lower.

You may not think of grass and hay as a source of B vitamins but the fact is they are the horse’s major source and levels are much higher than in concentrates.  The B vitamins are also in their most bioavailable forms, incorporated into active compounds. When metabolic activity slows (maturity) or stops (dormancy or death), levels naturally fall.

Grass hay is best cut right before it starts to set seed. At this stage there has been enough growth for a good yield and the nutritional value of the grass portions above ground is good.  Once the grass has reached full height, set and dropped seed, it’s metabolism slows, fiber fractions rise and protein drops.  The other changes described above for dormant hay also begin.  Significant loss of nutritional value can occur while the grass is still green.

Supplementing protein is the major consideration in all scenarios late in the grazing season. Begin essential amino acid supplementation of lysine, methionine and threonine as soon as grasses go to seed. When grasses begin to brown, start 1/4 to 1/2 lb/day of a 40% protein supplement or 1/2 to 1 lb/day of a 20 to 25%  protein and mineral supplement.

The mixed protein and mineral supplements have to be fed in higher amounts but they are good insurance against drops in mineral levels that can occur.  They will also cover the dropping vitamin A and B vitamin levels.

Maintaining good intakes of omega-3 fatty acids is important for supporting the body’s ability for normal homeostatic balance of inflammatory reactions.  Flax and Chia seeds are the ideal way to do this with omega-6:omega-3 ratios which mimic young green growths of grass.

Dead, dormant and overly mature grasses have a nutritional profile similar to straw. Horses relying on failing pastures for the bulk of their nutrition can still get some caloric value but will encounter significant gaps until they are switched over to their winter rations.  By knowing what the issues are you can target them and support the horse in this transitional period.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

 

 

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The Lactic Acid Myth

If you’re like most people you have been told time and time again that lactate/lactic acid is the cause of muscle fatigue, “burning” and tying up. You may even have bought supplements for your horse based on claims that they could reduce lactic acid, or changed your horses diet based on similar claims. Truth is, blaming lactic acid for poor performance, fatigue or muscle damage is like looking at the pile of ashes after a building has burned down and assuming that ashes caused the damage.

Muscles produce lactate continuously. It’s generated during the breakdown of glucose as an energy source. If the horse is at rest, or moving very slowly, most of the lactate is further broken down to pyruvate and goes into aerobic (use oxygen) energy pathways in the mitochondria. However, as the horse moves faster and needs to produce energy very quickly to keep up with the demands, the aerobic pathways are too slow and more energy is generated anaerobically, producing lactate.

Lactic acid isn’t a “waste” product or a toxin; it’s actually beneficial. Lactic acid is a buffer – a way that muscle cells can carry harmful acidity (H+ ions) out of the cells. This is because the lactic acid binds the acidifying hydrogen ions and carries them into the circulation – lactic acid + hydrogen ion = lactate. The lactate is then further broken down as a fuel by other cells, or converted back to glucose in the liver.

People who have been used to thinking of lactate as harmful have trouble accepting this concept, but the evidence is impossible to ignore:

  • Sodium bicarbonate is an alkalinizing (anti-acidity) substance that is used to improve performance in racehorses, although now prohibited in most areas. Kesl and Engen from the Veterinary School at Iowa State found that when sodium bicarbonate supplements are used blood is less acid, and muscle recovers from exercise induced acidity quicker, but lactate levels actually are higher
  • Horses that are sugar/starch sensitive and tie up show lower levels of muscle enzyme release, an indicator of muscle damage, when put on lower starch diets but the level of lactate produced is identical with high fat vs high starch feeding. Also, starch sensitive horses exercised on high grain diets show more muscle damage, but their lactate levels are the same as normal horses.
  • Many studies have failed to find any relationship between lactate levels after exercise and poor performance. In fact, it is often found that the superior performing horses are those with the highest lactate levels after exercise.

A similar association between high lactate production and superior performance has long been recognized in human athletes (e.g. Reilly, 1999).

What this all boils down to is that blood lactate after exercise is nothing more than an indicator of how hard/fast the horse worked. It’s not connected in any way to tying up or muscle damage. Instead of being harmful, lactate is actually a source of energy and reduces the acidity inside hard working cells by carrying the hydrogen ions out of the cell. High blood lactate is associated with superior performance, not fatigue. Next time you see advertising for a supplement or grain that claims to make your horse work harder or longer by lowering lactate, pass it up.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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