In our previous post, we learned what fiber is and how a horse digests it,and we also learned that a horse consuming 1-1.5% of it’s bodyweight in quality roughage will satisfy its daily fiber requirements.
When it comes to any grain sources that may be added to your horse’s diet, fiber plays a much smaller role since the amount of fiber that is added by grains is relatively little, but the effect and digestive process is similar.
When feeding the grain portion of the diet, ensure that your horse is not receiving high quantities of grain meals all at once – typically no more than 5-6 pounds of grain per meal at most. Because grains tend to be higher in starch than roughage, feeding too much at once can overwhelm the small size and quick rate of passage of food through the stomach and small intestine, and allow starches to pass undigested to the hindgut. Digestion of starches in the hindgut releases lactic acids that are toxic to the fiber-digesting microorganisms, which can result in a gas colic episode or laminitis.
Generally speaking, when you look at a the tag from a basic equine ration, the higher the crude fiber level listed, the lower the energy content of the feed. Of course, there are other factors that must be looked at, such as the fat level, and also possibly the sources of fiber.
Beet pulp, for example, is often referred to as a “super-fiber” due to the high level of fiber it provides while also providing roughly the same energy level as oats. While soy hulls and dehydrated alfalfa are common ingredients used to increase fiber levels, a performance horse ration with a higher fiber level may make use of beet pulp to achieve both increased energy and increased fiber levels.