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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Barley or Oats

I know some friends who are feeding their horses barley instead of oats. The reason is they say barley has a low glycemic index, higher in calories and thus a stabilized energy source. I can not find anything to back it accept a vet article on the holistic horse. Is this up to date true? Also, do you know if adding flax to oats would lower the glycemic index?

Re: Barley or Oats

Hi Kasey,

Yes, barley has a slightly lower glycemic index than oats, but oats are safer to feed than barley. This is because oats are more efficiently digested in the small intestine (the foregut) and very little ends up in the hind gut (unless fed in too high a quantity). If fed in a large amount (over 2 lbs at a time), then the oats won't get adequately digested in the foregut, and end up in the hindgut where the baceteria will ferment them and this can lead to laminitis.

Barley, on the other hand, is not as efficiently digested in the foregut, and therefore, is more likely to end up in the hindgut -- thereby increasing the risk of laminitis.

So, when feeding barley, be sure that it is crimped and steamed, and very little is fed.

Speaking of grains -- many people feed corn and this is the most dangerous of all cereal grains because very little of it gets digested in the foregut. Most of it ends up being fermented by the bacterial flora living in the hindgut and this fermentation leads to the formation of acid, which kills the bacteria and sends endotoxins into the bloodstream. The result is laminitis.

Thank you for asking this excellent question. The glycemic index is simply the ability to raise the blood glucose level, and hence, the insulin level. But, any cereal grain will have a significantly high glycemic index -- the variation between them is small.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO