Return to Website

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
This Forum is Locked
View Entire Thread
Re: Ulcers/Possible IR/ How do you feed free choice hay and not make him fat?

Greetings Pam,

Thank you very much for writing about your experience.

When feeding hay free-choice, there are a few things to keep in mind.

-- The hay should be a grass hay, since offering alfalfa as part of the free choice mixture can result in too much of this calorie-rich legume. Alfalfa is an important component of the hay ration because it boosts the overall protein quality. However, depending on the horse's need, it should be fed between 10-30% of the total hay supply, and therefore, is best to feed separately, rather than part of a grass/alfalfa hay mixture.

-- A horse that is prone toward insulin resistance should, as you know, be limited in the amount of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) consumed. This includes starch and simple sugars. There is no way to tell if a grass hay is low in %NSC simply by looking at it. So, having your hay analyzed is essential when feeding it free-choice to a horse that is prone toward obesity (and hence, insulin resistance). It is possible that your hay has an NSC level that is too high to be fed free-choice. The solution is not to limit feeding, since this results in cortisol release (stress hormone), which further exacerbates insulin resistance, leading to weight gain. Instead, consider having your hay analyzed by your local county extension service or by contacting Equi-Analytical Labs: Look for a total %NSC less than 12% (%NSC = %WSC + Starch).

-- Check the %NSC of the concentrated feed you're using. Many "low starch" feeds are lower in starch than an oat-based feed, for example, but not low enough for an insulin resistant horse. NSC should be less than 12%.

You mentioned that you now have pasture available. If your nighttime temperatures are lower than 40 degree F, the grass is too high in sugar and starch to be safe. Once it warms up at night, allow grazing only during the early morning hours. The most "dangerous" time is late in the afternoon on a sunny day, because the grass synthesizes sugar and starch throughout the day due to sun exposure.

Best regards,

Dr. Getty
Author of Feed Your Horse Like A Horse

Pam S
Well, I hate to say this, but I tried feeding my six horses all the hay they could eat. It was good hay, coastal bermuda and alfalfa. I gave only enough low starch concentrate to carry their supplements. At first they looked great. Then all got too fat and stayed that way. My vet was appalled. So I went back to feeding 1.5% of their ideal body weight, with 1/3 of it alfalfa, and about 1/2 pound concentrate plus supplements. They now look good. Now that we have pasture I'll tweek their rations again. I'd love to let them eat all they want. But besides making them gain too much weight, it was too expensive and they wasted too much. Maybe someone else has had a different experience.

Where are you from? Bayfield

How did you locate this forum? CO