Providing a slow feeder for meals certainly helps but will not relieve the stress of being without forage for periods of time which perpetuates the viscous cycle. Either your horse has forage available 24/7 or they don’t. This can be a difficult concept for some! It's equivalent to being sort of pregnant; either you are or you aren't.
Stress produces the hormone cortisol. Horses are stoic by nature as they are prey animals; they may not show outward signs of stress. Lack of forage is stressful for your horse which signals cortisol production; resulting in fat storage by ignoring insulin’s attempts to uptake glucose into the tissues. This can be the cause for easy keepers and air ferns. If appropriate forage is available at all times, they can typically eat more and maintain or lose weight.
Chronic stress and release of cortisol may also be responsible for conditions including aggressive behavior; decreased growth and reproductive capability; inhibition of the immune system; and increased risks of gastric ulceration, colic, and diarrhea.
- Feed free choice tested low NSC (10% or below) straight grass hay. Consult an equine nutritionist to ensure all vitamin/mineral requirements are being met in proper ratios and unique conditions addressed. FeedXL can be extremely helpful for DIY'ers.
- Experiment with slow feeders to determine the smallest mesh size that enables your horse to extract hay without being frustrated. Frustration is counterproductive; it causes stress! Slow feed tips.
- Offer multiple locations to encourage movement and feed from ground level.
- Use a grazing muzzle in pasture and turn out when sugars are likely to be lowest.
- Resolve any causes of pain or discomfort mentally and physically.
- Routine exercise is key. And never exercise your horse on an empty stomach. If your horse is foot sore, equip them with hoof boots and pads.
Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. (2015) Obesity. The Real Cause. The Real Fix. Retrieved from
Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D.(2016)Reviewed in 2004 by Carey Williams, Ph.D. Stress Management for Equine Athletes Retrieved from http://esc.rutgers.edu/fact_sheet/stress-management-for-equine-athletes/
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