April's enews from Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr, Independent Equine Nutritionist. Feed Focus, Q&A, Research snippets and more... 
Hello, and thank you for your patience waiting for April's Nutrition Enews! I've been a little snowed under... not the real thing, like many of you last week, but the paper version! Going from twenty-something degrees to snow and hail was a bit of a shock, but spring is still on its way. Be aware as the temperature rises (eventually!) that the grass will be growing, so limit it for good doers and laminitics. Don’t overgraze if you want a good grass crop for horses who do need it, because doing so whilst it is just getting going will inhibit its growth and allow plants like clover to take hold. My own horses have been having an easy time, whilst my commercial project continues throughout April keeping me busy in the office. I do appreciate your patience if it takes me a few more days than usual to answer your emails. If you have a general question or would like to chat about what you are currently feeding your horse, please ‘like’ my facebook page and join the discussion and chat. I look forward to seeing you there.  

The Association for Nutrition
The Association for Nutrition are working hard to increase awareness of the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists and the title of Registered Nutritionist (of which I am one). The Association for Nutrition aims to protect and benefit the public by promoting nutrition and public health, and championing high standards of practice in the nutrition profession. Registered Nutritionists must demonstrate extensive understanding of nutritional science and practice and agree to uphold ethical standards though a comprehensive Code of Ethics and Statement of Professional Conduct. If you use a Nutritionist for yourself, your horses or your pets, ensure they are registered. 

Feed focus

Our feed for April is sugar beet pulp. Sugar beet is a root vegetable that stores its energy as table sugar (sucrose) in its swollen root. The sugar is extracted for human use, leaving the fibrous root pulp behind, which is used as animal feed. Much of this fibrous root pulp is mixed with molasses to increase its energy and palatability for stock, but fortunately – for horse owners - an unmolassed version is available. This unmolassed sugar beet, compared to other concentrate feeds, is high in fibre (20%), low in sugar (about 5%) and moderately high in energy for horses, being just a couple of megajoules lower than oats per kg of dry matter. Sugar beet pulp contains a high proportion of soluble fibre, mostly pectins, which means its fibre is more easily and quickly digested compared to that found in forage like hay. In addition to being a good source of fibre and energy, sugar beet has a better mineral balance than straight cereals, with much higher levels of calcium and lower levels of phosphorus.
Molassed sugar beet (about 25% sugar and 15% fibre) is a useful feed for horses who require a substantial amount of dietary sugar e.g. sick or hard-working animals. The unmolassed version, however, is more useful because it can be fed to all horses, ponies and donkeys and can be fed in relatively high amounts. In scientific trials, researchers have shown no problems with feeding it at 25 % of the total diet e.g. 3 kg to a 500 kg horse, although in practice higher amounts appear to be safe to feed.
Soaked sugar beet pulp is very low in fibre and energy per kg because four-fifths of it is water. So to get the full benefit of sugar beet as a ‘concentrate’ feed, it needs to be weighed/scooped out before soaking.
Unmolassed sugar beet is an excellent healthy alternative to starchy grain-based concentrate feeds, and due to its high fibre and low starch level, is does not have the gut-disturbing potential of grain and grain-based feeds, and nor is it at all ‘heating’ (causing excess exuberance). It is well known that large meals of starchy grain-based feeds cause gut disturbance, and feeding more than about 3 kg per day of such feeds significantly increases the risk of colic in working horses.
As a winter succulent or mixer for supplements, both molassed or unmolassed beet can be used, and only a cupful or two of soaked beet – literally a sprinkle of dry beet – is required. As an alternative to compound concentrate feed e.g. competition or conditioning mix/nuts, the unmolassed version should be used, and fed at a rate of at least 1 kg per meal. A multi-vitamin and mineral supplement – powder or pelleted balancer – must also be fed, because sugar beet does not balance the mineral shortages in forages. For overweight horses and ponies, those prone to laminitis, tying up or with metabolic syndrome (all of whom require a low-sugar diet), the molassed version should be avoided.

Sugar beet pulp is a versatile feed because it can be fed in small quantities to overweight horses as a mixer for a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement instead of chaff and in large quantities to a poor doer for weight gain, or a working horse for energy.

Research Snippet
A systematic review of the human literature on natural anti-anxiety treatments showed some interesting results. The authors found, from a detailed investigation of research trials of dietary and herbal supplements as anti-anxiety treatments in human patients, that nutritional and herbal supplementation can be an effective method for treating anxiety-related conditions without serious side effects. They did mention the possibility that positive effects could be due to a placebo effect, and that the small number of studies for each supplement or combination made a formal meta-analysis (the most robust scientific method of reviewing studies) impossible. Results showed that strong evidence exists for the use of herbal supplements containing passionflower or kava, and combinations of L-lysine and L-arginine for anxiety, but more research is needed before magnesium-containing supplements can be confirmed as a treatment. Good quality research on any calming substances for horses is lacking, but herbs and magnesium, amongst other substances, are commonly used. It is not known which supplements are effective, but herbs including valerian, chamomile and passionflower may well have more benefit for more horses with anxiety problems, compared to magnesium. (Kava is not permitted in horse feed supplements)
(Lakhan, S. E. & Vieira, K. F. (2010) Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 9:42)

If you have any friends who would be interested in Clare's Health and Nutrition enews, please feel free to forward this message onto them. Don't forget to submit your Nutrition and Feeding Questions to Clare ( with 'enews question' in the subject box and it may be picked out of the bag for inclusion in a future enews Q&A. Thank you for your interest.

Thanks to Sally Brett for the picture of her lovely bay warmblood Bertie holding his bucket.

Quote of the month: 

Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness” Edward Stanley. 

April's Practical Tip
Spring clean your feeding regime! In our busy lives, it can be an extra chore to keep your horse’s feed bowls, bins and utensils clean, but it is worth it because horses are particularly susceptible to mould and you can grow all sorts of nasty bugs in feed remnants, especially during mild, wet weather. Aim to scrub out your horse’s feed bowl and mixing spoon after every meal, or at least daily. Ideally clean out feed bins between sacks of feed, brushing out if you don’t have time to wash and dry. Keep your horse’s water buckets and troughs free from slime and green algae, since horses will drink more when offered clean water.  


Please email with ‘Enews question’ in the subject box if you would like to have your question answered by Clare. Please note that only one question per month will be answered.

Q: I’m confused about feeding vegetable oil to horses. Some say it’s useful, but aren’t high fat diets unhealthy?
A: Great question! High fat diets are associated with health risks in normal adult humans, but the key factor is that a high fat (oil) horse diet is actually a low fat human diet. A high fat human diet is around 30% fat, whereas a high fat horse diet is around 10% fat. Normal horse diets (not oil-supplemented) are around 3% oil. The term oil tends to be used for liquid fat e.g. most vegetable oils, whereas the term fat tends to be used for solid fats e.g. animal fats such as lard. Feeding horses vegetable oil is useful for a healthy bloom to the coat, and is a good way of adding extra energy (which is safe and won’t cause fizziness) to performance horses or those who need to gain weight. Veg oil can be added at rates of up to 300 ml per day to most horse diets, but this should be done gradually to allow the digestive tract to adjust. You must ensure adequate vitamin E levels in a high-oil diet, and get a Nutritionist to check if you’re not sure. Researchers have found that adding oil at up to 10% of the total dietary energy is safe and well accepted by most horses, and may have performance benefits, particularly in reducing heat production by exercising muscles.  

Supplement Sense
Recently, it has come to my attention that many horse owners are not aware that most horse feed supplements are not actually evidence-based i.e. proven with good quality science, despite what their marketing and labelling may indicate. As an enthusiast for truthful representation, I want to make it clear that, although most are safe and some may well help, most supplements are not proven. The overall diet and management are the most important factors for our horses, with supplements added strategically where required. Of course, just because something isn't proven, it doesn't mean it doesn't work, but I believe it's important for horse owners not to be misled.

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