Slept in and only have 15 minutes to get this post out this morning. EEK!
This was the seminar I most regret losing my notes for, since it had specific technical details I wanted to share with you.
The seminar was given by a representative from KER (Kentucky Equine Research) which produces research driven horse supplements etc so interspersed throughout the presentation was some recommendations for their products - however it was a rather low key sales pitch compared to what I see on a daily basis here at the vet school and since most of what he had to say fit into what I already knew, I’m inclined to believe his data.
In general, the nutrition seminar confirmed what has already been widely discussed throughout the endurance world, and what I’ve seen spreading throughout the horse world in general - cereal grains are not that great for horses, unless fed under specific circumstances (more on that later), diets should be composed primarily of forage, with alfalfa not being a good choice for an endurance horse. To add calories add soy hulls or beet pulp because of their high amounts of fermentable fiber, and add oil.
Although I’ve been aware that cereal grains (corn, oats etc) are not the best thing to feed a horse when you are trying to add calories, I usually pointed to things like the type of carbs the feed contained, the risk of increased inflammation with corn etc. The seminar focused on the risk of ulcers - both gastric and colon - associated with feeding cereal grains. I *think* (darn my loss of notes) that the significant risk was seen at 5 pounds of cereal grains. He went through the mechanisms of HOW the cereal grains cause ulcers which was mildly interesting at the time, but I have promptly forgot now, a week later. He did say that an appropriate time to feed cereal grains is at vet checks. Since they do produce an insulin spike (more on that later), the timing is critical so you don’t get a blood glucose crash.
Some notes about oil: He recommended feeding 1 pound of oil daily. Specifically feed veggie oils. Stay away from Corn. I also stay away from Soy, however he didn’t specifically say there was any problems with soy. The health benefits of adding oil to the diet go beyond the calories - and yes, they were listed. But do I have my notes? NO!!!!!! There was also a nice paper cited on the effects of fat adaption on glucose kinetics, I believe written by JD Pagen. In summary, after feeding 1 pound of oil daily, at 5 weeks there was significantly more fat dependance energy, and the reliance/effect on blood glucose significantly decreased. Which is good. Through a mechanism that will probably become very important to me during my next block (GI) but for now I DON’T have to understand the intricacies of it….but if you are interested, ask and I’m sure I can write another vetmed post on it in a couple of weeks.
A couple of days before a race you need to make sure to “top up” all tanks - but during competition need to use the correct tank - i.e. you don’t want to do something that will inhibit the horse from using all those nice fat-burning/metabolizing systems you have conditioned. Feeding close to the race will release insulin. Increase in insulin tells the horse to go into storage mode, which inhibits mobilization of fat. (This is bad) You’ll end up with a huge blood glucose drop, which is also bad. The recommendation is to feed 5 hours before the start of race. Feeding cereal grains during a vet check is fine because exercise inhibits the drop of glucose. However, like I mentioned earlier, its a timing issue. If you are a little late leaving the vet check, your horse could experience an insulin spike/glucose drop etc. It was at this point that I asked what happens to a horse during a glucose drop. He related to humans and said it was probably much like what we as humans experienced. I was hoping for a less anthropomorphizing answer and something a little more physiologically related to the horse, but oh well. He did mention neural fatigue which makes sense - if insulin causes blood glucose to drop and that’s where the neuro system is getting it’s energy….then you will definitely feel fatigue both physically and mentally until you give your system a chance to stabilize. The consequences probably involve slowing down, understanding why your horse is “bonking” and trying to convince your horse that this is temporary and he’ll be feeling fine and having fun again soon - he just needs to stop pouting and whining. If anyone else has a good, based in physiology and literature, response on what exactly happens to the performance of the horse during a blood glucose drop/insulin spike, would love to hear it.
That takes up through day 1 of the convention!
Sorry this is rushed. I’m having a blast in my behavior block and don’t want to be late to class!