Starch: Friend or Foe?

Written by Alexandra Wesker on 11 July, 2016

As published in Horse Magazine, Spring 2015 issue.

High levels of starch can cause behavioural issues and weight problems. Nutritionist Alexandra Wesker looks at how to limit it in our horses’ diets.

Starch isn’t essential to horses for survival. The main reason for feeding it is to provide energy for exercise. Health and behaviour problems can occur, however, if too much is fed. Here are the warning signs of starch overload:

1 - An increase in body fat

The high-energy content of starch is both its strength and its pitfall. While it is a great source of fuel for a working horse, it is possible to provide excess energy through feeding starch. Excess energy is stored as body fat, which can lead to obesity. Giving the correct amount of energy is key in maintaining a healthy weight. If your horse needs to lose weight, less dietary energy must be provided. If your horse has a manufactured feed, switch to one that has a lower energy content. Manufacturers can decrease the energy content of a feed by lowering its starch or fat levels. So, if you want a feed with a decreased energy content, you can choose one that has either a lower starch or lower fat content. It is always advisable to check with a qualified nutritionist before changing your horse’s feed.

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categories: wellbeing, nutrition, behaviour, weight, training
tags: hindgut-health, stereotypic-behaviour, stomach-health, fibre, nutritional-requirements

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