Will Sweet Feed Make Your Horse hyper?

Study Shows Sweet Feed Makes Young Horses Hyper

In 2008 Science Daily, "Sweets Make Young Horses Harder to Train", published an article based on equine nutrition research done at Montana State University. The researchers studied twelve young (the article did not give the ages) Quarter Horses, which were closely related and came from the same farm. The horses were put into a training program for a three-week period, each doing the same amount of work. Six of the horses were fed only good quality hay, a grass/legume mix. The other six were fed five pounds of sweet feed in addition to the same hay. All twelve had hay and water free choice 24/7.

Horses are Designed to Graze Forages

What Did the Study Prove?

The results of the study showed the horses that were fed the sweet feed showed more separation anxiety when removed from the herd, they were more hyperactive and less submissive in training than the horse eating only forage. All of the horses in the study gained weight while in training.

What does that prove? Well we mothers have been saying it for decades – to much sugar makes the kids hyperactive. But does that mean we should never feed our horses sweet feed? Doesn’t high quality hay have sugars, too?

What we do know is grain is not a natural food for horses. Horses were designed by nature to eat forages, a little at a time, all day long. High quality forage, ideally a mixture of grass and legume, is the natural diet for horses. The key, it seems to me, in this article is that the horses got hay 24/7, not a pad or two as some horse owners feed their horses. The test horses were able to eat hay anytime they wanted it. The six who were fed five pounds of sweet feed in addition to the hay were getting an excess of energy in their rations. It is not so much the sweet feed itself, but the fact they didn’t need the sweet feed in addition to the hay. It is much easier for a horse to get an excess of energy in its diet by eating concentrates (grain) than from forages. The reason for this is simple – they can consume the concentrated feed in a faster time that it takes them to eat hay. It takes longer to eat a pound of hay than a pound of grain.

Should You Ever Feed Your Horse Concentrates?

There may be another reason why horses are less hyper when kept on pasture. There is the mental and physical benefit of being out in a natural environment where they can move around and observe what is going on around them. They are eating slowly, a little at a time allowing their digestive system to work as it was designed to do. Even horses fed hay in the stall have the act of nibbling their hay throughout the day to occupy them while the food digests properly.

In addition to these studies about sweet feed causing horse to be hyperactive, we are also finding that feed high in sugar causes Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM) in draft horses. In addition, miniature horses are predisposed to obesity and developing a syndrome known as hyperlipemia or hypertriglyceremia, a disorder in which the horse is resistant to insulin. These horses have to go on a sugar-free or high carb diet.

That is not to say you should never feed your horse concentrates. With the except of horses with metbolic disease like the draft and minis mentioned, there are times when a horse needs the extra calories. How do you know when you need to supplement your horse’s ration with concentrates? Monitor their weight using the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System, which you can find at this link http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/AG_Equine_2005-01.pdf. When your healthy horse is in heavy training, or if quality hay is not available it may be necessary to supplement with grain. Monitor your horse’s weight using this system, or by using a weight tape. Only offer the concentrate if your horse’s weight is dropping, and only then if it is eating its fill of hay and still dropping weight. This method of feeding, according to the Montana State University researchers will result in a calmer and more trainable horse.


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Comments 12 comments

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 3 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Well, it could, but no way for me to really know. Maybe something was pinching him, spring fever and he just feels good, or needs some refresher ground training. Why did you double up on his feed? I would increase it a little at a time rather than doubling it all at once.


Ashleigh 3 years ago

My horse is a 7 yr old gelding. I had him on 1 scoop of purina horsemans edge. But recently last week I doubled the amount. Two days in a row he's tried to buck me off. He has never done that before. Could the extra scoop have made him hot?


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 6 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Terri, I had an old mare in her thirties and she did better on a high fat ration than the senior rations available. Horseman's Edge by Purnia is what I used and good hay/pasture. You can also add a fat supplement (veg oil) to the feed.

The pony may not need any grain, just a good hay or pasture. Be careful of pasture this time of year. Ponies are prone to founder from the lush spring grass. Call your county extension livestock agent for up-to-date advice. They can test your hay, etc. and have the newest research on equine nutrition


terry 6 years ago

I HAVE A TWENTY YEAR OLD MARE 15.2H AND A 13.2 H PONY THAT I RECEIVED WITH THE FARM I BOUGHT 2 MOS AGO THE OLDER ONE IS RIBS ARE SHOWING THEY HAVE BEEN ON THE CELEBRITY FEED FROM COOP WHOLE GRINS MIXED WITH MOLASSES I SWITHCHED HER OVER TO FAT AND FIBER AND THE PONEY EQUILIZER THE PONEY IS FAT ALREDY BUT IS LOSING A BIT ANYWAY THEY HAVE BEEN GRADUALLY SWITCHED BACK TO THE CELEBRITE COOP FEED AND SEEM TO MORE HYPER ..THE 20 YR OLD HAS A lot OF ENERGY NOT UNCONTROABLE THE BOTH OF THEM BUT DEFFINATLY MORE HYPER ..IM NOT SURE WHAT IS THE BEST TO FEED THEM THEY WILL HAVE FULL PASTURE WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN ON FOR THE LAST COUPLE YEARS ..I HAVE 20 ACRES OF LAND FENCED OFF FOR THEM IN 4 SECTIONS ..IF YOUR COULD RECOMMEND A GOOD FEEDING PROGRAM I WOULD APPRECIATE IT ITS BEEN 30 YEARS SINCE IVE HAD HORSES THanks


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 6 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Sarah, check with your vet and ask if supplementing with a product called Red Cell will be advisable. I have used this product on horses that have been sick or are underweight to help them build back up. It has iron and vitamins.

Here is a link where you can buy it:

http://www.kyhorse.com/store/supplements/general/r...


Sarah 6 years ago

I have a 3 year old section D gelding and he has had lice so is very tired and weak at the moment would you be able to suggest feeds to give him without wizzing him up too much but that will also help him build as he is very narrow at thi minuite.

Thanks


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Kylie, I am not sure how long it will take to see a difference, but I'd think a week or so would surely be long enough to know whether her behavior is diet related. Keep us posted.

Since you have a mare I am sure you know hormones can also make a difference in behavior when they are in heat, some mares more than others.


kylie 7 years ago

my daughters 6 yr old welsh was perfectly quiet until a month or so ago,we have realised that the hobby mix we've been feeding her every 2nd day has oats in it,she has been very pushy and a bit fizzy(heaps of energy )and not as calm as before,am changing to hay to see if theres a difference in her mood,any idea how long to expect a change of behaviour?ie:till the oats are out of her system


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

RV, glad to have you as a reader!


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Oats, corn, etc are concentrates so could very well be that your horse was getting more sugars than it needed, Gyspy.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Interesting hub, I found my horses always got hyper when fed oats, to the point of being difficult to control. Any studies on that?


RVDaniels profile image

RVDaniels 7 years ago from Athens, GA

Thanks, I learned something new today!

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    Donna Campbell Smith (DonnaCSmith)584 Followers
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    Donna Campbell Smith is a published author and freelance writer and photographer.



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