HydroGreen in Equine Diets, Keeping Things in Perspective
Nutrition 01.09.20

HydroGreen in Equine Diets, Keeping Things in Perspective

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HydroGreen is a great fit for stables, horse ranches and equine rescue operations.

HydroGreen’s

one of a kind fodder grow systems produce quality nutrition for horses and many other species of animals, consistently improving production efficiency, while optimizing animal health and performance.  With minimal land, labor, water and power requirements, HydroGreen grow systems provide a safe,  nutrition source for horses, regardless of weather or market conditions or availability of land. HydroGreen puts you in Control and keeps you in Control!

Horse owners and equine nutritionists frequently ask about HydroGreen’s fit in horse diets, given the highly digestible nature of HydroGreen nutrients and HydroGreen’s relatively high level of sugar.  During  germination and early plant growth in the HydroGreen grow system, the nutrients locked up in a complex and relatively un-digestible form within the dormant seed (parent grain), become transformed into highly digestible and available nutrient forms designed to support the infant plant.  One of those transformations is the conversion of much of the starch in the parent grain to a relatively high level of sugar in the HydroGreen fodder.  So the question becomes, “How does this transformation from high starch in the parent grain to significantly reduced starch and high sugar affect HydroGreen’s fit in horse diets?”   We want to answer that question here.

Starches and sugars are the primary sources of energy for horses.  We are primarily talking about starch, simple sugars, complex sugars and other polysaccharides.  They come in the form of readily digestible (soluble) and available forms, which include simple starches and sugars, or forms that require further digestion (insoluble), such as complex sugars and starches and various other polysaccharides.  This “further digestion” is accomplished in the simple stomach, involving the action of digestive enzymes, or in the hind gut (cecum and large intestine) involving the action of microflora, very much like the microbial digestion that takes place in a ruminant animal.

Horse ailments most often associated with carbohydrate intake include Insulin Resistance (IR) leading to Laminitis (founder), and Hind Gut (Cecum) Acidosis leading to Laminitis and Colic.  There has been a lot written about this subject recently.  Not everyone agrees about the details, but the following points seem to enjoy a consensus of opinion.

Not all horses are prone to problems associated with carbohydrate intake, and horses that are prone to these problems may be affected for any number of reasons.  That leads to questions about predisposition, and hopefully the right answers.  Is the horse predisposed to the problem either genetically or because of body condition, is it about the horse’s activity level, is it about the horse’s diet, is one (or more) ingredient within the diet the culprit, is it about when the ingredient was harvested or grazed or is it about the timing when certain portions of the horse’s diet are made available to the animal?  The general answer is “yes, one or a combination of multiple factors can play a role”.  However, even though current research has shed light on causes and interactions, the lack of total understanding has tended to lead horse people to take a broad brush and ultra-cautious approach to prevention and management, which has unfortunately discouraged or even eliminated some otherwise viable ingredients from horse diets.

Very broadly, all of these ailments are associated in one way or another with the level and type of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC’s) in the horse’s diet.  “NSC”, or non-structural carbohydrates, is a group designation comprising simple sugars, complex sugars, fructans and starch.  Let’s look at each of these ailments separately and then consider how they relate to a proper nutritional approach.

Insulin Resistance and Laminitis (founder)

Normally, the blood glucose level is regulated by the action of insulin, which facilitates the movement of glucose from the blood to the various tissue cells in the body, be they support tissue, muscles or organs.  Conditions like fever, pain, infections, stress and even chemical and hormonal imbalances brought on by diseases like Cushing’s disease can significantly reduce the effectiveness of insulin at the cellular level.  When cells become insensitive to insulin (insulin resistant), the quantity of insulin required to move glucose to these cells and maintain the proper blood glucose level is increased substantially, and the pancreas needs to produce abnormally high levels of insulin to compensate.  As the condition becomes more serious, the length of time the pancreas needs to maintain these higher levels of insulin increases as well.  Abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood for extended periods of time can be very damaging to certain cells in the body, including those cells that make up the structural and support tissues of the hoof.  So, IR can have a direct causative effect on laminitis in horses.

Insulin Resistance can have a genetic predisposition, a body condition predisposition, it can be more likely with excessive intakes of readily available (soluble) starches and sugars, or all of the above.  But here is the key; When readily available energy intake is significantly higher than the animal’s need for readily available energy, the development of IR at some level, and potentially the development of laminitis, is more likely.  IR is most often expressed in horses that are over-weight (obese) and in horses with limited activity.  Horses in the proper body condition, and receiving adequate exercise are far less likely to suffer from IR.  Probably a better way to put that is, “Balanced diets that fit the condition of the animal and the activity level of the animal are the right answer, even if they include higher levels of starch and sugar, because the animal will be utilizing all of this readily available nutrition immediately upon consumption.” 

Hind Gut (Cecum) Acidosis and Laminitis and Colic

The hind gut or Cecum of the horse is designed to digest more complex or higher fiber portions of the diet using resident gram positive and gram negative microorganisms, releasing volatile fatty acids (acetic, propionic and butyric) as the sources of energy that are absorbed into the blood stream from the large intestine.  Some of the starch and sugar sources in a horse’s diet are resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach, and end up in the cecum pretty much in their original form.  In the cecum however, microbes go to work rapidly breaking these complex starches (cellulose) and complex sugars (fructans) down into simple sugars, lowering the pH of the cecum, which changes the microbial population in the cecum, which further lowers pH, and makes the cecum a less effective site for digestion of fiber, which can actually predispose the animal to colic.  When all this occurs, toxins can be produced that are absorbed into the blood stream and find their way to these same sensitive tissues in the hoof, causing laminitis.  Cool season forages are most likely to contain higher levels of cellulose and fructans, so grazing timing, hay harvest timing and selection of hay all become very important.  The key here is; When grazing horses or feeding hay, or both, it is important to know the level of fructans in that grass or in that hay if you suspect you are feeding animals prone to this problem.  And again, it is very important to make sure the diet you are feeding your horse is balanced to fit the body condition and the activity level of the animal. 

So How Does HydroGreen Fit Into All This?

HydroGreen is a 6 day old plant, sometimes referred to as “fodder”, which is hydroponically produced in fully automated systems manufactured and supported by HydroGreen Global Technologies.  HydroGreen is a very digestible source of nutrition for horses and many other animal species.  HydroGreen is produced every single day of the year, regardless of weather conditions, markets or availability of land.  Other attributes worth noting:

  • Enzyme rich
  • High energy
  • Highly available and high quality protein
  • High phosphorus
  • High levels of important micro-nutrients with natural chelation
  • Highly palatable
  • Very consistent
  • Low starch and high sugar content compared with the parent grain
  • Simple sugars and starch that can be utilized immediately
  • Virtually zero Fructans
  • Good ADF and NDF values (significantly more than the parent grain)
  • Highly digestible

 

HydroGreen belongs in any diet where the above attributes are desired.  HydroGreen becomes part of a balanced diet.  HydroGreen should NOT be used as “dessert” or “a treat” for a horse that is already receiving a balanced diet, unless the feeding rate of HydroGreen is small.  The nutritional requirements of the diet and the inclusion rate for HydroGreen should be set based on the body condition and activity level of the animal that need to be supported nutritionally.  The sugar and starch in HydroGreen are both very digestible and available to the animal, and are used to supply needed energy for maintenance, level of activity and reproduction.  Because this energy is fully utilized by the animal for immediate energy needs, it should NOT contribute to any potential IR concerns, as long as the total dietary energy level is correct for the energy demand of the animal.  However, if the energy needs are already met by ingredients offered to the animal before HydroGreen is considered as an ingredient, adding HydroGreen to the diet will almost certainly make the diet more energy rich than it needs to be.  The optimum application of HydroGreen in an equine diet is to consider it as an integral portion of the total diet, and let it replace other sources of energy and protein if that becomes more economical for the horse owner.

HydroGreen will not contribute to the level of complex carbohydrates (Fructans) reaching the cecum of the horse, helping to reduce concerns about cecum acidosis and laminitis, as well as colic.  In fact, HydroGreen in the diet makes it possible to reduce the consumption of grass or hay that might be high in Fructans.  HydroGreen will help lubricate the ingesta in the digestive tract and physically help to prevent colic and compaction as well.  HydroGreen will always provide excellent conditioning for any horse diet, and significantly reduce dust, which has been shown to be a big benefit for horses prone to developing heaves.

“HydroGreen Healthy” nutrition is delivered without the typical investments in fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, field equipment, transportation and manpower; making HydroGreen very cost-effective and very environmentally friendly.  An equine feeding program that includes HydroGreen as part of a balanced diet is “Effective, Efficient and Green!”

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