Thursday 17th of January 2019

Can Feeding Affect Behaviour?

A major nutritional cause of behavioural problems in horses is feeding a diet high in sugar and starch, known as Non-Structural Carbohydrates (NSC).

Large feeds of cereal-based products cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream and can lead to an overflow of undigested starch from the foregut into the hindgut. This can upset the microbial balance, increase the acidity of the hindgut and lead to fizzy or spooky behaviour. High NSC diets can also predispose horses to gastric ulceration which often lead to behavioural changes.

The closer you can get to feeding in sympathy with the way your horse has evolved to eat, the more relaxed he will be. Therefore, appropriate forage should be offered ad-lib, with small amounts of hard feed which are low in sugar and starch.

Plenty of turnout is helpful, although intake may need to be restricted at times of year when sugar levels are high (e.g. during spring and autumn). Late-cut meadow hay, which is usually lower in sugar compared to earlier cuts, is preferable for horses prone to ‘fizzy’ behaviour. For good-doers, this type of hay can be soaked for 3 to 12 hours in ample, cool, fresh water to lower its sugar and calorie content.

Basing the hard feed on an appropriate cereal-grain-free top specification feed balancer, for instance TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer, is usually a very successful approach. This will allow your horse to gain maximum benefit from his forage meaning that hard feeds can be kept small.

The pre- and probiotics, included in TopSpec feed balancers and multi-supplements, not only support fibre digestion but may also, through their effect on the microbial balance in the hindgut, help to relax certain horses.

If further calories are needed low sugar and starch conditioning cubes such as TopSpec CoolCondition cubes can be added. Specialist cubes also include beneficial ingredients such as β-glucans, pectin and long acting buffers, which are helpful when the internal lining of the stomach has been eroded.

If all of these changes help but do not help enough, the addition of TopSpec Calmer, which has a 5-way approach, may also be useful. 

Contact the TopSpec Multiple Award-Winning-Helpline on 01845-565030 or visit

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