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A GOOD TIME TO REDUCE PROTEIN?

High protein intakes at levels of 50-60% above daily requirements, especially from lucerne hay, can generate more body heat (6 times more heat as compared to starch and fibre overload) in the hindgut as the protein is fermented by hind gut microbes, as well as increase water loss in the droppings and reduce water excretion through the kidneys in a hard working horse. Lucerne contains around 17% crude protein and a heat producing fibre content, which both add to digestive heat production. Whilst during winter or cold weather, the extra heat of fermentation in the hind gut will help to keep the horse warm at night or when grazing, once the summer heat and extra exercise in preparation for competition adds to the overall heat load, the lucerne hay may be cut back by 50% and extra grass or cereal hay provided to reduce the risk of excess protein intake and heat production. Lucerne hay provides good quality protein and is a useful source of calcium, magnesium, salts and stomach protective mucilage compounds as compared to grass hay (which has more sugars and generally better fibre digestion). However, it often causes horses to sweat more heavily in the flanks and under-belly due to the increased heat produced during hind gut digestion. If you notice that your horse is sweating more in the flanks and under-belly, it may be a good idea to reduce the lucerne hay. Mature lucerne fibre also does not hold as much water in its structure as compared to grass or cereal hay. More 'free' water may be passed in the droppings, making them soft and less well formed. In this case, reduce the lucerne initially to check if it is the cause, especially in older horses where hind gut water resorption may be also reduced.
Kohnke's Own Talking Dressage Issue 6 2011



 

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