High Fiber Options to Combat Drought
High Fiber Options to Combat Drought & Meet Your Horse’s Forage Needs
By: Jessica Drexler, PAS
This summer’s drought has been devastating to our pastures, reducing hay crops and posing potentially serious horse care management challenges. In general, horses need to consume 1-2% of their body weight in hay every day. Poor pasture quality and quantity can mean fewer calories and nutrients in the hay being harvested, hay shortages and higher costs. We need to be prepared with good quality fiber alternatives, especially when looking toward the winter months. Luckily, there are a variety of forage and high fiber options that can help.
A horse’s diet should consist of abundant forage or quality pasture. Ideally, longer stemmed hay is most desirable, like that of harvested hay prepared in small, large or round bales or what is offered to horses out on fresh pasture. Chopped hay is a great option to supplement or replace long stemmed hay. Look for chopped hay with a fiber length of 1-1.5” or longer to assure good gut motility and to give the “scratch factor” effect. This helps promote good gut health and gut muscular waves, known as peristalsis, that help move ingested forage through the digestive tract. Triple Crown offers chopped grass forage and alfalfa/grass chopped forage options, and Safe Starch® Forage is a fortified, low starch and sugar alternative for horses/ponies with metabolic issues.
Forage cubes also work well to help supplement or replace the hay portion of the diet and provides a longer fiber length that is more desirable than feeding hay pellets. Historically, cubes consisted only of 100% alfalfa, but today there are a variety of combinations to meet owner and horse preferences. They can be fed as-is or soaked to make a softer mash for a senior horse or horses with poor teeth. Triple Crown offers 100% Alfalfa and Alfalfa-Timothy forage cubes, and for horses with metabolic issues, we recommend Timothy Balance® Cubes that are low in starch and sugar with added minerals.
Complete, beet pulp-based feeds are also an option because they contain enough dietary fiber for horses to thrive without (or on considerably less) hay or pasture. Ideally, youi’ll still want to provide some long stem fiber sources with these feeds, but senior horses and horses that have poor or no teeth can thrive solely on complete feeds. Triple Crown offers a variety of complete feeds, including Triple Crown Senior, Complete, Growth and Senior Gold. Find them on our feeds page.
Other fiber alternatives include shredded beet pulp and pelleted hays. These options have been used successfully as fiber supplements, but only under strict management guidelines. Beet pulp, for example, works very well for senior horses or those with metabolic issues due to its higher calorie content, low starch and sugar and ability to be soaked into a mash. These options work best when combined with a feed program that includes ration balancers to help ensure daily vitamins and mineral needs are met.
Horses should continue to get quality long stem hay or pasture for as long as they are able, but when these options are not possible, Triple Crown has a variety of high fiber options to meet your horse’s daily forage requirements.