Everyone knows that exercise has vast and far-reaching benefits to horse health, such as helping bones remodel and remain strong, maintaining muscle strength, encouraging appropriate body condition, and improving a horse’s overall mental well-being. But did you know that exercise can improve nutrient digestibility, which translates to less feed wastage?
Several studies have shown that digestibility of feed improves with exercise. Most of those studies were performed in endurance horses, but one recent study assessed the impact of five weeks of exercise on digestibility on previously inactive Standardbred horses.
In this study, horses consumed hay and a pelleted feed at a total amount 2.1% of their body weight (more hay than pelleted feed)
A light exercise program involved both jogging and interval training exercise. Key findings of the study were:
• Except for acid detergent fiber and cellulose, all other digestibility parameters were significantly increased, including dry matter, organic matter, neutral detergent fiber, hemicellulose, crude protein, and gross energy; and
• Various fecal parameters also improved, including overall volatile fatty acids (VFA), acetate, and propionate.
Horses primarily degrade polysaccharides (fiber and cellulose) in the hindgut—the cecum and colon. A myriad of microorganisms residing there help with digestion and can change in response to physical activity. The study authors suggest the increase in VFA, acetate, and propionate point to improved fermentation in the hindgut.
Although the exact reason that exercise positively affects digestibility remains a bit of a mystery, this research does show that digestive efficiency improves with exercise. As such, nutritional requirements and appropriately formulated diets need to be considered even in horses embarking upon low-intensity exercise regimens (one to three hours of exercise per week).
References http://ker.equinews.com/article/exercise-benefits-horse digestion?utm_source=KER+Newsletter&utm_ campaign=d1fc1a8dd7-ker-horse-nutri-kentucky-equine-08_20_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_ term=0_0d95781dfc-d1fc1a8dd7-13622 *Goachet, A.G., P. Harris, C. Philippeau, et al. 2014. Effect of physical training on nutrient digestibility and faecal fermentative parameters in Standardbred horses. Journal of Animal Nutrition. In press.