Feed the Research


18 December, 2013

The problem: Horses in some management systems do not have access to green forages, which means many do not consume sufficient vitamin E for optimal health. Vitamin E, one of the fat-soluble vitamins, functions as an antioxidant by inserting itself into the cell membrane and neutralizing free radicals, which can weaken cells and tissue. Research has proven, though, that not all vitamin E is created equally, with notable differences between natural and synthetic vitamin E. The most important dissimilarity involves the bioavailability. Natural-source vitamin E is much more bioavailable than synthetic, and therefore is the preferred form.

The solution: Provision of a high-quality source of vitamin E to horses without access to green forage is key. The vitamin E supplement should be natural and thus highly bioavailable, and must be stable during storage.

The vitamin E in most supplements is protected from degradation through a process known as esterification, which binds vitamin E with acid during manufacture. The acid acts as a padlock or protective cap that shields the vitamin E from damages caused by exposure to oxidative forces. Without esterification, vitamin E can quickly denature, losing its antioxidant properties and rendering it ineffective. Once ingested, esterified vitamin E is subjected to normal digestive enzymes, some of which unlock the protective cap created through esterification and make it available for absorption.

The natural vitamin E in Nano•E is not protected by esterification, but in order for it to retain superior antioxidant properties, it must become water-soluble or dispersible in liquid. This presented a challenge: as everyone knows, oil and water don’t mix.

The technology: Researchers developed a method by which fat-soluble vitamins can be absorbed with great efficiency. Because of its oily nature, vitamin is hydrophobic (water-shunning). To overcome this, researchers used proprietary technology to encapsulate the vitamin E in nanoparticles and then surround each nanoparticle with a hydrophilic (water-loving) outer layer. The hydrophilic layer allows the nanoparticles to be rapidly and evenly released in water-based environments such as the gastrointestinal tract. The result: Nano•E is significantly more bioavailable than other sources of vitamin E, even other sources of natural vitamin E. The more vitamin that is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more available it is for use as a body-wide antioxidant essential for tissue repair and for its imperative roles in various body systems.

Published Research


18 December, 2013

The problem: The gastrointestinal tract of the horse is not designed to process large amounts of starch and sugar in its hindgut. From a physiological perspective, starch and sugar are best digested in the small intestine. However, when the small intestine becomes overwhelmed and cannot process a deluge of starch and sugar it passes on to the cecum and colon (collectively known as the hindgut).

Digestion of these nutrients in the hindgut causes a disturbance in the resident microflora population, leading to a decrease in environmental pH and a condition called hindgut acidosis. If severe enough, hindgut acidosis can lead to irritated mucosa, causing signs of unthriftiness and unhappiness: inappetence, weight loss, mild diarrhea, sourness, and development of stable vices such as cribbing or wood chewing.

Hindgut acidosis is prevalent among horses that must consume large grain meals to fuel intense exercise, as well as those that graze fructan-rich pastures.

The solution: Acidosis is not a health concern unique to horses. Researchers involved in dairy cattle realized that erratic eating patterns caused by swings in rumen pH affected milk production, which ultimately reduced profits. Researchers and dairy producers successfully manage ruminal acidosis by adding a buffer such as sodium bicarbonate. With this research as a premise, Kentucky Equine Research (KER) scientists set out to find a solution to managing horses with hindgut acidosis. The task: supply a buffer to the hindgut that minimizes fluctuations in pH when significant quantities of starch and sugar are consumed.

The technology: The greatest obstacle in designing a buffer for the hindgut involved the architecture of the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike cattle, fermentation of forages occurs in the hindgut of the horse, not the foregut, so researchers at KER developed a way for the buffer to withstand passage through the harsh environments of the stomach and small intestine to reach its target organs. The result: EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer created specifically for horses, is a novel and effective way to combat signs of hindgut acidosis. Horses fed EquiShure have reinvigorated appetites, elevated feed efficiency, and improved performance.

Published Research


18 December, 2013

The problem: For decades, the inclusion of fat in horse diets has been a useful way to increase the caloric density of a ration. Popular fats include vegetable oils such as corn oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil. Whether it was top-dressed or fed as an ingredient in a premixed concentrate, feeding fat seemed to be a win-win situation; horses digest fat well and by eating fat-rich concentrates, they can consume smaller grain meals, which creates a more stable gastrointestinal tract and reduces colic risk.

Researchers now know that certain fats should be fed for optimal health. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids must be balanced within the body in order for both to be effective. Scientists have not pinpointed the optimal ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids for horses of various ages and uses, though they believe a ratio of 2-4:1 may be appropriate.

As it stands, horses fed a diet of forage and grain could be consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids. Heap on a cup or more of vegetable oil, which is typically rich in omega-6 fatty acids, and the ratio between the omegas becomes more steeply skewed.

The solution: Certain classes of horses require high-grain diets. It would, for example, be impossible for some performance horses to work or for some broodmares to nourish their foals without the energy provided by concentrates. From the stockpile of traditional feedstuffs, the only likely candidate for omega-3 supplementation is flaxseed, but there are specific metabolic disadvantages to feeding it, namely it’s not a direct source of EPA and DHA, the most beneficial of omega-3 fatty acids. The task: find a palatable source of omega-3 fatty acids for horses consuming high-grain diets and for those with conditions known to benefit from omega-3 supplementation such as subfertility in mares and stallions, chronic joint inflammation, allergic reactions, laminitis, and chronic skin conditions.

The technology: Only fish oils are direct sources of EPA and DHA, but many horses have an aversion to their taste. Advances in processing technology have overcome the palatability issue inherent with fish oil. The result: EO•3 is a stabilized and flavored EPA/DHA marine-derived oil. Flavor trials at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) have shown EO•3 to be extremely palatable when compared to other marine-derived oils. EO•3 is the most potent, effective source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids available. Analysis has shown that EO•3 has the highest percentage of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as well as the highest ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids when compared to other commonly fed oils.

Published Research


18 December, 2013

The problem: Many horses begin their athletic careers prior to reaching maturity. Many racehorses, for instance, train and compete before they are two years old. The change in environment from the breeding farm, where horses typically spend much of their time outdoors, to the training stable, where horses are stabled nearly the entire day, is quite dramatic. Changes in environment and athletic effort place significant stress on immature bones and joints, and many horses are unable to withstand the physical pressures of heavy training at a young age. Statistics show that thousands of young horses are afflicted with bone-related lamenesses, and many become unfit for racing because of these injuries.

The solution: Maximizing bone density is critical in improving bone strength and preventing skeletal injuries. Forming and maintaining strong, well-mineralized bone can act as insurance policies against injuries. Although other factors play into injury, increasing bone density by building stronger bone is vital. In addition to systematic and conscientious training, this can be achieved through optimal nutrition.

Bone engages in a continuous cycle of remodeling that is significantly influenced by nutrition. The skeleton is made up of more than calcium. Other minerals such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium are essential in bone-building processes. Aside from minerals, another major component of bone is the protein collagen. Bone can be compared to reinforced concrete with calcium and other minerals as the cement and collagen as the reinforcing rods. The task: provide horses with the nutritional constituents necessary to form sound bone, especially during stressful periods in the training programs of young horses or anytime athletic horses are housed primarily in stalls.

The technology: A nutritionally balanced diet containing good-quality forage and fortified concentrate cannot always support the stresses placed on the skeleton of performance horses, young and old. The result: Researchers at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) developed DuraPlex, a proprietary blend of specific proteins, minerals, and vitamins scientifically proven to increase bone mineral density and bone area in growing horses and performance horses. Research trials revealed that exercised Thoroughbreds showed positive changes in bone quality after just one month of supplementation. DuraPlex was also shown to prevent the natural demineralization that occurs when access to free-choice exercise is restricted.

Additional Literature