Equine Science Update
Reports from the world of  equine research.
More nutrition research available.
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There is increasing evidence of the importance of nutrition in maintaining the health and well-being of the horse, and in optimising performance.

The Waltham® Equine Studies Group, led by Dr Pat Harris, has been at the forefront of many of the advances in knowledge of equine nutrition. The group collaborates with research institutes and universities around the world. Together they have published over 70 reports of their research over the past two years.

One of their stated aims is to share their work with veterinarians, scientists and horse owners around the world. To that end a summary of the scientific output from the Equine Studies Group in 2004 and 2005 has now been published.

The second Waltham® Equine Research Digest covers four key areas. As well as reviewing research into fundamental nutritional science, it considers the influence of nutrition on health, behaviour and performance.

Several studies considered the nutritional aspects of laminitis. One showed that grasses with lower nutritive value (such as timothy), or pastures with lower water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) levels are associated with slower fermentation in the colon. Consequently they may be less likely to cause acidosis of the hindgut contents. Another study demonstrated the existence of marked insulin resistance  and / or hyperactive insulin secretion in ponies prone to laminitis.

A series of studies examined the effect of nutrition on respiratory health. They focused on the role of ascorbic acid and oxidative stress in the recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). Ascorbic acid, the major airway anti-oxidant, is depleted during clinical RAO. This reduction is not completely reversed when the airway inflammation resolves. So supplementation to improve the antioxidant status of horses with RAO may be beneficial, even when the horse is in remission and not showing clinical signs.

Also included are details of work on insulin sensitivity carried out in conjunction with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of Pennsylvania USA. The research looked at methods for determining insulin sensitivity and the measuring the responsiveness of the pancreatic beta-cells that produce insulin. One study found that the horse’s sensitivity to insulin changed with age and diet. The influence of diet on growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor -1 (IGF-1)  were also studied.

Other research examined the effect of nutrition on behaviour. One study looked at how horses behaved in response to foraging devices placed in the manger or in a feed bucket. Another study confirmed the behavioural advantages of providing multiple forages to stabled horses.

Studies of the influence of nutrition on performance focused on endurance horses, looking at the role of anti-oxidants, electrolytes and energy sources. There is a report of work which has started to look at the effect of nutrition and exercise on thyroid function.

The nutritional science section addresses the issues of voluntary intake of pasture in ponies and the variability of the nutritional value of pasture. Fat digestibility is also considered.

Copies of the Waltham® Equine Research Digest are available free of charge.

 see     www.spillers-feeds.com   

The www.spillers-feeds.com website is due to be upgraded on September 4th. Both the first and second Waltham® Equine Research Digests should then be available on line.
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