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  • Q:

    I have a three-year-old gelding, an easy keeper that has a calm temperament. He’s in moderate body condition and weighs 1,350 lb (615 kg). He swallows air, much like a cribber, but he doesn’t fasten his teeth on anything. He has a history of colic, specifically nephrosplenic entrapment, and he was admitted twice to the veterinary clinic for this. His diet includes alfalfa (lucerne) cubes, soy hulls, flaxseed, and timothy hay, as well as some supplements: a powdered calcium product, prebiotics, and omega-3s and omega-6s. He frequently passes odd-smelling gas. Is his diet to blame for the gas? What about the rest of the his diet; can you give it a once-over?

  • A:

    Without the exact amounts of the feedstuffs in your gelding’s diet, it is hard to give specific recommendations. However, it does appear that his current diet lacks several important vitamins and minerals.

    Because he seems to maintain weight on an essentially all-fiber diet, your gelding should be fed a ration balancer pellet, a specific feed designed to be given at a low feeding rate because it is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. Ration balancer pellets are great for easy keepers that can easily maintain weight but still require nutrients for well-being and performance. Adding 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) of a ration balancer will allow you to remove the calcium supplement from his ration.

    Soy hulls are a rich source of pectin and soluble fiber, so they provide energy to your horse. Another fermentable fiber source, beet pulp, is known to cause gas production, so there is a chance the soy hulls might have the same effect on your gelding. Further, alfalfa has been known to trigger gas in some horses.

    Regarding supplementation, depending upon the amount and brand, you may not need both the flaxseed and omega supplements. You should be able to provide the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed at 2-4 oz per day, though the preferred way to deliver omega-3s is through fish oil, particularly EO•3, as it provides a direct source of the most biologically active omega-3s, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). If you choose this product, you can stop feeding both the flaxseed and the other omega supplement.

    EquiShure supports hindgut health and may help with his chronic gas, though his stomach may be at risk of ulcers. The air-sucking behavior that you mentioned can often be a sign of gastric ulcers or digestive discomfort. You may want to consider trying RiteTrac, as it contains both EquiShure and stomach buffers. Aside from EquiShure, Australian horse owners have other gastrointestinal health products available to them.

    Another idea for easy keepers is to use a closely knit haynet that slows hay consumption. Forcing smaller bites will make hay last longer, which in turn benefits the digestive tract by maintaining motility.

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