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Slowing Feed Intake Might Reduce Insulin SpikesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 3, 2011

The method by which you deliver your horse’s meals could affect insulin concentrations, and this could be valuable for horses with insulin resistance.

Research completed at North Carolina State University investigated the possibility of changing feed consumption rate through alternate delivery systems, thereby affecting insulin concentrations. Slowing consumption could be advantageous for horses with insulin resistance.

Using eight mature horses of mixed breeding and average body condition (score of 5 or 6), researchers used four feed delivery methods. The control consisted of a typical bucket with a diameter of 17 inches (43 centimeters) and a depth of 10 inches (20 centimeters). The three other methods included a typical bucket with four 4-inch (10-centimeter) diameter bocce balls as obstacles, a bucket with a waffle-like insert that rested at the bottom and created wells in which the feed settled, and a bucket in which an equal weight of water and feed were mixed and allowed to settle for 15 minutes prior to feeding.

After an overnight fast, blood samples were taken. Horses were fed and the time to consume the feed was documented. Blood samples were then taken at the time of feeding, every 10 minutes for the first hour, and then every 30 minutes until 5 hours post-feeding. Serum insulin was measured.

Obstacles in the feed buckets increased feed intake time, which resulted in decreased insulin concentrations after feeding. Therefore, using physical blocks in buckets might be an inexpensive way to reduce insulin spikes after meals and possibly diminish the risks of insulin resistance and its associated problems such as laminitis.

This study was presented at the 2011 Equine Science Society Symposium in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The proceedings from this symposium are available from the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.