For Happy Healthy Horses


W hen grazing, horses search and tear each bite to a size that can be chewed thoroughly. Well chewed forage mixed with saliva is the beginning of the digestive process. Saliva production (10 gallons a day) is dependent on the movement of the jaw muscles.  This alkaline mixture of saliva and forage buffers the stomach acid as it is being digested. He relies on the ph balance in the stomach to indicate when he has eaten enough. Remember horses do not eat to be full but only enough to not be hungry, thus the term trickle feeder.

The Porta-Grazer™ is designed to allow the horse to graze hay in a naturally slow continuous manner in the correct posture. Restrictive hay feeders and nets are designed to slow the horse down by force. Being restricted and forced heightens anxiety and can result in gastric ulcers and an unhappy unhealthy lifestyle. Horses are the only ones who know how fast or slow the should eat and each one has its individual needs.  Porta-Grazers patented design offers hay to the horse in such a manner that each bite is pulled and torn to size resulting in a slowed rate of consumption. Searching-pulling-tearing while chewing and swallowing is natural and that’s Porta-Grazer™

Porta-Grazer Prevents & Treats Many Digestive Ailments
Step 1

Fill the bucket with hay, bending the ends of the flakes down so the hay “pillows” in the middle.

Step 2

Line up the tabs on the insert with the notches on the bucket and twist to secure.

Step 3

Pull some of the hay strands up through the holes in the insert.

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Hay Nets and Hay Bags versus Porta-Grazer

Using a hay net or hay bag can be dangerous for your horse due to the netting material being ingested or the horse becoming entangled. One thing that all hay nets and bags have in common is that they waste hay, and wasted hay is wasted money. Even if your horse does consume hay that has fallen to the ground he is able to ingest sand, dirt, debris, and parasites while picking up the loose hay laying on the dirt, then your money is spent on combating sand colic, parasite infestation etc. You’re probably thinking hey, horses eat off the ground even in nature…. BUT that is not true…Horses do not naturally eat off of the ground, they eat the tops of plants that grow from the ground.

When eating from a hay net or bag the horse stands in an unnatural position. His back hollows out, hocks are positioned in a camped out manner, his neck is twisted, his jaw alignment is no longer where it should be which causes his teeth to wear unevenly. Proper head down feeding brings the jaw, neck, back, hocks etc all into proper alignment. Even if using a net or bag at ground level you run the risk of the horse becoming entangled, especially if wearing shoes and the hay is in contact with the ground, which leads to mold growth, and again ingestion of sand, parasites, etc. Porta-Grazer™ eliminates hay waste and keeps your horse from having to eat hay off the ground. The patented design keeps the hay in the feeder where it belongs.

We spend so much time, money an effort to protect our horses with splint boots, skid boots, shipping boots, blankets, fly mask, we insure our saddles fit and use pads to make sure our horse is comfortable and our saddle doesnt pinch or rub them wrong… we provide them with shelter and fencing so they wont get hurt…Why not provide the same protection to your horses digestive system? By using the Porta-Grazer™ you are protecting your horse against colic, ulcers, laminitis, founder, and so many other digestive ailments. Its simple math… Vet bills vs cost of a Porta-Grazer™… Pretty clear choice!

Health Benefits

Proper Digestion and How Porta-Grazer Can Help


There are lots of kinds of ulcers and many causes for ulcers. Most common are gastric ulcers. One of the main causes of gastric ulcers is the hydrochloric acid build up in a horse’s empty stomach. The horse produces digestive acid (16 gallons per day) in a never ending flow. This is to match the seemingly continuous flow of forage the horse is designed to take in. This constant intake of forage and saliva has a buffering effect on the stomach acid bringing the pH to balance. When the pH is in balance the burning effect of the acid is neutralized. When the acid level rises to an uncomfortable level the horse chews it back to balance. The bottom of the stomach is thick and glandular while the top is a sensitive thin membrane. Acid in an empty stomach can burn a hole in the upper stomach in as little as 15 minutes while exercising. Autopsies of horses that die from colic most always reveal an ulcer or history of ulcers.

Porta-Grazer™: Promotes digestive health by allowing the horse to consume processed forage in a natural manner. Meaning that forage is always available and consumed with each bite being sized and salivated sufficiently to neutralize stomach acid in a timely manner. Also having the ability to graze when necessary relieves stress that can also cause gastric ulcers.


When a horse is fed hay unrestricted he will pick through it searching out the raw fructose (sugar) and eating it first. This will raise the sugar levels in the blood and may result in or aggravate insulin resistance (IR) issues such as laminitis. High amounts of sugar in the blood can also result in hypertensive behavior.

Porta-Grazer™: Allows feeding at a natural pace while not allowing the feed to be picked through. This keeps the sugar intake at a constant safe natural level and in most cases eliminating the need to soak out the sugar. Similar to human type II sugar diabetes, you can safely eat sugar, but a bite an hour not a candy bar an hour.


(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) While searching through the hay horses may inhale dangerous amounts of dust, pollens and mold which can lead to an allergic reaction and COPD.

Porta-Grazer™: Hay is pulled directly into the mouth through the holes and torn off. The dust, sand, pollens and mold are shaken loose and work its way to the bottom of the barrel. There it is collected in a trough out of the horses reach to be discarded later.


Not being able to tear his bites when eating unrestricted hay the horse is forced to eat with his lips not incisors causing uneven wear to all dental surfaces, thus impairing the function of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint mechanism) which is vital to the horse’s health. Eating from elevated hay racks and nets can also cause TMD (temporomandibar dysfunction)

Porta-Grazer™: Each bite is torn off using the incisors in a head down natural posture. During grazing the mandible is allowed to slide down and forward relaxing the TMJ muscles and allows for proper teeth contact.


Hay is pressed into clumps when it is processed forcing the horse to take unnaturally large bites. These large mouthfuls cannot be sufficiently chewed and adequately lubricated to be easily swallowed.

Porta-Grazer™: The horse tears off each bite sizing it to his particular needs. He is then able to chew and thoroughly lubricate each bite before swallowing.

Impaction Colic

A horse’s food must be moist when leaving the stomach in order to flow smoothly and allow the nutrients to be absorbed by the digestive system. This moisture is obtained from the saliva created while chewing. Large unregulated bites with low moisture content will lead to intestinal impaction stopping the digestive process.

Porta-Grazer™: Each bite is sized and torn off according to his particular needs. The horse then chews thoroughly mixing saliva with each bite adding the needed moisture to his digestive system (up to 10 gallons of saliva per day). In a natural environment horses will water once or twice daily to replenish bodily fluids.

Stable Vices

Misleadingly referred to as “Boredom”. When the stomach is empty (This can be as soon as 20 minutes after finishing his meal) the hydrochloric digestive acid is still being produced. Acid alone in the stomach without the alkalinity of food and saliva to buffer it causes discomfort. With no food available the horse will do unnatural behaviors to create saliva to buffer the acid in an effort to soothe the pain. Behaviors may include cribbing, eating manure, destructive chewing, licking or constantly grazing the bare ground for anything that may be eaten. Many behaviors such as pawing, kicking walls banging the feeder are to get your attention to bring food which relieves the pain. Horses will bolt their feed when overly hungry eating quickly in an attempt to soothe the pain of an overly acidic stomach.

Porta-Grazer™ Each bite is sized and thoroughly chewed saturating the forage with saliva and neutralizing the excess acid. Large bites of hay with small amounts of saliva will not bring the acid into ph balance and the horse will continue to eat until out of food. Small sized bites well saturated with saliva quickly bring the acid into pH balance. When in balance the horse will usually not continue to feed unless the hay has high sugar content.

Sand Colic

When hay is processed it must be moist in order to compact correctly. This process creates dust which adheres to the hay and is compressed into the bale. When the hay is eaten in large compressed bites or fed on the ground dust and sand particles are ingested. These particles settle in the digestive tract causing a blockage that is usually fatal if not immediately treated. Colic is the largest cause of premature death in equines.

Porta-Grazer™: Hay is pulled through the holes and torn off. The dust, sand and dirt are shaken loose and work its way to the bottom of the barrel. There it is collected in a trough out of the horses reach to be discarded later. Little to no feed is dropped to the ground to be contaminated with foreign materials and ingested. Horses do not eat naturally off of the ground they eat the tops of plants that grow from the ground.


When the horse eats with his head in an upright position it hollows the back transferring the body weight to the hind quarters. This will result in the hind legs being placed further back than normal and stress being applied to the back and hocks.

Porta-Grazer™: Promotes a natural head down grazing position. This stance pulls the topline into alignment and the hind legs into the correct weight bearing position relieving neck, back and hock stress. Small continuous meals will also reduce a bulging “hay” belly.


When a horse eats loose hay in large unregulated bites there is not enough saliva to lubricate the forage making it difficult to swallow. The added moisture from dunking allows the feed to be swallowed easier and will also offset the lack of saliva, aiding the digestive process and possibly preventing impaction colic.

Porta-Grazer™: Allows only small bites to be torn off that can be thoroughly chewed and well lubricated with saliva. Then can be easily swallowed eliminating the need to add more moisture.

Herd Feeding

Horses must be fed a basic grass diet and be able to chew and thoroughly salivate their food in order to control their weight. When horses are fed together they will establish a pecking order with the higher ranking members eating the sugar and leaving the less nutritious food for the others. The result of this behavior will be a variation of body scores and healthiness among the group.

Porta-Grazer™: Not allowing one horse to eat another’s food or a large portion of the sugar assures that each will receive equal value from the feed as well as an ample supply. Secure the Porta-Grazers at least ten feet apart allowing each horse their own space. If the dominant horse moves to an occupied Porta-Grazer the displaced horse calmly goes to the unoccupied Porta-Grazer (nothing gained nothing lost). Removing the competition for food will result in a calm peaceful herd with no wasted hay.


Horses pick through, walk on, poop on and pee on the hay in order to search out the sugar. This behavior results in large amounts of the good valuable hay being wasted. Some may become so obsessed with the sugar that they will not eat the left over hay, waiting for more to pick through.

Porta-Grazer™: Our unique patented design does not allow hay to be picked through or spread to the ground and wasted.

Weight Control

When a hungry horse is provided unrestricted access to hay he will over eat. pH balance in the stomach is what stops the eating process not a full stomach. When consumption is reduced to lower his weight the body will adjust by conserving calories to maintain the excess weight. Also the lack of forage will cause problems within the digestive tract. Resulting in an unhappy lethargic overweight horse referred to as an easy keeper. If you must cut back, cut back the calories not the volume.

Porta-Grazer™: By allowing the horse to control the size of his bites ample saliva is mixed with the forage as it is taken in. When thoroughly salivated forage enters the stomach it begins to buffer the painful stomach acid balancing the pH and creating comfort. When the pH is in balance he will quit eating until the acid builds up then he will eat again to bring it back to balance. That is the grazing routine you see when horses graze mature pasture. Feeds that are high in sugar (grains for example) interfere with the pH balancing process. Also feeds with high sugar content will be over eaten just for the taste.

Parasite Control

When feed is dropped and or eaten from the ground where animals are kept there is a high likelihood that parasites will be ingested in higher than normal quantities. This will have an adverse effect on your horses health as will the chemicals used to combat an infestation.

Porta-Grazer™: allows the forage to be taken directly into the horse’s mouth in small bites preventing feed from being picked through and dropped to the ground. By not exposing your horse to the parasites environment fewer chemicals will be needed to control infestation.

How to Feed Your Horse’s Digestive System

By: Walt Tharp

Most all horse owners are experts at feeding the outside of their horses. What I mean is the weight is right and their coat is shiny they look healthy but what about the inside? If a horse’s behavior and well being were based on what they look like on the outside you and your horse would both be a lot happier. Well this is simply not the case your horse does not react according to his appearance he only reacts to the way he feels on the inside. So let’s talk about the inside. If you have read the 15 reasons for grazing that I wrote then you will be interested the following.

The following may vary depending on each horse’s individual metabolism. Grass hay depending on the variety and when it was cut has between 825 and 900 calories and alfalfa about 900 to 950 calories per lb. A 1000 lb. horse requires about 15,000 calories daily at rest, 25,000 calories daily at light work and 33,000 calories daily heavily worked. That’s about 18 lbs. of (850 calorie) grass hay daily to maintain him at rest with a healthy appearance and supply the nutrition he requires.

Now the inside, that same 1000 lb. horse requires up to 30 lbs. more or less of dry forage daily to maintain a healthy digestive system and attitude.
Now how do we get to 30 lbs. without adding calories? The same way farmers have done it for over 100 years since they began increasing the calories in the hay they grow to fatten their cattle. The hay contained too many calories to let horses free feed without becoming obese when they were not being worked. The answer is to blend straw (or chaff) into the hay. A constant fiber source is needed to maintain the “good” bacteria in the horses hind gut which break down plant fibers and provide energy for the horse. Straw has very little sugar or nutritional value and used as a filler keeps the digestive bacteria working around the clock and healthy. Straw is usually available in three varieties: oat, barley and wheat. Oat is most palatable, barley is less palatable and wheat is the least palatable.

Here’s the easy part, you are most likely feeding enough calories with your current feeding regiment to maintain your horse’s daily calorie requirements so just blend enough straw with each feeding so they are not hungry at the next feeding. By not hungry I mean they don’t take hay from your hands as you are feeding or act aggressive towards their hay. Not only does the straw work as filler but it also dilutes the sugar intake and taste (like letting the ice melt in a glass of soda) which encourages your horse to eat more slowly. You can add or subtract straw to increase or decrease the calories according to how active your horse is. Preferably feed lowest calorie grass hay available which will require less straw if any to be blended for the inactive horse. Testing hay for mineral content if possible because most farm soils have mineral deficiencies. A quality equine mineral supplement is usually necessary.

Horses require about the same amount of forage each hour around the clock. Divide the pounds of blended forage you are going to feed by 24 (hours in a day) then multiply by the amount of hours between each feeding then feed the appropriate amount at each feeding. (Ex: feeding 7am and 5pm =10 x the hourly amount in the morning and 14 x the hourly amount in the evening).

Blended hay works great when combined with the Porta-Grazer™ feeding system not allowing the horse to pick through the hay.

Does That Hay Belly Mean Your Horse is Fat?

By: Juliet Getty PhD

Ever been told that your horse has a hay belly and needs to lose weight? Well, relax! He’s not fat, he just has gas! In fact, gas production is normal and healthy. It indicates that your horse is getting enough hay for hind gut microbial fermentation to occur.

A distended abdomen is often referred to as a “hay belly” to describe an overweight horse, even when the rest of his body is normal, but actual fat does not accumulate extensively on the horse’s lower abdomen (belly).

Horses do accumulate worrisome fat in specific areas: neck, withers, back, ribs, shoulders, and tail head. Excessive fat in these areas increases a risk for laminitis and increased inflammation throughout the body. In 1984, Dr. Don Henneke, of Texas A&M University, developed a “body condition scoring system” that categorizes horses’ condition based on the amount of fat stored in these six areas. This system is still the mainstay for equine health professionals.

Horse owners who deliberately limit hay consumption and replace it with cereal grain to avoid a hay belly are doing their horses a disservice and are increasing the risk of digestive and metabolic disorders. Forage should be the foundation of any horse’s diet. It is vital for the health of the hind gut microbes, and hence, the health of your horse.

Dr. Getty provides a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.gettyequinenutrition.com. Sign up for her informative, free monthly newsletter, Forage for Thought.

Forage Deprivation Keeps Your Horse Fat

By: Juliet Getty PhD
Newsdate: Mon July 24, 2017, 10:34 am

Eat less and exercise more – that’s the way to help your horse lose weight. Right? Well, yes and no. Yes, reducing caloric intake and burning more calories helps your horse’s body use the energy he’s storing.

But there’s a component to weight loss that has nothing to do with calories – it has to do with hormones. Hormones, such as cortisol and insulin, dictate to your horse’s body how much fat he will store; these hormones are keenly sensitive to stress. The science is complex but well worth understanding, so let’s take a look.

Research with a variety of species has repeatedly shown[i] that stress tells the body to hold on to fat; the chemical changes that occur are similar to those produced during a famine. This is based on a primitive need to feel safe. Therefore, stress “tricks” the horse’s body into gaining weight just to survive.

If you’re seeking help for your overweight horse, you may be getting advice that is unsuitable for your horse’s long-term health. It may seem to make sense to feed your horse less, but how should this be accomplished?

If eating less means taking away hay or pasture, then it’s contradictory to what your horse needs. Yes, do take away fattening cereal grains and sugars, but never, never, never restrict forage. Why? Because restricting forage is the most stressful thing you can do to your horse.[ii]

The physiology is indisputable: the horse is a grazing animal designed to chew all day long. His chewing produces saliva, which neutralizes the acid that’s continually flowing in his stomach[iii] which, therefore, should never be empty.

He also needs forage flowing through his digestive tract to exercise those muscles; otherwise the muscles get flabby, which can bring on colic from a weak intestinal tract that torques and intussuscepts. Furthermore, the cecum (hindgut) must be full for digested material to exit, since its exit and entrance are both at the top. Otherwise colic can result from material left at the bottom.

Compensatory behaviors can develop: Deprived horses will chew on whatever they can—fences, trees, even their own manure. It’s pitiful to see. Chewing on non-feedstuffs makes a horse mentally acutely uncomfortable because it goes against his instincts, but physically he is attempting to resolve his discomfort and follow his innate drive to eat.

If eating less means taking away hay or pasture, then it’s contradictory to what your horse needs. Yes, do take away fattening cereal grains and sugars, but never, never, never restrict forage. Why? Because restricting forage is the most stressful thing you can do to your horse.

Now, about those hormones…

Food deprivation can be stressful and has been shown to result in weight gain in humans.[iv] How stress impacts increased body fat accumulation has been studied extensively.[v] The research using horses is minimal, but it’s there.

Cortisol is elevated during acute forms of stress such as pain,[vi] intense exercise,[vii] or transport,[viii] but appears to decline during feed deprivation.[ix] The mechanism that prolonged stress has on reduced cortisol is likely due to the alteration of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.[x] The HPA axis involves the hypothalamus portion of the brain and secretes several hormones within a fraction of a second of a stressful event. The key hormone, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), signals to the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH reaches the adrenal glands (near the kidneys) to initiate the secretion of cortisol, which circulates throughout the body to stimulate physiological stress responses.[xi] In the case of prolonged stress, these stress-activated biological reactions start to shut down, suppressing the HPA axis and negatively impacting the activation of CRF.[xii]

The studies that determined reduced cortisol when horses were fed forage on a restricted basis[xiii] cannot necessarily be taken as absolute truth because of potentially confounding variables. For example, in many cases, you’re not told if the horses came from a setting in which their feed was already given in measured amounts rather than offered free choice – in other words, they may have already been living in a condition of prolonged stress.

In that case, it would make perfect sense for the cortisol level to be low because the horse has endured the chronic stress adaptation of the HPA axis.[xiv]

I have found no research that took such feeding method change into account, except for one study where the ponies were initially kept on pasture and were of good health, only to have all but one of them gain weight after the experiment.[xv]

The key here is that cortisol levels decline over a period of months or even years of the chronic, unrelenting stress that forage restriction creates. So, in actuality, forage restriction over time is even more stressful than pain!

Pain initiates an immediate cortisol response. But chronic stress taxes the HPA axis to such a degree that the horse can no longer regulate hormonal responses designed to protect him and keep him healthy.

Normally, cortisol secretion follows a circadian rhythm. Under normal circumstances, cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually decrease over the course of the day. [xvi] However, in a recent study, researchers found the effect of feed deprivation to be just the opposite: cortisol concentrations were lowest at 8:00 am, and peaked in the middle of the afternoon.

We do know that in this particular study some of the horses were kept on pasture beforehand, and others (stallions) were initially housed in individual dry lots with hay, though it is not stated whether the hay was provided ad libitum, or by scheduled feedings.

Nonetheless, the researchers admitted that the abnormal cortisol levels may have been caused by differing feeding times or changes in feeding locations, both remarkably stressful to horses.[xvii]

Regardless of cortisol levels, forage restriction can lead to pain within the stomach or anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, and when that happens, pain can cause cortisol to increase.

Severe ulcerations can develop rapidly when hay is withheld,[xviii] even within one or two hours.[xix] The stomach releases acid continuously, making the horse’s digestive system vulnerable to painful ulcerations when there isn’t a steady flow of forage at all times.

When feed restriction causes pain, the stress of that pain can lead to an increase in cortisol through the HPA axis.[xx] Elevated cortisol stimulates the liver to derive glucose from glycogen stores, resulting in increased insulin secretion from the pancreas.

Stress elevates epinephrine. Another hormone, known as epinephrine, comes into the picture during stress episodes. You may be familiar with its other name – adrenaline. It is released during periods of acute stress or fear. It’s often referred to as the “flight or fight” hormone.

Horses don’t stick around to fight when threatened; they run instead. However, if confined, they cannot run and they may feel as though their very lives are threatened.

This heightened state of stress affects body weight in the same way that cortisol does by increasing glucose released from glycogen stores or glucose production from amino acids, leading to elevated insulin.[xxi] When prolonged, insulin sensitivity (the body’s ability to use insulin effectively) declines, promoting fat storage.

Deprivation of hay overnight makes things worse. Researchers from Louisiana State University,[xxii] found that mares having enough hay during the day but deprived of hay overnight showed the greatest degree of insulin resistance. Are you doing this to your horse?

You may not think so, but if there is no hay left over in the morning, how do you know if your horse just ran out 10 minutes ago, or if he’s been without hay since 2 o’clock in the morning? If he’s running out, he is experiencing physical pain and discomfort from acid bathing the unprotected lining in the upper part of his stomach. Compound that with what your horse’s brain is thinking.

He perceives that as “winter’s coming,” telling his body to hold on to fat. Both stressors ultimately raise insulin, and when insulin is high, there is no way your horse is going to burn fat. If he loses weight, what he’s losing is mostly muscle. So the vital thing to learn from this is that we are basically telling our horses to remain overfat to prepare for an “impending famine.”

Insulin resistance is impacted by hay vs pasture grazing. We know another interesting thing from those same researchers at Louisiana State University. They took a look at horses who were fed hay in a dry lot versus those that were able to graze on pasture and found that insulin resistance decreased when the horses were allowed to graze on pasture and increased when they were put in a dry lot.

The researchers didn’t give a reason, but I think we can surmise that it had to do with the fact that the horses were able to exercise by moving around more and that they were less stressed.

Anticipation of the next meal impacts stress response. Researchers at Ohio State University[xxiii] found that boredom and anticipation of their next meal also affects cortisol levels.

In other words, a horse that’s allowed to have only periodic feeding, and is therefore left with an empty stomach for hours, will have an increased level of cortisol flowing through his veins. You know what this looks like on the outside—how the horse will grab at the hay and eat it very quickly, because he terribly uncomfortable.

Leptin may play a significant role. Fat tissue secretes a hormone known as leptin. Under normal circumstances, leptin goes to the satiety center in the hypothalamus portion of the brain to tell it that the horse has had enough to eat and is satisfied.[xxiv] This is the body’s way of maintaining normal weight: fat increases, leptin rises, the brain says the body has had enough to eat, and weight comes down.

But in the case of obesity, the horse may become leptin resistant due to inflammatory cytokines released by body fat that potentially damage the areas within the hypothalamus that recognize leptin.[xxv] Leptin is high in this circumstance, but the brain is not responding to it.

The result? The appetite does not decrease; instead the horse keeps on eating, getting more obese, producing more cytokines, increasing inflammatory damage to the hypothalamus, resulting in even greater leptin resistance.

Restricting forage results in loss of muscle mass. In a recent study, forage restriction was proposed as an effective way to lose weight.[xxvi] However, even though horses lost weight when forage was limited, there was no change in body condition score, neck or girth circumference, cresty neck or rump fat.

Instead, the longissimus dorsi muscle thickness was reduced. So, the weight loss had to have come largely from muscle loss! This further damages the metabolic rate. Furthermore, leptin declined when horses were limit-fed for 28 days. What does that tell you? It says that the horse is hungry! And there’s no food. Is that not stressful?

Sluggish metabolism is exacerbated by forage restriction. A recent study revealed that overweight horses do not always consume more than horses of normal weight.[xxvii] Therefore, not all obese horses are leptin resistant.

Instead, a sluggish metabolic rate is likely keeping the horse in an obese condition on the same amount of calories. Adipose (fat) tissue is metabolically slower than muscle.

Removing forage from the diet will force the horse’s body to breakdown muscle tissue for glucose, since elevated insulin inhibits the release of glucose from glycogen stores in the body. Consequently, the metabolic rate becomes even slower as more muscle is lost. This contradicts the effort to help a horse remain healthy while losing weight.

Leaky gut syndrome significantly increases inflammation. Stress can affect the intestinal barrier that protects normal gastrointestinal function. This is known as “leaky gut” syndrome and can create severe health problems in all species, including horses.

It is a condition where the intestines become permeable to dangerous substances that can then enter the blood stream and create a variety of illnesses.

Researchers from North Carolina State University recently studied leaky gut syndrome in horses,[xxviii] determining that leaky gut can lead to increased concentration of endotoxins promoting significant oxidative damage to the mucosal lining.

The influx of endotoxins, primarily lipopolysaccharides, into the bloodstream stimulates the production of proinflammatory cytokines, potentially leading to hypothalamic inflammation that can lead to elevated leptin.

So what should you do to help you horse lose weight?

  • Feed appropriate forage free choice. Yes, really. Steadily grazing on forage matches what a horse would naturally do and makes the cells more responsive (more sensitive) to insulin.[xxix] A healthy, insulin sensitive horse is a horse that will not easily gain weight when fed forage free-choice.
    Make exercise an important part of your plan. Activity has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in horses.[xxx]
  • Reduce concentrates. Calorie reduction, though important, should only be accomplished by reducing or even eliminating commercial feeds and cereal grains.
  • Make sure your hay is appropriate to feed free choice. It is best to have it tested, so you know that it is low enough in sugar, starch, and calories.[xxxi] To evaluate the testing report, look at the column labeled “Dry Matter.” Add the ESC percentage (simple sugars) to the starch. This amount should not exceed 11%. The Digestible Energy (DE) is an indicator of calories and should not be more than 0.94 Mcals/lb (2.06 Mcals/kg) on a dry matter basis.
  • Test your pasture.[xxxii] Pasture grazing is the best way to keep your horse healthy. Grasses are not only highly nutritious, but grazing supports both physical and mental health. Get to know your pasture and periodically have it analyzed to offer your horses grazing opportunities at the most opportune times and conditions.
  • Allow your horse to self-regulate by always having forage available, with no gaps. He will soon get the message that he can walk away, and the hay will be there when he returns. He will eat less and eat more calmly.[xxxiii]
  • Grazing muzzles may be used, but only with caution. They can defeat the purpose if they cause stress. Horses will make attempts to remove the muzzle by drinking more water. They will also be less active and spend more time standing still.[xxxiv] If you try a grazing muzzle, be sure you limit its use to no more than 3 hours per day because the digestive tract needs more forage than such muzzles allow. Be absolutely certain that the mask allows for proper water drainage. And never put a horse out in pasture with a sealed muzzle! Not only is that unbelievably cruel—and stressful—it is also incredibly dangerous.
  • Consider slow feeders. Not all horses require them, but they are helpful initially to allow for slowing down intake.[xxxv]
  • Pay attention to inflammation. Once the horse loses body fat, the brain may remain leptin resistant, making the horse very hungry and he could gain back all the lost weight. Therefore, the approach must be to heal the inflammatory signaling in the hypothalamus. Ways to accomplish this can be found in a recent article on obesity,[xxxvi] as well as on the benefits of colostrum.[xxxvii]

Bottom line

Reducing calories through depriving forage ironically keeps your horse overweight. Instead, pay close attention to meeting the horse’s instinctive need to consistently graze. The research validates this. These instincts are based on compelling physiological and mental needs. Make no mistake about this: when we ignore or deny those needs, we seriously imperil our horses. The closer you get to a feeding environment that simulates a natural setting, the healthier your horse will be. Give your horse a chance to be a horse, and let him tell you how much forage he needs.

About Dr. Getty:

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is now in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com — buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[xxxviii]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at .

[i] Block, J.S., He, Y., Zaslavsky, A.M., et. al., 2009. Psychosocial stress and change in weight among U.S. adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170, 181-192. Also, Gabriel, J., 2008. The Gabriel Method. Atria Books.

[ii] Getty, J.M., 2013. Restricting forage in incredibly stressful. http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/library/restrictingforageisincrediblystressful.htm.

[iii] Ellis, A.D., and Hill, J., 2006. Nutritional Physiology of the Horse. United Kingdom: Nottingham University Press.

[iv] Dallman, M.F., Pecoraro, N., Akana, S.F., la Fleur, S.E., Gomez, F., Houshyar, H., Bell, M.E., Ghatnager, S., Laugero, K.D., and Manalo, S., 2003. Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of “comfort food.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100 (20), 11696-11701.

[v] Gluck, M.E., Geliebter, A., and Lorence, M., 2004. Cortisol stress response is positively correlated with central obesity in obese women with binge eating disorder (BED) before and after cognitive-behavioral treatment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1032, 202-207. Also, Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Fidler, J.A., Steptoe, A, Boniface, D., and Wardle, J., 2009. Perceived stress and weight gain in adolescence: A longitudinal analysis. Obesity, 17(12), 2155-2161. Also, Foss, B., and Dyrstad, S.M., 2011. Stress in obesity: Cause or consequence? Medical Hypotheses, 77, 7-10.

[vi] Mair, T.S., Sherlock, C.E., and Boden, L.A., 2014. Serum cortisol concentrations in horses with colic. The Veterinary Journal, 201, 370-377.

[vii] Gordon, M. E., McKeever, K.H., Betros, L, Helio, C., and Filho, M., 2007. Exercise-induced alternations in plasma concentrations of ghrelin, adiponectin, leptin, glucose, insulin, and cortisol in horses. The Veterinary Journal, 173, 532-540.

[viii] Guay, K., Brady H., Sutherland, M., Pond, K., Janecka, L., and Allen, V., 2009. Effect of 24-hour transport on stress response in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 29(5), 424-425.

[ix] Freestone, J.F., Wolfsheimer, K.J., Ford, R.B., Church, G., and Bessin, R., 1991. Triglyceride, insulin, and cortisol responses of ponies to fasting and dexamethasone administration. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 5(1), 15-22.

[x] Zarkovic, M., Stefanova, E., Ciric, J., Penezic, Z., Kostic, V, et.al., 2003. Prolonged psychological stress suppresses cortisol secretion. Clinical Endocrinology,59, 811-816.

[xi] Getty, J.M., 2013. Equine Cushing’s Disease – Nutritional Management. pp 9-10.

[xii] Yehuda, R., 2002.Neuroendocrine alterations in posttraumatic stress disorder. Primary Psychiatry. http://primarypsychiatry.com/neuroendocrine-alterations-in-posttraumatic-stress-disorder

[xiii] Glunk, E.C., Hathaway, M.R., Grev, A.M. , Lamprecht, E.D., Maher, M.C., and Martinson, K.L., 2015. The effect of a limit-fed diet and slow-feed hay nets of morphometric measurements and postprandial metabolite and hormone patterns in adult horses. Journal of Animal Science, 93(8), 4144-4152. Also, Sticker, L.S., Thompson, D.L., Jr., Fernandez, J.M., Bunting, L.D., and DePew, C.L., 2014. Dietary protein and(or) energy restriction in mares: plasma growth hormone, IGF-I, prolactin, cortisol, and thyroid hormone responses to feeding, glucose, and epinephrine. Journal of Animal Science, 73, 1424-1432. Also, Storer, W.A., Thompson, D.L., Jr., Waller, C.A., and Cartmill, J.A., 2007. Hormonal patterns in normal and hyperleptinemic mares in response to three common feeding-housing regimens. Journal of Animal Science, 85, 2873-2881.

[xiv] Yehuda, R., 2002. Neuroendocrine alterations in posttraumatic stress disorder. Primary Psychiatry. http://primarypsychiatry.com/neuroendocrine-alterations-in-posttraumatic-stress-disorder

[xv] Freestone, J.F., Wolfsheimer, K.J., Ford, R.B., Church, G., and Bessin, R., 1991. Triglyceride, insulin, and cortisol responses of ponies to fasting and dexamethasone administration. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 5(1), 15-22.

[xvi] Stull, C.L., and Rodiek, A.V., 1988. Responses to blood glucose, insulin and cortisol concentrations to common equine diets. Journal of Nutrition, 118(2), 206-213.

[xvii] Kentucky Equine Research Staff. 2011. Cortisol rhythm and colic in horses. http://www.equinews.com/article/cortisol-rhythm-and-colic-horses

[xviii] Murray, M.J., and Eichorn, E.S., 1996. Effects of intermittent feed deprivation, intermittent feed deprivation with ranitidine, and stall confinement with free access to hay on gastric ulceration in horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 57(11), 1599-1603.

[xix] Oke, S., 2016. All wound up: Is your horse “stressed out”? The Horse. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/36644/all-wound-up-is-your-horse-stress-out

[xx] Wagner, A.E., 2010. Effects of stress on pain in horses and incorporating pain scales for equine practice. Veterinary Clinical Equine, 26, 481-492.

[xxi]Deibert, D.C., and DeFronzo, R.A., 1980. Epinephrine-induced insulin resistance in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 65, 717-721. Also, Budohoski, I., Challiss, R.A., Dubaniewicz, A., Kaciuba-Uscitko, H., Leighton, B., Lozeman, F.J., et. al., 1987. Effects of prolonged elevation of plasma adrenaline concentration in vivo on insulin-sensitivity in soleus muscle of the rat. Biochemistry Journal, 244, 655-660.

[xxii] Earl, L.R., Thompson, D.L., Jr., and Mitcham, P.B., 2012. Factors affecting the glucose response to insulin injection in Mares: Epinephrine, short- and long-term prior to feed intake, cinnamon extract, and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 32, 15-21. Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

[xxiii] Saul, J.L., Nyhart, A.B., Reddish, J.M., Alman, M., and Cole, K., 2011. Effect of feeding practice on glucose, insulin, and cortisol responses in Quarter Horse mares. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 31(5), 299-300. The Ohio State University.

[xxiv] Freidman, J., and Halaas, J., 1998. Leptin and the regulation of body weight in mammals. Nature, 395, 763-770.

[xxv] Wisse, B., 2004. The inflammatory syndrome: The roles of adipose tissue cytokines in metabolic disorders linked to obesity. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 15(11), 2792-2800. Also, De Git, K.C., and Adan, R.A., 2015. Leptin resistance in diet-induced obesity: The role of hypothalamic inflammation. World Obesity, (16(3), 207-224.

[xxvi] Glunk, E.C., Hathaway, M.R., Grev, A.M, Lamprecht, E.D., Maher, M.C., and Martinson, K.L., 2015. The Effect of a limit-fed diet and slow-feed hay nets on morphometric measurements and postprandial metabolite and hormone patterns in adult horses. Journal of Animal Science, 93(8), 4144-4152.

[xxvii] Moore, J.L., Pratt-Phillips, S.E., and Siciliano, P.D., 2017. Relationships between level of adiposity, voluntary intake, and digestibility in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 52, 76-95.

[xxviii] Stewart, A.S., Pratt-Phillips, S., and Gonzalez, L.M., 2017. Alternations in intestinal permeability: The roles of “leaky gut” in health and disease. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 52, 10-22.

[xxix] Lestelle, J.D., Earl, L.R., Thompson, Jr., D.L., Hebert, R.C., and Mitcham, P.B., 2011. Insulin-glucose dose response curves in insulin sensitive and insensitive mares and effect of overnight and long-term feeding regimen. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 31, 285-286.

[xxx] Larson, E., 2012. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity in horses. The Horse, http://www.thehorse.com/articles/29117/exercise-increases-insulin-sensitivity-in-horses

[xxxi] Equi-Analytical Labs – www.equi-analytical.com — is a well-respected testing facility that specifically evaluates forages and feeds for horses.

[xxxii] Getty, J.M., 2017. Pasture for the insulin resistant horse? http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/pasturefortheIRhorse.htm

[xxxiii] Getty, J.M., 2017. Respect the power of the horse’s instincts. http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/Respectthepowerofthehorsesinstincts.htm

[xxxiv] Fowler, A.L., Parsons, J., Walling, L., and Lawrence, L.M., 2017. Muzzling affects horse behavior. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 52. 101.

[xxxv] Getty, J.M., 2014. The correct way to use slow feeders. http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/library/thecorrectwaytouseslowfeeders.htm

[xxxvi] Getty, J.M., 2015. Obesity. The real cause. The real fix. http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/Obesity.therealcause.therealfix.htm

[xxxvii] Getty, J.M., 2017. Colostrum – An Exceptional Superfood! http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/Colostrumanexceptionalsuperfood.htm

[xxxviii] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

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If eating less means taking away hay or pasture, then it’s contradictory to what your horse needs. Yes, do take away fattening cereal grains and sugars, but never, never, never restrict forage. Why? Because restricting forage is the most stressful thing you can do to your horse.

Juliet Getty, PhD