In the world of horses, people often ask about hay belly and what they can do about it. Others say their horses are huge in the gut but lack decent muscles. Aside from a broodmare belly, a parasite situation, or post-colic surgery effects, the answer sounds like a nutritional imbalance. Once you understand the situation and what causes it, you can make the necessary adjustments to horse feed. This will let you avoid it in future.
What is hay belly?
Have you ever seen a growing or young horse with a large belly while the rest of their body seems small? Maybe there is a mature horse that has a low hanging midsection, whereas the ribs are visible. Also, the muscles along the hindquarter and back are difficult to find. What about the ‘pregnant gelding’ situation? All these are describing a hay belly.
You should regularly perform a body condition score on your horse. Do this to look for muscle mass as well as suitable fat deposition in essential areas. It is critical to look at all the indicated areas. A belly or rib check alone won’t give you all the right information.
Why does it happen?
Let’s go over the causes of hay belly. When too many low-value calories in food get consumed without sufficient protein, the body stores them as energy in cells. However, the necessary protein isn’t available to preserve muscle mass. If there is an absence of suitable protein, muscles atrophy, and stored energy increases. As time passes, a hay belly manifests as muscle mass over the top is lost and gut size can expand.
The largest factor here is to avoid fibre high in Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) in the horse feed. This is while you are under-feeding suitable quantities of quality protein. NDF is a measurement of cell wall content within plants like grasses. While the plant matures, it develops stronger cell walls so it is able to hold itself upright. The stronger these walls are, the lower the digestibility for a horse. As a result, when it is very mature hay your horse isn’t able to digest it.
Besides being higher in NDF, the grasses are usually lower in quality proteins. They are crucial for developing and preserving muscles.
As for how you can prevent hay belly, you should start by feeding high quality hay. Feed them the correct amount for your horse’s activity level, age, and body weight. The hay that is ‘leafy’ and smooth holds high levels of NDF that the horse can digest better. Hay that seems like a green version of straw or is pointy to the touch is one to avoid. It won’t offer much nutritional value to your horse.
Getting rid of a belly
We’ll finish by talking about how to get rid of a hay belly if your horse already has one.
Start by examining the quantity and quality of the hay you have. If the quality is adequate, you need to rethink the quantity. You should feed a horse 1.0-1.75 pounds/100 pounds of body weight of hay daily. For a horse that weighs 1,000 pounds, this would be between 10-17.5 pounds every day. Preferably, you should divide this into two or three feedings. Check to ensure you are not inadvertently under-feeding or over-feeding if your horse is bigger than 1,000 lbs.
The final piece of the puzzle is horse feed. See to it that the concentrate you are using is providing enough protein. Total protein alone won’t develop or support ideal muscles.
The correct balance of amino acids is necessary to build and preserve muscle quality and quantity. Favour feed that ensures levels of Threonine, Methionine, and Lysine. These three vital amino acids are the most important of all.
Also, check to see that you are feeding the right amount of concentrate. Feeding a balanced diet and introducing exercise to aid in muscle mass development and tightening the tummy can help you reclaim the belly.
Shop with us for horse feed
At JS Hubbuck Ltd, we have several animal feed products available. By having a choice of goods, it is easier for customers to find what it is they need. So, if you are currently in need of quality feed, make sure you give us a call.