Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training

  • A. Jansson (a1) and J. E. Lindberg (a1)

Most athletic horses are fed a high-starch diet despite the risk of health problems. Replacing starch concentrate with high-energy forage would alleviate these health problems, but could result in a shift in major substrates for muscle energy supply from glucose to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) due to more hindgut fermentation of fibre. Dietary fat inclusion has previously been shown to promote aerobic energy supply during exercise, but the contribution of SCFA to exercise metabolism has received little attention. This study compared metabolic response with exercise and lactate threshold (VLa4) in horses fed a forage-only diet (F) and a more traditional high-starch, low-energy forage diet (forage–concentrate diet - FC). The hypothesis was that diet F would increase plasma acetate concentration and increase VLa4 compared with diet FC. Six Standardbred geldings in race training were used in a 29-day change-over experiment. Plasma acetate, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), lactate, glucose and insulin concentrations and venous pH were measured in samples collected before, during and after a treadmill exercise test (ET, day 25) and muscle glycogen concentrations before and after ET. Plasma acetate concentration was higher before and after exercise in horses on diet F compared with diet FC, and there was a tendency (P = 0.09) for increased VLa4 on diet F. Venous pH and plasma glucose concentrations during exercise were higher in horses on diet F than diet FC, as was plasma NEFA on the day after ET. Plasma insulin and muscle glycogen concentrations were lower for diet F, but glycogen utilisation was similar for the two diets. The results show that a high-energy, forage-only diet alters the metabolic response to exercise and, with the exception of lowered glycogen stores, appears to have positive rather than negative effects on performance traits.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

JT Devlin , ES Horton 1985. Effects of prior high-intensity exercise on glucose metabolism in normal and insulin-resistant men. Diabetes 34, 973979.

JM Ellis , T Hollands , DE Allen 2002. Effect of forage on body weight and performance. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 34, 6670.

B Essén-Gustavsson , D McMiken , K Karlstrom , A Lindholm , S Persson , J Thornton 1989. Muscular adaptation of horses during intensive training and detraining. Equine Veterinary Journal 21, 2733.

SB Gillham , NH Dodman , L Shuster , RK Kream , W Rand 1994. The effect of diet on cribbing behaviour and plasma β-endorphins in horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 41, 147153.

MJ Glade 1983. Nutrition and performance of racing Thoroughbreds. Equine Veterinary Journal 15, 3136.

PA Harris , RC Harris 2005. Ergogenic potential of nutritional strategies and substances in horses. Livestock Production Science 92, 147165.

HF Hintz , RA Argenzio , HF Schryver 1971. Digestion coefficients, blood glucose levels and molar percentages of VFA in intestinal fluid of ponies fed varying forage-grain ratios. Journal of Animal Science 33, 992995.

JM Hudson , ND Cohen , PG Gibbs , JA Thompson 2001. Feeding practices associated with colic in horses. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 219, 14191425.

VA Lacombe , KW Hinchcliff , CW Kohn , ST Devor , LE Taylor 2004. Effects of feeding meals with various soluble-carbohydrate content on muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise in horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research 65, 916923.

N Luthersson , KH Nielsen , P Harris , TD Parkin 2009. Risk factors associated with equine gastric ulceration syndrome (EGUS) in 201 horses in Denmark. Equine Veterinary Journal 41, 625630.

S Muhonen , E Lindberg J , J Bertilsson , A Jansson 2009. Effects on fluid balance and exercise response in Standardbred horses feed silage, haylage and hay. Comparative Exercise Physiology 5, 133142.

J Pagan , RJ Geor , PA Harris , K Hoekstra , S Gardner , C Hudson , A Prince 2002. Effects of fat adaptation on glucose kinetics and substrate oxidation during low-intensity exercise. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 34, 3338.

C Palmgren-Karlsson , JE Lindberg , M Rundgren 2000. Associative effects on total tract digestibility in horses fed different ratios of grass hay and whole oats. Livestock Production Science 65, 143153.

C Palmgren-Karlsson , A Jansson , B Essén-Gustavsson , JE Lindberg 2002. Effect of molassed sugar beet pulp on nutrient utilisation and metabolic parameters during exercise. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 34, 4449.

S Ragnarsson , A Jansson 2011. A comparison of grass haylage digestibility and metabolic plasma profile in Icelandic and Standardbred horses. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 95, 273279.

K Schuback , B Essén-Gustavsson , SG Persson 2002. Effect of sodium bicarbonate administration on metabolic responses to maximal exercise. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 34, 539544.

MK Tinker , NA White , P Lessard , CD Thatcher , KD Pelzer , B Davis , DK Carme 1997. Prospective study of equine colic risk factors. Equine Veterinary Journal 29, 454458.

AP Waller , RJ Geor , LL Spriet , GJ Heighenhasuer , MI Lindinger 2009. Oral acetate supplementation after prolonged moderate intensity exercise enhances early muscle glycogen resynthesis in horses. Experimental Physiology 94, 888898.

A Waller , M Lindinger 2007. The effect of oral sodium acetate administration on plasma acetate concentration and acid–base state in horses. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 49, 38, doi:10.1186/1751-0147-49-38.

AJ Waters , CJ Nicol , NP French 2002. Factors influencing the development of stereotypic and redirected behaviours in young horses: findings of a four year prospective epidemiological study. Equine Veterinary Journal 34, 572579.

JG Willard , JC Willard , SA Wolfram , JP Baker 1977. Effect of diet on cecal pH and feeding behavior of horses. Journal of Animal Science 45, 8793.

A Williamson , CW Rogers , EC Firth 2007. A survey of feeding, management and faecal pH of Thoroughbred racehorses in the North Island of New Zealand. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 55, 337341.

B Willing , A Vörös , S Roos , C Jones , A Jansson , JE Lindberg 2009. Changes in faecal bacteria associated with concentrate and forage-only diets fed to horses in training. Equine Veterinary Journal 41, 908914.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 24
Total number of PDF views: 216 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 346 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.