What products should I feed my ulcer prone good do-er?

Article last updated: 14th November 2022

Review many horse feeds marketed towards the ulcer prone horse and you will notice that they are typically for the working horse or those that don’t hold their weight. However, there are many horses with ulcers that are good do-ers which can make selecting the right feed trickier; what’s the priority with these individuals and the best feed for horses with ulcers – managing the ulcers or promoting weight loss?

horse eating from rubber bucket

Why feed the ulcer prone good do-er?

Whilst the mainstay of any horse’s diet should be forage, in the form of either fresh pasture, or conserved forage like hay or haylage, even good do-ers can benefit from a bucket feed for the following reasons:

To provide a balanced diet; UK pasture and forage lack a number of key trace minerals including copper, selenium and zinc as well as vitamin E in conserved forage. Topping up these nutrients helps to ensure a balanced diet is supplied. Most frequently this can be achieved by adding a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer to a low calorie chopped fibre feed to act as a carrier.

As a lower calorie alternative to hay; hay and haylage can easily supply more energy or calories than the good do-er in light work requires and so the amount fed may need to be restricted. Alternatively, it is possible to replace a proportion of the forage ration with something even lower calorie such as a low energy chopped fibre feed. Overall this may mean the horse can have a larger amount to eat which supports digestive health.

As a pre-exercise feed to reduce the risk of acid splash; whilst this could be hay or haylage, many people will be aware that research has shown that feeding alfalfa as a fibre source is a superior buffer in the digestive tract. Feeding a double handful of a chopped alfalfa-based fibre feed in the 20-25 minutes before you ride is recommended to help prevent ‘acid splash’ in the non-glandular region of your horse’s stomach. The fibre ensures the stomach isn’t empty and suppresses the movement of the acidic contents when the horse moves.

Do I need to feed a pure alfalfa feed for maximum effect?

You could use pure alfalfa feeds like Healthy Tummy or Alfa-A Oil that both have the BETA feed approval mark as suitable for equines prone to gastric ulcers, but there are other suitable alternatives when looking for horse feed for good doers. Healthy Tummy and Alfa-A Oil are both higher calorie feeds which are more appropriate for poor do-ers or those in higher levels of work. Whilst the overall calorie intake could be controlled by limiting the amount fed, it is more beneficial for your horse to have more of a lower calorie feed for more chew time. A more suitable low-calorie feed that also has the BETA feed approval mark as suitable for equines prone to gastric ulcers is Dengie Ulser Lite. Additional suitable low-calorie feeds from the Dengie range include Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, Hi-Fi Molasses Free, Meadow Lite with Herbs or Hi-Fi Lite.

Don’t these products contains straw? Straw isn’t suitable for horses with ulcers is it?

Back in 2009, a study that looked at the incidence of gastric ulceration in a population of horses found that those that were fed straw as the sole or predominant fibre source were more likely to have ulcers. The reasons given related to the structure of straw and the fact that straw contains low levels of calcium and protein. This makes sense given that it is alfalfa’s naturally high protein and calcium levels that are thought to make it a superior buffer.

However, the key here is that straw was used as the sole or predominant fibre source which is something we simply don’t tend to practice in the UK. Furthermore, Dengie Ulser Lite, Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, Hi-Fi Molasses Free and Hi-Fi Lite all still contain a proportion of alfalfa as well for extra buffering potential alongside the straw. Given how valuable the addition of straw can be to the ration of a dieting horse, as it enables us to increase overall intake with minimal calories, the current advice even for ulcer prone horses is that it can be included, typically up to 30% of the total daily ration. Using Dengie products that contain straw at the recommended feeding rate will be well within these guidelines and is an appropriate choice of horse feed for good doers and ulcer prone horses.

How do I choose between Ulser Lite, Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, Hi-Fi Molasses Free and Hi-Fi Lite?

Ulser Lite – use to supply sufficient fibre for good doers to maintain gastric health without promoting excessive weight gain. Contains ADM Protexin In-Feed Formula that provides prebiotics and yeast for gastric health. Approved by BETA for horses and ponies prone to Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome. Use as a bucket feed alongside a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer to balance the ration or use to replace the usual forage ration if a lower calorie alternative is required. Feed a double handful of Ulser Lite in the time before tacking up to ride so the horse’s stomach isn’t empty when ridden.

Healthy Hooves Molasses Free – for horses in regular work that maintain their weight easily, use Healthy Hooves Molasses Free as a complete feed. When fed at the recommended quantity of 500g or 1 Stubbs scoop per 100kg of bodyweight, no additional vitamin and mineral supplementation is required. Healthy Hooves Molasses Free can also be fed at less than the recommended quantity alongside a supplement or balancer.

Hi-Fi Molasses Free – for good do-ers in light work, simply feed alongside a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer. Use as much or as little as your horse’s condition allows.

Hi-Fi Lite – feed as per Hi-Fi Molasses Free, or alternatively to partially or totally replace the usual forage ration. At 7.5MJ/kg digestible energy and 7% sugar, Hi-Fi Lite is lower calorie and lower sugar than average hay.

For personalised feeding advice call the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 or click here to complete the Feed Advice Form.


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