April 10, 2012

Overfeeding Affects More Than Just Humans

Have you ever seen the effects of overfeeding pregnant mares? Did you know that overfeeding affects not only the broodmare, but her foal as well?  

Food and feeding often times are influenced by human emotions.  We want our pets to be happy, to feel special, to enjoy a treat.  We may think a certain type of feed is great so we give it to our horses without realizing the contents.  We may even give our horses supplements that are not needed.  But learning what effects overfeeding can lead to, particularly in a pregnant mare and her developing foal, may help us avoid giving them too much. 

Through various studies, researchers have found that overfeeding your broodmare can lead to obesity, laminitis and metabolic disease.  The fetus is also at risk of developing metabolic disorders, which can cause laminitis or growth problems.  Just like overweight human mothers can pass on health risks to their unborn children, so can a horse.  Studies indicate that the inflammatory response is initiated in obese humans and animals, which has implications for connective tissue, skeletal muscles and the heart.  The picture here shows a foal whose mother was overfed.  The foal’s tendons are short as a result of the overfeeding. 

A proper nutritional program for a broodmare doesn’t necessarily mean more calories, but the right kind of calories.   Horses do best on a well rounded diet with the necessary nutrients.  Providing the proper diet is important all of the time, especially when “eating for two”. We all want healthy, beautiful foals, so remember to keep a close eye on what you are feeding your mares.