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Why is fibre so important

The horse has evolved as a specialist herbivore and before domestication grazed grasslands, supplementing its diet with other plant materials. But, basically, horses eat grass; and the major nutrient in grass is fibre.

The modern horse’s gut is designed to digest fibre with two-thirds of the digestive tract devoted to breaking down fibre by fermentation.

Horses are ‘trickle eaters’ feeding continuously, small amounts of feed are constantly chewed, swallowed and acidified in the stomach to release nutrients prior to digestion and absorption in the small intestine.

Gut Function

Fibrous material is essential to create bulk in the gut, to ensure the gut contents are pushed along into the large intestine where the fibre fermenting bacteria break it down.

The horse’s gut depends on it being full to maintain its activity. By maintaining gut fill the whole process of transit is upheld and it is dependent on bulking for its wellbeing.

There are a number of processes involved in correct gut function which include gastric emptying, enzyme release from the pancreas and bile production, all of which impact on digestion and the subsequent environment of the gastro-intestinal tract. It also influences the populations of micro-organisms that inhabit the hindgut.
Not enough fibre in the diet can cause excess acid in the stomach to slosh around which can lead to ulceration. It also can cause the gut to become flaccid which can lead to gut twisting and increase the risk of colic.

The replacement of fibre with high levels of cereals can mean that the upper intestine cannot cope. Fermentation patterns change and more acid is produced which again increases the risk of ulcers, colic and potentially laminitis as they are often high in sugar and starch.


Fibre can also provide the horse with enough slow release energy to sustain work for a long period. On the other hand, if fibre is poor quality it will not generate enough energy to maintain the horse.

Broadly speaking:

• Straws are poor quality fibres

• Forage, hay and haylage are average quality fibres

• Beet pulp, alfalfa, oat fibre and soya hulls (nowadays referred as super-fibres) are excellent quality fibres.

And when it comes to feeding? Forages will always provide the bulk of intake and should supply sufficient nutrition for maintenance to light activity. After which the addition of super-fibres will supplement for most except the more extreme activities.

By adding Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet, to the diet energy levels can be increased with less reliance on hard feeds. This enables a closer match of diet to the physiological requirements of the gut of the horse and allows judicial use of hard feed, at lower levels, to fine tune nutrient requirements.

Speedi-Beet can provide enough additional energy for competition horses, and, as a beet product, help improve the energy value of forage.

Feeding fibre to the competition horse is the best way and a soaked feed such as Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet can also help rehydrate the horse during busy competition periods, especially when the weather is warmer.

Both products have been awarded the BETA Gastric Ulcer Feed Assurance Mark and are suitable for equines prone to Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome as part of a balanced diet.

Want to try Speedi-Beet, Fibre-Beet or Cooked Linseed? Get in touch with a team who will be able to send you a sample - enquiries@britishhorsefeeds.com

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