EMS and ‘Low-Carb’ Diets: What’s Right for Your Horse?
A. This is a great question and gets at one of my biggest concerns as a nutritionist, which is the belief that all horses with EMS need “low-carb” or even “no-carb” diets.
“What?!” I hear you say, “But I thought EMS horses couldn’t have starch and sugar.” That is a truer statement, although not completely accurate either. Now, I know you are probably completely confused! Let me explain.
Understanding Different Carbohydrates
The horse’s body uses types of carbohydrate, and the key is to understand the difference. There’s starch, or sugars such as glucose, and other sugars that break down into glucose in the small intestine; but there are also complex carbohydrates such as hemicellulose, cellulose, pectins, and lignin. These complex carbohydrates are digested in the hindgut by bacteria and don’t result in elevated insulin levels. For horses relying mainly on forage as a large proportion of their diet, these complex carbohydrates provide the majority of their daily calorie intake
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