Do you know why veterinarians recommend feeding your horse with hay pellets instead of long-stem grass hay? As horses age, they begin to encounter difficulties in handling long-stem hay; this may (or may not) be connected to dental problems. Long-stem hay can also irritate the gut wall, causing colitis or inflammation, and possibly diarrhea. Loose manure is often one of the major health problems caused by long-stem forage. And you can only cure the health problem by reducing the long-stem forage in your horse's diet or by substituting it completely with hay pellets.
Hay pellets don't irritate the gut lining because long-stem hay is grounded finely before being made into pellets. Removal of the long-stem allows the gut inflammation to decrease and the manure to return to normal. It is safe to say, your veterinarian most likely recommended pelleted hay because of horse health problems and/or possible inflammation in the hindgut lining.
To resolve the loose manure, you don’t always have to remove all the long-stem hay from the diet – cutting away the long-stem portion of it might be enough to set things straight. After the loose manure is cured, you might even be able to increase the amount of hay you feed your horse, potentially going to an all-hay diet again. This will depend on the individual horse and how sensitive his or her gastrointestinal tract is.
Something to be aware of when feeding large quantities of hay pellets is that too many pellets result in less overall chewing than long-stem hay, which means less saliva production and stomach buffering. Be sure to watch for signs of gastric ulcers. Reduced chewing can also increase the choking risk. You can reduce this risk by wetting pellets before feeding them or using an automatic pellet feeder that can be programmed to feed meals at your desired intervals.
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