Entries in Vuma Strike R8 (3)



Horses Grazing

A Case for Vuma Strike R8

Debbie Odell MSc Agric, Pr. Sci. Nat. Consultant nutritionist for Vuma Horse Feed.

debbie odell - equine nutrition cosultantDebbie OdellFeeding performance horses is somewhat of an art that evades perfection even after hundreds of years of concerted effort. One commonality in the feeding of performance horses is the need to supply high energy diets to facilitate the required workload. These diets are commonly grain based, with more emphasis, lately, being placed on fats and oils as an energy source. As we have discovered from bitter experience, we walk a fine line between supplying energy needs for effective training and performance, and breaking down the horse through grain overload. The digestive anatomy of the horse gives us practical clues as to how we should be feeding.

Digestive anatomy of the Horse

The horse is classified as a hind-gut fermenter. In simple terms, this means that the "front end" of the digestive system is similar to any other monogastric animal (e.g. man, chicken, pig etc), and that digestion takes place in the classical manner, by enzymatic breakdown and absorption of the end-products through the gut wall. The "back end" of the digestive system is housed within an enlarged colon and caecum, and breakdown of nutrients here is accomplished almost exclusively by microbial fermentation (similar to the processes in the rumen of a cow). The foregut (stomach and small intestine) has a small capacity (about 38% of the total) relative to the capacity of the hind gut. This would suggest that the horse is not well suited to large single meals, but rather to continuous intake of a high fibre diet. The hind gut contains a "microbial soup" - a host of different microbes which break down and utilize the substrate provided by the diet. Any feed that passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested, will be subjected to microbial fermentation in the hind gut. The end-products of the fermentation process are mainly volatile fatty acids, heat and gas.

However, horses need high energy diets in order to perform, and grains form the mainstay of such diets. The problem with high grain diets results from the disruption of the sensitive pH balance in the hind gut. The hind gut microbial population is not static, but changes depending upon the substrate provided. A diet high in carbohydrate and low in fibre will favour the microbial population with the capabilities of utilizing these substrates, to the detriment of others. The health of this microbial population is essential to the health of the horse. Sudden changes in diet will cause a radical die-off of segments of the microbial population that are not able to survive the new gut conditions. These dying microbes produce toxins which cause damage to the gut lining and may in turn enter the bloodstream, causing colic, and laminitis in acute cases.

High Grain Diets

Any excess of grain, over and above the capacity of the foregut to digest, enters the hindgut and is presented to the microbes for fermentation. The microbial population will change in order to accommodate the change in substrate. The microbes that are suited to fermentation of carbohydrate will proliferate, at the expense of others who will find the gut environment no longer suitable to their needs and will die. The end products of carbohydrate fermentation include volatile fatty acids and lactic acid, the presence of which will cause a reduction in the pH (i.e. a more acidic environment) in the hind gut, causing the gut lining to undergo degenerative changes and the hind gut to become "leaky" allowing toxins produced by the rapid die-off of microbes to enter the bloodstream.

Laminitis, Colic and Liver Function

Grain overload and resultant intestinal disease, are the most common cause of laminitis in horses. Toxins produced by the rapidly dying microbes that find access to the bloodstream through a compromised intestinal wall have been implicated in the development of laminitis. Studies in the USA have shown that over 45% of racehorses in training suffer from subclinical laminitis. Although not detectable at the trot, discomfort at the gallop where the pressure on the foot can exceed 1 ton per square inch, will reduce speed and result in "unexplained" poor performance.

In addition the lactic acid produced by fermentation of carbohydrates causes a generalized hind gut acidosis with a concomitant increase in blood lactate levels. Colic is often associated with elevated blood lactate levels. The liver of the horse will attempt to mop up the toxins entering the bloodstream, and will in the process also be compromised, contributing to elevated liver enzyme levels on blood tests.

Lighten Up!

The most classic cases of grain overload appear in horses which remain thin no matter how much is fed. The normal reaction to a horse that lightens up considerably is to "up the feed". In some cases though, the horse may not respond, or will respond by lightening up more. At this point the call to the feed manufacturer is made! The classic symptoms in these cases are soft and sour droppings, an indicator of gastric acidosis, and providing further concentrate will only exacerbate the condition. Although counter-intuitive, the correct way to deal with the condition would be to reduce the concentrates and increase the roughage portion of the diet. It is important to realize that this is a chronic condition and it is often remarkable how well these cases will respond to a period of spelling at grass.

"Tying Up"

Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER or "tying up") is another condition commonly associated with continued feeding of high grain diets combined with a resumption of heavy workload after a short rest. In simplified terms, during short rest phases when the feeding level is maintained, glycogen is stored in the muscles. During hard work, insufficient oxygen may reach the muscles to utilize this glycogen aerobically. Anaerobic conditions will then prevail causing inflammation from cell damage and the release of cell constituents into the bloodstream. This results in elevated blood creatine kinase levels and the distinctive discolouration of the urine caused by the presence of myoglobin. The onset of ER may have other trigger factors as well, but the common denominator in most cases is the feeding of a high grain diet.

High Grain Diets
Relationship between High Grain Diets and Incidence of Laminitis and Tying Up.

A note on Ulcers

High fibre diets necessitate thorough chewing. High concentrate diets require much less chewing than high fibre diets. It seems more than pure coincidence that horses on high concentrate diets are more prone to development of gastric ulcers. Part of the reason for this is because chewing induces saliva production - the more chewing, the more saliva. When horses chew hay, they produce twice the amount of saliva per kilogram, of dry matter than they do when they chew concentrates. This saliva accompanies the feed into the stomach when it is swallowed. Saliva is rich in buffers and these buffers help to moderate the acid response in the stomach and prevent acid build-up and thereby reduce the incidence and severity of gastric ulcers. Pelleted concentrates also appear to predispose horses towards gastric ulceration, possibly because of the necessity to grind the ingredients quite finely in order to bind the pellets, enabling them to be consumed faster with less saliva production.

Effects on Behaviour

Horses fed a high grain diet are by virtue of physical gut capacity, deprived of adequate levels of roughage. Low fibre levels in horse's diets have been associated with a number of behavioural anomalies including an increased incidence of wood chewing and coprophagy, wind-sucking, crib-biting, weaving, stall walking, variable appetite and sour attitude particularly evident at mealtimes. Certainly some of these vices may become habitual in the long term, but all potentially have their roots in the attempts to ease some of the physical and physiological distress caused by feeding high grain diets and inadequate roughage supply. Some studies suggest that horses alter their feeding habits to accommodate a high grain diet, by slowing down their consumption rate seemingly in an effort to reduce the amount of carbohydrate that reaches the hind gut where fermentation will take place. They therefore act to ameliorate a drop in hind gut pH that will result from carbohydrate fermentation, indicating a degree of nutritional wisdom.

Strategies to minimize negative effects

Diets high in grain are necessary to the supply of energy requirements to performance horses but there are strategies that can be employed to minimize the effects of grain overload in performance horses.

First and foremost one should work with the physical attributes of the horse. The capacity of the horses stomach is approximately 9 - 15 litres in total but it is rarely full as gastric emptying usually occurs when the stomach is two thirds full. Large meals will therefore increase the rate of gastric emptying, and in turn increase the rate of passage through the small intestine. It stands to reason then that a higher proportion of undigested grain will reach the hind gut for fermentation if large grain meals are fed. If meals are smaller, the rate of passage will be slower and the digestion process in the foregut will be more complete. It is a widely recommended rule of thumb that horses should be fed no more than 2 kg of grain at any one feed. If more concentrate is required rather increase the number of feeds per day than the amount of concentrate per meal. Processing of some grains will improve their digestibility in the small intestine.

Adequate roughage, usually supplied in the form of hay in performance yards, needs to be supplied. Horses should never stand without hay, including overnight. If the night allocation is finished by the morning check, then more should be supplied until there is some left over in the morning. Horses will eat periodically through the night and it is important that they have access to roughage. A period of starvation can increase the incidence of gastric ulcers, and can also affect blood results should samples be taken before a morning feed.

Feeding "to the manger" is a strategy often used, with the assumption that horses will eat what they need and leave the rest. Concentrate quantities are therefore increased gradually until the point where the horse leaves feed, and then that level becomes their daily allocation. Nutritional wisdom is sometimes overestimated and horses may over-eat concentrate at the expense of roughage, especially where roughage supply is erratic. With "old fashioned" diets which included higher quantities of fibre this method may have passed as acceptable, however most modern performance feeds are nutrient dense and contain very little fibre as their focus is on energy supply. It is most important that when feeding these diets one sticks to the manufacturers' recommendations in terms of daily allocation, and ensures intake and availability of good quality roughage at all times. It is also cheaper to feed this way, as not only is hay generally much less costly than concentrates, but the penalties paid for overfeeding concentrates in terms of veterinary fees and poor performance often go unrecognized.


Feed supplements like Strike R8™ can be provided to help reduce the effects of high grain diets on the body. Strike R8™ contains acid buffers that modify the acid response in the stomach, helping to prevent the formation of gastric ulcers related to high gain or finely ground diets. Citrate salts help buffer blood lactate and gut specific selective anti-microbials effectively modify hind gut microbial populations, reducing the drop in hind gut pH caused by high grain diets. These products have proved highly effective in the control of acidosis induced laminitis. In addition, Strike R8™ contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that assist in the prevention of nutrition induced tying up.


We walk a fine line between optimum performance and nutritional breakdown when feeding sporting and performance horses. The art of feeding is to stay on the optimum performance side of the line. Feed management is critical to this and factors that must be addressed on a daily basis include meal times and the size of each meal, provision of sufficient roughage, physical form of feed, increased utilization of fats and oils as a feed source to reduce the carbohydrate load, balanced vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and provision of effective feed supplements.



Vuma Strike R8 Horse Feed

Striking the right balance. 

The modern performance horse is an athlete requiring a high energy diet to maintain condition, work level and recovery. Most of our modern diets, especially in high intensity work such as racing, eventing and polo are derived largely from grains. Although we advocate feeding high quality forage ad-lib, it is not always practical for horses in hard work, with the result that the largest percentage of their nutrition comes from concentrates and horses often go for long periods of time without eating.

This can lead to a build-up of acid in the system leading to gastric ulcers most commonly and in some instances laminitis and tying-up. Research has shown that more horses than we realize suffer from gastric ulcers and although not always noticeable some of the symptoms include poor appetite, poor condition and difficulty in picking up weight, dull coat, mild colic symptoms and lying down more than usual.

Apart from changing the type and ratio of feed and the number of feeds per day, Vuma Strike R8 is a very useful supplement to help combat the problems associated with acid build-up.

Strike R8 works in the following ways :

  • A highly effective, long acting buffer (containing bio-available calcium) assists in acid reduction in the stomach, and fenugreek powder acts as a general digestive aid, to help to reduce the incidence and severity of gastric ulcers and to optimize digestive function in all horses.
  • A gut microbe population modifier (Virginiamycin) helps to reduce lactic acid build up in the hind gut, decreasing the incidence of acidosis and significantly reducing the risk of laminitis.
  • Vitamin E and organic selenium eliminate deficiency induced muscle degeneration, vitamin B1 and niacin are essential factors in muscle energy metabolism, and balanced electrolytes, including calcium and magnesium, ensure optimal muscle function, helping to eliminate nutrition-related tying-up.

vuma horse feed south africa



For more information contact :
Catherine Hartley : 083 640 1155
Email: catherine@vumafeed.co.za



vuma strike r8

Please click above for more Vuma Strike R8 information


Although there may be a number of causes of tying-up, by far the most common denominator in the onset of the condition is the combination of feeding a high carbohydrate diet and a reduction in workload. On resumption of heavy work some horses will commonly show signs of tying-up, hence the old-fashioned name of Monday Morning Disease.

Energy from food is stored in the muscles as glycogen. Glycogen can be utilized most effectively as energy in the presence of oxygen. Myoglobin is the primary oxygen carrying pigment in muscle tissues. During hard work, there may be an inadequate flow of blood to the working muscles and insufficient oxygen may reach the muscles to utilize this stored energy effectively. Anaerobic conditions will then prevail within the muscles, causing a build-up of waste products which in turn causes inflammation and cell damage, with release of cell constituents including muscle enzymes and myoglobin into the blood stream. The kidneys will filter out the myoglobin from the bloodstream (hence the distinctive reddish-brown discolouration of the urine in cases of tying up), but myoglobin is toxic to the renal tubular epithelium and may cause kidney damage.

These conditions result in the symptoms of intense pain and reluctance to walk after exercise. Although carbohydrate overload coupled with sporadic work is often associated with tying up, other factors may also be involved including a vitamin E or selenium deficiency, electrolyte imbalances, hormone imbalances and excitability, inclement weather conditions as well as genetic predispositions.

Correct management of horses prone to tying up, includes regulated exercise and daily routine, reducing the amount of raw grains fed (extruded grains are preferable), increasing the oil content of the feed and ensuring intake of balanced vitamins and minerals, including anti-oxidants.

Strike R8 is the ideal supplement for grain fed horses. Not only do its active ingredients assist in lowering the gut acidity common in grain fed horses, but it also contains high levels of vitamin E, B vitamins, organic selenium and electrolytes (including potassium) to assist in reducing the incidence of nutrionally-induced tying-up.

In addition Vuma performance horse feeds contain effective levels of vitamin E and selenium as well as B vitamins to ensure optimal performance.

vuma horsefeeds linkwww.vumafeed.co.za

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