Sunday, October 26, 2014

Continuing this blog

Dear horse owners,

I know that many of you are enjoying reading the posts to this blog and I would like to continue offering it.  But, I need your opinion.

Very few comments come in each month, and those who do write are seeking a response from me. While I appreciate your trust in what I have to say, I also know that there are many of you who have wonderful advice to offer to the horse owner who is starting out on this "free-choice forage feeding" journey.

When I started this blog, it was with eager anticipation that it would become a support venue for those who are struggling to get it right, as well as a place where folks could come to share their success stories and receive support and congratulations.  I would love for it to continue. But I need more participation.

Should I close down this blog and perhaps choose another venue (such as my previous "Ask the Nutritionist Forum" on my website or on Facebook)?  I originally gave these other venues my consideration but I didn't want the responses to come just from me and so a blog, I thought, would be a better approach.

What is your opinion? 

In appreciation,

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hay net hole size - September 2014

Greetings readers!

In this month's issue the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science is a study** that describes how hay net design affects the rate of forage consumption.  As expected, they found that horses will consume hay more slowly when fed using a slow-feeder hay net than when fed loose hay on the ground.  They also found that the smaller the hay net opening, the longer it took the horses to finish the hay.

This studies reassures us that using a slow-feeder is a useful tool in slowing down hay consumption. That is all this study reveals, which is fine to know, but as horse owners we need to put some real-world evaluation into this study's results.

When using slow feeders is is very important to allow the horse to gradually become accustomed to them by feeding hay free-choice on the ground as well as in the feeder.  Furthermore, the hole size needs to be one where hay can be easily accessible without inducing frustration. Frustration is a form a stress and creates the hormonal stress response that promotes fat storage.  If your horse is overweight, you can defeat your purpose by feeding in a manner that is stressful.

I offer more insight in my recent article, "The Correct Way to Use Slow Feeders"

All the best,

Juliet Getty :)

**Gluck, Emily C. et. al., 2014. The effect of hay net design on rate of forage consumption when feeding adult horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 34 (8), 986-991.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 2014

I often talk about the importance of adding a source of Omega 3 fatty acids to the diet.  Omega 3s are important for many reasons, but when it comes to insulin resistance, they are very helpful for lowering circulating insulin levels.

Even if your horse is overweight, you should consider adding some omega 3s to the diet simply because they will help the horse burn fat.  You see, when insulin is high, it tells the body to store fat.  Lowering insulin tells the cells that it is okay to release fat, and consequently, the horse loses weight.

Most fat sources that we add to the diet contain a large amount of omega 6s and very little, if any, omega 3s. While some omega 6s are necessary (specifically the essential fatty acid known as linoleic acid), too many in relation to omega 3s (specially the essential fatty acid known as alpha linolenic acid) will induce inflammation and not assist with insulin levels.

The best sources of omega 3s are fresh grass (if possible) as well as ground flaxseeds and chia seeds.  All of these sources offer four times more omega 3s than omega 6s.

I recommend feeding 1/2 cup of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds per 400 lbs of body weight. But if the horse is overweight, this can be reduced by half the amount because these fatty sources are high in calories. So, some is good, but too much can make the overall diet too caloric.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 2014

I recently took a trip to California -- the Santa Barbara area. To say it was utterly gorgeous is an understatement. The Pacific Ocean -- driving along the coast -- took my breath away. And the weather was perfect -- warm and dry. The humidity level is the key to comfort, no matter the temperature, making hot weather feel hotter, and cold weather become bone chilling. The low humidity of this area is delightful and I know horses think so, too.

But the downside to all this is the premium put on owning land. Precious land for horses to roam freely is not the norm as it can be in other parts of the country. Instead, many horses are housed in row upon row of boxes, much like people who are housed in skyscraper apartment buildings. Efficient, space saving, and organized -- but terrifically damaging to your horse's health.

My approach, (as those of you who know me are aware), is to express to you the ideal circumstance --  the gold standard of owning horses.  Why? Because once you know the best, you can think of creative ways to get closer to it. 

What is "The Best?"  It's grazing on a variety of fresh, living grasses and feedstuffs all day and all night with the freedom to come and go from a place of shelter in order to get away from the rain, wind, heat, and bugs without the fear of being confined. It's enjoying the benefits of steady movement so the feet, joints, and digestive tract can enjoy ample circulation. It's a stress free life of having forage always around so it is never an issue and there is never a care of when or how eating will be allowed. It is the joy of learning, so doing structured activities is a joy and not an irritation to the mind or to the digestive system. It's being respected as a horse; not a luxury car, not a machine, not a creature without thought or emotion, but a majestic animal with the ability to love, learn, thrive, and enjoy life.  

What are your creative ways of helping your horse meet these goals?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 2014 - Metabolic rate and leptin resistance

Self-regulating forage intake is something that horses will naturally do, when given the chance of knowing that the hay is always available.  But, for some horses, it takes more time and this can be an issue if the horse is already overweight and is gaining far more than you can reasonably stand.

This horse, who eats and eats and eats non-stop, and doesn't appear to self-regulate is suffering from a very sluggish metabolic rate along with leptin resistance.  This is a cumulative result of many years of forage restriction which slows down the metabolic rate, resulting in easy weight gain once the horse has more to eat. We see this with people all the time -- go on a strict diet, lose weight, and gain it all back (and more!) once you start eating normally again. This is all because the metabolic rate has been damaged to become very slow.

Leptin is another issue.  This hormone is secreted from fat cells and when it rises, it normally tells the horse that he is satisfied and to stop eating. But, when body fat gets too high, the horse can become resistant to leptin, and no longer respond normally. So he continues to eat without ever getting the signal that he has had enough.

The solution?  Exercise!  Exercise not only burns calories, but more importantly, exercise causes the horse to become more sensitive to leptin and his appetite will be satisfied with less food.  Also, the metabolic rate increases. Furthermore, exercise makes cells more responsive to insulin, allowing insulin levels to normalize and fat to be burned (when insulin is high, it tells the body to store fat).

Another part of the solution is to use slow feeders.  I have an article on this topic coming up in my June/July issue of Forage for Thought.  Watch for it in your email -- it sometimes goes into your spam folder.  I will be sending it out today (June 4th).  If you do not currently get Forage for Thought, be sure to sign up by going to my homepage -

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May 2014

Ah May -- the night temperatures are finally warming up enough to where there is less risk in letting your horse graze  -- the sugar/starch levels of the grass are finally following the "rules." You know them: (1) The non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) level is lowest before dawn and (2) The NSC is at its highest, and therefore, most dangerous level late in the afternoon, especially after a sunny day where the grass has produced sugar and starch as it is exposed to sunlight.

I'm often asked is it safe to let the horses out at night.  The answer is, "most likely, yes."  Of course, there is never a guarantee. Afterall, grass is a living organism and its NSC level changes with the temperature, amount of sunlight, as well as the amount of rainfall, mowing, grazing and other stressors.  But, in general, the grass starts "burning" up its own NSC for energy once the sun starts to set. Many horse owners have had great success with putting their horses out on pasture around 9:00 pm and take them off of pasture, on to a dry lot (which free-choice, low NSC hay), around 8:00 am.  

What is your method of managing pasture-grazing during these pre-summer months?  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring 2014

Greetings Everyone,

Spring brings about many challenges, especially whether or not to allow your horse to graze on newly grown pasture.  There are certain "rules" we follow regarding the night time temperatures, time of day, amount of sunlight, etc. but the bottom line is  -- spring grass tends to be higher in sugar and later in the summer season.
Do we restrict it? Perhaps -- it truly depends on the horse.  Horses will typically overeat pasture, not only because it tastes good, but because they have been confined to eating hay and now have this wonderful food that they crave.  What's interesting is that horses who have hay most of the time will eat pasture at a much faster rate than horses who are allowed to grazed on pasture 24/7.

What are your experiences? How many of you have horses who have developed laminitis during the spring? What are your success stories?  What are your frustrations?  Let's see what we can figure out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Greetings everyone,

As we come into winter, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we encounter challenges with the cold weather.  What are your feeding concerns during this time of year?  Are you making sure your horse is getting enough hay at all times?  This is not only for his digestive tract health, and hormonal balance, but also for heat production to keep him warm.

I welcome your comments and concerns.

Juliet Getty 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Greetings Everyone!  I see that there are over 100 comments, so I am working on figuring out how to post another fresh message, without it being embedded in the long list!

My goal with this forum is to encourage all of you to help each other by offering suggestions that have worked for you.  And I, too, will chime in.  The way of accomplishing a free-choice forage feeding program can vary depending on the horse's living arrangements.  But ultimately, the goal is that the horse always has easy access to forage.

There are four very basic reasons for this (which I'll simply list here, but I encourage you to take a look at my newest book in the Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series called "Equine Digestion - It's Decidedly Different.")  You can take a look at this title and others by going to this link:

Reasons horses must have forage flowing through their digestive tract at all times:

  1. Need to chew to produce saliva, a natural antacid. The stomach continually produces acid, even when empty. Chewing neutralizes this acid, thereby preventing ulcers. 
  2. The entire gastrointestinal tract is made of muscles that require exercise. This is accomplished by pushing forage through. Without forage, the muscles can torque or intussuscept, two common causes of colic. 
  3. An empty stomach promotes the back flow of small intestine contents back into the stomach. This leads to pyloric and duodenal ulcers.
  4. The cecum (fermentation vat) has its entrance and exit at the top. Therefore, in order for material to leave the cecum it has to be full enough for it to push out the top. Colic is a real threat if the cecum is not full enough.
I hope you find this list helpful in making decisions for yourself and in explaining the reasons for free-choice forage feeding.

My very best wishes,
Juliet Getty 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Welcome from Dr. Juliet M. Getty

Greetings to all horse owners,

This is a special forum for you to share your experiences with each other and to let me and others know how you're doing with feeding forage free-choice. It is a place for support, congratulations, and to share ideas.

The goal and purpose is to promote discussions among yourselves. Your experiences are important and others will benefit from them. I will interject an idea here and there, but questions posed directly to me are best done by emailing me at (please be patient for my response).

Whether you're taking the first step, been feeding this way for a long time, or are simply considering a better way for your horses, I congratulate you.  

Thank you and bless you for all you are doing for horses,

Juliet M. Getty