Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology

Research Article

Digestive and metabolic effects of altering feeding frequency in athletic horses

A Janssona1 c1, A Sandina2 and JE Lindberga1

a1 Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-750 07, Uppsala, Sweden

a2 Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-750 07, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of feeding frequency on total tract digestibility and plasma glucose, insulin, urea, gastrin and cortisol concentrations at rest and following exercise in seven Standardbred horses in race training. The horses were fed every 12 h (twice a day, 2TD) and every 4 h (six times a day, 6TD) for 25 days, in a cross-over design. The diet (64% grass hay, 36% concentrates on weight basis) was fed at twice the maintenance energy requirement. Blood samples were taken every hour for 24 h on day 17, total collection of urine and faeces was made on days 19–21 and an intensive exercise test was performed on day 25. Altering feeding frequency caused small variations in diurnal plasma glucose, urea, gastrin and cortisol concentrations and did not affect total tract nutrient digestibility. There was an increase in the mean diurnal plasma urea concentration on the 2TD regime and low levels of plasma insulin were observed 7 h after feeding 2TD. The response to intensive exercise on heart rate, plasma lactate and plasma glucose was similar on both treatments but the plasma insulin concentration was higher following exercise in the 2TD regime, indicating that post-exercise glucose metabolism was altered. In conclusion, this study shows that feeding athletic horses only 2TD caused metabolic signs resembling those observed during feed deprivation (low levels of plasma insulin and an increased diurnal plasma urea concentration) and an altered post-exercise glucose metabolism, but did not affect the digestive response.

(Received December 02 2005)

(Accepted March 16 2006)