Animals & Wildlife Magazine

1st Quarter 2014 Newsletter

By Elkgrovemilling

Carbohydrates Part 1:


What is NSC anyway?

Written by Dr. Clair Thunes, PhD

You see it everywhere these days, feeds proclaiming to be “low starch”,

“controlled starch”, “low carb”. A friend might tell you her horse

needs to be on a “no carb” diet, although that is completely impossible

for a horse, and that she is stressed because she can’t find a “low

NSC” forage. It all starts to make you wonder if your horse should be

on a low starch low sugar diet. But then what does that really mean

anyway? In this newsletter we are going to take a look at what this

terminology means and then next time we will discuss what all this

means to your horse and whether he’s a candidate for such a diet.

Carbohydrates come in many forms but for simplicity we can

class them into two groups. The structural carbohydrates and the

non-structural carbohydrates. As the name suggests, structural

carbohydrates help plants maintain rigidity, they provide form and as

such they are quite complex, and they are found in high concentrations

in plant stems. Their form makes them hard to digest. In fact you and

I are essentially unable to digest these structural carbohydrates such

as cellulose and lignin because we lack the enzyme necessary to break

the bonds that connect the component parts together. For us they act

as fiber and pass straight through performing an important function but

not providing much nutritional benefit.

Horses however have a wonderfully beneficial relationship with a

whole host of bacteria, protozoa and fungi in their hindgut (cecum,

large and small colon). While the horse lacks the enzymes to digest

these complex structural carbohydrates in their small intestines

the normal site of carbohydrate digestion) these bugs do have the

necessary enzymes and they digest the carbohydrates. In fact they

use them for their own growth and development. The byproducts of

this process are called volatile fatty acids (VFA’s). These VFA’s can

cross the lining of the hindgut into the blood stream where they are

transported to the liver and converted to useful forms of energy for

the horse.

Approximately 60% of the horse’s digestive tract volume is dedicated

to the fermentation of these complex carbohydrates and in turn VFA

production. This is why horse’s need to be fed at least 1.5% of their

body weight per day as forage. In fact VFA’s can constitute the

majority of the horse’s energy requirements when fed an all forage diet.

Conversely, non-structural carbohydrates such as starches and simple

sugars are found inside plant cells and are in high concentrations in

certain parts of the plant such as seeds. Humans and other animals

have the enzymes in their digestive tracts necessary to digest these

carbohydrates. They just aren’t that complicated which is why they are

sometimes collectively known as simple carbohydrates rather than nonstructural.

The horse is able to digest these non-structural carbohydrates

too thanks to the enzymes in the small intestine. This digestion results in

glucose and other simple carbohydrates entering directly into the blood

stream raising the circulating blood glucose concentration.

In the lab some simple carbohydrates (mostly simple sugars) dissolve

in water and are known in the plant science world as water soluble

carbohydrates (WSC). Some component of the WSC are also soluble

in ether and are known as ether soluble carbohydrates (ESC). Then

there are starches which are their own group. Plant scientists add

together the WSC and starch to get an estimate of the non-structural

carbohydrate (NSC) content.

A word of caution is necessary here though. Not all labs calculate

NSC the same way due to variations in analytical procedures and in

fact there are nutritionists who say that NSC is ESC plus starch. This

will typically result in a lower NSC value because remember the ESC

is a component of WSC. Why do they do this? Because in reality

not all the WSC carbohydrates are going to be digested in the small

intestine some, such as fructan, are just slightly too complicated.

They will pass to the hindgut and be fermented by the bugs resulting

in VFA production and a lot of available energy for the horse. But

it doesn’t cause an increase in blood glucose levels the way starch

and other sugars do and for many horses who need low NSC diets

avoiding sudden increases in blood glucose is key. Therefore some

nutritionists just concern themselves with ESC and starch because

these values indicate the impact of the feed on blood glucose and

they call this NSC. It can make for some interesting conversations

between nutritionists and plant sciences when you think you are

talking about the same thing, NSC, but in reality you are talking

about two different definitions of the same thing and are comparing

apples and oranges. One day we scientists will all get the same page

and stop making your lives so complicated!

So what are good sources of these different types of carbohydrates?

In truth all our plant based feeds provide sources of both structural

and non-structural carbohydrates. The difference is in the relative

proportions of each. Our forages such as the various types of hay,

hay pellets, beet pulp, almond hulls etc contains greater proportions

of structural carbohydrates. Meanwhile our traditional grains such

as oats, barley and corn are high in non-structural carbohydrates

especially starch.

What is the right amount of NSC in your horse’s diet? That is going

to depend on your horse what you use them for and whether there are

any health concerns such as a history or laminitis, cushings, PSSM

etc. and we will cover all these considerations next time.


Dr. Clair Thunes PhD takes the guesswork out of feeding horses by helping horse owners

create personalized diet plans optimized for health and performance. As an independent

equine nutritionist and owner of Summit Equine Nutrition LLC an equine nutrition

consulting company she has clients across North America including from individual

horse owners to feed companies. She is available for personal consultations either by

phone, email or in person. You can find her online at her website http://www.summit-equine.

com or on Facebook by searching for SummitEquineNutrition.





1st Quarter 2014

Keeping Our Endurance

Horses Hydrated

Written by Karen Chaton

I ran across this interesting article on the U of Mn website awhile

ago and thought it was interesting enough to share:

I don’t often change my horse’s feed around,

once I find something that works really well

I tend to stick with it. Fortunately back in

2010 I learned about Elk Grove Milling

Stable Mix and got the horses started on it

prior to going on the 2011 XP (8 week long

2,040 mile cross country ride). It turned out

to be one of the best choices I made about

how I managed my horses on that trip. More

than three full years later the horses are still

thriving with this feed and has helped me to

keep them well hydrated and healthy with all

of the traveling and competing that we do.

That research article kind of backs that up:

Horses consuming mash drank equal to or more water than horses on

the dry grain, in addition to the water they consumed in their feed.

I kind of already knew that though, after having figured it out with

my own horses. I go through a lot of water when I go to rides. I

knew that I was still using the same amount of water for the horses to

drink but in addition to that I was now using quite a lot more making

wet mashes for the horses with the Stable Mix. Talk about a win-win

situation (except for the having to haul more water part for me) for

my horses.

Now is a good time to bring this topic up because it is winter for a lot

of us and this is the time of year that we need to encourage our horses

to drink more. I still give my horses daily Stable Mix mashes with

a little salt added sometimes. They also have tank heaters in their

water troughs which helps to keep them drinking.

I’m really sorry for those of you out of the area that can’t get Stable

Mix products. You may want to check with your local mills or feed

suppliers to see if there is a similar product in your area. I know

I’m really lucky to have this feed available (50 pound bags and 250

pound barrels). Click here to see a list of retailers for Stable Mix


Recently, I’ve been using a new Sport Horse blend that contains

biotin and a bit more fat in it, as well as G&C. I mainly reserve

that for feeding at rides, or occasionally at home. The majority of

the time I feed the regular Stable Mix with G&C. About the G&C

(glucosamine and chondroitin) – late last year they doubled the

amount in Stable Mix so only 6 pounds per day needs to be feed to

get a full dose (Stable Mix is a complete feed).

I also use Redmond Daily Gold and Daily Red product especially

when I am pre-loading the horses before a trip. Chief and Bo always

gobble up every last drop of their EGM mashes with the Redmond

salt. It’s nice to have found a combination that works so well for

them and they are also so happy with and thrive on. Chief gets far

less than Bo does to eat as he is such an easy keeper. I can make his

mashes really soupy wet to slow him down and make him think he’s

getting as much as Bo. Don’t tell on me!

- See more at:




Hay Prices On The Rise

Have you seen hay costs lately?

Having trouble getting a hay shipment?

Try Stable Mix™… You will no longer have to

add vitamins and other supplements your horse

needs. He will get it all in a couple scoops of

Stable Mix and he will love it! Feeding time

will be faster and more convenient. You will

know exactly how much he’s eating and he won’t waste feed by

scattering it on the ground. There will be less waste to clean up!

Senior Horse Health Tips

Horses over 20 years old can live to their 30’s if their care

is addressed annually or biannually. Starting with dental and

gastrointestinal health, having your horses teeth worked on can

prevent dental disease and development of colic. Next is overall

body condition, just because a horse ages doesn’t mean they should

drop weight. If this is the case, you should consider having your

veterinarian do a full workup as you would have done on a younger

horse to identify the problem. The vet will be able to get solid answer

from the workup and the problem can be addressed immediately.

Most just need higher caloric intake. Take into account that weight

loss can happen from lack of good-quality feed. Senior horse feed has

ingredients that increase digestion, probiotics, higher fat concentrates,

higher protein concentrates and amino acids for overall health.

Most senior feeds cab be fed without additional forage. Long stem

hay can be an issue for a senior horse with dental issues being they

can’t chew anymore. Other specifics could be increase in exercise

and colder weather. Senior horses are very prone to musculoskeletal

disorders meaning “maintenance” is required to help keep their

aging joints lubricated and in working condition, avoiding stall rest.

Exercise will need to be modified to avoid over-exertion. Extra

therapy (acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy) can help keep

them in age appropriate shape. Other health issues can arise such

as environment, space, and the aging process. Senior Stable Mix is

13.5% protein, 3.5% fat plus contains beat pulp for your older horse,

also available with glucosamine and chondroitin.

About Us

EGM LogoElk Grove Milling, Inc. has been providing high quality

horse feed to California’s Northern Valley since 1982. The Mill is

nestled in the heart of horse country. Local horse owners have placed

their trust in our product for years. Bob Lent, owner of Elk Grove

Milling, Inc., continues to maintain his original commitment to

provide a product that goes above and beyond any other horse feed

product on the market.

For Healthier, Happier Horses

It’s In The Mix!

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