Colic in Horses

Does Protein Really Make Horses Fizzy?

You may have heard that too much protein within a horse food can cause them to get hot or fizzy. It is important to always use reputable resources when researching into what you should feed your horse, with your horse’s health being the most important aspect regarding their day-to-day wellbeing. There are many rumours circulating involving many aspects of horse feed, but how do you know which of them are true? Here we explore whether protein really makes horses hot and fizzy, so you can make an informed decision, benefiting your horse in the long term.

Debunking the Protein Myth

You may have heard that  feeding high protein horse feed results in horses getting spooky, fizzy, or hot. Although this is a common rumour, it is thought by equine nutritionists to be untrue. Feeds that are higher in protein also tend to contain high levels of starch but as this nutrient doesn’t have to be declared on the bag, the behavioural issues are often attributed to the increase in protein.

How do Different Foods Impact Horse Behaviour?

As aforementioned, research and evidence are somewhat sparse, but. genetics play a huge role in how each horse reacts to different horse feed they are provided with and the exact cause of their changes in behaviour are often unknown and difficult to identify.

It has been determined by researchers working in equine nutrition that when sugar and starch is digested by horses, the absorption rate may result in an increase in the release of cortisol, the stress hormone that originates from the  adrenal gland. When levels of cortisol increase, behavioural changes, often perceived as negative, could well occur. This will arise more in some horses than others, with each horse having its own unique, individual biochemistry.

Protein digestion does not affect cortisol levels as it simply provides horses with amino acids, which are essential and do not contribute towards energy production. Some amino acids are thought to even induce the opposite effect. Although research is needed in this area, it is thought that tryptophan produces a calming effect, which is the opposite of what the rumours surrounding protein may suggest.

Take a Balanced Approach

Although it is not safe to say what the main cause of fizziness in horses is at this stage, the evidence at present is pointing away from protein consumption as the main cause. If you do have a fizzy horse then try to use horse feeds that contain slow release energy sources such as oil and fibre. Always ensure you are feeding your horse a balanced diet and if you do need to make changes make sure they are done gradually.