In partnership with Dodson & Horrell 

The sugar content in your horse’s diet comes from a variety of sources. Dr Laura Wilson (BVM&S MRCVS), technical adviser at Dodson & Horrell, explains common feed types and their sugar content.

Many people associate high sugar intake with the addition of manufactured feeds; however, forage is often the largest contributor of dietary sugar.

Forage should be used as the base for all good diets (at least 1.5-2% body weight of dry matter forage being consumed daily), but its sugar content should not be overlooked.

The sugar content of grass, including hay and haylage, varies greatly depending on weather, plant type, stage of growth, time of year, and even time of day. Forage analysis will be able to determine the exact sugar content of your forage.

How much of my horse’s daily sugar intake comes from which sources? 

Feed type Feed intake Estimated sugar content*
Grass (24-hour grazing access) Up to 5% body weight (500kg horse) 880g
Hay 8kg (approx. 4 slices) 820g
Haylage 10kg 800g
Performance mix 2kg 130g
Low sugar mix 2kg 110g
Low-calorie balancer 500g 20g
Apple 1 medium apple 19g
Carrot 1 medium carrot 2.9g

*Estimated sugar content to be used as a rough guide only. Sugar content in forages can be very variable, and sugar content of manufactured feeds will vary between products. 

Molasses myth

It is often assumed that molasses is pure sugar and that its inclusion in any feed will automatically make it high sugar. However, this is not always the case. Molasses is a by-product of sugar beet or sugar cane processing, and usually only contains 30-50% sugar.

It is typically included in feeds at low volumes, so often doesn’t contribute as much to the total sugar content as might be expected. It is the total sugar content that is important, rather than the inclusion of specific ingredients.

It is important to know how much sugar is in your horse’s diet, and how to control it if you need to in order to keep him fit and healthy.

Have you heard about Your Horse’s #FitNotFat campaign, which is supported by Dodson & Horrell? Equine obesity is an enormous welfare problem and we’re on a mission to provide owners and riders with the knowledge, skills and information you need to keep your horse in tip-top health. It could be life saving! Find out more

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