Starch and the Sport Horse

The horse evolved as a grazing animal that digests carbohydrates as its main source of energy. However, today’s horses have different demands than the grazing wild horses from which they evolved. To maintain good health a horse generally tolerates up to <2g/kg of bodyweight of starch per meal. The grain ration should include adequate quality forage and water should always be provided.1

Today’s market has trended towards “low carb” in both human and horse nutrition. There should be different considerations made for a horse with a history of digestive or metabolic disorder than a healthy sport horse. For a sport horse, carbohydrates are not only necessary but also a key factor in fueling performance.

It’s true that if the starch ration is too high, then the starch will not be broken down properly before it reaches the hind gut and this can result in colic, laminitis and founder. A sport horse, however, requires more starch in its diet than its sedentary or recreation counterpart, to support the level of energy needed during intense and athletic activity. A safe starch level for sport horses is up to 2.5g/kg of body weight per meal.

Starches found in horse feed vary greatly in quality and type. The better quality the starch ingredient is to begin with, the more nutritional benefit it will have for the horse. But research shows that it also matters how the starch is processed, as the method used will greatly affect starch digestibility.

The process of ‘puffing’ grains for use in horse feed increases pre-cecal digestibility of the starches used. The horse produces increased levels of saliva when consuming puffed grains, and because of the added volume, the horse has greater chewing satisfaction. This more closely mirrors the horse’s natural diet. Puffed grains provide starch granules that are fully gelled or broken down and increase digestibility 87% to 95% over other processing methods such as extrusion, grinding or micronizing.

Therefore, you can’t only go by the numbers on the feedbag to compare a starch percentage in pelleted feed and a puffed grain feed. The puffed grain provides more highly digestible starch, so it is important to factor that into a ration calculation. When noting safe starch levels in a feed, it’s crucial to calculate the number of grams of starch you are feeding per meal, in both your concentrate and forage, and balance that with the weight of your horse.

There are lots of other benefits to utilizing puffed grains. Not only is it the safest starch for horses that is available in North America, it also provides a more prolonged energy source than other processes, a fact that is very important for the sport horse. More nutrients and energy provided with a smaller feed ration helps to reduce the risks of ulcers as food stays in the horse’s stomach for a longer period.  Combined with controlled energy release, blood sugar levels are more level due to even insulin production with less sugar spikes. It is no wonder that puffed grains are a popular choice for sport horse trainers at the top of the sport horse world across multiple equestrian disciplines.

Cavalor® is a global brand and a world leader in equine nutrition for high performance horses. The availability of their puffed grain feed rations across the world keeps competitors happy when they are out on the road, with the knowledge that “When the Result Counts” Cavalor® is there to deliver a scientifically based feed that will provide a safe starch that results in a more consistent performance in their equine athlete.

1Geor, R. J., Harris, P. A., Coenen, M., & Anne. (2013). Equine applied and clinical nutrition: Health, welfare and performance. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.

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This article is brought to you courtesy of Cavalor North America, Dalton, GA– Kindly visit their website at to learn more. Dealer inquiries are welcomed.

About Cavalor® North America, Dalton, GA: Cavalor is a global brand that can justifiably be called the world leader in equine nutrition for high-performance horses. Cavalor® products are available in more than 50 countries worldwide and are used by champion riders. Cavalor® offers a complete line of horse feed, supplements and care products.

The company's values are: Innovation - Quality - Results. They dedicate themselves to inventing, manufacturing and distributing the best quality and most effective equine nutrition products in the world for the health, performance and happiness of all horses, from a foal’s first steps to retirement.

Please visit to learn more about their top quality line of products used by advanced riders for their high performance horses, ‘when the result counts.’

Cavalor North America
Kelsey Sullivan
Tel: 908-370-1367

Photos are available on request.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith: Internationally published freelance writer in such world renowned publications such as The Chronicle of the Horse, Horse and Hound, Dressage and CT, Warmbloods Today, The Horseman’s Yankee Pedlar, Reiter, The Equine Journal, Spur, Hoofprints, Horsin’ Around, Horses All, Field & Stream, Western Horse and Gun, Pony Quarterly, Horses All Canada, Catskill Horse to name a few. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing copy either direct with manufacturer or for agencies, copy editing and editor services also available. Nikki also produces catalog copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures and advertising copy for international corporations and PR/Marketing for celebrities.

As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York.

Please visit to learn more about her affordable services.

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