Why complete digestion of starch is VITAL for your horse

Why complete digestion of starch is VITAL for your horse

A horse utilises two processes of digestion to extract nutrients from feed:

1. Carbohydrates, such as starchy cereals, can be chemically broken down in the small intestine by enzymes, such as amylase, which is produced by the pancreas and the resultant glucose is efficiently absorbed in the small intestine.

2. Carbohydrates are also be broken down by micro-organism activity in the large intestine (cecum) of the horse, where a large micro-flora population uses fermentation to produce volatile fatty acids, which can also be used for energy.

Carbohydrates digested by enzymes and absorbed in the small intestine yield more energy than carbohydrates digested by microbial action, so if more of the carbohydrates in a diet can be broken down by enzymes, rather than microbial fermentation in the cecum, the horse can effectively utilise more of the plant’s energy.

EquiNectar provides a plentiful source of naturally-occurring digestive enzymes, which, in addition to the enzymes produced by the horse, help to ensure complete digestion of starchy cereals in the diets of performance horses.

If you are feeding concentrated horse feeds, which are high in starch, your horse might not have enough amylase to digest the feed correctly.

In diets containing high amounts of starch, natural enzymatic digestion may not completely digest starch to glucose in the small intestine, and some long chain molecules may reach the cecum and colon undigested (‘resistant starch’). This has the effect of decreasing fibre-digesting bacteria and increasing lactic acid concentration in the cecum and colon, and thus decreases the pH. Chronic exposure to low pH in the cecum predisposes the horse to anorexia and other metabolic disturbances, so it is important to maintain optimum pH in the cecum of 6.6.

You can mitigate the risk of insufficient amylase by adding EquiNectar to your horse's diet. 

EquiNectar also has the effect of increasing the abundance of amylase in the digestive system and thus the likelihood that starch will associate with amylase to undergo digestion at maximum efficiency, extracting more energy from the horses supplementary feed.

by Victoria Philips, Animal Nutritionist, BSc MSc

About the author:

Victoria has worked in the animal feed industry for over 20 years. Her qualifications and experience in all aspects of feed production make her a leading advisor in nutrition, feed safety and mill production to feed businesses and farmers.


  • BSc (Hons) Agricultural Biochemistry & Nutrition University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (1994)
  • MSc Animal Production University of Aberdeen (1995)
  • Advanced Certificate in Food Safety
  • Advanced Certificate in Applied HACCP Principles
  • Lead Auditor for ISO 9000:2000 (2003) and ISO 22000:2005 (2007)
  • Report Writing (Intermediate) - The Expert Witness Institute

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