Comparison of the colic incidence in a horse population with or without inclusion of germinated barley in the diet
Troya, L., et al. (2020), Comparison of the colic incidence in a horse population with or without inclusion of germinated barley in the diet. Equine Veterinary Education
The aim of this observational study was to determine if the inclusion of germinated barley as a supplement to the daily ration would decrease the incidence of colic in a population of horses.
The study was carried at an equestrian centre in Spain during two periods; May 2014 to January 2016 (Period 1) and May 2016 to January 2018 (Period 2). Only horses that were present at the centre during both periods were included. During each period the horses were divided into two groups depending on housing conditions. Group A included horses that were stabled overnight and Group B included horses that were at pasture all day long. Feeding in both groups consisted of 1.5-2% bodyweight of straw and 1% bodyweight of a commercial concentrate divided into two doses per day. During period two, the feed was supplemented with germinated barley (Equinocol) at 0.5 kg/100 kg once a day.
For each horse, age, sex and housing conditions, as well as the presence and number of colic events (defined as the presence of clinical signs of abdominal pain and diagnosed by a veterinarian), were recorded in each study period. Sixty-three horses were included in the study, 43 were assigned to Group A and 20 to Group B. Age and gender distribution were similar in both groups.
The analysis showed that during period one, there were 20 colic events recorded in 12 horses and during period two, there were six colic events in five horses representing a statistically significant difference. There was also a statistically significant difference between the two study periods for the horses stabled overnight; horses stabled overnight had significantly less recorded colic episodes when supplemented with germinated barley. There was no difference in colic episodes in horses maintained at pasture whether supplemented with germinated barley or not. All colic events were resolved with medical treatment.
Limitations of the study included the small number of horses, particularly in the pasture-only group, and the limited control of known risk factors for colic.
This study provides some evidence that the inclusion of germinated barley in the diet may reduce the incidence of colic in horses, particularly those with limited access to pasture. Further studies with a larger study population and greater control of known risk factors for colic are encouraged.
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