Sentinel® Ask a Pro: Kristyn

Kristyn Sturken, Equine Product Manager of the Sentinel Nutrition Team answers the important questions asked when planning your horses feeding program, what extruded feed is, and the nutritional supplements your horse might need.

Kristyn Sturken, Equine Product Manager

When going to the local feed store or researching what kind of nutrition you should be feeding your horse, it is evident that there are many options out there. In addition to your horse’s life stage and activity requirements, new product offerings can be a result of current research, newly developed technology, or updated engineering in the feed industry. With all the new innovations in equine nutrition it can get overwhelming when selecting the right feed for your horse. So we sat down with Kent Nutrition Group’s equine product manager, Kristyn Sturken, to discuss available feed types—extruded vs. textured— and the best option for specific horses.

Q1: What are these “extruded, nugget-type” feeds?

Extruding or pressure cooking of horse feeds is the most technologically advanced method of equine feed processing, offering multiple nutritional and digestive benefits to the horse. The extruded nugget was developed with the horse’s optimum health in mind. Visually, an extruded nugget is noticeably larger than a typical horse feed pellet. The larger sized nugget can help horses slow down the chewing and eating process. Since horses are natural grazing animals, slowing down the eating process is similar to how a horse would eat in nature and beneficial for their digestive system. Along with being larger, the nugget is light, airy and very porous in appearance which helps the nugget breakdown faster when it enters the horse’s mouth and mixes with saliva. This quicker breakdown also allows the nutrients within the nugget to be more readily available and absorbed.

Extruded feeds are designed for maximum breakdown that starts as soon as your horse takes its first bite helping to optimize digestibility and nutrient utilization. The process of extruding or pressure cooking involves combining moisture, heat and pressure to rapidly cook the ingredients. The product is then quickly cooled to retain its high nutritional quality. This extrusion process helps pre-digest the starch to help ensure digestion in the foregut rather than the hindgut.

Often many horse owners find that they can feed less of the extruded nuggets than a pelleted or textured feed because the horse is getting more out of the extruded feed. It is important to always feed by weight not volume for all feeds, but especially important when feeding extruded products due to the lighter weight of the nuggets. Extruded nuggets are less dense and lighter per quart when compared to pelleted or textured feeds. Remember: A scoop is not necessarily a scoop.

Q2: Which kind of horse is extruded feed ideal for?

“Overall, an extruded feed is ideal for any horse, but especially for horses that have trouble keeping weight on, such as performance horses, hard keepers, rescue horses and senior horses. Specifically, if a horse has a history of digestive upset and the horse owner is concerned about protecting a horse’s digestive tract, an extruded feed is the way to go. The extruded nugget was developed and formulated to breakdown easily as it travels through a horse’s digestive system, releasing nutrients effectively and appropriately. In addition, an extruded feed is a great option for horses with certain metabolic challenges.

As horses age, their digestive systems become less efficient due to the natural aging process along with potential hormonal and metabolic changes that may affect their ability to digest, absorb and use essential nutrients in their feed. In addition, older horses can have trouble chewing due to poor dentition, extruded nuggets are easy for a horse to chew. For these reasons, senior horses can benefit from an extruded feed with higher nutrient density from higher fat and high fiber. And while the nugget is a larger size, it is easy for horses to chew due to its porous makeup; the feed starts to breakdown as soon as it hits the horse’s saliva.

In addition, any horse that has a history of choke or bolting their feed can benefit from an extruded feed; the larger size with more surface area encourages more thorough chewing which in turns slows the eating process down. This combined with the ease in which the nugget breaks apart helps with horses prone to choking.

Lastly, horses with metabolic issues such as EPSM and insulin resistance along with other metabolic challenges are sensitive to higher starch and sugar levels. These horses can benefit from an extruded feed as all the extruded products are low in starch and sugar and there are many options with high fat and high fiber.

“From foals to seniors, we have a full line of extruded feeds available in our Sentinel® line to meet various nutritional needs. Now if your horse is an “easy keeper” per say, you may want to consider our new Sentinel Simply Lite feed. It too is an extruded feed with higher concentration and a low feeding rate. Easy keepers don’t need a lot of feed/grain, but do need the vitamins and minerals. Simply Lite can be fed at a reduced rate and the “easy keeper” gets the nutrition they need along with the benefits of an extruded feed.

Q3: What about textured feeds?

“We produce textured feeds — Sentinel® XT™. These textured Sentinel XT products are “unique” or specialized, primarily because we incorporate higher levels of beet pulp along with vegetable oil and molasses. The uniqueness comes from the fact that we incorporate extruded nuggets within the mixture, so the horse gets the benefits of that cooking process. Depending on the product you will also see varying levels of grains within these feeds. These XT products are all high fat and fiber products that are also low in starch and sugar. You get a textured feed with the benefits of some extrusion. These feeds look very different compared to a traditional textured feed with higher levels of grains and pellets.

Sentinel XT textured feeds are lower in starch and sugar than traditional textured feeds.  

Q4: What type of horse should be getting the Sentinel XT textured feed?

“The ideal candidate for a textured feed can have a wide range of nutritional needs. For example, a horse that is a picky eater could prefer a textured feed. Also, a horse owner may have a preference for a certain form of feed. For example, feeding granular or powder type supplements can be challenging especially if feeding a more finicky horse. A textured feed makes mixing in supplements a bit easier due to the fact that a textured feed has a wet, sticky consistency so that those supplements mix in more easily discouraging the horse from sifting out the supplement.

These Sentinel XT textured feeds are lower in starch and sugar than traditional textured feeds that typically contain higher levels of grains and pellets. These textured feeds are high in fat which increases energy or calorie density. If you have a horse that is a hard keeper, a nutrient-dense textured feed could be great for them too. Performance horses working at high intensity levels over long periods of time need prolonged stamina. The high fat in these textured feeds helps improve stamina while maintaining body condition in these equine athletes.

With the lower starch and sugar levels in these textured feeds, they are a great choice for horses with certain digestive and metabolic conditions. It really boils down to the individual horse and horse owner.

From these Sentinel XT textured feeds, horses can also benefit from the increased fiber content especially if they aren’t getting the minimum required amount from their hay. Again, first consider the nutrients provided from hay before choosing your horses feed. Need a refresher on hay sampling? Checkout Dr. Randy Raub’s Ask A Pro Nutritionist article.

Sometimes, we get a question about soaking these feeds due to the beet pulp in them. The Sentinel XT textured feeds with beet pulp have some vegetable oil and molasses as well. And therefore, do not need to be soaked as traditional dry or pelleted beet pulp should be soaked. If you have an older horse that has problems with their teeth or jaw, you can soak any of the textured or extruded feeds for easier chewing. Have a horse that is not a good drinker? Soaking the feed is also a great way to get a little more water in their system.

Q5: What about the horses with very specific nutritional needs — weight gain, ulcers, easy keepers?

“There are several additional supplements that can be added to a horse’s feed ration depending on their individual needs. The Sentinel® Care™ line was developed to provide nutritional solutions in a wide variety of forms. From ration balancers to gastric support, these diets and supplements are designed with a specific equine nutrition solution in mind.”

As with any equine nutrition program, it’s important to start with good-quality forage and plenty of water. Depending on the horse’s life stage and activity level additional nutrients may be needed to maximize health, performance and overall well-being. Also, many factors such as forage protein and energy content, grain feeding rates, breed, metabolism, body condition, management and special health conditions affect equine nutrition product selection for an individual horse. 

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