Effects of exercise and level of dietary protein on digestive function in horses



Rates of passage of fluid and particulate digesta markers and apparent digestibility estimated by three methods were compared in yearling horses fed high (14 per cent) or low (8 per cent) crude protein diets with one of two levels of exercise (0 or 12 km trotting per day at 12 km/h). Mean retention times (MRT) of the fluid marker (51Cr-EDTA) were shorter than those of the particulate marker (ruthenium-phenanthroline). There were no significant effects of dietary protein level on passage of either marker or on apparent digestibility of dry matter. Exercise increased voluntary feed intake and apparent digestibility and reduced the MRT of the particulate marker but increased the MRT of the fluid marker. Estimates of apparent digestibility based on acid-insoluble ash were similar to those calculated from total faecal collection but those based on chromic oxide were significantly lower.