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Stance Equine Feeding System

The Stance Equine Feeding System was developed to provide a logical, safe and simple method for feeding horses. Many horses are now being overfed, underworked and as a result may be suffering from behavioural and metabolic disorders.  Research has shown that most of these disorders are caused by overfeeding with sugars and starch (termed Non Structural Carbohydrates or NSC).  It is suggested that feeds containing  >12% NSC can cause increased blood glucose levels, and that over time the horse can lose sensitivity to insulin, becoming obese and insulin resistant. The NSC content varies considerably between the various horse feeds. Samples of horse feeds were sent to Dairy One for analysis, and the NSC levels are shown below. 

The Stance Equine Feeding System is designed to maintain insulin sensitivity, horse health and well being, and to avoid insulin resistance.

Things to consider when establishing a baseline:

Physical factors

  1. Check for a healthy mouth; including teeth, gums and tongue.
  2. Eliminate any worms or parasite infestations from all horses.
  3. Body condition score. Is your horse in poor condition or possibly over conditioned?
  4. Age and Physiological state. Is your horse young and growing, mature, pregnant or lactating?
  5. Level of work. Is your horse in light, medium or heavy work?
  6. Pack structure or pecking order. Where do your horses rank?
  7. Temperament and behaviour. Is your horse “hot” or “fizzy”?
  8. Does your horse have pre-existing or diagnosed health conditions (eg laminitis, ulcers, colic, greasy heel)


  1. Grazing. Horses are selective eaters, and what you see in the paddock is mostly what the horses don’t like. Ensure there are no toxic plants.
  2. Pastures. Most pasture species have been designed for dairy, beef and sheep production. These pastures can contain high levels of NSC, and are unsuitable for horses prone to insulin resistance see
  3. Horses have small stomachs and eat 18 hours a day.  Is your horse able to graze?


  1. Stables/ corrals. If your horse is stabled, it can only eat what you give it. Feeding twice daily is abnormal to the horse digestive system, and will cause 'insulin spikes" at feeding times. Feeding little and often is ideal.
  2. If you horse has a metabolic condition such as obesity, laminitis, Cushing’s, insulin resistance or EMS, then locking the horse is a yard with no feed, and allowing grazing/feeding twice per day may cause insulin spikes and exacerbate the disorder.

Feeds and water

  1. Ingredient list of feed. Check what things may or may not be included in processed feeds.
  2.  All feeds contain NSC (see above). What is the feed analysis? Is your feed above 12% NSC?
  3. Look for seed heads or grain in the hay.  The hay may be low NSC, however the seed grains will provide starch. 
  4. Treats contain sugars and starch.
  5. How much are you feeding? Are you overfeeding for the activity level of you horse?
  6. Is there plenty of good quality water available within reasonable range?

Activity level

  1. Carefully consider the activity level, ie how much is your horse ridden or worked each week.  Horses with higher work levels require a greater level of energy and balanced nutrition. Are you overfeeding NSC’s.

Establishing an effective feeding program.

  1. Record what feeds, treats and grazing your horse receives for one-two weeks. Record how much is fed (weigh if possible) and the hours grazing.
  2. Take a picture and compare to the body condition chart. Record the body condition, is your horse overweight?
  3. Record the activity level (type of activity, hours spent and intensity) for one-two weeks.
  4. Consider all the factors listed above to identify all factors that may influence the health and well being of the horse.
  5. Keep your feeding simple. Provide medium quality hay, and low NSC energy feed, and balanced minerals and vitamins.
  6. Select feeds that provide roughage and a level of NSC that suits the condition and activity level of the horse.  It is suggested that a level of <12% NSC in the diet is acceptable to most horses, without predisposing the animal to the longer term effects of insulin resistance.
  7. Feed hay in racks that restricts the rate of eating is one way of allowing horses to eat for longer periods
  8. If your horse is bullied, where possible consider feed it separately.
  9. If your horse is subject to choke, always wet down the feeds and hay.
  10. For horses at a higher level of work, provide more energy as oil and NSC. Balance the NSC supply from the oil and sugars so to avoid an “insulin spike”