Let us start to dispel some myths on sugars, and perhaps develop a common terminology. NSC (Nonstructural carbohydrates) is often referenced in relation to sugar content. NSC, as partitioned by digestibility, would include mono‐ and di‐saccharides, starch, oligosaccharides, and fructans; these being components of the cellular contents. NSC are readily broken down and absorbed in the small intestine providing a good source of energy, when provided in the right proportions and times. For hardworking performance horses this added boost of energy is necessary in order for the horse to maintain body condition and endurance while working.
Horses breakdown and absorb carbohydrates in the small intestine, which is usually 50‐70 feet long. The ability to absorb and properly utilize these nutrients is determined by the amount consumed per feeding. The digestion threshold for starch in the small intestine is 0.2‐0.4% of bodyweight per meal, intakes over this can cause hindgut overload leading to colic or laminitis.
This is where a low moisture block like HorsLic is a wonderful tool as it restricts the horse from consuming too much at any one time. A typical horse may visit HorsLic between 6 and 12 times per day on pasture or much more frequently in stalls or small turn-outs. These visits on pasture equate to only 2.5-3.5oz of HorsLic intake per meal. For a 1,000 pound horse each HorsLic meal would provide 0.006% of bodyweight NSC, well below the 0.2‐0.4% digestion threshold of the small intestine, or about the same amount of NSC as a couple of apple slices!