nutrition notes logo white
Innovation & Research from Kent Nutrition Group
Nutrition Notes

Applying equine nutrition in clinical settings with Abby Geick, DVM

From colic-prone to competitive horses, there’s one feed form this veterinarian says keeps popping up again and again.

Abby Geick is an equine veterinarian who knows firsthand the powerful impact nutrition can have on a horse’s well-being.

When her 23-year-old horse, Mackay, lost weight, she took a closer look at his diet. The ration balancer he was on was no longer sufficient to maintain his weight and body condition, so she tried a Sentinel® Extruded Horse Feed, the same formulas she often recommends for her own patients.

The results have been positive, as Mackay is down to 2 quarts of Sentinel Senior twice a day and maintaining his weight. Geick said the extruded feed form can have multiple benefits for senior horses, like Mackay.

“Extruded nuggets contain more fat and fiber compared to pelleted feeds, and the cooking process helps break down starches and sugars much easier,” Geick said. “That is super helpful, particularly for older horses that don’t have as robust of a gut and immune system.”

What’s extruded feed?

Extrusion takes high quality, finely ground ingredients and pressure cooks them with moisture into light, airy nuggets. Lighter and larger than feed pellets, these nuggets have more volume, which encourages more chewing and slower eating.

The cooking process also allows extruded feed to break down faster and easier, as soon as a horse takes their first bite. This makes ingredients easier to digest, releasing more essential nutrients where they’re meant to be naturally absorbed in the stomach and small intestine. Extrusion also lowers the risk of starch outflow to the hindgut and fosters a healthy acidity level to ferment fiber into volatile fatty acids, which provide energy for the horse.

Helping all horses live healthier lives

As a veterinarian with New England Equine Medical & Surgical Center (NEEMSC) in New Hampshire, Geick travels across the region conducting dental work, lameness exams, routine checkups, vaccinations and emergency care.

Throughout her work, Geick says extruded feed plays a critical role in keeping senior horses’ digestive systems healthy and working efficiently. NEEMSC also uses it to reintroduce horses to feed after colic surgeries. Because extruded nuggets are lighter and airier than pellets, they absorb water faster to create an easily digested mash.

“The hindgut of the horse is obviously super important, and one of the best ways we can support it in a clinical setting is by providing accurate, good nutrition,” Geick said. “Sentinel extruded feeds are easy to digest, which is very important in introducing some of these horses back on a feeding regimen.”

Geick added it takes horses longer to eat extruded nuggets, which carries additional benefits.

“The longer a horse takes to eat its mash, the better,” she said. “That goes back to producing saliva to buffer the stomach, and it’s also easier on their teeth, so it’s helpful for long term dental health, as well.”

In addition to senior horses, Geick says she often recommends extruded feeds to clients who own performance horses, especially in the early spring months when there isn’t adequate forage. At this time of year, horses have a higher caloric demand to keep warm, particularly in colder climates.

That’s when owners often see weight loss because physical changes are more apparent.

“You probably don't notice it if you look at the horse every day, until you see the shadow of the ribs, or you could see their top line a bit more,” Geick said. “Extruded feed can play a strong role in providing the necessary fat and fiber content and calories for higher performing horses.”

From competitive rider to equine professional

Growing up in central New Hampshire, Geick was drawn to horses from a young age. Riding since she was a toddler, Geick participated in Pony Club and competed at the national level in dressage.

Her love of horses led her to pursue an education in biomedical sciences at the University of New Hampshire, culminating in her graduate studies at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Even in middle school, we had a project where you had to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up, and it was always a large animal veterinarian for me,” she said. “I always saw myself filling the role of going to different farms and taking care of the horses.”

Geick says she first heard about extruded feed, specifically Sentinel Performance LS, when she rode competitively and again during her clinical work. Looking at diet as the main cause of concern for choke or weight loss and comparing different types of feed, extruded “kept popping up” as a potential solution.

“Supporting the hindgut microbiome is a really hot topic right now, especially managing these postoperative colic cases or colitis” Geick said. “Extruded feed helps support the hindgut by improving nutrient absorption in the small intestine, which is ideal for those cases.”

Expert advice on equine nutrition

Despite the heightened awareness of alternative feed forms, Geick said the amount of information and products online makes it difficult for horse owners and veterinarians to know what feeds and supplements are backed by sound science.

That’s an area where Geick says the Sentinel nutrition team plays an integral role in supporting NEEMSC, as they’re able to recommend feeds, help educate owners and provide other valuable resources.

“There are a lot of old wives’ tales in nutrition, and I think there’s a lot of demystifying we as equine professionals need to be proactive about,” she said. “Sometimes major management changes need to be done to prevent choke episodes, fecal water syndrome or to make sure certain horses are getting adequate nutrients as they get older.”

The Sentinel team can help you make the best nutritional decisions for your horse and the horses in your care. Sign up for the latest news, research and expert nutritional guidance for all horses.

Want to learn more from KNG research?

Give us your email address to be notified when we publish new Nutrition Notes articles.

Compare Products
Scroll to Top