If you feed pellets to your horse, it is possible the pellets are being consumed faster than is optimal for your horse’s health. To increase chewing time, a group of German researchers developed a larger and harder pellet that requires more chewing, which stimulates more saliva production, and more saliva increases the pH of the stomach, thus decreasing the chance of stomach ulcers. In the study reported in The Horse magazine, Dr. Mandy Bochnia measured chewing patterns and compared the time it took six warmblood mares to consume a 2-pound meal of standard commercial sized pellets versus the same weight of pellets that were three times larger. Results indicated it took three times longer to eat the large pellet meals than the smaller ones. Additionally, the horses chewed significantly more before swallowing, which produces more acid-buffering saliva. This is especially helpful in sport horses that have a high incidence of stomach ulcers and on high levels of concentrate rations.
The pellets were not only larger but six times harder than the regular pellets, which increased chewing time. The authors of the study said the hardness of the pellets might benefit the horse’s dental health as well, and might decrease sharp points that develop naturally. Although this concept sounds interesting, I am concerned about horses swallowing a large hard pellet without chewing completely and leading to an esophageal obstruction or choke. I think a lot more studies need to be done on these large, hard pellets before they are produced on a commercial basis. Certainly, these large, hard pellets would only be used in young horses as older horses with poor dentition could not chew them.