Let me play devil's advocate here...
Per the study:
- Horses that have constant access to turnout and roughage in the form of hay or pasture rarely develop gastric ulceration.
- Horses that are not in training, rarely develop gastric ulceration.
- We suspect that the best prevention for gastric ulceration is to mimic, as best as possible, the life of a horse at free range. This translates into frequent small meals, a preponderance of roughage in the diet, and plenty of turnout.
Mow, using my horses as an example: They eat their hay in about 2-2.5 hours. There may be a few blades here and there after that, but the large majority is eaten in 2 hours. Since they get their final meal at 4:30-5 PM (sunset here is 5 PM), they are finished by around 7-7:30 PM. The stomach, IIRC, empties in an hour, so by 8:30 they should have empty stomachs. From then until their morning feed, they go 10-11 hours with an empty stomach.
If I feed them pellets in their bowls, they finish eating in an hour, maybe a little less. So they finish eating around 5:30-6PM, their stomach empties around 7 PM, and they go about 12 hours with empty stomachs. There is only an extra hour or 90 minutes of empty stomach time, or about a 10% increase in the maximum amount of time they have an empty stomach.
Is that significant? I personally doubt it. They get no grazing time, are fed 3 times a day, and their final meal is fairly often pellets instead of hay...depends on the wind and weather forecast which meal they get their hay. I don't like to feed them hay when the wind is blowing 30 mph, cuz the darn idiots like to toss their hay into the air and half of it has blown out of the corral in 15 minutes.
The pellets I feed them are a bermuda/alfalfa mix, fairly low grade by pellet standards.
I have no intention of converting them over to 100% pellets. That just seems to weird to me. But I'm not convinced that 3 feedings a day of low grade, small pellet feed would hurt them any. Maybe it is the low quality of hay we're getting here now, but they are looking better since I upped their pellets from 1 feeding/day to 2, and cut back their hay accordingly...
BTW, when we start getting better hay (May?), I'll up their hay ration. It just feels better to me, although I know of no proof.