If suitable hay is not available, alternative sources of fibre and roughage such as Speedi-beet are excellent choices. Speedi-beet can be mixed with lucerne chaff or fed on its own; being highly palatable, it is a very handy feed to mix with salt, a balancer pellet, plus any medications or supplements the horse requires, in order to ensure the horse consumes these.
To ensure the removal of grain and pasture from the horse’s diet during a bout of laminitis does not result in an unbalanced diet being fed, or the horse being deprived of essential nutrients, a balancer pellet such as KER AllPhase and Barastoc KER Stud Balancer can be fed. This is an effective way to provide essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals with minimal calorific intake. Ensuring the horse’s dietary needs are met will support their recovery, aid overall good health and assist their immune system.
Since laminitis is an inflammatory condition of the hoof, reducing the inflammation is the crucial element in preventing and treating the condition. Feeding omega-3 supplements like KER EO-3 to laminitic horses will improve the critical ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (<4:1). The lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is essential not only in reducing the risk of many inflammatory conditions, but also in improving glucose tolerance.
As the understanding of the disease increases, so do the number of horses that recover from laminitis and live happy, pain-free, productive lives. However, horses that have suffered laminitis in the past are significantly more likely to suffer laminitis again in the future than those who haven’t; as such, these horses will need to be fed a laminitis-safe diet and receive regular farrier attention for the rest of their lives.
Horses identified as being at high risk of laminitis have similar management requirements as recovered horses when it comes to feeding and foot care. Any horse owners who have nursed a horse through recovery from laminitis will vouch for the value of knowing whether a horse is at risk of laminitis, and preventing the disease through appropriate feed management.
Ponies and smaller breeds of horses, such as quarter horses, are at greatest risk of laminitis, as are “good doers” who gain weight easily. Horses with metabolic issues, as described earlier in the “Causes of Laminitis” section of this article, are also at higher risk.
Understanding the body scoring system and keeping previous laminitis survivors and at-risk horses at a score of between 2 and 3 is advisable. Barastoc has an excellent body condition score chart.
While pasture is not completely off-limits for susceptible horses, restricting access is essential, particularly during spring and autumn. Avoid short, stressed or frosted grass, and consider using a grazing muzzle for all or part of the day.
Fructan levels in grasses vary significantly during different times of the day and are also influenced by the amount of sunlight. Cold nights followed by sunny days are particularly risky whereas spikes in fructan levels are not as extreme on overcast days; ideally, a high-risk horse in high-risk conditions should have a maximum of 1-2 hours access to grass, and no access between 10 am and midnight.
The same principles utilised during a bout of laminitis continue to apply; the diet should be roughage based, with a low NSC content of under 10%. For some horses, such as ponies and those that are either not in work or have a very low workload, feeding low sugar hay and/or Speedi-beet, a feed balancer or mineral supplement such as Barastoc Groom, and controlled grazing may suffice.
However, those that are underweight, have a condition such as Cushing’s disease and associated muscle loss, and those in moderate workload will usually require more calories and protein. Low starch feeds, such as Barastoc Calm Performer and Barastoc Low GI, can be suitable options for these horses. It is important to consider the horse’s diet as a whole; while individual ingredients may have a higher NSC content than others, if these are fed in conjunction with low sugar hay, and each meal remains below 10% NCS overall, this is unlikely to trigger a spike in blood sugar levels and is considered appropriate for both laminitis survivors and those at risk of the disease.
Laminitis is never good news; however, with good management, close observation and an understanding of the disease and its risk factors, it can be halted or prevented without permanently impacting a horse or pony’s chance to enjoy a happy, pain-free and productive life. EQ
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