When we are dealing with equine laminitis, nutrition does not have to be complicated. Many people wonder what is a safe feed for horses with laminitis; as a starting point, it is important to think about why we feed, and this varies depending on the type of laminitic horse we are feeding. An overweight horse will have different needs than a leaner horse, and an older horse or pony suffering from PPID may have other health problems associated with age, such as poor dentition that requires a specific type of feeding.
When it comes to choosing the best feed for laminitic horses, the main advice is to choose products with low levels of starch and sugar. When combined, the sugar and starch provided by a feed should be less than 10%. Unless a product specifically claims to be low in sugar and starch, you may not find this information on the feed bag.
In addition to being low in sugar and starch, the ration must also provide the horse with an adequate amount of energy, as well as good quality vitamins, minerals and protein. Most Dengie forages meet all the criteria of safe feed for laminitic horses, and some of them are approved by The Laminitis Trust.
Feeding the horse at a fit or overweight weight
If a horse is overweight and prone to laminitis, it may be tempting to think that it does not need a bucket of feed. They certainly do not need additional energy or calories, but a simple ration of only grass or hay will never provide everything a horse needs. Moreover, if grazing has to be limited to facilitate weight loss and manage the risk of laminitis, deficiencies will only increase. That is why it is essential that the laminitic horse’s diet be balanced and adapted to his individual needs.
UK pastures and forages are naturally deficient in nutritious minerals such as copper, selenium and zinc. Horses fed mostly hay are also susceptible to a deficiency of vitamin E and good quality protein if the hay is soaked or reduced.
For the horse that is underweight or tends to be overweight, the main reason for providing forage in the bucket is to supplement nutrients naturally deficient in pasture grass and hay. This can be achieved by using forages such as Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, or by feeding a vitamin and mineral supplement, or a balancer added to a fiber-based, low-calorie forage, such as Hi-Fi Molasses Free.
Use of a fortified forage
Fortified forages such as Healthy Hooves Molasses Free are designed to provide a balanced ration (when fed in the recommended amounts). In the case of Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, we are talking about 500g (about 1 Stubbs scoop) per 100kg of body weight. A 600 kg horse would then go on a ration of 3 kg per day. For horses on a diet, this amount should correspond to their one daily forage ration. For example, in 24 hours a 600 kg horse should receive 10 kg of hay, assuming the hay is 90% dry matter. By supplementing 3 kg of Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, the kg of hay provided would drop to 7 kg, divided into many servings. If less than the recommended amount of fortified forage is fed, a balancer or supplement should still be added.
Using a balancer
A balancer is a very concentrated food. In addition to providing vitamins and minerals, a balancer also provides good quality protein such as lysine, an essential amino acid. The use of a balancer is especially recommended for horses that have limited access to grass and soaked hay, as both may lack good quality protein. Pellet balancers are also useful for finicky horses, as they tend to be very palatable.
If you have a horse that is on a very restricted diet but undergoing light work, we suggest Essential Balancer, with a higher concentration of nutrients which may be lacking in the diet of horses on very restricted rations. A balancer can be provided on its own, but it is usually best to also add a small amount of low-calorie fiber to increase chewing time.
Feeding the horse that loses weight
In addition to needing the same vitamin and mineral requirements, horses that tend to lose weight will need additional energy or calories for maintenance. First of all, it is important to check with the veterinarian for reasons why the horse is losing weight or not maintaining it, such as poor dentition, or PPID. If he is doing well, the second thing to consider is whether your horse is getting the right amount of forage.
What is the best bucket forage for laminitic horses struggling to maintain weight? Choose those that are low in sugar and starch but rich in digestible sources such as fiber and oil for energy. Alfa-A Molasses Free is Dengie’s high-fiber, high-calorie forage: it contains alfalfa and is suitable for horses with laminitis that also need help with weight maintenance.
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