LIZZIE DRURY MSC RNUTR 

Laminitis is a common disease and is the second biggest killer of horses and ponies in the UK. It is a disease frequently seen in overweight horses and ponies in the spring, summer and autumn, although not all overweight horses will get laminitis and not all horses with laminitis are overweight. There are many different causes of laminitis but the most common and most researched cause is that of inappropriate diet and management. With correct feeding and management you can help to protect your horse or pony from this extremely painful and dangerous disease and the following top tips are designed to help.

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN ADDRESSING FIBRE INTAKE

• Diets that are high in fibre are healthy: Do not compromise fibre intake if your horse or pony is in a starvation paddock or stabled. Aim for a forage intake of between 1 - 1.5% of bodyweight for weight loss and 2% for maintenance.

• To remove calories but still provide essential bulk, hay can be soaked in water for a minimum of 3 hours, which recent research has shown to be extremely effective in reducing the calorie content. Remember to rinse the hay off after soaking.

• If your horse or pony has a tendency to be a very good doer and is overweight, replace a portion of his hay ration with good quality oat straw (do not give oat straw to older horses with poor dentition). 

• For weight loss hay should be analysed for its non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content and ideally should contain less than 10-12% NSC.

WHEN TO FEED A BALANCER?

  • You are feeding a forage only diet and need to supply the key nutrients that are lacking in the forage sources. These nutrients can complement natural stress resistance and help the immune system, whilst improving coat bloom, and skin and hoof quality. 
  • You are feeding below the manufacturer’s feeding recommendations for a coarse mix or cube to make up the nutrient shortfall. 
  • You own a horse or pony that has a tendency to become very overweight on the recommended feeding rates for a coarse mix or cube (2.5kg for a 500kg horse), yet they still require their daily micronutrient requirements.

TOP TIP

When feeding the laminitic prone horse and pony it is important to take into account the starch and sugar  level of the hard feed but when doing this also think about the feeding rate. Some balancers appear to have a higher starch level compared to a mix or cube but due to the low feeding rate actually provide less starch in grams. For example a feed with 10% starch but a feeding rate of 500gm per day will supply the same quantity of starch in grams as a feed with 2.5% starch but a feeding rate of 2kg per day (both will provide 50gm of starch per day).

 

WHICH FEED BALANCER?

Stiick to feeds that are low in calories and starch, high in digestible fibre and dense in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, quality protein and antioxidants. The main principle of the diet is to ultimately provide a complete feed that is low in energy and starch and yet rich in key elements that help to support, immune function, coat and hoof condition and metabolism. Many low calorie feeds are typically low in quality protein and oil and this can give rise, over a period of time, to horses that have persistent poor coat and hoof quality and a lower tolerance to exercise. Both Shape-Up™ and Essential Balancer have been formulated to ensure that these factors are addressed whilst also ensuring that calorie, starch and sugar levels are carefully managed.

Shape Up small Shape-Up™ is based on digestible fibre sources, helping to keep sugar and starch levels low. It has been specifically formulated for equines with an increased risk of laminitis due to metabolic issues and as such contains a range of ingredients to help support normal metabolism, such as magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and cinnamon. While every effort should be made to try and prevent horses going for long periods with nothing to eat Shape Up™ may help to maintain normal pH levels in the stomach and fermentation patterns in the hindgut as it contains a Acid Buf, a marine derived natural buffering agent. It also includes a mycotoxin binder to effectively remove harmful pathogens from the digestive system. Finally, a healthy hoof package, with the research recommended 30mg/kg biotin, is included to support hoof quality and growth. 

Essential Balancer renderEssential Balancer is a cost-effective pelleted feed balancer designed for all horses and ponies.  It can be fed alongside compound feeds being fed below the manufacturer's recommended levels, or forage only diets. Essential Balancer is low in sugar, starch and calories, so is suitable for horses and ponies that are good doers and in particular native breeds of ponies. Dense in vitamins, minerals and quality protein sources, Essential Balancer helps to maintain muscle tone and topline as well as supporting optimum health and vitality. A source of Omega 3 fatty acids helps to condition and shine the coat, creating a picture of health inside and out. The use of a live yeast has also been shown to help support feed and forage digestibility and maintaining a stable gut microflora population during times of stress, e.g. travelling, competing or sickness. 

 

Shape-Up Feeding Rate 200gm per 100kg BW

Provides 29gm of starch and sugar per 100gm

Essential Balancer Feeding Rate 100gm per 100kg BW

Provides 15gm of starch and sugar per 100gm

 FURTHER TIPS FOR MANAGING WEIGHT

  • Exercise is an essential part of preventing obesity and the issues associated with it, e.g. Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Laminitis. Dr Nicholas Grazing with muzzleFrank from the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine recommends exercise as a ‘more is better’ approach providing that the horse is sound. In addition research has shown that exercise can improve insulin sensitivity further helping to reduce the risk of laminitis.
  • Exercise programmes must be designed with the individual in mind and a realistic assessment of the horse made to establish a safe fitness regime.
  • Most of us lead busy working lives but just 20 minutes of exercise can help encourage weight loss. With a little thought you can come up with some innovative exercise ideas that save you time but help keep your horse active and sometimes also helping keep you fit too!
  • Try and make sure that horses only graze when sugar levels in the grass are low, often overnight (late evening until early morning) is the best time
  • Use a grazing muzzle to decrease your horse’s grass intake whilst still allowing them turn out time.
  • Do not turnout on to frosty paddocks, especially on sunny mornings.
  • Do not overwork on hard surfaces. 

REMEMBER THAT LAMINITIS IS AN EXTREMLY PAINFUL CONDITION AND VETERINARY ADVICE MUST BE SOUGHT IF YOU THINK YOUR HORSE OR PONY IS SUFFERING FROM THE CONDITION

FOR A PERSONALISED FEEDING PLAN FOR YOUR HORSE OR PONY, PLEASE VISIT WWW.SARACENHORSEFEEDS.COM  AND COMPLETE OUR SIMPLE AND FREE FEED ADVICE FORM.
ALTERNATIVELY, IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR QUALIFIED NUTRITIONISTS FOR SOME IMMEDIATE ADVICE, PLEASE CALL OUR FEED ADVICE LINE ON 01622 718 487

When feeding the laminitic prone horse and pony it is important to take into account the starch and sugar  level of the hard feed but when doing this also think about the feeding rate. Some balancers appear to have a higher starch level compared to a mix or cube but due to the low feeding rate actually provide less starch in grams. For example a feed with 10% starch but a feeding rate of 500gm per day will supply the same quantity of starch in grams as a feed with 2.5% starch but a feeding rate of 2kg per day (both will provide 50gm of starch per day).

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