Monday, 30 July 2012

Can supplements make your grazing safe?

Laminitis is one of the most researched and talked about conditions and understandably, one that plays on the minds of many owners. When surrounded by an array of research, articles, myths and speculation, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Although far from being a condition that only affects fat ponies in spring, the majority of laminitis in the UK is pasture related. This considered, is the idea of a supplement that makes grazing safe too good to be true?

Nutritionally, prevention of laminitis demands a diet that is high in fibre and low starch (found in cereals), sugars and fructan (found in grass). Whilst there has been some debate over the role of fructans in the development of laminitis, managing as many risk factors as possible, including providing a diet low in non-structural carbohydrate (NSC ~ the sum of starch, sugar and fructan) is the best known prevention.

Supplements can help to support hoof health or quality but regardless of this, supplements cannot prevent or treat laminitis, nor can they make grazing safe. Rather than look for a supplement that claims otherwise, consider using a grazing muzzle which can reduce intake by up to 80%. Strip grazing or reduced turnout may also be useful but beware; horses can quickly learn to eat large amounts if only turned out for short periods un-muzzled (close to 1% of their bodyweight in 3 hours). However for known laminitics, it may be necessary to consider no grazing during peak growth (typically spring and autumn) and instead provide turnout in a bark paddock or ménage if possible. Turnout of sunny frosty mornings and grass that has been stressed (including over or under grazing) should also be avoided.

Used appropriately, supplements can certainly play an important role in the horse’s diet but in any instance, it is important to be realistic about what they can achieve. Regardless of the supplement, its ingredients or the manufacturer, no supplement can make your grazing safe.