Thursday, 1 October 2015

Feeding Your Laminitic Horse or Pony This Autumn and Winter

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, many of you start to assume that due to decreasing quality of the grass it is safe for your lamintic horse or pony to go back out to their paddock, however beware this may not be the case! There also several key points to remember when managing your laminitic during colder temperatures ahead.  
First of all, even as pastures appear to be losing their lush green colours, it is impossible to know what levels of water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) are contained, in fact we often experience what many refer to as an ‘Autumn Flush’. Additionally turning out on grass that has been exposed to cold temperatures in conjunction with bright sunlight i.e. sunny frosty mornings, should be avoided, as these conditions can result in especially high levels of WSC. For this reason we recommend continuing to restrict access by making use of stables/menages/bark paddocks, strip grazing or a grazing muzzle, so long as there is a sufficient covering of grass.

Providing a balanced diet is key for any horse or pony, so it is vital to ensure they are receiving the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins. If maintaining weight on forage alone (grass/soaked hay), provide a balancer, a small nutrient dense pellet which contains a negligible level of calories, starch and sugar. If on the other hand your horse needs the help of a hard feed to maintain weight, consider a fibre or cube suitable for laminitics with added nutrients. Remember, even in Spring/Summer months, we cannot be sure what level of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins our horses and ponies are receiving, therefore feeding a balancer if providing less than the recommended amount of feed, is still advisable.

Secondly when continuing to turn out onto bare paddocks or strip grazing, these areas can quickly become bogged down with mud. In the wild, horses would roam the land continually, foraging for food, it is important therefore to provide continual access to forage. For our laminitics this involves offering either soaked hay or alternatively a suitable hay replacer such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF®/SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free. All horses and ponies require a minimum of 1.5% (dry matter) of their bodyweight in forage per day, however it is difficult for us to know how much of this ration is being consumed as grass. As a guide, when being stabled for 12 hours, offer a minimum of half this ration, but those prone to weight loss may require more and of course when stabling for longer periods, a larger quantity will be required.

Finally, winter can provide the perfect opportunity for those horses and ponies who have been doing a little too well in warmer months to finally shed some extra pounds. If your laminitic does in fact struggle to maintain weight however, harsher conditions can pose a problem. Start by checking that you are feeding the recommended ration of your horse’s current feed as a simple increase may be all that is required. If this isn’t enough however, look for a feed with higher level of digestible energy and protein but always avoid cereal based feeds with high starch content and opt for fibre and oil instead.

This autumn, as we start cooking up soups and stews for ourselves, there are several points that need to be considered when considering your lamintic’s winter diet. Taking these steps now however will hopefully avoid any set backs for next spring!

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