Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: Should I be concerned about turning my three horses out with all the concerns about pasture-associated laminitis?
By Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc.
Many horses will gorge themselves on that long-awaited lush, green pasture in early spring. Overgrazing grasses and legumes that are high in water-soluble carbohydrates puts horses at risk for laminitis — a painful, life-threatening condition of the hooves.
Many horse owners are already aware that pasture-associated laminitis is particularly concerning for overweight horses and ponies, easy keepers, horses with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome and horses and ponies with a history of chronic laminitis.
However, it is important for owners to appreciate that pasture turnout can trigger a bout of laminitis even in lean, non-obese horses with no history of laminitis.
There are several steps horse owners can take to avoid pasture-associated laminitis in the spring:
1. Make all dietary changes slowly. If your horse has been on a specific type of hay or other forage over the past few months, do not suddenly turn it out on pasture for long periods of time each day.
2. Avoid grazing for all horses that are at risk of laminitis. Use grazing muzzles or turn these horses out in drylots. This will help maintain an appropriate body weight (body condition score), which helps protect against development of laminitis and some diet-related disorders.
3. When turning out laminitis-prone horses to graze, turn them out in the early morning and evening because that is when the water-soluble carbohydrate levels are lowest.
4. At-risk horses should be checked daily for signs of laminitis. Even if maintained on pasture with low or moderate levels of water-soluble carbohydrates, some horses are still prone to future bouts of laminitis. Early indications include hooves that are warm to the touch and horses that appear sore or unwilling to move.
5. If pasture turnout is non-negotiable at your facility, consider an analysis of the pasture grasses and consult with a certified equine nutritionist. Your local extension specialist may also have some valuable information regarding appropriate pasture management, such as mowing, rotation schedules and different types of grasses to plant.
It is important to recognize that a lack of grazing is not synonymous with a lack of turnout. Horses, especially those with a history of laminitis, benefit from turnout and regular exercise to increase circulation to the feet and maintain an appropriate body weight. Horses also benefit from the social interaction and routine hoof care.
Peter Huntington is the director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research Australia, which is part of the Kentucky Equine Research group in Versailles, Ky.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 1 of the June 15, 2018 installment: What is the role of the B vitamins in hoof quality and growth?