Taking a Trip Down the GI Tract

Understanding how a horse’s digestive system is designed is the first step toward helping your clients fully understand equine nutrition.

For all of the stable-management and health-care expertise I’ve accumulated over more than 30 years, the trimming of feet is one area that I never dared delve into.

So I admit it — I’m in awe of farriers.

With so much knowledge of anatomy, so much experience and intuition needed to safely and effectively shape a foot, I was never confident enough that I wouldn’t make a train wreck of trying. So I have always entrusted the care of my horses’ hooves to an expert farrier, and treated him (or her) with the deference appropriate to that expertise.

I’m not the only horse owner who feels this way — and I also know that farriers are the horse-care professionals who the typical horse person sees most regularly. So it’s inevitable, really, that farriers are asked questions that go way beyond the scope of hoof care. You’re expected to have an opinion on everything from the talents of the local trainer to why a Clydesdale might be losing its feathers.

In particular, you’re often supposed to be equipped to inform your clients about nutrition — both in terms of how it affects hoof growth and the overall health of their horses.

What’s better, sweet feed or pellets? What do you think about rice bran, flax seed or shark cartilage? What level of protein should I be feeding my mare when she’s 5 months pregnant? Did you see that new study about chromium levels in the diet? How should I be feeding…

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Karen Briggs

As an equine nutritionist, Karen Briggs researched, designed and marketed a line of premium quality feeds for performance, pleasure and breeding horses. She’s also offered nutritional and ration balancing information to horse owners throughout Ontario. Located in Puslinch, Ontario, the award-winning equine writer is also a Canadian Equestrian Federal certified-riding instructor and has managed several Canadian farms and riding schools.

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