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 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: Do I need to be concerned about hoof quality when I turn my two Quarter Horse mares out for grazing this spring?
By Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD
A: Spring grass contains abundant supplies of vitamins and omega-3 essential fats, which likely contribute to the undeniable bloom and gleam of horses on young pastures. They often top 20% protein in their early growth stages. Fiber levels are low; calories and digestibility at their peaks.
Access to spring pasture leads to weight gain for any horse that does not have high calorie requirements, like lactating mares and growing foals. It is also a drastic diet change from hay, often resulting in soft manure or bloating and abdominal discomfort. Gradual introduction to spring pasture, supplemental psyllium to increase fiber and a high potency probiotic can help the digestive tract adapt to the diet change.
The most well-known potential danger of spring pastures is deterioration in the hooves. While it has been claimed that any horse may develop pasture-related problems, the research does not support this. Study after study over the last decade and a half, including multiple year periods, has found that high insulin levels are the risk factor.
The only sure way to protect horses at risk is to keep them off pasture or use a completely sealed muzzle. If you play with fire and lose, immediately take the horse off pasture and feed only hay with less than 10% sugar and starch combined or soaked hay (soaking lowers sugars). The safest carrier for supplements is a small amount of beet pulp that has been rinsed, soaked and rinsed again to remove excess sugar or molasses.
Spring grass is nature’s most powerful tonic, but there can be too much of a good thing. Utilize it wisely.
Eleanor Kellon is the staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition. She is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. For more information visit ecirhorse.org.
Click here to read part 2 of the May 1, 2021 installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: What’s the impact of an overweight horse on its hooves? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.