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What a horse eats, and even how and when it eats it, largely contributes to the overall health of the horse, including its feet. Poor diet may contribute to an increased risk of laminitis, colic and gastric ulcers, among other health problems, but risk of these ailments can be lowered by properly managing a horse’s nutritional program.
Jessica Normand, senior director of equine health for SmartPak, gave a presentation at the recent International Hoof-Care Summit in which she laid out 10 tips and takeaways to help farriers better understand equine nutrition to help keep their clients’ horses in ideal health.
The first item on Normand’s list is the fact that horses are what she calls “trickle feeders.” This means horses are supposed to eat a little bit throughout the day.
“Their digestive system and metabolism is designed to take in small amounts of forage or roughage frequently throughout the day,” she says. “In the wild, a horse will graze for up to 17 hours per day, but modern horse-keeping makes it challenging to mimic this because horses are often fed “meals” and go for hours fasting in between, which is hard on the GI tract.”
Normand says owners should aim to feed 1% to 2% of the horse’s bodyweight in roughage per day.
Jessica Normand recommends both farriers and horse owners learn the basics of equine nutrition in order to best manage horses’ overall health.
Slow-feeder hay bags and hay nets, she suggests, are ideal for…