Hoof Nutrition Intelligence 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: Can pasture fertilization have an impact on hoof health?

By Dan Moore, DVM

A: What if you discovered that the nutrients from fertilizer that horses consume through grass or even hay is a huge contributor to laminitis?

Before you doubt this comment, allow me to ask a question: Have you ever had a client’s horse, or perhaps even your own horses, develop laminitis or founder for no known reason?

There are the obvious reasons for laminitis like steroids, over consumption of grain, or concussion from horses working on hard ground, ice or pavement — especially with “buggy” horses that often have concussion concerns from being driven on hard roads. But generally speaking, when do most horses develop laminitis?

If you have been around horses for a long time, I’ll bet you’ll agree that the most common time for a horse to have most any problem is after a change in weather or perhaps after a change in season — especially gut problems (colic) and laminitis. That first frost or bad drought can be a killer to both the gut and the hoof. While springtime can be especially troublesome with horses grazing lush green growing grass, even eating hay in the winter can be an issue.

The reason for gut or hoof issues is not the hay or the grass or even the sugar in the grass as some folks think. God planned for horses to eat grass, but they were not meant to eat excess amounts of nitrogen or potassium that is contained in fertilizers or manure. In fact, this is a major concern with chicken litter fertilized grass, which is really full of nitrogen. I can’t count the number of horses I’ve seen that developed laminitis after grazing grass fertilized with chicken litter. The consumption of too much nitrogen or potassium through fertilized hay or grass can be deadly.

The solution is simple. The next time you are on a farm and you see a salt or mineral block (or even a salt rock, which are popular these days), please tell the owners to throw them away as they may be killing their horses.

It’s because the nitrogen and potassium content changes hour to hour in grass. If a horse is grazing when these two fertilizer ingredients are at extremely high levels in the grass due to rapid growth, weather, season change, or already chronically high from heavily fertilized hay, horses, cows, goats, sheep or alpacas can’t lick a salt block or rock fast enough to neutralize the high levels of nitrogen or potassium. As a result, the acidity of the gut rapidly changes and laminitis, colic, abortion or ulcers can result.

The most effective prevention for major problems such as these is to offer free choice loose salt and minerals at all times. Not salt rocks or blocks.

Sodium is first, calcium is second and then magnesium is third in the order of minerals that are required to neutralize nitrogen or potassium overloads from fertilizer. Horses can’t get enough of these minerals from any salt rock or block.

Help save a horse — think loose and free choice!

Dan Moore is a graduate of the veterinary school at Auburn University and operates the Natural Vet company in Unicoi, Tenn. An exhibitor at the 2016 International Hoof-Care Summit, Moore has offered natural solutions as alternatives to traditional care for horses and other animals for more than 2 decades. 

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). 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 2 of the May 15, 2016 installment: Can developmental orthopedic disease in foals be nutrition related?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.