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: Is laminitis more of a concern with overweight horses?
By Kathleen Crandell
Mirroring the epidemic in humans, equine obesity continues to grow at an alarming rate. Studies show almost 50% of horses are considered overweight or obese in developed nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom. According to a group of Australian researchers, the prevalence of obese horses is on the rise there as well.
An Australian research team recently described its experience with 10 Pony Club groups throughout Victoria. After weighing, taking various body measurements and assigning a body condition score (BCS) to 229 horses and ponies, the research team reported:
The prevalence of obesity, defined in this study as a BCS of greater than 7, in pony breeds (31%) was three times higher than in horses (9%).
Almost half the ponies were overweight or obese, with a BCS equal to or greater than 6.5. Some 86% of all Shetlands and miniature ponies fell into this category.
About 40% of the owners significantly underestimated their horse’s condition, indicating their horses were thinner than they actually were. Only 16% of owners overestimated body condition.
What’s wrong with a little extra padding? According to equine nutritionists, a lot and serious problems are associated with obesity in horses. Overweight and obese horses are at risk for developing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and life-threatening laminitis.
In a separate paper, these same researchers indicated 15% of the horses and ponies included in the above-described study population had been diagnosed with laminitis. More than half of those animals reported suffering more than one bout with laminitis.
Together, these studies show that owners widely perceive their horses to be in moderate condition when, in reality, they are overweight or even obese, putting them at risk for major health issues.
“A greater awareness of body condition, together with nutritional and management advice, may produce considerable benefits in preventive health care for ponies and horses,” concluded the researchers.
Although controlling equine obesity may seem like a piece of cake, getting weight off a horse or pony can be challenging. Consultation with an equine nutritionist could be beneficial for many owners in helping their horses lose weight.
Obesity should not be taken lightly, especially considering the risk for laminitis.
Most horses that are on “slimming” rations do not require the calories provided in typical concentrates; as they tend to eat all-forage rations. While sufficient forage may supply all of the energy a horse requires, it may not fulfill all vitamin and mineral needs.
Kathleen Crandell is an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. Located in Versailles, Ky., the firm is an international research, consulting and product development firm working in the areas of equine nutrition and sports nutrition.
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 December 15, 2016 installment: Do the feet of my horses deserve special attention during cold and wet winter weather?