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.

This edition is sponsored by the W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine) of East Longmeadow, Mass.

Q: My pony has some of the risk factors associated with laminitis. My vet voiced a concern about equine metabolic syndrome also being a concern and I know little about it.

By Kentucky Equine Research

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) refers to a set of factors including obesity, insulin resistance and a tendency toward laminitis. Because laminitis causes intense pain and often signals the end of a horse’s useful life, owners should be aware of the signs and risk factors for EMS in its beginning stages. Detected early, EMS can often be managed to minimize the likelihood that a horse would actually develop laminitis.

Clinical signs such as abnormal lipid and insulin levels can be determined by having a veterinarian draw a blood sample. However, owners can see some physical signs and characteristics. These include obesity, a high body condition score, a cresty neck (even if the horse’s body does not appear excessively fat), little or no exercise, previous bouts of laminitis and a high intake of forage and/or grain.

Many cases of EMS are seen in horses that have finished growing, but are only 5 to 8 years old. Ponies and horses from heavier-bodied breeds are more frequently diagnosed with EMS than lighter-built equines.

Owners who see one or more of these signs should recognize that equines with these characteristics might be at higher risk of laminitis than horses in the general population. Checking with a veterinarian is a good idea, as he or she can use the results of blood tests and a physical examination to help diagnose EMS.

In order for obese horses to lose weight, veterinarians and equine nutritionists may suggest cutting out grain and calorie-laden treats, switching the horse from top-quality hay to forages with a lower carbohydrate content and increasing the horse’s exercise program. While these steps won’t guarantee a horse that shows signs of EMS can avoid laminitis, it may prevent the disease in some instances. Whether or not a horse has EMS, some added benefits of losing excess body weight include better exercise tolerance, more energy and reduced strain and wear on joints.

Located in Versailles, Ky., Kentucky Equine Research is an international research, consulting and product development company working in the areas of equine nutrition and sports nutrition.


Click here to read Part 1 of the September 1, 2017 installment: With my fat gelding, who is an easy keeper and ridden several times a week, should I leave the grazing muzzle on all the time or give him an hour of muzzle-free freedom every day?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.