Getting Your Laminitic Horse Back to Work

Getting a horse or pony that has had laminitis back into work can be a long battle but once your vet has given you the go ahead it is important to increase the amount of work slowly. Exercise is beneficial for all horses and ponies for weight management and health, but is particularly important for those with insulin resistance which is associated with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysunction (PPID or Cushing’s disease) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). In humans, there is evidence to suggest that exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity even if weight loss isn’t achieved so it is important to exercise your horse or pony regularly.

Do I need a higher energy feed?

Just because your horse’s workload has increased it doesn’t automatically mean that a higher energy ration is required. Feeding more energy than your horse needs for the work being done will result in weight gain and this is one of the biggest risk factors for laminitis. Use the Dengie Body Condition Scoring Chart to assess whether your horse or pony is at an ideal weight; checking this every couple of weeks should mean you spot any changes early.

If your horse maintains a healthy weight then it suggests that the amount of energy you are providing is spot on. However, if the increased exercise results in too much weight loss or your horse is lacking energy when ridden then a change to the ration may be necessary.

What type of feed should I use?

Any horse or pony that has had laminitis will be at risk of having laminitis again and so it is advisable to feed a low sugar and starch horse feed diet. Current recommendations are to use feeds and forage with less than 10-12% NSC. This stands for non-structural carbohydrates and is a combination of water soluble carbohydrates (WCS) and starch added together.

Dengie have four products approved by The Laminitis Trust including Hi-Fi Lite, Hi-Fi Molasses Free, Healthy Hooves Molasses Free and Alfa-A Molasses Free. All of these horse feeds contain far less than the recommended 10-12% NSC.

What if my horse is in hard work or doesn’t maintain weight?

Alfa-A Molasses Free Fibre FeedIf your laminitis prone horse or pony is in hard work or needs to gain weight then a higher energy/calorie horse feed is required. The same principle applies that horse feed should be low in sugar and starch and so fibre and oil are the energy sources that are safest to use. Using more digestible fibre sources such as alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet are really useful as the horse gets more out of the fibre he is consuming. There is some evidence to suggest that feeding sugar beet or Dengie’s Alfa-Beet improves the digestibility of the other fibres consumed too.

From the Dengie range of Laminitis Trust approved fibre horse feeds Alfa-A Molasses Free is the highest calorie option. Alfa-A Molasses Free combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa with a rapeseed oil coating and the added herbs mint and fenugreek. At 11.5MJ/kg digestible energy, Alfa-A Molasses Free has a similar energy or calorie level comparable to a working cube but without the same levels of sugar and starch cereal based horse feeds supply.

Do I need to add anything else to the ration?

If your laminitis prone horse or pony is on a fibre only ration or fed a complete feed at less than the recommended quantities then it is important to top up with an additional source of vitamins and minerals, such as Dengie Leisure or Performance Vits & Mins, to provide a fully balanced ration.