Tips for managing forage intake in laminitics without grazing
Grass may contain high levels of simple sugars (mainly sucrose – the same sugar you put in your tea!) and fructan or ‘stored sugar', collectively referred to as water soluble carbohydrates or ‘WSC'. For severely laminitic horses and pony's complete removal from grazing may be the only option, particularly during high risk periods such as spring and autumn.
If your horse or pony is now stabled or on ‘non-grass turnout' we hope the following tips help you to provide a suitable source of forage…
- Ideally feed a low WSC hay or low NSC (starch + WSC) hay replacer such as @SPILLERSTM HAPPY HOOF or @SPILLERSTMHAPPY HOOFTM Molasses Free.
- Consider having your hay analysed. Although soaking helps to reduce WSC, results are highly variable and can't guarantee suitability for laminitic.
- Not all laminitics are overweight. Unless your horse or pony needs to lose weight, a suitable hay or hay replacer should ideally be fed ad lib.
- Total forage intake should not be restricted to less than 1.5% of bodyweight per day (dry matter). For every kilo of hay, you feed approximately 15% of it is water so in practice, you need to feed approximately 9kg of hay to 500kg horse or 11kg if you intend to soak it – see our next tip!
- Due to a loss of nutrients (and therefore dry matter) into the water, each hay net will contain less ‘hay' and more water post soaking. As a guide, increase the amount of hay you soak by 20% unless you are feeding ad lib.
- Counting droppings can be useful and more practical way of monitoring forage intake, particularly if you don't know how much your horse weighs. Initially we recommend aiming to reduce the number of droppings by a third if trying to encourage weight loss but never by more than half.
- For some horses and ponies, replacing up to 30% of the forage ration with straw can be useful way of reducing calorie intake without restricting total intake. Straw should always be introduced gradually and be of good hygienic. Did you know straw can be steamed before feeding?
- Divide daily forage rations into as many small servings as possible – ideally a minimum of 4 if possible.