Veterinary advice should always be followed where health issues have been identified.
The consistent quality of feetfirst™ hay removes much of the variability from your management regime making it easier for you and your vet to monitor and control the daily changes in your grazing quality and monitor the presentation of complex disorders such as Insulin Resistance and Cushings.
Recent experiments have shown that laminitis can be induced in healthy ponies by prolonged high blood insulin levels (Asplin et al., 2007). Avoiding rapid or prolonged surges in blood glucose (and therefore insulin levels) along with weight control and regular exercise is a good strategy to avoid laminitis.
Current independent expert advice is to avoid feeds and forage with a combined sugar (Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrate / ESC) and starch level above 10% to avoid problems with insulin resistance**. Some companies include sugar or starch levels in their published nutritional analysis but rarely both. Many bagged feeds and chaffs cannot meet this recommended standard – even the ones promoted for laminitics – and if not, they should be avoided.
In our experience, a consistent supply of nutritionally suitable forage is critical for the successful management of horses and ponies that are prone to laminitis, sensitive to sugar or may have underlying metabolic problems.
Feeding feetfirst™hay removes variability and uncertainty from the most important component of the equine diet and simplifies day to day management. It provides a consistent basis for the management of conditions that can show seasonal variation in presentation.
One of the most common symptoms of Cushings (PPID) is recurrent laminitis.
feetfirst™hay can be valuable tool in the management of Cushingoid horses and ponies by providing a consistent diet of the right quality. Symptoms of Cushings can vary in presentation according to season which can complicate management.
High forage intake has long been recognised as important in the prevention and management of gastric ulcers. feetfirst™hay contains high quality digestible fibre and is highly palatable. Fed dry, it is ideal for horses and ponies in light to medium work that may be prone to ulcers and need a high forage diet.
To increase forage intake without weight gain or where there is a risk of impaction colic, feetfirst™hay can be soaked before feeding.
To avoid problems with hind gut ulcers, it is also important to avoid feeds that are high in starch. If undigested starch reaches the large intestine, microbial fermentation produces large quantities of lactic acid which irritates the gut lining and changes the pH of the intestine. It is possible that this could contribute to the development of hind gut ulcers.
A low starch forage such as feetfirst™hay can be fed to act as a buffer if horses are in hard work and are being fed concentrates.
It is important to maintain a healthy weight yet supply adequate forage. All horses and ponies need to eat approximately 2% of their bodyweight in forage (or forage and feed) per day to maintain condition when in light to medium work. If they are overweight then this can be reduced to 1.5%. Any less can compromise their health causing mental distress (possibly leading to development of stereotypies), metabolic dysfunction (ketosis), and stomach (gastric) ulcers.
As feetfirst™hay is very palatable, it is advisable to monitor intake. Weighing the daily ration of dry hay will help with weight control.
Grazing must be managed to control grass intake and avoid a ‘spike’ in sugar and insulin levels.
Eliminate all other non-recommended feeds or balancers – even those designed or promoted as suitable for laminitics – to reduce intake of sugar (ESC) and starch to below 10% of the total diet.
If more dietary energy is required then the soaking times can be gradually reduced. This leaves slightly more Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC) in the hay providing more calories and energy. This is better than feeding concentrates. You can control the soaking times and therefore the energy content of your forage and it reduces the risk of a spike in sugar and insulin levels (which is known to trigger laminitis) because you are still ‘trickle feeding’. It also saves you money as you are not buying additional expensive bagged feeds.
For horses and ponies in hard work or being fed haylage, feetfirst™hay can also be fed to boost the fibre content of the diet.
To increase forage intake without weight gain, feetfirst™hay can be soaked before feeding.
Laboratory analysis alone does not provide enough information to choose the right feed. Different ingredients in bagged feeds will raise blood sugars at different rates (Pagan, 2014). This can cause problems because the overall nutritional analysis may indicate low sugar and starch levels but may still cause a rapid rise in insulin levels and trigger laminitis.
Also, some feed ingredients can increase chewing rates causing insulin levels to rise more rapidly. Inclusion of molasses (which is 64% sugar on a Dry Matter basis) can increase intake rates of some feed ingredients by 49% causing a large increase in blood glucose levels (Pagan, 2014).
To help stabilise blood sugar levels and therefore insulin levels, horses and ponies should be fed a forage based diet made from a mixture of different grasses, such as feetfirst™hay.