A diet based on suitable grass and feetfirst™hay can be the best way to reduce the risk of dietary induced laminitis, hoof health problems and metabolic problems.
- Modern types of agricultural grasses have been selected to have higher sugar, starch and protein levels and are often not suitable for horses and ponies apart from those consistently in very hard work.
- Selection of the right grasses appears to be critical to providing the right quality forage.
Avoid any rapid increase in blood sugar and therefore insulin spikes by:
- Strip grazing – but move the electric fence early in the morning or last thing at night.
- Create mini paddocks and graze them in rotation.
- Turn out overnight or early morning / late evening.
- Use feetfirst™hay to supplement restricted grazing systems so you are not ‘starving’ them to control weight.
- Avoid putting mini paddocks in areas of latent high fertility such as near gateways, farm buildings or water troughs where farm animals may have gathered in the past.
- Don’t turn them out hungry – they will eat faster.
Not all hay is the same because not all grass is the same.
- feetfirst™hay is a unique blend of grasses selected for the best nutritional profile for horses and ponies.
- According to independent nutrition experts, Insulin Resistance and laminitis are best controlled when the combined sugar (ESC) and starch levels in hay are below 10%**.
- Our own practical experience has also shown that reducing the intake of sugar and starch can be crucial for the successful management of laminitis and metabolic problems.
- The upper limit for all hay sold under the feetfirst™hay brand is a maximum 10% combined sugar and starch.
- Not all hay is ‘safe’- even after soaking. A full analysis of the hay ‘as fed’ is the only way to know its nutritional value.
- Meadow hay and Timothy hay are not necessarily better or safer for horses and ponies. They can still be too high in sugar and starch, as can hay made from ryegrass.
- ‘Over yeared’ hay is not automatically safer. Hay is dried grass which has been rendered metabolically inert by the drying process and its nutritional value will not alter over time.
feetfirst™ hay is highly palatable even when soaked. Some tips for easy soaking include:
- Soak for a maximum of 12 hours if you want to remove as much Water Soluble Carbohydrate as possible.
- Reduce soaking times if you want to increase the energy content of the diet.
- Regularly wash hay nets used for soaking or they will start to smell. Use a laundry bag and put them in the washing machine
- Scrub hay soaking tanks daily to avoid the build-up of yeasts, especially in warm weather.
- Do not allow fermentation by prolonged soaking in warm weather
- Do not allow soaked hay to dry out.
- Use soaked hay within 12 hours of draining it.
- Do not store soaked hay in direct sunlight – it will start to heat up and ferment.
- Dispose of soaking water responsibly.
Mineral intake must always be correctly balanced.
- If the sugar and starch content of your forage is too high, no balancer or supplement can correct this. Get the diet right first and then add a suitable low calorie mineral supplement.
- Independent advice about suitable mineral supplementation can be obtained from Forageplus (http://forageplus.co.uk) who provide feeding advice, forage analysis, bespoke feeding plans, feed balancers, vitamins and minerals. They can combine the nutritional and mineral analysis for feetfirst™hay with your own information about diet and management to recommend a suitable balancer or develop a bespoke feeding and supplement plan for your horse.
- Many ‘off the shelf’ supplements and balancers do not provide the correct balance of minerals and vitamins which can compromise health and soundness.
- ‘Farriers Formula’ and ‘Barn Bag’, both from Life Data (http://www.lifedatalabs.co.uk/) are well formulated and can be fed without a ‘carrier’ making them suitable for ponies and horses who cannot tolerate bagged feed, bagged forage, alfalfa or sugar beet products.
- Barn Bag is specifically formulated to support a forage based diet and has given exceptional results when fed with feetfirst™hay.
- Over supplementation can be as harmful as under supplementation.
- By feeding feetfirst™hay and a recommended mineral supplement, you are separating feed and calorie intake from nutrient support
Low Sugar Diet
If a horse or pony is very sensitive to sugar or is at risk from laminitis:
- feetfirst™hay can be soaked to remove Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC) thereby further reducing the total energy content and help control and stabilize weight.
- For highly sensitive animals, we advise that you soak for 12 hours when you first start feeding feetfirst™hay. Once they are accustomed to it, you can experiment with gradually reducing soaking times or even feeding it dry.
- The amount of soluble sugar and carbohydrate removed increases with soaking time and water temperature (Watts, 2003)
- As feetfirst™hay is very palatable, it is advisable to monitor intake. Weighing the daily ration of dry hay before soaking 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.
- 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 as 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.
High Fibre Intake
feetfirst™hay is a great source of palatable, high quality digestible fibre.
- A high fibre / forage diet is essential for the management of gastric ulcers, good doers, behavioural stereotypies and barefoot. The low level of sugar and starch in feetfirst™hay allows high inclusion rates of forage.
- Feeding feetfirst™hay puts you in control of your horse or pony’s calorie intake yet you are still maintaining essential fibre intake.