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  • Q:

    I live in Florida but just moved from Kentucky. Two years ago, my 10-year-old, 900-lb (410-kg) Arabian gelding foundered. He has a cresty neck. Because I live in Florida now, he needs some feed and supplementation. He currently gets a mixture of 12% textured feed, oats, and cracked corn. He has very limited grass to graze. He is used for pleasure riding. How can I feed him without causing problems again?

  • A:

    The forage in Florida is not as rich as the grasses in Kentucky, which is fortunate for your horse. It seems as though you will need to feed some hay in addition to the grass your gelding consumes.  That should help with the risk of foundering.  You have a couple of options for feeding, but I would not recommend feeding large amounts of oats and cracked corn to a horse with a history of laminitis, particularly if he is still obese. Horses with a predisposition to laminitis tend to have problems handling large amounts of starch (from grains) and sugars (from lush grasses), as they are more likely to trigger an episode.

    Here are three options for you:

    (1)  If the horse is still overweight, to balance the forage I would suggest a well-formulated vitamin and mineral supplement instead of a textured feed because your horse does not need the calories to maintain his weight. We have an excellent supplement for horses just like your gelding called I.R. Pellet. It can be fed by itself or mixed with a handful of grain (e.g., oats) or something like beet pulp or rice bran.

    (2) If the horse is somewhat overweight, the other option for balancing the forage is a ration balancer. Just about every feed manufacturer has some type of ration balancer that has the proper balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) has a ration balancer called All-Phase. A ration balancer can be fed by itself or mixed with a little grain or beet pulp if more calories are needed.

    (3) If the horse is at a good weight and you don't want him to lose any, then I would recommend a high-fiber feed instead of the oats and cracked corn. Calories in a high-fiber feed are supplied from fiber (as the name suggests) and added fat (usually some type of oil).  This type of feed is safer for a horse with a history of laminitis because it is very low in starch, a source of calories that can cause problems for your gelding. With this kind of feed, be sure to check the recommended feeding rate. If the horse gains weight on the minimum recommended amount, switching to a ration balancer would be a better option.

    Check out this article for tips on feeding laminitic horses.

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