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Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    What is the best way to feed a 19-year-old Arabian mare that recently foundered (1,000 lb or 450 kg, 15 hands or 152 cm, body condition score of 6)? Before she foundered, I rode her three to five days a week, and she was fed grass hay and pasture. Since foundering, pasture has been eliminated from her diet, but I need to come up with a suitable diet for when she recovers. Can you help?


  • A:

    For a horse with a recent history of founder, we recommend keeping it on a hay-only diet for a while.  Depending on the reason for the laminitic episode, eventually the horse may be allowed controlled access to pasture, which could be with a grazing muzzle or turnout for short amounts of time.  If the laminitis was the result of something other than insulin resistance or exposure to highly fermentable carbohydrates (lush grass, grain overload, etc.), then the concern about limiting pasture intake is not as great. 

    At this stage in recovery, the horse is ready to add a vitamin and mineral supplement to balance the nutrients that may be low or missing in the hay. This can be done with the addition of either a ration balancer or a vitamin and mineral supplement to supply the nutrients critical for repair of damaged tissue. An example of an appropriate vitamin and mineral supplement is I.R. Pellet or Gold Pellet. This particular product was formulated with the insulin resistant horse in mind but is a well-balanced supplement for any horse. The addition of a ration balancer would provide the vitamins and minerals as well as protein, which may be low in a hay-only diet. 

    To support healthy growth of new hoof wall with essential nutrients, you may want to consider adding a hoof supplement, such as Bio-Bloom.

    For horses that have foundered on grass or starch and sugar—rich feeds which have caused an imbalance in the hindgut microbial population—we often recommend trying a hindgut buffer, like EquiShure. This will help maintain a normal hindgut pH and a healthier environment for the microbial population. 

    If insulin resistance is at the root of the problem with your mare, then recent research has shown that fish oil supplementation can improve insulin sensitivity.  This improvement has not been seen with other sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as flax. A palatable source of fish oil is EO-3.

    KERx Special Needs Nutrition supplements, developed by Kentucky Equine Research (KER), are an excellent way to complement a balanced feeding program and are specially designed to address common problems as well as special needs. 

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