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  • Q:

    My aged gelding maintains a typical Norwegian Fjord shape—he’s 14 hands (142 cm) and round, but not obese. He has white line disease, and I’m not riding him until his hooves improve. Right now, he’s on pasture for 9-10 hours a day, though he is muzzled, and he receives about 6 lb (2.7 kg) of grass hay in a drylot each evening. He is also fed a high-copper complete vitamin and mineral supplement, and a gastric-support supplement. I’d like to know if there’s anything else I can do to improve the quality of his hooves without adding a lot of new products. Any ideas?

  • A:

    Managing body weight of easy keepers can be a challenge, especially when exercise is reduced or nonexistent. Controlling caloric intake is necessary to prevent unwanted weight gain, but moderation needs to be balanced with total feed intake and digestive health concerns.

    I recommend transitioning your gelding to a ration balancer pellet that has a more complete vitamin and mineral profile. Ration balancers specifically formulated to be fed with grass hay contain high-quality protein, macrominerals (calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium), and microminerals (trace minerals and vitamins). Most ration balancers are fed at a rate of 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) per day, but always feed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

    Feed at least 1.25% of body weight as forage to help reduce the risk of digestive problems such as gastric ulcers and colic.

    Your gelding’s hay intake of 6 lb (2.7 kg) of hay is equivalent to 0.57% of his body weight (estimated to be 1,050 lb or 475 kg). To maintain digestive health, he needs to also consume about 0.68% of his body weight (about 7 lb or 3.2 kg) as pasture. If pasture availability is limited, then an increase in grass hay fed is needed for digestive health. Selecting a more mature grass hay can help reduce caloric intake but allow you to provide a more optimal forage intake.

    Horses with restricted access to forage (pasture and hay) should receive a daily digestive buffer, such as RiteTrac. Providing a twice-daily serving of antacids and coating agents can help increase gastric pH and protect the stomach from prolonged contact with gastric fluid. RiteTrac is a one-of-a-kind digestive product, containing EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer that works to stabilize the pH and support the hindgut microbial population.

    Nutrition can have a considerable impact on hoof quality and supplementation. Well-formulated hoof supplements can be beneficial to horses even when their basic dietary needs are being met. Supplementation with biotin in combination with other key nutrients has been shown to be more effective than supplementing just with biotin. KER developed a dual-action hoof and coat conditioner called Bio•Bloom PS that contains biotin, zinc, methionine, and iodine, as well as essential fatty acids and lecithin. In Australia, look for Bio•Bloom.

    Bio•Bloom PS is formulated to be fed at 1-2 ounces per day and provides the necessary nutrients to promote strong, healthy hooves and improve skin and coat condition. Horse owners have reported faster hoof growth after supplementing with Bio•Bloom PS. Improving hoof quality and health is important in minimizing the effects of white line disease.

    Nutritional needs and management can be affected by age-related changes such as decreased immunity and certain medical conditions (such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, PPID). Regular assessment of body weight and condition as well as exercise, when possible, helps to ensure older horses receive proper nutrition and medical care as they enter their geriatric years.

    Horse owners across the globe can get top-drawer nutrition advice from the advisors at Kentucky Equine Research. Start a conversation today!

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