Fibre and Fructans; The Keyflow Guide to Managing Laminitis

This week we wanted to remind you that after the glorious sunshine and some much needed spring showers the grass is growing! Great for our fields to finally recover following a very wet and muddy winter, but for those horses who are at risk of laminitis, it is time to consider their management. 

We are experiencing a sudden increase in advice calls and online requests for support with horses and ponies at risk or suffering from laminitis. The long cold winter, followed by an extreme lack of rain has led to particularly ’stressed grazing’.  Grass stores sugar that is unable to be used for growth (due to cold or drought for example) in a form called fructan, that cannot be digested in the horses stomach and absorbed in the small intestine. It passes into the hindgut, causing a significant drop in the pH, leading to the death of the beneficial microorganisms and an increase in the production of lactic acid. Toxins are released and an inflammatory response triggered, leasing to an increased risk of laminitis and colic. 

Laminitis myth buster! ‘Only little chunky ponies get laminitis!’ All horses and ponies can develop laminitis! Laminitis can affect horses of all shapes and sizes!

Horses with metabolic disorders such as Cushings (PPID), Insulin Dysregulation and EMS (Equine Metabolic System), may have a greater risk of developing laminitis. These conditions do occur in ALL breeds, and we are experiencing a rise in the number of sports and performance horses affected. 

Laminitis is the inflammation of the sensitive layers of laminae in the hoof. These delicate structure attach the pedal bone to the hoof wall, inflammation can be very painful and in severe cases, the laminae become unable to support the pedal bone to the hoof wall, causing sinking and rotation of the pedal bone.

Ensuring these horses and ponies are receiving a low energy diet, ie. low sugar and low starch diet can help to manage horses and ponies at risk of laminitis. Conservative management is key, including monitoring and controlling your horse’s turnout, including type of grass species, it’s growth stage, the horse’s time at grass and work levels are key. Feeding  hay soaked for at least 6 hours can reduce the sugar intake from their forage, as can substituting a low calorie chop, or using an analysed low energy and low sugar haylage. 

It is vital to remember our horses are ‘trickle’ feeders and so require regular access to fibre and forage. Starvation paddocks are a thing of the past! If your horse is in a bare paddock, consider using soaked hay in small holed nets placed around the paddock to keep them moving. Track systems can also be a great option, to keep them moving around to different ‘stations’ for their water, multiple hay nets etc! 

Do not allow your horse or pony to go longer than 4 hours without eating, horses are trickle feeders and we need them to have access to feed throughout the day to prevent additional issues including gastric ulcers. 

Pink Mash is a great high fibre (40%) and exceptionally low sugar and low starch base to add a vitamin and mineral supplement such as ‘Lamivite’ available from Equestrizone to ensure your horse or pony still receives their daily essential nutrients. Adding a straw based chaff will provide bulk to their feed and help increase the time spent chewing, in turn the saliva produced will assist to buffer your horses stomach acid.

For older horses, or those who are in work Keyflow Golden Oldies has a combined sugar and starch of less than 10%. A concentrated balancer mash, Golden Oldies has a low feeding rate, allowing a your horse to have the benefits of a balancer, with Protexin probiotics and prebiotics included, as well as joint support from long chain Omega 3 DHA and turmeric. Golden Oldies is also a great option for horses who need a low sugar and low starch diet with great levels of quality protein to provide the building blocks for muscle development.

If your horses is at risk of laminitis it is vital to keep a close eye on their weight- taking regular photos as a comparison, using a weight tape and condition scoring can be useful tools in the battle against increasing weight!

Get in touch with the Keyflow advice team to see how we can help!

We are delighted to offer a video assessment of your horse or pony, plus an evaluation of the best management practice for him or her, in addition to outstanding diet and nutrition advice and support.

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