Feed & Nutrition

Horse owners know how important good nutrition is to the health and performance of their animals. They spend considerable time and money ensuring that their horses are provided with the nutrition they need to do a job and stay healthy. There is a great deal of debate in the equine industry today about feed and its safety or suitability for our horses.

Equine Cushing’s Disease, more correctly called Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a non-cancerous but progressive enlargement of the pituitary gland in the horse. It is estimated that 20 percent of horses over the age of 15 will develop PPID. Note that Cushing’s Syndrome in humans and dogs (when not due to giving too much steroidal medication) involves an actual tumour of either the pituitary or the adrenal glands, (either benign or malignant), whereas Cushing’s Disease in horses has a different cause.

Horse owners are familiar with the tragic pictures shared on social media of the emaciated horse rescued by the authorities, or the one that could not be saved due to its poor condition. Malnourished horses are a reality even in our affluent Western world. Sometimes these horses are the result of well-intentioned people trying to “save” unwanted horses, only to find they are unable to do so because of cost or scarcity of feed.

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We all want healthy horses with beautiful muscle tone, that are neither too fat nor too thin. In short, we want our horse to have the ideal body condition. But what is an ideal body condition and, especially, how does one evaluate it effectively?

equine Laminitis in Horses with EMS and Cushing’s Disorder, Dr. Jaini Clougher ECIR Group. Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Cushing’s disorder (PPID) phenylbutazone (Bute) horse is rocked back onto its haunches therapeutic hoof boots with pads vitamin e laminitis

Equine laminitis has been with us for a long, long time. Fortunately, in the last 10 to 20 years there have been great strides in understanding the causes of this terrible condition. Laminitis is now regarded as a syndrome that occurs secondary to something else, rather than a discreet disease all in itself. This has allowed much more focused research and effort in treating the cause rather than treating just the symptoms that occur in the hoof. It doesn’t matter how great the trim is, or what shoes are used, or how deep the bedding. If initiating causes such as EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome – see Equine Metabolic Syndrome & Equine Cushing’s Disease, Early Summer 2018 issue of Canadian Horse Journal) or PPID (Cushing’s disorder) are not addressed, the laminitis and the pain will continue.

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While we have become increasingly aware of the special needs of horses with sensitivities to starch and sugar, there remains a large population of our performance horses that can benefit from moderate inclusion of NSC (non-structural carbohydrates: starch and sugar) in the diet. Non-structural carbohydrates are found in varying amounts in all feed ingredients, with the exception of ingredients that are solely comprised of fat. The largest source of NSC in most horses’ diets is forage. Hay and pasture particularly can be very high in sugars depending on the variety and growing conditions.

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Low water intake remains the most prevalent cause of nutrition-related impaction colic. The following circumstances describe the most common reasons why your horses may be reluctant to drink:

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