Laminitis, Feeding Tips, Foundations of Good Nutrition, Hoof Care, Horse Health, Nutrition, Weight Management

Managing Laminitis-prone Horses and Ponies during Spring

Safe Springtime Horse Feeding to Reduce Laminitis Risk

Rule #1: Don’t let horses get fat

(and if they do, help them lose weight immediately but safely).

The hardest part about helping easy keeper horses maintain or lose weight is to ensure they are able to eat much of the time, but not eat too many calories.

In Spring you’ll often have to use portable fencing or a grazing muzzle to limit how much grass an overweight horse can consume when pasture is abundant. Some horses have to be kept in a bare yard or on a track system so you can control their roughage intake completely with the provision of a controlled amount of grass hay.
During weight loss, the aim is to limit total daily intake to 1.5% of your horse’s bodyweight.
DON’T lock overweight horses up all day or all night with nothing to eat! When horses are left for more than 4 hours without food, they are at risk of developing gastric ulcers, so use multiple small hole haynets when horses are locked off grass to make their ration last as long as possible.

IF you provide grazing, try to limit it to the very early hours of the morning when sugar levels are lowest, then return to Jenny Craig paddock with low calorie limited hay for the rest of the day.

Rule #2: Restrict access to high sugar feeds to avoid triggering laminitis

For insulin resistant (IR) horses including those with EMS and many who are prone to laminitis, the sugar levels of the roughage also have to be taken into consideration, even when intake is limited. In practice, this means:

  • avoiding pasture when it is very short or seeding or stressed 
  • avoiding pasture after 10 am
  • avoiding pasture if it contains ryegrass or other high sugar cultivars.


In lockup, choose hay lab tested to be less than 10% ESC plus Starch or soak hay for half an hour in hot water or an hour in cold water, with soak water drained and discarded. Remove any uneaten wet hay every 12 hours to avoid mycotoxin ingestion. Read here for more details on choosing appropriate forage.


Click here to learn more about choosing safer forage for your laminitis-prone or overweight horse.

Rule #3: Feed enough of the right food

Feed hay rather than chaff because chewing hay is beneficial both mentally and chemically as it creates more saliva containing the buffer sodium bicarbonate which reduces the acidity of the stomach thereby reducing the risk of gastric ulcers. However, a handful of damp lucerne chaff makes a good low calorie carrier for your daily vitamin and mineral supplement.

An overweight horse needs roughage, salt and minerals, but don’t feel that you have to give a large hard feed. A token feed carrying the supplements is all that is required during weight loss.
This means that a balancer supplement or pellet is far more appropriate than a ‘laminitis safe’ feed that adds ‘safe’ calories (low starch/sugar) but is nevertheless adding calories that an overweight horse doesn’t need. Save the feeds like beet pulp and Zero for horses who need a feed to maintain weight when grass doesn’t provide enough calories for them.

If your EMS or IR horse needs to gain weight, you’ll need to carefully choose low sugar, low starch feeds. Read our guidelines here.

Rule #4: Exercise boosts metabolism and reduces laminitis risk

If your horse isn’t lame, you should also encourage him or her to exercise more, preferably with ridden or lunge work, but also through more movement in the yard by utilising hay nets in different places, or use a laneway system so s/he has to travel from food to water. Click here for our expert guidelines on how much exercise you need to give.

Rule #5: You must supplement appropriately

All horses are mineral deficient unless fed a well balanced mineral supplement or the full recommended amount of a quality pre-mixed feed. Horses on a weight loss diet or being managed to prevent dangerous weight gain are not going to be able to eat the full recommended amount of a hard feed without consuming too many calories, so will need either a concentrated mineral balancer powder or pellet.

Equine Vit&Min (EVM) powder in a handful of damp chaff, baleage or sprinkled over soaked hay is the ideal way to add in all the vitamins and minerals otherwise missing from the diet without adding any extra calories to the diet. EVM Balancer Pellets are the simplest way to ensure your horse gets all his or mineral needs during weight loss and can be fed straight from your hand.

If you lock your horse off the grass, add Farmalogic Omega Balancer, EVM Omega-3 Plus or Farmalogic Fat Pony to replace the omega-3 fatty acids that have been lost from the grass as it dried to make hay.
Research indicates that supplementation with the marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, used in these products improves cell energy metabolism and glucose/insulin regulation when compared to plant-sourced omegas like chia and linseeds.

Message us if you need free advice on feeding your horse during Spring from our team of qualified equine.

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