Feeding A Founder Attack

The sooner you start controlling the starch and sugar content of your horse’s diet, the quicker laminitis will come under control, whether you’re dealing with a first-time episode, an acute attack or a chronically laminitic horse. You’ll want to institute the emergency diet (see sidebar) as quickly as possible.

You should only feed the horse grass hay or grass hay and soaked beet pulp with no molasses. The hay should be from a mature cutting of grass hay, not the young, tender, “yummy” stuff. Feed the hay free choice, at about 1.5% of the horse’s ideal body weight (15 lbs. per day for a 1,000-pound horse).

If possible, the hay should be soaked for at least half an hour before feeding in hot water. This soaking will remove simple sugars and starch in the hay. (Yes, even grass hay contains sugar and starch.)

If you can’t find beet pulp without molasses, rinse the beet pulp multiple times (hot water works best) until the water draining off runs clear (not brown). After that, you can soak the beet pulp and feed it.

It may take a little time for your horse to get used to the beet pulp. You may need to feed it just a little wetter or a little drier, depending upon the horse’s preferences. Don’t give up on feeding it, if the horse refuses it the first few times. And, yes, you always feed beet pulp wet after soaking it. The difference is in how “sloppy” you make it.

If freezing temperatures prohibit you from soaking the hay, substitute beet pulp for about one-third of the hay, at a rate of 1 lb. of beet pulp per 1.5 lbs of hay. This means, the 1,000-pound horse who should receive at least 15 pounds of hay would receive instead 10 pounds of hay and 3 1/3 pounds of beet pulp (dry weight).

Substituting with beet pulp also considerably lowers the overall glycemic index of the diet, that is, how high the blood glucose goes after a meal. Because beet pulp is more digestible than hays, it’s also a good choice for the underweight horse.

If horse is really underweight, substitute one-third of the estimated hay requirement with beet pulp, but do it on a pound-for-pound basis.

Most horses enjoy beet pulp, but an ill horse can be picky. You can add some cinnamon, peppermint extract, sage, a tablespoon of wheat germ, or a few alfalfa cubes or pellets. Test your horse’s level of interest in flavorings before making a batch of beet pulp you may have to throw away.

Bed the horse on shavings or another non-edible bedding rather than straw, especially if he has a tendency to eat his bedding.

These are temporary measures to get the horse through the acute phase of laminitis. It’s unlikely this diet will be adequately mineral-balanced for long-term feeding.

Also With This Article
”Emergency Diet For Laminitis”

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