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Resources for Horse Owners

It's my goal to help educate and empower owners to make improvements in their animals' lives. 

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Feeding To Support Healthy Hooves

Proper nutrition is important for all equines, but for those with metabolic issues, arthritis or other inflammatory problems it is essential to address any source of inflammation in their diet. I recommend a forage based diet consisting mainly of grass hay, with hay pellets as a carrier for a quality trace mineral balancer and any other needed supplements. Many animals are over-supplemented and overfed, which can lead to problems as well as wasting money. For a common-sense breakdown of how to switch to a forage based diet, click here

KIS Trace is my preferred trace mineral for our area as it includes higher levels of Selenium than competitors, as well as added Vitamin E. Vitamin E/Selenium deficiencies are extremely common in the Upper Peninsula. KIS Trace is sulfate and polysaccharide free and they offer pelleted and flavored options for picky eaters. 

Teff pellets are the safest for metabolic animals, especially those that need to lose weight. If your horse is not metabolic and needs help maintaining weight, alfalfa pellets and flax pellets are a good option. When feeding hay pellets it is important to soak them to make them more palatable and reduce the risk of choke.

Why not use a commercial feed? I understand the convenience and appeal of bagged feeds, but they all contain various levels of potentially harmful additives, and most contain very little nutrients. Common inflammatory triggers in commercial bagged feeds include cane molasses, corn, soy byproducts, vegetable oil, and added iron. Keep an eye out for these inflammatory additives in supplements as well! 

For seniors, young horses, horses in heavy work or animals that cannot maintain a healthy weight on forage alone, I recommend Triple Crown Senior, Triple Crown Senior Gold, or Elk Grove Milling G&C Sport Mix. Triple Crown feeds do contain added iron so I only recommend it as a last resort.

Treats are often loaded with sugar and starch, I don't recommend treats at all for acutely painful horses, even "just one treat" can raise inflammation. That being said, I understand wanting to give treats and I do use food rewards with my own horses and occasionally with client horses. I normally use hay pellets as food rewards but if I want to give a higher value reward I will use Stabul nuggets which come in a variety of flavors and are less than 10% starch and sugar. They are orderable online through Chewy, Tractor Supply or the manufacturer. 


I have also used these treats occasionally that are available locally at Tractor Supply. Again, I don't recommend giving these to acute horses and they should be given sparingly, at the end of the day they are still only a source of empty calories and sugar.

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Preventing & Treating Thrush & White Line Disease

Thrush is a fungal infection commonly found in the central sulcus and collateral grooves in and around the horse's frog. White Line Disease is essentially thrush that has invaded the inner wall of the hoof capsule. Horses that have unhealthy hooves with contracted frogs and a weak lamina connection are the most susceptible, but any animal can develop it especially in muddy or dirty living conditions.

All equines should have their feet regularly picked out and inspected for signs of thrush. Picking out hooves on a regular basis is the best preventative and costs nothing. For those cases of thrush that do pop up, I recommend the following treatments.

No Thrush Powder is a dry treatment that works well as a preventative and for mild cases. 

Artimud is a clay based hoof putty that is ideal for deep crevices and more advanced thrush. It is very sticky and will draw moisture out even in muddy conditions.

Desitin mixed with copper sulfate powder is an effective "home remedy". Even Desitin on its own will help to draw some moisture out.

CleanTrax or White Lightning are an effective treatment when the thrush has progressed and topical treatments are no longer effective. Let the hoof soak in the solution (using either a soaking boot made for this purpose or heavy duty plastic bags) for the recommended amount of time, then apply a dry plastic bag to the freshly soaked hoof to allow the vapors to permeate the infected area. In some cases repeat treatments may be necessary.

Hoof Armor applications can be an effective treatment for white line infections along with debridement of the area by a hoof care provider. The starter kit and refill cartridges can be purchased and used by the hoof care provider or horse owner to seal and protect the area. Hoof Armor applications can also help with seasonal or transitional sole tenderness.

Laminitis & Founder FAQ and Further Resources

What is laminitis?

Laminitis is inflammation of the lamina, a Velcro-like structure which connects the outer hoof horn to the inner structures of the foot. When this inflammation is not controlled, this connection will begin to break down and the horse's coffin bone will sink and rotate downward. The term "founder" likens this catastrophic failure of the lamina to a capsizing ship.

What are the signs of laminitis?

Heat in the hooves, increased digital pulse of the lower distal limb, postural changes, reluctance to move or moving "tender footed", "walking on eggshells", etc. By the time they are in the classic rocked-back "founder stance", damage has already set in. The best thing you can do is know your horse's baseline and be aware of small changes in posture, movement or pulses.

What should I do if I suspect laminitis?

Get the horse on soft, deep footing or bedding, do not force movement. Remove any concentrates from the horse's diet, any hay can be soaked to eliminate sugars. Notify your veterinarian and farrier, laminitis requires a team approach and you will need everyone working together. Your veterinarian can do blood work, take radiographs and may prescribe pain medication. Your farrier can assist with realignment trims and can advise on boots and pads.

But don't horses need movement to be healthy?

Yes, but if you had a broken bone in your foot, you would modify your activity level until it healed, or risk doing more damage. Once they are out of the red alert stage of acute laminitis, returning to healthy movement is super important! But do not force an acutely painful horse to move any more than absolutely necessary. 

What causes laminitis?

Inflammatory triggers in the diet, toxicity, mechanical strain from lack of or poor farrier work, mechanical overuse, or some combination of the above are the most likely causes.

Can horses recover from laminitis?

Yes, if the root cause is identified and removed, and preventative measures are taken going forward, many horses not only recover, but go on to live productive, happy lives. Horses who have had laminitis once are more likely to have recurrent flare ups so they do need to be monitored and as always, prevention is super important!

Can horses have long term affects from laminitis?

Yes, chronic laminitis and founder leads to bone loss and remodeling of P3. Unfortunately once this damage is done, there's no fixing it, the only strategy for these horses is pain management. This is why the best thing you can do is be aware of your horse's baseline and if anything changes, get help ASAP! Laminitis is much less likely to cause lasting damage if caught and treated early.

Further Resources

Daisy Haven Farm School Of Integrative Hoofcare 

Daisy Bicking is a hoof rehabilitation expert and educator with 19 years of experience. She offers comprehensive hoof workshops as well as an online course, Patreon, and YouTube channel. Her science and data-backed methods have helped many animals that were deemed lost causes and she is a truly excellent resource for both professionals and horse owners.

Equine Cushings & Insulin Resistance Group Inc.

An important resource for all horse owners but especially those who have an equine friend who is at increased risk for laminitis and founder. Pain doesn't have to be a way of life for metabolic horses, there is a lot we can do to help them and much of it comes down to diet and management at home.

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