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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Good diet


Downey is a 23 year old saddlebread that is overweight and not walking very well. She started acting funny about four days ago. We had an experienced farrier come out and trim her feet because we thought that there might have been a rock stuck in one. Just need a little more information on how to keep her on a good diet and what kind of exercises we could do to get her more in shape.

Thank you.

Re: Good diet

Hello Brian,

Did the trimming fix the problem or is she still showing signs of discomfort? Do you think she may have experienced laminitis (founder)? Some more information would be helpful in advising you.

In general, however, a complete feed that is low in starch, such as Nutrena’s "SafeChoice" or ACCO Feed’s, “Safe and Sound,” or Alliance Feed’s “Miracle Glo,” would be better than a grain-based feed since she is overweight and is likely somewhat insulin resistant.

You also want at least half, and probably more, of her diet to come from forages that include grass hays combined with legume hays.

Free access to clean water and a salt lick, are also very important.

As far as exercises to get her into shape, it would depend on her physical condition. Once you rule out any medical condition that’s affecting her and your vet has given her a clean bill of health to proceed exercising, you can start with walking for 30 minutes at a time each day. She will let you know if she’s had enough. And, pay close attention to how she is doing a few hours later to assess any soreness in her muscles or joints.

Thanks for writing. Keep me posted on her condition.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Re: Good diet

The trimming helped but she is still showing signs of discomfort. Yes, I do think that she has experienced laminitis because of the way she stands sometimes. She stands straight up sometimes but again other times she leans back to try and get her weight off of her front feet. We have been using mineral ice and horse aloe vera twice a day around her ankles and this has helped out a lot. I hope this information will help. I do appreciate all the information you have given me.

Re: Good diet

Hi Brian,

If she is exhibiting the stance you describe, then she is in terrible pain. Laminitis is a medical emergency and I highly recommend that you contact your veterinarian and your farrier to help her get the pressure off of her feet.

The mineral ice and aloe vera will have no effect on her pain, I’m sorry to say. You should give her Bute, or preferably, aspirin, for her pain until the vet arrives. He may wish to do an x-ray to determine the extent of coffin bone rotation. And, do not walk her, as I suggested in my previous message, when she is in this condition. That would be pure torture.

There are some nutritional interventions that are very helpful and I list some ideas on this forum. If you would like to visit about her further over the phone, please take a look at my “phone visit” service. I would like to get more information about her history, her diet, and I feel that chatting more about her would be beneficial in getting you on a feeding regimen to cure her and prevent additional attacks. Once a horse founders, her chance of experiencing it again are very high.

Please keep me posted. Laminitis is a serious problem and I am eager to assist you in helping relieve her pain.

All the best,

Dr. Getty