Bringing a horse back into work after laminitis

Article last updated: 6th July 2022

Bringing a horse or pony back into work  after laminitis  can be a long battle but once your vet has given you the go ahead it is important to increase the amount of work slowly. Exercise is beneficial for all horses and ponies for weight management and health, but is particularly important for those with insulin resistance which is associated with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID or Cushing’s disease) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). In humans, there is evidence to suggest that exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity even if weight loss isn’t achieved so it is important to exercise your horse or pony regularly.

Does my horse need a higher energy feed?

Just because you are bringing your horse back into work after laminitis and their  workload has increased it doesn’t automatically mean that a higher energy ration is required. Feeding more energy than your horse needs for the work being done will result in weight gain and this is one of the biggest risk factors for laminitis. Use the Dengie Body Fat Scoring Chart to assess whether your horse or pony is at an ideal weight; checking this every couple of weeks should mean you spot any changes early.

If the horse that you are bringing back into work after laminitis maintains a healthy weight then it suggests that the amount of energy/food you are providing is spot on. However, if the increased exercise results in too much weight loss or your horse is lacking energy when exercised then a change to the ration may be necessary.

Getting Your Laminitic Horse Back to Work

What type of feed should I use?

Any horse or pony that has had laminitis will be at risk of having laminitis again and so it is advisable to feed a low sugar and starch horse feed diet. Current recommendations are to use feeds and forage with less than 10-12% NSC. This stands for non-structural carbohydrates and is a combination of water soluble carbohydrates (WCS) and starch added together.

Dengie have a range of products suitable for those prone to laminitis including Hi-Fi Lite, Hi-Fi Molasses Free, Healthy Hooves Molasses Free and Alfa-A Molasses Free. All of these horse feeds contain far less than the recommended 10-12% NSC.

What if my horse is in hard work or doesn’t maintain weight?

Alfa-A Molasses Free Fibre FeedIf your laminitis prone horse or pony is in hard work or needs to gain weight then a higher energy/calorie horse feed is required. The same principle applies that horse feed should be low in sugar and starch and so fibre and oil are the energy sources that are safest to use. Using more digestible fibre sources such as alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet are really useful as the horse gets more out of the fibre he is consuming. There is some evidence to suggest that feeding sugar beet or Dengie’s Alfa-Beet improves the digestibility of the other fibres consumed too.

From the Dengie range Alfa-A Oil or Alfa-A Molasses Free are our highest calorie options. At 11.5MJ/kg digestible energy, Alfa-A Molasses Free has a similar energy or calorie level comparable to a working cube but without the same levels of sugar and starch cereal based horse feeds supply. Alfa-A Molasses Free combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa with a rapeseed oil coating and the added herbs mint and fenugreek which will help tempt fussy horses.

Do I need to add anything else to my horse’s ration?

If your laminitis prone horse or pony is on a fibre only ration or fed a complete feed at less than the recommended quantities then it is important to top up with an additional source of vitamins and minerals to provide a fully balanced ration.

If you would like further help and advice on feeding and bringing a horse back into work after laminitis don’t hesitate to contact the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 or complete our Feed Advice Form.