What bucket feed should I give my laminitis prone horse or pony?

When it comes to laminitis in horses, feeding needn’t be complicated. Many people ask “what is a safe feed for horses with laminitis?” As a starting point it is important to think about why we feed, and this varies according to the type of laminitis prone horse we are feeding. An overweight horse will have different requirements to a lean horse, and an older horse or pony with PPID may have other age associated health problems, such as poor dentition, that require a specific type or format of feed.

horse eating out of bucket

In all cases, the mainstay of advice when it comes to choosing the best feed for laminitic horses is to choose products that provide low levels of starch and sugar. When added together, the sugar and starch provided by a feed should be less than 10%. Unless a product specifically claims to be low sugar and starch, you may not find this information on the feed bag. However, feed manufacturers should be happy to share this information and so just give them a call to find out. The sugar and starch levels of Dengie’s fibre feeds can be found on the individual product pages on our website, under the analytical constituents tab.

In addition to being low sugar and starch, the ration also needs to supply an appropriate amount of energy for the individual, and supply a balanced diet with respect to vitamins, minerals and good quality protein. Many of Dengie’s fibre feeds meet the criteria that make them deemed to be a safe feed for horses with laminitis, some of which are approved by The Laminitis Trust.

Feeding the good do-er or overweight horse

If a horse is overweight and laminitis prone, it can be tempting to think they don’t require a bucket feed at all. Whilst they don’t need a feed to supply energy or calories, a grass or forage only ration does not provide everything a horse needs. Deficiencies are even greater if grazing or forage have to be restricted to facilitate weight loss and manage laminitis risk. That’s why when it comes to laminitis in horses, feeding needs to be balanced and tailored to the horse’s individual needs.

Healthy Hooves Molasses Free 2023

UK pastures and forage typically lack the trace minerals copper, selenium and zinc. Horses fed predominantly hay are also likely to lack vitamin E, and additionally good quality protein if the hay is soaked and restricted.

For the good do-er or overweight horse, the main reason to provide a bucket feed is to top up on nutrients naturally lacking in pasture and forage. This can be achieved by using fortified feed such as Healthy Hooves Molasses Free or by feeding a vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer added to a low calorie fibre feed such as Hi-Fi Molasses Free or Meadow Lite with Herbs.

Using a fortified feed

Fortified feeds like Healthy Hooves Molasses Free are designed to provide a balanced ration when fed at the recommended quantity. The feeding rate of Healthy Hooves Molasses Free is 500g or approx. 1 Stubbs scoop per 100kg of bodyweight. For a 600kg horse this would therefore be 3kg daily. As the feeding rate is high, for those that are on dieting rations this quantity should form part of their total daily forage ration. For example, a 600kg horse should receive 10kg of hay in 24 hours as fed: assuming the hay is 90% dry matter. When feeding Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, this would become 7kg of hay and 3kg of Healthy Hooves Molasses Free split into as many portions as practical throughout the day. If less than the recommended quantity of a fortified feed is fed, it is still necessary to top up with a balancer or supplement.

Using a feed balancer

A feed balancer is a very concentrated feed. As well as supplying vitamins and minerals, a balancer also provides good quality protein such as lysine: an essential amino acid. The use of a feed balancer is particularly recommended for those that are having restricted grass access and soaked forage, as they could be lacking good quality protein. Pelleted balancers are also useful for fussy feeders as they tend to be very palatable.

A feed balancer can be fed alone, but typically a small amount of low calorie fibre feed such as Hi-Fi Molasses Free or Hi-Fi Lite will be fed alongside for some extra chew time.

Using a vitamin and mineral supplement

A broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement is the ultimate low calorie feeding option. A vitamin and minerals supplement is best suited to individuals that have grass access, or alternatively if being restricted are being fed additional feeds or supplements that supply additional lysine.

As a powder, they need adding to a small amount of low calorie fibre feed such as Hi-Fi Lite, or Hi-Fi Molasses Free in order to act as a carrier. A top tip is to dampen the fibre feed prior to mixing in the supplement: so that the supplement doesn’t fall to the bottom of the bucket and get rejected.

Feeding the poor do-er

Alfa-A Oil Fibre FeedWhilst the poor do-er has the same requirements for vitamins and minerals as the good do-er, they will need some extra energy or calories in order to maintain weight. As a starting point it is important to check with your vet that there isn’t an underlying reason that your poor do-er isn’t holding weight such as poor dentition, or PPID that isn’t under control. If all is well, the second thing to consider is whether your poor do-er is having ad-lib forage, and actually eating a good quantity?

What’s the best feed for laminitic horses that are poor do-ers to put in the bucket? Choose feeds that are low in sugar and starch, but provide digestible sources of fibre and added oil for extra energy. Did you know that Dengie’s highest calorie fibre feed, Alfa-A Oil which combines alfalfa with a rapeseed oil coating, is suitable for laminitis prone individuals that need help to maintain weight as it is naturally low in sugar, whilst providing as much energy as a conditioning mix or cube? Other products in the range including Alfa-A Molasses Free, Healthy Tummy, Alfa-Beet and Alfalfa Pellets are also suitable.

For advice tailored to your laminitis prone individual click here to complete our Feeding Advice Form or give the Feedline a call on 01621 841188.