Did you know that restricting forage (hay) is the MOST stressful thing you can do to your horse? And, as such, to his hooves?
OK, so your horse is 'footy' and is developing or has developed a hard, cresty neck. Your horse is fat. He is exhibiting signs of **EMS at worst or Insulin Resistance (IR) at the least.
We're usually told to restrict hay, soak it down, keep the horse off grass and feed a no sugar, low carb (which can't be true at all cause simple carbs turn to sugar in the body!) feed and then myriads of supplements are suggested of various kinds and types.
Yo! ... that is the opposite of what the horse and its hooves actually needs!
Food deprivation in humans has been well studied and shown to INCREASE fat. Studies in equine are less numerous but shows the same effects.
When horses are deprived of food it can lead to pain throughout their bodies but, in particularly, in their gut. Pain causes cortisol to increase thereby causing more stress. Over long term, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is affected and the hormones are totally messed up in the body. Interestingly, researchers from Louisiana State University found that mares having enough hay during the day but deprived of hay overnight showed the greatest degree of IR. IR leads to Laminitic attacks causing more pain and the cycle continues going round and round and round.
Restricting forage also results in loss of muscle mass. It is so common to propose forage restriction as an effective way to lose weight and the cresty necks and fat pockets. But it was shown that even though horses lost weight there were no changes in the body condition, the neck or even the girth circumference and fat pockets in the rum BUT ... instead, the longissimus dorsi muscle thickness was reduced.
We all know the importance of having a muscled topline.
So you have a footy horse with a hard, cresty neck. What to do? What to do?
Feeding high quality hay is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure that your horse’s diet includes sufficient quantities of essential amino acids such as lysine and methionine, which are important for the growth of healthy hoof tissue. --www.horsejournals.com
Lysine is important to hooves as it is most often the key to improving protein availability, especially in grass hay based diets. What are hooves made up of? Keratinized PROTEIN. So Lysine plays a major role in the health state of the horse hoof. Natural sources for Lysine include High lysine foods include, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and lentils. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seed, chia seed, cashew nuts, walnuts and almonds all are great additions to the equine diet to provide ample Lysine.
Methionine is absolutely necessary for the production of cystine, the amino acid that is needed to produce many important proteins. Through a process called transamination, the horse's body converts dietary methionine into the cystine. Methionine is often cited as the second limiting amino acid in horse diets, after lysine. So when one sees cracking, crumbling, poor growing hoof walls, one can safely assume the body is lacking appropriate amounts of Methionine. Many types of nuts provide Methionine including Brazil nuts. Other examples of natural source for Methionine and soybeans. However, here in the US over 90% of the soybeans grown commercially are based from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seeds. The long term effects of GMO plants has not been studied while short term studies do show considerable detrimental effects from sterilization to tumors. It is best to find an alternative source for adequate Methionine or feed organic soybeans.
Contrary to what is often believed, Alfalfa-grass blends are a good choice for horses because Alfalfa is protein-rich and will balance with the lower protein grass hay. Alfalfa also helps to soothe the stressed gut. A diet that includes FREE CHOICE hay will drastically reduce the stress the body has to contend with and will offer the nutrients that are not only helpful to the horses gut but to growing healthy, strong hooves, as well.
Last, but not least, for this blog post, is the importance of GRAZING for the horse ... yes, GRASS. Horses are "designed" to eat grasses. Lots and lots of varieties of grasses. Pastures that are eons old without any chemical enhancers or fertilizers or riddled with pesticides and herbicides. When we pull a horse off grass for the sake of reducing weight, cresty neck, for the sake of EMS or IR, we are just stressing the body which will exacerbate any metabolic situation. We are depriving the horse of essential nutrients to heal and restore the hooves natural health.
Avoiding metabolic LAMINITIS should be a primary focus of all horse owners. Feeding a diet that will increase the nutrients in the diet will help to decrease the chances of metabolic syndromes and the resulting 'footiness' or, flat out Laminitis. Feeding free choice hay, REDUCING or completely ELIMINATING cereal-based grains and adding such fresh foods as greens, nuts, seeds that are rich in Methionine and Lysine will not only help the horse to adjust to the natural, normal weight for that individual horse but also allow the body to grow those nice, strong, rock-crushing hooves that we ALL "dream about".
**EMS - The term Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is used to signify the condition in horses in which all three of the following exist: Insulin resistance (IR), Laminitis – may be severe, acute or low-grade and chronic, and regional fat deposition in the form of a “cresty” neck or enlarged fat pads.
Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf
LIVE, ONLINE COURSE with Gwenyth Santagate begins Sept. 13, 2017. For more information and to register (limited reserved spots) go here: http://www.integrativehorsecourses.com/online-classes.html