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markedandprinted 11-18-2009 06:38 PM

Perfect Diet for Insulin Resistant Horse?
Obviously this can be discussed with my vet, but I was just curious about the diets of other horses who are insulin resistant. A few months ago, my horse became laminitic, and it was discovered that insulin resistance was causing his foot sensitivity.

At the moment, I soak his hay in hot water to get the sugars out. He's on Wellsolve L/S grain. He only gets about 3 pounds of feed daily (1 pound 3 times a day). It ends up being about 2 quarts. He's on Farrier's Formula and Quiessence... and Thyro-L (which we are weaning him off of). He's at a good weight now. He was overweight. Now I just have to figure out how to stabalize his diet so he doesn't lose any more weight.

Personally, I don't want to increase the amount of grain he gets. And I'm pretty sure that he won't eat molasses-free beet pulp. Should I add bran to his feed? Or is corn oil better? I think that I heard something about corn oil not being great for them.

He's been on day turnout and no riding for about 4 months... and he's starting to go out all night again on a pretty grass-less paddock this weekend. And I've been allowed to get on him and walk. I'm allowed to start trotting for 5 minutes shortly, too. So is bran what I should add to help him maintain weight... but not have too much sugars? Anyone else have experience with this? If so... do tell!

Ryle 11-18-2009 06:47 PM

You don't want to be adding bran because the calcium to phosphorus ratio is not correct for horses so you have to be careful feeding it.

If he has lost sufficient weight and now you want to maintain him, getting him off of Thryo-L should help stop the weight loss. But you may also need to increase the amount of hay he is getting.

barefoothooves 11-18-2009 11:30 PM

I would think you could add a little ( around a pound or so) of alfalfa cubes/pellets. I know Alfalfa gets a bad wrap, but it's actually pretty low in NSCs, just is high calorie and calcium imbalanced so shouldn't be a large part of the hay diet. BUT...if you use it to balance the bran (phos imbalance), it would help add more calories and variety to his diet. Alfalfa is also rich in many minerals and vitamins. It's not a bad hay, it just shouldn't be the ONLY hay, and if your horse is fat, the extra calories are bad, but I took a class and all the reserach I turned up just showed that the calcium issue and the high calorie thing (for already obses horses it could be the "straw that broke the camels' back" for laminitis, but unless suddenly added, is not really a high founder factor in moderation). It's mineral content is why it's often the carrier ingredient in supplements, as well.

I'm pretty sure I just made an unpopular suggestion, but I trim some IR horses and they do fine with a pound or two of alfafla. They also tend to add Flax to their diet, as the lack of green grass shorts them of that healthy fatty acid (one of the Omegas and I seem to get them backwards) .

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, about a cup a day, also make a healthy variety, and add a sheen to the coat (more Omega fatty acids). The more variety you get in your horse, the happier he will be with that low sugar diet.

There is a supplement available through United Vet Equine called Carb-X, you should look into it. Just google them and check out all their supplements geared toward IR, Cushings and overweight horses to help prevent laminitis. THey contain large amounts of certain minerals they need with their conditions. There was a lady with a couple of fat ponies, and she gives them Carb-X as their "grain" each day, and their feet are looking excellent (they also get trimmed every 4-6 weeks, instead of the every 12 the last farrier recommened since they didn't break off (rolls eyes))

tealamutt 11-18-2009 11:37 PM

I would also avoid bran because it is high in fat. IR horses can actually have something called Equine Metabolic Syndrome which is an endocrine disorder and excessive fat as well as carbs in the diets should be avoided. I wouldn't go for the alfalfa personally and just FYI soaking hay does not remove sugars according to the Internal Medicine Specialist here at the teaching hospital. We just diagnosed a horse with EMS on tuesday so the details of this disease are fresh in my mind. Out of curiosity, how was your horse diagnosed??

The Horse | Equine Metabolic Syndrome a Focus of Research

Ryle 11-19-2009 09:49 AM

I would talk to the internal med specialist again. The researchers of IR at the Univ. of Tenn. recommend soaking hay to remove sugars and I'm sure that there have been a few studies on the value of soaking it. The Univ. of Queensland did one....I'll have find the others.

tealamutt 11-19-2009 11:29 AM

Thanks Ryle,

I'll share that info with her. As you know EMS is pretty new and our pony herd (inbred closed research herd) has 2 or 3 gals diagnosed with it in the last couple of years. We're on the look out for dietary management tips so this is very helpful!

you always blow me away with your knowledge! Sometimes I think you stay more current than some of our professors and clinicians.

Ryle 11-19-2009 11:50 AM

I probably have more time than you professors and clinicians--I don't have classes to teach ;)

Dr. Frank at the U. of Tenn talked about endocrinology at the AAEP meeting in 2006. You can probably get your hands on those proceedings.

markedandprinted 11-19-2009 05:30 PM

Thank you all for the helpful information. I'll see about adding either flax seed or black oil sunflower seeds to his diet. He gets as much soaked hay he can eat at the moment. Even though the grain he is on his low starch, low sugar, etc., I just want to be careful about the amount I give him. I'd just prefer to find a way to maintain his current weight without upping his grain intake.

I'm not sure if soaking the hay actually works or not. But I think it does. I soak the hay in hot water for 30+ minutes... usually about an hour or two, typically, then drain the excess water. The water has usually turned dark brown at that point. Perhaps it's his change of diet, supplements, and soaking of the hay... but he's no longer footsore. He has glue-on shoes. This started about a year and a half ago when we (all of a sudden) couldn't put nails in his feet. He'd be severely sore... especially on concrete... for about 5 to 7 days after getting shod. However, he's never been sound without a shoe... always very sore on a shoe-less foot... but he pulled a glue-on not too long ago, and he was sound without it! So... whatever we're doing with his diet is certainly helping! He can get shod and have the glue-on shoes put on and be perfectly sound. It's only when nails were driven into his feet that caused a problem.

About 4 months ago, the farrier recommended that we put nails back in his feet... because the glue-on shoes were making his feet so soft. That was a mistake. We put nails back in his feet... and it caused him to have a laminitic episode. He was treated with intravenous DMSOs and we iced his feet and kept him on stall rest and no grain. Once he was stable enough, I had him taken to a vet clinic just a few hours away. My old horse foundered and had to be put down... and I didn't feel like I could go through with the care of a foundered horse again. So I had him taken to the vet and cared for there. Someone could watch him and administer medications around the clock. He ended up coming home after 10 days. He was sound when he came home. They did tons of blood tests... and since he wasn't on grain or hay at the time... the results weren't completely accurate, I suppose.

The vets all agreed that my horse was to be treated as in IR horse. He had other metabolic abnormalities... such as being hypersensitive to the sun... fly sprays... rubbing alcohol, etc. He also doesn't sweat. None of the blood tests or anything were 100% sure of what exactly had caused his problems... he has been treated as an IR horse for the last 4 months. He's never been calmer and sounder in his life. He used to be nuts if he stayed in his stall for a day. Now he can go out for 3 hours during the day... and spend the rest of the time in his stall without exploding. Fortunately... he gets to go out at night for the first time tomorrow. I'm a little nervous... of course... but I know that he'll be thrilled to be outside at night again!

luvs2ride1979 11-20-2009 12:50 AM

More hay is better, something low-sugar like Timothy hay. You shouldn't need to soak it.

I'd also x-nay the grain. My IR mare gets free choice hay along with 2 to 2.5 lbs of alfalfa pellets (once a day), flax, and vitamins, no grain or feed. Flax has shown to help stabilize some IR horses, and it's a healthy fat.

luvs2ride1979 11-20-2009 12:53 AM

Turnout is also really important for IR horses. Movement keeps the blood flowing and helps burn off calories and sugars. He should be out as much as possible, as long as he stays sound.

Oh, and I get my flax from They can custom blend you a supplement in your flax base, if you want to reduce the amount of buckets you have. I have them do a vitamin/min supplement with extra magnesium and amino acids in my flax. All 5 of my horses are doing very well on it!

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