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post #1 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Hay bales

So I just bought a horse two weeks ago! Lives inside and outside... can go into her stall whenever she wants... now she does have Laminitis so I have been told from the pervious owner. I just put a round bale of grass hay out for her.. question is Should I lock her up at night so she doesn't gorge herself and eat too much!
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post #2 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:26 PM
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Hay should be tested for sugar content. Likely would be better rinsed to wash sugars out and then fed. What else is she getting as feeds without low NSC and pasture can be a problem?
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post #3 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:31 PM
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For starters I would have her checked over by your vet. Good to do with any new horse but I would want to know if she actually does have laminitis and why she has laminitis. Typically it's a an acute issue but for a horse with underlying health issues who has had laminitis before it can be more of a chronic thing (possibility of it becoming acute at any time). Does she have a health issue causing her laminitis? Is she overweight? If she does have laminitis this is a medical emergency and you need to be working directly with the vet.

There is no reason to restrict hay unless the horse is overweight or the hay is rich (less likely with a round bale). If she is overweight a round bale is likely not best for her unless she is good at portion control. Personally I don't use round bales. I would try a hay net, or grazing muzzle or remove access at certain periods. But the round bale isn't your main concern.

If she does have laminitis (again, vet) you need to be caring for her feet and overall health as well as restricting the sugars and starches in her diet, grass may be a concern. Hay likely will not be. No grain...
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:35 PM
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I have read that horses that are kept away from food at night can develop food anxiety and then eat MORE in the daytime than they would have eaten altogether, to compensate for it. If she has a history of laminitis, then as @QtrBel said you should get the hay tested for sugar content.

And yes, for sure she should not be getting any grain.

ETA: I also agree with @Yogiwick to get the vet out to be sure of what you're dealing with. I'd have a farrier look at her as soon as reasonably possible also.
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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She has been seen by a farrier and does have shoes on her front hoofs... I also give her MSM at night time and equilizer in the morning and night... will be getting the vet out soon... the previous owner said her Laminitis acts up if you ride her to hard.. Too me she is just a pleasure horse.. 20 year old mare.. someone to talk to and love ❤️
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-05-2019, 08:57 PM
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This from The Horse.com. A good explanation about grasses and hays and laminitis.

The Role of Grass and Hay

Kathryn Watts, of Center, Colo., has a BS in crop/soil science from Michigan State, and she operates Rocky Mountain Research and Consulting. She also has two severely insulin-resistant and laminitis-prone ponies, even when their body condition scores are at 5. Her research into how to care for her own horses has led her to become an activist for more informed choices in feed and grass varieties.

“I have found that chronic laminitis is often due to a metabolic abnormality whose root is insulin resistance,” she says. “We can control metabolically induced laminitis by limiting high-glycemic feeds (those that induce a high glycemic response, or a large spike in blood sugar following a meal).” This includes grain, some grass, and maybe even that “poor-quality” hay. (Some grasses can be very high in carbohydrates and thus bad for the laminitic horse.)

With an acute laminitis attack, Watts recommends getting horses off all grain and grass immediately and into a dry lot. She prefers a lot to a stall so the horse can exercise if he chooses. However, if a horse is being given pain medication, excess walking might cause further injury and a stall might be the best choice.

For laminitic horses, she also recommends getting baseline insulin and glucose tests for insulin resistance and plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) to check for early-stage Cushing’s disease. Keep in mind that these will give false positives if the horse is in the acute stage of laminitis and is in pain, and also if the horse just ate grain. Her tip for getting fast test results is to send your sample directly to a testing site. If you send a sample to a lab that has to send it to another lab, results can take weeks. At the same time, see what your horse is eating.

To understand the factors affecting the carbohydrate content of grass, we need to look at the composition of grass. Grass cell walls are made of structural carbohydrates. This becomes dietary fiber, which is good for horses. Non-structural carbohydrates are sugars and starches stored in the cell interior. These fuels help plants grow, and have a high glycemic index (generate a large spike in blood sugar following a meal)–exactly what should be avoided for the overweight or insulin-resistant individual. Unfortunately, those sugars are the stuff that tastes good, so horses seek them out.

Unfortunately, you can’t judge grass (or hay) by looking. Watts has seen her horses charge directly for an area where the grass has had less irrigation water. It might be “spindle and sorry-looking” to us, but it has higher sugar and therefore better taste. Avoid grazing after a frost, but encourage grazing in the morning when plants have spent the night converting all their resources gathered from photosynthesis during the day into less digestible fiber components.

Fields need to be kept mowed to keep the grass from coming to a head. “The seed head is a sink for carbohydrates,” says Watts. Horses can taste the difference and will nip off the heads like “horse candy.” On the other hand, overgrazing can put pressure on the grass and promotes the most vigorous and competitive grasses. “That is the definition of high-sugar grass,” she says.

Watts finds the common laminitis adage of avoiding lush grass in spring and fall to be right, but not just because it’s green or lush. In the spring and fall, the nights are often below freezing in many areas. There are also other reasons for the higher sugar at these times, i.e., rapid growth concentrating sugars in the grass.

Since grass becomes hay, the same rules apply. The carbohydrate content can vary from bale to bale depending on drought stress, fertilizer, or even the time of day it is cut. If hay is cut in the afternoon (although this is rare as it reduces that day’s drying time), the grass has had all day to accumulate photosynthetic sugars.

Non-structural sugar content (NSC, which includes several types of carbohydrates that are soluble in neutral detergent) is also related to climate. “The photosynthetic rate is directly correlated to sunshine,” says Watts. “In a cloudy climate, plants can’t make as much sugar.” Sarah Ralston, VMD, professor in the Department of Animal Science at Cook College in New Brunswick, N.J., the agricultural branch of Rutgers University, had trouble finding samples of high-sugar hay in her area. However, living in an area with little to no high-sugar hay doesn’t mean you’re risk-free–if you import hay from another area, you should consider the climate in which the hay was grown when hay shopping. Better yet, have it tested (more on this shortly).

Watts has been sent samples of hay that are as much as 30% sugar, starch, and fructan. Fructans are a type of sugar that Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit at the University of Queensland, has reported to be linked with the production of toxins in the colon and subsequent changes in the bloodstream that lead to laminitis. (For the latest on Pollitt’s work, see “The Australian Take on Laminitis” on page 47.)

An average sugar percentage for grass hay ranges from about 6-15%. However, it can be anything from 3-40%, based on Watts’ and Ralston’s experience. Watts has found that getting the percentage of sugar and starch below 10% in hays fed to laminitic horses can lead to dramatic improvement in as little as two days to two weeks.

However, it isn’t a matter of food deprivation. Watts explains, “These horses can often have more hay once you find one that is low in sugar,” she says. “Then you can feed more often and avoid the feed-fast cycle (where a horse has a lot of time each day with no food available–the ‘fast’–in between large meals–the ‘feed’) that promotes fluctuations in glucose and insulin.”

Since you can’t tell the sugar content in hay from looking at it, it needs to be tested. Sometimes what looks like poor-quality hay can have high sugar levels even when a conventional hay test shows low protein and minerals. Watts admits this can be difficult. She has run into resistance from farmers and has had hay deals fall through while she waits for test results. However, a horse owner can’t take pot-luck. “To manage a horse with chronic laminitis, you must know what they are eating,” she stresses.

What can you feed a horse with hot feet while you do all this research? Watts has found that soaking hay for about an hour can get rid of up to 56% of its water-soluble carbohydrates. Be careful of soaking it too long, warns Ralston; you might get mold that will compound the problems, especially in hot, humid weather. If it is necessary to give the “grain-starved” horse something to keep him calm at feeding time, you can give him soaked hay cubes. (For more information on high-carbohydrate grasses and Watts, see Katy Watts | Safergrass.org.)

Once Bitten…

Ralston is in the middle of the very type of equine-related forage research that Watts has been hoping for. She explains that it is important to identify the cause of the laminitis attack. Even though the physiologic effect on the foot is the same, the initial cause will determine how you manage the horse in the future.

Just because a horse has had laminitis once doesn’t mean that he has it for life. For the classic laminitis example, a horse getting into the feed room, Ralston’s advice is simple: “Lock your feed room”–provided, of course, the horse has no extenuating circumstances or prior history with laminitis. Butler’s advice is that if there has been enough damage to merit corrective shoeing, consider the horse susceptible to another attack, at least for the next six months (the approximate time it takes for the new, healthy hoof to completely grow out).

Therefore, on the day of an acute laminitis attack, the feeding regime will depend on the cause. For that grain overload or grass founder, Ralston recommends some low-carbohydrate grass hay to give them something to munch on. For a mare with endotoxemia from a retained placenta, feed “anything that will get her to eat.”

Take-Home Message

Feeding a laminitic horse isn’t often easy, particularly when food was the cause of the laminitis. But your laminitic horse can’t live without food, so you must feed him just what he needs to stay healthy. With the advice of a veterinarian and/or nutritionist, you can use diet to minimize further laminitic insults to your horse’s hooves and help him live a more comfortable life.

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post #7 of 11 Old 07-06-2019, 07:37 AM
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Just want to add that my neighbor's horse foundered on hay (severe laminitis) and nearly had to be put down. So it is possible that free choice hay is not a good idea. Normally it's fine, but if I let my three horses have free choice hay, they'd all be fat, so it depends on the horse.

Is this horse at a good weight? My neighbor's horse was chronically overweight for years, so that didn't help.

Can you post a photo of your new horse (we love new horse pictures!) so we can get an idea?

Also, getting your hay tested is a great idea, and it's very cheap. I think I paid around 30$ for my last hay test.

Last edited by Acadianartist; 07-06-2019 at 07:42 AM.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-06-2019, 11:06 AM
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In addition to what others have said, I would not lock her up all night without food.

I portion control my mare as she does put on weight easy. But I find that using slow feeder hay nets does the trick. She doesn't go long stretches of time without anything, but can't really stuff her face.

As horse's stomachs constantly produce acid, you don't want to leave them with nothing for long stretches of time - this can lead to other health issues (not to mention bad habits).

If you want to lock her up at night, that is fine, but I would still give her a hay net to tide her over till morning.

I am also not a fan of just leaving round bales for horses to help themselves to. I feed off round bales, but I fork it over for them (either into piles or in hay nets). My old guy has heaves and having his face buried in a round bale does him no favors.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-06-2019, 12:05 PM Thread Starter
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She is not overweight and was on round bales before I got her..
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post #10 of 11 Old 07-06-2019, 02:46 PM
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She looks good to me, but you have been warned about laminitis, so I'd still be watching her very closely. The only other thing about round bales is that they will last one horse a very long time. This means the bale will get rained on and may get mouldy unless it is in a covered round bale feeder. I like to portion out hay to my horses so I don't use round bales, but for some horses, it can work just fine. I'd still have the hay tested.

Congratulations! She looks very sweet. If you can avoid any more laminitic episodes, and if the laminitis has not permanently damaged her hooves, you may have a great horse for many years to come. 20 is not that old if a horse is healthy. I am a big fan of run-ins, which sounds like what you are describing: access to a stall or shelter and an outdoor paddock/pastures. That's how my three live and they do very well. It's also very convenient because they can come in at any time if the weather is bad, they want to get away from flies, etc.

If you are feeding a round bale, you may want to consider ways to encourage movement. Do you have much turnout? You can put a salt lick in one corner, water in another, shelter in another. Hand-walks, like you would do with a dog, are also a great way to bond and get to know a new horse.

Have you had horses before? Are there other horses on property? Most horses like equine company, though some don't mind being alone.
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