How many calories should you feed your insulin-resistant laminitic horse?

November 5, 2011

Most owners of laminitic horses that have the insulin form of the disease are willing to move mountains to help their horse, but they don’t know where to turn. Often, they bring in the best farrier possible to try new shoeing techniques.

But the problem at least in part is related to the horse’s diet. Fix the dietary problem, and you have a much better chance of saving the feet.

Figuring out the content of what you’re feeding a horse is not an easy challenge. But some of this information is available. The process does require having your hay tested for content, as well as your grass, if your horses are on pasture.

The National Resource Council of the National Academies (top scientific minds in the country) released updated horse nutrition recommendations in 2007.

Horses’ food usually is assessed in megacalories. A megacalorie is 1,000 kilocalories, or calories as we refer to kilocalories in the human world.

The NRC says a 1,000-pound sedentary horse needs 15,000 calories a day of digestible energy, plus 1.2 pounds of crude protein, 18 grams of calcium and 13 grams of phosphorus. The numbers go up for a 1,200-pound horse to 18,000 calories, 1.5 pounds crude protein, 22 grams calcium and 15 grams phosphorus.

To lose a pound of body fat, an individual, including a horse, must create a deficit of 3,500 calories, either from eating less or exercising more. Generally, health officials suggest a person do this by reducing caloric intake by 500 calories a day for a loss of a pound a week. It seems reasonable that a horse could do the same since a horse gets a much bigger allotment of calories. But there are many challenges in pursuing that goal. There is no easy way to figure out how many calories a horse is eating. And a horse that is chronically obese apparently has a much more difficult time losing that weight than a horse that put on exess weight recently.

Latest posts

How Laminil helped my laminitic horses

Laminil cream has allowed my horses’ feet to heal in the most extreme of weather conditions, both hot and cold.

Check hay, feed for high iron levels when treating laminitis in horses

Your horse’s diet may be full of excess iron, which studies have linked to insulin resistance.

Is laminitis linked to rising temperatures?

Researchers from The Netherlands have published a study tying human diabetes to increased outdoor temperatures.

Filtering water stops laminitis in horses; water tests indicated iron level was safe

Both geldings have seen huge improvement in their feet, even though they are eating grass around the clock.

Iron overload likely caused my horses’ laminitis

In “Clue” like fashion, I’m declaring the cause of my six horses’ laminitis over the last 18 years as an excess intake of iron from weeds, trace mineral blocks and well water, leading to insulin resistance and the insulin form of laminitis.

Feed more hay to laminitic horse, equine nutritionist says

We’ve created the insulin resistant horse by doing all the wrong things in the name of helping, according to Juliet Getty, Ph.D.

Vet examines why some laminitic feet return to soundness

Some horses recovering from laminitis and coffin bone rotation become sound even though the hoof wall no longer is parallel to the bone. Dr. Debra Taylor, DVM, looks at possible explanations for this occurrence in a video posted on