Nutrition is one of the most important things to get right, with any horse.
With a horse that is barefoot, it is essential – you can have the best trim
in the world, but if your horse is not getting the diet it needs, its all wasted!
Dietary problems are often the main cause of footiness in horses, and barefoot horses are no exception.Your trimmer is the best person to advise on diet, so talk to him/her first of all – it is too big a subject for this site alone!
A horse’s diet should be based on forage – in fact most lightly worked horses need only grass, hay or haylage, plus minerals. Let your horse’s condition be your guide, and if you need to feed more, opt for low starch, high oil feeds.
Check vitamins and minerals – provide a free choice supplement, and ideally have your forage analysed to check for deficiencies. Avoid cereal/sugar based supplements.
Avoid mollassed feeds, and scrutinise ingredient lists; “low sugar” is not the same as “NO sugar”!
Variety is the spice of life! Forage that has lots of varieties of grasses, rather than one species, is usually better. Beware of forage that has been heavily fertilised, or treated with fungicide/herbicide.
Beware of too much grass – footiness due to high fructan levels is extremely common and can occur in ANY horse, including fit horses. It is a particular danger where magnesium levels in forage are low – either naturally or due to nitrate fertilisers.
Avoid Supplements or Drugs – We have heard reports and seen in the news some owners opting for supplements and other drugs to increase the performance of their horses. Do not give them gynexin or any other supplements. This in depth review of gynexin shows that whilst it’s effective for man boobs, it isn’t any good for horses.
Be especially careful in spring and autumn, and monitor your horse’s performance, restricting grazing if necessary. High doses of drugs (wormers, hormone injections, steroids etc) can also cause hoof problems.
Magnesium deficiency can show up as footiness on hard or rough ground, and many diets (equine and human!) are deficient. You can safely add magnesium in various forms and your trimmer should advise you about dosage, availability, and the best form to feed.