be very small to slow their eating down significantly . Ideally , they should be able to eat forage all day to prevent boredom and to fill their gut .
Check out your grass
Look around your pasture and take note of what grasses and weeds are growing . What types of grass grows in your part of the country ? How rich are the grasses ? How sweet are they ? Spring grass is the most full of sugar , but fall grass also contains a lot of sugar . Stressed , short grass can contain a lot of sugars or fructans ( the type of sugar in the grass ). Conversely , it ’ s easy for the horses to over eat on tall grass .
If you live in the fescue belt , take note of your grass . It might look green in the summer and the horses will eat it if there is not much else , but it doesn ’ t taste so great . In the fall / winter , however , it becomes sweet , has more sugar , tastes great and provides excellent nutrition all winter . Horses can founder on it all winter . After it is grazed down , it does not grow back until spring .
In the extreme southeastern part of the country , like Florida , the Bahia grass is nutritious in the summer . However , though it looks green in winter , it has very little nutritional value .
Other local grasses can be variable in winter nutrient content , though it might be surprising , weeds can also be high in protein and / or carbohydrates . For help identifying your pasture growth , contact your local county extension — they ’ re happy to help .
Muzzles control grass intake and can be a great tool . The idea behind using a muzzle is to limit grass intake while allowing pasture time . Mentally and physically , pasture time with friends keeps horses active and happy . Minis left in small paddocks without company , or with limited company , experience stress and do not get any exercise . Many horses hate to be muzzled . Can you blame them ? No , but you can try to make it more pleasant and safe .
Some horses will not wear a muzzle , becoming very depressed or angry . Other horses will remove anything you put on their head , no matter how you tie it on . Still others will hire their friends to remove it . For those types of horses , perhaps nothing will work except confinement , but the more comfortable the muzzle is , the more likely they will keep it on … most of the time .
Correct muzzle fit is extremely important to prevent rubs and keep it safely on the head . The muzzle needs to allow enough space from front to back so there is room to chew naturally . This can vary depending on the shape of the head . To check it , watch your Mini grazing with the muzzle on or give a treat and watch carefully . There should be clearance always , though it does not have to be a large space . As a starting guide , about 1 fingers space should be present behind the jawbones at the back and about 1.5 fingers space for the larger Minis .
For an average Mini the muzzle should attach to the halter and hang down , leaving about ¼ to 3 / 8 inch between the nose and the bottom . For the clever “ Houdini ” type horses that are good at escaping , be creative and add straps . A brow band or chin strap is very useful . Be sure to adjust the chinstrap so it goes above the cheek , rather than low on the back of the jaw to help keep it in place . Search the internet for ideas that other people have tried and see what works .
We all want to be able to feed treats and the Minis often live for them . It is possible to find many things the laminitic Mini can have . Low-carb treats are readily available at some feed stores and online retailers .
Many vegetables are low in sugars and carbs , so be creative and see what they like . Cool , refreshing summer vegetables such as asparagus , barley grass , broccoli , cantaloupe , cauliflower , celery , cucumber , eggplant , lettuce , pear , peppermint , radish , spinach , strawberry , summer squash , tomato , wheat grass and zucchini are all great options .
One of the most important aspects of any nutritional program for horses is the use of free choice minerals and salt fed separately . Many laminitis horses will eat large quantities of minerals for extended periods of time indicating their need for minerals . If a commercial salt-mineral block is fed ( about 94 % salt ), horses cannot consume the amount of minerals they need . Minerals are best given separately from salt . MSM can be added to their food to supply sulphur which is used to help re-grow the foot . It is also helpful for joints in some .
To be continued … see part 2 of this informative article in the April Online Only Miniature Horse World E-Magazine .
About the Author : Dr . Joyce Harman graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 with interest in acupuncture and alternative medicine . She went to England , then to Ireland to study equine exercise physiology and sports medicine , always looking for a better , safer way to treat and train horses . Dr . Harman became a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist in 1990 and opened her practice in Virginia in 1990 , aptly named Harmany Equine Clinic . In 1994 she became a Certified Veterinary Chiropractor and also completed an advanced homeopathic course for veterinarians . She has “ written the book ” on saddle fitting for both Western and English horses . Her goal is to help educate the equine industry about natural , holistic and integrative medicine . She speaks and writes to equine enthusiasts worldwide with over sixty articles published through professional magazines . She is a regular contributor to “ Ask the Vet ” on Equisearch . Visit Dr . Joyce Harman ’ s website at www . harmanyequine . com .