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The Importance of Diet, Movement and Trim

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Diet, Movement and Trim is something we talk a lot about on this page and are not aspects of our horse’s care that any owner should be brushing off or be taking lightly. I often get asked if one is more important than the other.

We look at diet as the building blocks to good health. Without feeding a species appropriate diet, it does not matter how much movement your horse gets or how good your Hoof Care Practitioner or Farrier is, we simply cannot expect our horse’s physical health to be anything but problematic. Providing our horses with a solid foundation to work upwards from (aka the diet) is the very least we should be giving them if we want them to thrive.

However, despite the importance of feeding a suitable diet to our horses, we need all 3 major aspects of their care to be working in harmony in order to provide our horses with years of good health and soundness.

Scenario 1: A horse that is kept in a small woodchip pen and is fed adlib, netted meadow hay with no access to grass. This horse receives minimal exercise and light ridden work and is trimmed by a barefoot HCP.

Scenario 2: A horse that is kept on a wide grass track system and is fed adlib, netted meadow hay. This horse receives exercise encouraged by their track system and is in light ridden work. They are also trimmed by a barefoot HCP.

Scenario 3: A horse that is kept on a non-grass track system and is fed adlib, netted meadow hay. They receive exercise encouraged by their track system, are in light ridden work and are shod by a Farrier.

I appreciate there will undoubtedly be some flaws in my scenarios but please try and look at the whole picture and the possible problem areas that can arise from neglecting or restricting one area of care.

Scenario 1: This horse’s chances of getting Laminitis have been drastically lessened through removing their access to grass and providing them with a species appropriate diet and a source of high fibre such as adlib, netted meadow hay. There should be no soundness issues solely related to diet or trim if correct, i.e. sub-clinical Laminitis and this horse isn’t showing any signs of ulcers, anxiety or resource guarding issues commonly caused by restricting feed.

This horse is likely overweight or the owner struggles with their weight due to lack of movement, and there is an increased chance this horse gets periods of stiffness, lacks muscle and has very little growth between trim cycles due to a lack of hoof stimulation.

Scenario 2: This horse achieves more movement than the horse in scenario 1 and therefore is most likely able to travel further, is fitter and more toned. The feet of this horse are stimulated throughout each day and remain allowed to function unrestricted.

This horse is at much more of a risk of having Laminitis and potentially struggles with the likes of sub-clinical Laminitis. Depending on grass intake and other factors, the horse is at risk of being metabolic despite increased exercise. An optimal amount of movement is not achieved through the horse most likely grazing for long periods of time.

Scenario 3: This horse achieves the most movement and is on a species appropriate diet so the risk of Laminitis and EMS are drastically reduced. Having no access to grass, this horse walks from hay station to hay station, resulting in a good, manageable weight, defined muscles and increased fitness levels. They also has no resource guarding behaviours formed through restricted feed.

This horse’s hoof mechanism is largely restricted and despite the increased movement, struggles with stiffness and strain further up the leg. This horse most likely has contracted heels, increasing the likelihood of thrush and heel pain caused through shoeing. They also have tight muscles and areas of soreness due to compromising for the restricted hoof.

Like I mentioned, there are a million and one potential variables in these scenarios and medical history, breed, age and more, play important roles in this. However, we are focusing on extremely common problems that arise from one aspect of care being compromised so please take this with a pinch of salt.

In all 3 scenarios, a portion of the horse’s care had been restricted, considerably increasing the risk and likelihood of the horse’s health then being compromised in some shape or form. Their most basic needs must be fulfilled if we want our horses to thrive and not just survive. Each one affects the other's ability to provide the horse with soundness, fitness and good health.

Note: Just a quick note to say we are in no way, shape or form having a dig at how people keep their horses. This post is a VERY basic summary of our experience and observations throughout the years, solely written to encourage owners to understand the importance of each aspect of care and to highlight problem areas that can potentially happen should the diet, movement or trim be off.

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