Diet is an important thing to consider. It may seem to have nothing to do with trimming hooves, but the reality is that
it plays a very important role in barefoot success.
The idea is to make the diet more natural and more similar to what wild horses would eat. This actually simplifies
Humans will never be able to completely simulate a natural diet for a horse. We don’t even know what a truly
“natural” diet is because there is lack of research on what wild horses eat.
Diet is especially important to the success of the natural trim. Without getting the diet right, the hooves may never
reach full potential. This is especially true for cases of laminitis and founder.
This is where you, the horse owner, need to take responsibility. Your vet, farrier, or trimmer can only make
If you fail to follow their recommendations, improvements may happen slowly or not at all. It is my responsibility to
educate you. It is your responsibility to put your education into practice.
I’m about to share some shocking information: horses should not be eating sweet feed, molasses, or any other feed
or treat that contains refined sugars.
Corn, found in many feeds, also causes problems because it quickly converts to sugar in the digestive system.
We often hear on the news about the Type II Diabetes epidemic that has befallen the United States. This is caused
by sugar and refined starch overload in our diets.
Today’s horses are experiencing a similar epidemic. Overfeeding of sugars and starches can cause lamintis,
founder, and can lead to insulin resistance (EPSM).
The major enemies here are sugars and starches, also known as non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). A horse’s
gut is not designed to digest these things.
Horses need fibrous, structural carbohydrates that are found in a variety of plants. Think about the wild horse for a
minute. While there is not much research on what they are eating, a few things have been observed about the wild
• They are eating mostly mixed grasses in very arid parts of the country
• They eat 20+ hours per day
• They are picky eaters
• The mix of plants they eat probably provides most essential nutrients
• What nutrients they do not get from plants, they get from salt deposits in the ground
Horses are meant to have something going into their mouths almost all the time. This is the basis for healthy gut
function in the horse.
Ironically, the same is true for humans. We were never meant to eat three square meals per day.
Research in humans has shown that six small meals per day lowers weight and is healthier for our bodies. Our
ancestors were hunter gatherers and grazers, not unlike the grazing behavior of wild horses.
It is understood that domestic horses are kept and used differently than wild horses, but very positive impacts can
be seen by making changes in the domestic horse’s diet.
Horses are nibblers. This means that for optimum gut health and stability, they should have access to pasture or
hay for 20 or more hours per day.
However, even hay can have too much sugar, depending on the type, when it was cut, and where it was grown. To
have your hay tested, go to www.safergrass.org.
Grass poses the same problem. During the spring and fall, grasses will be higher in NSC (sugar), which is why
some horses founder every year in the spring and fall. NSC content of grass is also higher in the afternoon than
early in the morning.
Some grasses, depending on the time of year or time of day, have been measured to have over 30% NSC (sugar).
If pasture turnout is the only option, it is recommended that horses that are prone to laminitis or founder be turned
out early in the morning, when the grass has the lowest NSC content.
Better still, horses that are prone to laminitis and founder should be turned out on a dry lot with free choice hay.
Make sure to get the hay tested too!
A trace mineral supplement may be necessary to supplement pasture or hay. Pastures and farmed hays often do
not have the proper balance of micro-nutrients required by horses.
What if you have a “hard-keeper”? Generally, having access to hay 24/7 will be enough to put weight on even the
However, if grass or hay is not enough to keep condition on a horse, you must go about supplementing the diet
somehow. There are many safe alternatives to sweet feed and other processed grains.
Note: The article titled "The Equine Digestive System" should be read as a pre-requisite to reading "Feeding Horses Naturally".