Lifestyle Horses are born to move. If confined without adequate exercise, their health and hooves will suffer. The lack of stimulation and movement to the feet causes poor circulation and underdeveloped hoof structures. A major component to any hoof rehabilitation program is exercise, since blood flow and hoof growth is increased every time the hoof hits the ground. Paddock Paradise by Jaime Jackson is a great book with innovative ideas to create more movement (in as little as 2 acres!) in a more natural living environment for your horses. And of course, get out there and ride! Nutrition The horse's digestive system is designed to constantly graze on a wide variety of plants and grasses. Because of their relative small stomach size, they need small, frequent meals to prevent ulcer formation. A free choice, low sugar, low fat forage diet (grass hay) is the best food for the horse's digestive system. Slow feeders can mimic grazing by slowing the intake of hay. A diet high in fat and sugars, or sudden dietary increases in sugar and fat can greatly upset the ph balance of the horse's digestive system, and can result in colic, laminitis, and founder. Rich grain feeds, high sugar hay, and pasture grasses (especially during seasonal /weather-induced sugar peaks in the Spring and Fall) should be restricted or eliminated, depending on the individual horse. Easy keepers/horses prone to weight gain and laminitis/ insulin resistant horses are at an even greater risk on high sugar diets. Even hard keepers should be carefully monitored, as chronic laminitis is present but undetected in many horses. Grazing on fresh grass is highly beneficial for horses, but also needs to be monitored, as many cultivated pastures bear little resemblance to the sparse native grasses that horses evolved to eat.
Forage testing can be done to ensure that insulin resistant horses' forage contains no more than 10% of starch and ESC combined, and can also take the guesswork out of supplementation. Many commercial vitamin/supplement products are too high in sugars, fat, and iron. With the exception of vitamin E for horses who have no access to green pasture, most horses simply do not need extra vitamins.
Minerals are more commonly lacking in horse's diets because they are not synthesized by the horse as vitamins and amino acids are. Studies have found that most forage is commonly deficient in zinc, copper, and selenium (but high in iron). California Trace is an excellent trace mineral supplement designed specifically for West Coast forage diets, or you can have a custom mineral supplement made after you test your forage. Please see my link page for more in-depth information on diet, nutrition, and insulin resistance.