We’ve all heard that pithy little diet saying: "A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." But while we can lose that weight (really, we can…), a laminitic horse’s feet might not heal if he eats the wrong things or in the wrong amounts. So for a laminitic horse, that saying would accurately become, "A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the feet."

What’s the best diet for a laminitic horse? It depends. When considering diets for laminitic horses, equine nutritionists divide these horses into two distinct groups:

  1. Horses that became laminitic due to a dietary or metabolic trigger, and
  2. Those that got laminitis due to anything else (mechanical overload, retained placenta, endotoxemia, etc.).

The second group has it pretty easy; it’s assumed that they aren’t overly susceptible to dietary or metabolic triggers, so they have no special "laminitis diet" requirements (although there are a few considerations we’ll discuss later). But for the first group, proper nutrition can go a long way toward keeping them healthier, sounder, and happier. Conversely, the wrong nutrition can send them into a downward spiral ending in euthanasia.

Knowing what caused a horse’s laminitis is the first step toward knowing whether he needs a special diet, says Lori Warren, PhD (nutrition and exercise physiology), assistant professor of animal sciences at the University of Florida. In this article, Warren and Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, an equine nutritionist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, offer their advice on how to feed these sensitive horses to avoid