Working With An Equine Nutritionist

A nutritionist can tell you if you’re over- or underfeeding or supplementing and address other equine diet concerns.
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equine nutritionist
A nutritionist can tell you if you're over- or underfeeding or supplementing and address other equine diet concerns. | Photo: iStock
As a horse owner or manager, how much time do you spend thinking about and planning your horse’s diet? Results from a 2016 survey of horse owners with diverse backgrounds showed that personal knowledge, print materials, horse-related websites, and veterinarians were common sources of horse health information. A 2015 survey of equine owners and managers of elite show jumpers revealed that the bulk of nutritional information came from the internet, veterinarians, farriers, and feed companies.

Veterinarians are typically the No. 1 resource for equine health information, which is very appropriate. However, most vets have not taken courses in equine nutrition, and nearly 25% of surveyed vets offered no nutritional counseling to their clients. It’s not that vets aren’t interested in nutrition; rather, related continuing education is often unavailable. And it’s difficult to be an expert in everything.

Enter the nutritionist, who might work independently, for universities, feed companies, or, yes, even in partnership with veterinarians. Clair Thunes, PhD, of Summit Equine Nutrition, in Sacramento, California, says, “I love to work with vets and feel that it is an important part of providing coordinated care. Working together and combining our expertise results in the best outcome for the horse.”

Nutritionists evaluate a horse’s entire diet. We’ll tell you if you are over- or undersupplementing, feeding too much or too little, and address concerns related to weight management or metabolic or other problems. Importantly, we’ll explain why we make the recommendations we do

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

One Response

  1. I’m working with a nutritionist from Penn State College and my veterinarian, together they designed a feeding program to manage and keep sound my Insulin Resistance (IR), Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) mare Mule. Dottie arrived to our PA farm from Idaho 7/8/2020 sound and healthy. Her body score index was 8 – 9. After her 2 week on the farm quarantine we slowly introduced her to our other mules and pasture and work. Mid winter she was tender footed, I thought from her trim and hard/frozen ground. Because she hadn’t lost any weight with work and minimal feed we switched her to a ration balancer, pasture and hay. Early spring we had blood panels done and found her to be Insulin Resistant with no other disorders, diseases and non-PPID. Through hay analysis by Penn State and another lab the Nutritionist matched a feed wth NSC at 10-12% recommended for equine insulin dysregulation. Dottie is wearing Soft Stride Boots with Orthotic support for 6 months and is walking and trotting sound, Tha laminitic hoof ridges have almost grown out, she is also fed a magnesium- chromium based feed supplement. We expect to put her back in light work with a rider this spring. She’ll be kept off our abundant cool season grass pastures nd we may try a grazing muzzle and limited turn out in a sacrifice paddock after it eatten down.

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