Common Feed-Related Horse Ailments

For large, sometimes dangerous animals, horses can be amazingly fragile. There are a number of ailments horses can suffer that relate directly to their feed. Here are the most common ones to watch out for.


Choking sounds self-explanatory: Typically the horse bolts his food (or cannot chew it due to dental problems) and gets it stuck in his esophagus. Unlike in people, this doesn’t restrict air flow, so your horse can still breathe. It is still considered grounds for an emergency call to the vet, however, since horses don’t have the ability to retch or throw up, and usually cannot clear the blockage on their own. Fortunately, choking can be prevented by making sure horses with dental problems have well-soaked food, and by finding ways of slowing down horses that eat too fast.


Ulcers are another common issue that horses have. Stress is of course one cause, but another is long periods of empty stomachs and digestive tracts. Since horses evolved to graze as much as 16 hours out of every 24, only being fed twice a day is hard on their body. You can lengthen the amount of time your horse spends eating and digesting by forcing him to eat more slowly, such as with slow-feed nets, or by feeding smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.


Heaves is a persistent cough that comes from permanent damage to the horse’s lungs, due to being fed dusty, moldy hay. It’s a chronic, cumulative problem, that will worsen if the feed is not changed. Avoiding heaves will require a lifelong commitment of providing high quality, all natural horse feed. Hay should always be tested to ensure its nutritional content, inspected for mold before feeding, and soaked if necessary to keep the dust down. Complete feeds can help too, as they are low-dust, easy to feed, and provide all the nutrients your horse needs.


Laminitis, also known as founder, is a condition where the laminae, the connecting tissues between the hoof and the cannon bone, become inflamed, which is extremely painful for the horse. Laminitis can be triggered or exacerbated by too much sugar or starch, which makes it very important to pay attention to what your horse eats, and ensure he gets a well-balanced diet of all natural horse feed.

Metabolic Disease

Metabolic disease isn’t necessarily caused by a horse’s diet, but it affects their dietary needs, just as type 2 diabetes does with us. Horses with metabolic disease need to be fed a strict, low carbohydrate diet, as they’ll be more susceptible to weight gain and laminitis than most horses. If you’re not providing a complete feed, you’ll need to test your hay and pasture, and potentially source special low-sugar hay. Soaking and draining hay before feeding can also help remove excess sugar.


Last but not least, colic is the fear that lurks in the heart of every horse owner. Colic simply means a stomachache, but it’s what’s behind that stomachache that is the problem. Since horses are unable to throw up, they cannot rid their bodies of anything that is bothering them, and any stoppage of food through the digestive tract can be fatal. The best prevention against colic is to mimic how horses evolved to exist as much as possible: lots of movement (which stimulates digestion) and lots of time spent eating all natural horse feed, such as hay or hay pellets that provides the roughage their digestive tracts require.

The Importance of All Natural Horse Feed

As tough as he may seem, your horse’s body depends on a delicate balance, which can be lost with the wrong feed. For more information on our complete feeds, guaranteed to contain all the nutrients required for your horse’s health, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.