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  • Q:

    I have a six-year-old Danish Warmblood mare with an osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) lesion in her hock and a recent muscle-related lameness of the hindquarters. I have been told a popular supplement can cure my horse’s OCD lesion. Do you think this would work? Also, can you review my horse’s diet to see if she’s being provided with all of the nutrients she needs? She is currently eating three-quarters quart of a pelleted concentrate twice per day and seven or eight flakes of timothy/orchardgrass hay. She also is supplemented with an all-purpose vitamin and mineral supplement and probiotics. She is back in work now after some time off from the injury.

  • A:

    At six years old, there is nothing that can be done nutritionally to alleviate the OCD lesion in her hock. I would be skeptical of any supplement that claims it can make an OCD lesion disappear. Because the lesion cannot be cured, the focus should therefore be on preventing further joint issues and managing any problems that might arise, such as excessive inflammation, which may cause soreness.

    I have performed a complete nutritional evaluation for your mare. Because you were able to tell me roughly what your mare consumes daily, this was easy to do using MicroSteed™, ration evaluation software developed by Kentucky Equine Research.

    Starting with the hay, the timothy/orchardgrass mix works nicely for your mare. Estimating the amount she’s being fed at about 22-24 lb (10-11 kg) per day, it appears as though she is consuming our recommended minimum intake. You might offer her a little more hay, especially during winter.

    Three-quarters quart of pelleted concentrate fed twice a day probably totals about 4 lb (1.8 kg) daily. Considering most feeds require that 6-10 lb (2.7-4.5 kg) be fed to meet all micronutrient requirements, you’ve chosen a multipurpose vitamin/mineral supplement to make up for the shortfall. Unfortunately, this specific supplement is not going to provide sufficient nutrients to compensate for the deficiency caused by underfeeding the concentrate.

    If you are committed to feeding only about 4 lb (1.8 kg) per day, look around for a low-intake feed. Many manufacturers make these feeds specifically for horses with lower energy requirements, yet they provide all of the vitamins and minerals needed for health and well-being.

    Alternatively, you can boost her vitamin and mineral intake by top-dressing her pelleted feed with a balancer pellet. Usually, these types of feeds are fed at a rate of 1-3 lb (0.45-1.4 kg) per day.

    Regarding her supplements, you should discontinue the vitamin/mineral supplement if you're feeding a fortified feed at recommended levels or adding a balancer pellet.

    Adding hyaluronic acid to her diet (we suggest Synovate HA) will help lubricate her joints. You also might consider adding a joint supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin (make sure it contains both as they work better together than alone) such as KER-Flex.

    The other big management consideration you'll face will be her metabolism. As a Danish Warmblood, she's going to be more prone to carry excess body weight than an average horse. I would suggest taking weekly full-body photos of her so that you can monitor her weight and body condition score. All of the feeds and feed types I have mentioned can be adjusted accordingly. If she starts getting heavy, cut back on her feed, even if you have to cut back all the way to just the balancer pellet (but increase the balancer accordingly). If she needs a bit more weight, add some more feed and discontinue the balancer pellet if need be. It's hard to notice subtle changes in body condition when you see her daily, so the weekly photos will help.

    As far as turnout goes, I'm sure you've seen horses “stock up” when stall-bound. Stocking up refers to an accumulation of fluid in the lower legs, giving them a swollen look. If she's only getting three hours of turnout per day plus an hour or so of riding, you might make a special request for additional turnout time. Any extra time will help decrease inflammation just by being able to move around and increase blood flow to her lower extremities. Or, if you have lots of spare time, you could take her on a couple of 15-minute hand walks each day.

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