Non-Structural Carbohydrates, Sugars and Fructans. How are they effecting the inside and outside of your horses hoof?

Written by Anne Riddell June 2006 Board Certified by the American Hoof Association

Have you ever wondered what the inside of your horse’s hoof looks like if you were able to peer inside? The horse’s hoof is an ever changing and adapting vascular mechanism. The outside wall mirrors the inside of the hoof, especially in the area of the sensitive laminae, otherwise known as the white line. The laminae are composed of the epidermal laminae and the dermal laminae. The two tightly fit together like velcro interlocking and securing the outside capsule of the foot to the inside structure. This bond is virtually indestructible through force unless it is otherwise compromised by a metabolic or toxic effect taking place in the horse’s system.


Through the studies of Dr. Chris Pollitt in Australia, we now understand how that connection of the laminae in the hoof is destroyed. Simply stated, there are good bacteria and bad bacteria in the horse’s gut. The good bacteria are killed off by the sugars creating a lactic acid which then causes lesions or ulcers in the hind gut. The bad bacteria love the sugars and carbs, mass producing. These bad bacteria die off very quickly, creating endotoxins. These endotoxins seep into the blood stream through the gut lesions and go straight to the laminae of the horse’s foot destroying it. The once tight connecting epidermal and dermal laminae lose hold of each other. This is referred to as laminitis and founder. There are varying degrees of laminitis, from sub clinical to full fledge founder. Sub clinical laminitis, is what we as natural hoof care practitioners see every day we trim horses. A horse with a stretched white line, seedy toe, reoccurring abscessing, annoying thrush that won’t go away, dropped flat sole, small reoccurring pit in the centre of the sole at the toe, chronic cracks and stringy, tattered white line, visible horizontal laminitic hoof rings and overall disintegrating poor quality hoof capsule. These are all signs that the laminae is being compromised through to much sugar and toxins in the horses’ digestive system or through hormonal changes. Horses were not meant to consume large amounts of non structural carbohydrates and sugar. They are a foraging species who have lived for millions of years on fresh and dried grasses, some herbs and plants and rocks for minerals. In the last 25 years, our domestic horses have been plied with enormous amounts of sweet feed, complete feed, toxic chemicals through wormers and inoculations. Today’s hay and pasture grasses have been genetically modified and are designed for the dairy industry to be high in sugars. Now with the environment changing so quickly, this change is tipping many of the otherwise healthy domestic horses into this sub clinical laminitic and toxic state which very quickly leads to an undeserving and preventable end, founder. Laminitis and insulin resistance are on the rise in our present day domestic horses. Where is the added sugar coming from? Because of the increase drought, mineral deficiency in the soil and unpredictable fluctuations in daily temperature, the sugar percentage in our grass and hay is increasing at an alarming rate. Hay cut in the afternoon can be as much as 30 to 40% higher in sugar. Research has now proven that horses cannot digest fructans which grasses produce as a result of photosynthesis. Grass pasture, especially the short, drought stressed pastures can be 40% higher in sugars. Another example; a simple apple a few years ago had about 60 calories in it, today, that same apple could contain 120 calories per apple. Is this man’s genetic altering or changes in the environment causing this boost in the sugar content? Diabetes is on the rise in humans at an alarming rate and so is it in our domestic horses.

Diet plays a huge roll in the health of your horses hoof and the success of a barefoot horse starts here.

lam-aha_002 A healthy barefoot hoof. Notice how smooth the wall is.
lam-aha_004 Inside the healhty hoof. Note the tightly connected laminae.

Let’s look at some hooves that have been compromised through a high sugar/carb diet.

lam-aha_006_a    lam-aha_006_b
Notice the ridges on the wall and the bruising are lined up with the dislocated laminae.

How often do we see hooves that look like this?

lam-aha_008_a    lam-aha_008_b

This poor guy’s has been having one laminitic attack after another. The two laminae have lost their connection with no reprieve in sight. The hoof wall is separating and tattered. This guy was full of thrush. Along with rotation occurring, the coffin bone is beginning to remodel itself and form a bone spur at the tip. A picture says a thousand words.

lam-aha_010_a    lam-aha_010_b

This poor soul could have been saved if only someone had known enough to change this animal’s diet. This is years of neglect.   We now have the to knowledge to change and prevent this from happening. Please don’t ignore those tell tale signs. Ridges in your horses hoof wall, reoccurring abscessing, reoccurring thrush, flat sole, stringy laminae squeezing out of the white line on the sole, a small pit in the sole at the toe, cracking, chipping, stretched white line and tattered, separating wall. If your horse who usually moves freely, suddenly becomes stiff while trotting, paddling or short strided, these are more advanced signs that your horse is laminitic. If your horse is tender footed on gravel or cement, then it is a warning sign that their system is overloaded with sugar/toxins and their system and hooves are very seriously compromised. If your horse is one of those unfortunates who are insulin resistant or metabolically challenged, then, as little as, one tablespoon of sugar in the horse’s diet can keep them in a sub clinical laminitic state. Here are more examples of compromised hooves displaying those subtle signs:

Flat footed or dropped sole, wall separation with stringy, stretched laminae, brittle, chipping cracking, and unhealthy hoof. Ridges and bruising on walls. This guy was so laminitic he could not walk down the cement isle. He now lives at Carolyn Myers, AANHCP Practitioner, in Ottawa and since eating a natural, native diet and getting lots of execise this horse now gallops effortlessly on gravel roads. He was also diagnosed with EPSM but after careful monitoring of his diet and the sugar content, there are no sign of this condition.

Persistent cracks.

Rings, deteriorating brittle walls that sound hollow when tapped.

Same foot a year after being in the Natural Hoofcare Program. Still has a long way to go.

Contracted heel caused by a life time of tight steel shoes nailed to this
wonderful guy’s hooves. Chronic thrush from a life time of a high sugar diet.

Bruised and chronic abscessing.

After we had successfully rehabilited this pony, his owner decided to put him back on a complete feed. This is the resulting bruising and he is again very sore and lame.

Sugar hides in many forms!

Sweet feeds, complete feeds, and many supplements all contain large amounts of non structural carbohydrates and sugar. A typical complete feed or ones typically labeled as, lots of fat and fibre consists of highly processed ingredients such as wheat hulls, oat hulls, corn, molasses, sugar, mixed grains, pellet binders and many other ingredients like flavoring agents and alfalfa. All these will keep an already compromised horse in a sub clinical or mild laminitic state. Today’s domestic horses will have enough to contend with the increase of sugars in our grass and hay because of the alarming drought conditions caused by the rapidly changing environment. Research still needs to be carried out in wild horse country to truly determine what a natural diet for the horse is. They forage all day and night on dried grasses and certain plants, tree barks and minerals in that naturally occur in rock deposits. They don’t eat oats, wheat, corn or molasses as part of their native diet. Check directly with the manufacturer for the ingredient list of all your supplements as well. You will be shocked to find they too have sugar carriers and fillers in them. If you suspect that your horse is having trouble dealing with sugar and carbs, take them off the grass pasture and place them in a dry lot with grassy hay, minerals and water only. Eliminate all grains, supplements, apples, carrots and other feeds you suspect has sugar in them. There are now feeds, hay replacements and naturally organic chelated mineral supplements that test under 10% non structural carbohydrates and are safe for the insulin resistant horse and for ALL horses. Finally, get that horse moving and exercising, for lack of movement will surely slow or impede the healing process that your horses so desperately need. For more information please see


Katy Watts –
Dr. Chris Pollitt, Queensland University, Australia
Pete Ramey – / Jaime Jackson –AANHCP Founder

Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in Laminite il da .

Informazioni su Franco Belmonte

Born 1952. Degree in Biological Sciences University of Genova, Italy. Researcher, CNR of Italy 1977-'80 (neurochemistry) then various task related to biology till now. Active Member and Certified Trimmer of the American Hoof Association. Didactic activity: equine podiatry and nutrition. Area of interest: evolution and physiology. Airline pilot and flight instructor for living 1981-2002.