How a Healthy Immune System Contributes to Healthy Hooves

The Metabolic Hoof 

So many are challenged with horses who have EMS, IR, cushings and other immune-related conditions; all of which land right in the hooves.


Remember... everything lands in the hooves!

Side on view of a white horse's hoof on sandy dirt
Photo courtesy of


While I'm not going to tell you how to 'fix' any one of these conditions (although I do have a 'Whole Health for the Whole Horse' protocol that has been pretty successful across the board with hundreds of metabolic horses), I'd rather see that the humans implement a more preventative plan for the horses and at least know how to recognise the metabolic hoof.



The Immune System

Let me explain a little bit about the immune system of mammals, including our beloved 4-hooved critters: 


And by the way, this is a preventative for us humans, as well!


In a very elementary definition, the immune system is what guards and protects the body from 'foreign invaders'. Those substances and conditions that weaken the immune system and cause us all to get sick.


70% or more of the immune system resides within the gut. In the gut are bemillions (yep, I just made up that word myself) of bacteria! Some good, and some bad. When the good bacteria (micro-biomes) are not properly 'fed' then the bad bacteria takes over. This means all sorts of health challenges for the host critter (equine and 'humanoid').


As I said, this all lands in the hooves of the horse.


So, if you have a horse that is constantly going laminitic in spite of great hoof care and barefoot trims, you need to think about the metabolic of your horse.


A brown and blonde miniature horse running through green grass



'Feeding' the Immune System

So, how do we properly 'feed' the immune system?


The short of the long of it is to feed your horse lots of live forages:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

These are all prebiotic, meaning, they feed the micro-biomes in the gut, thus feeding the immune system!


The horse is meant to eat nothing more than forage:

  • Grasses
  • Weeds
  • Flowers
  • Bark
  • Bushes
  • Cacti
  • Leaves
  • Twigs
  • Roots
  • Native Fruits
  • Native Nuts
  • Native Seeds

Now while some of you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! How can I feed my horse all forage when all I have to keep him in is a dirt paddock?"


Well, that's pretty easy, too.


Maybe a little extra work involved to adding more forage to your horse's diet, but it is pretty easy. Feel free to ask me how!


A salad of lettuce, carrot, watermelon, nuts and seeds


All sorts of:

  • Vegetables
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Spring Greens
  • Dandelions
  • Sprouts
  • Yams
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

And more are all great forages for preventative measures against EMS and other more advanced metabolic issues.



Glycemic Load

Wait, wait, wait, don't jump the gun here. Yes, I know all about the glycemic index, but, do you know about the glycemic load?  


There's a difference between the index and the load, which I won't get into here, but you can read all about it here: All About Glycemics 


If you've never even heard of the term then I would suggest some reading up on it. It's not rocket science, however it's sorely overlooked when thinking of feeding metabolic horses.


These prebiotic foods are imperative for good, strong health in horses. They are also good for prevention in order to strengthen the immune system and a great way to rehabilitate those horse who do face metabolic challenges.




Please note, unless your horse is 100% healthy, do not just start feeding tons of veggies and fruits!  There *is* a specific 'recipe' for your horse that must be tailored to each individual horse.


And no, I am not a veterinarian, although I have worked in equine clinics and surgery with vets and do team up with vets for overall rehab cases. I am just someone who has spent a lifetime living and rehabilitating horses of all breeds, sizes, types and disciplines and a few decades repairing equid hooves.


A dressage horse doing a side stride on a sand arena in competition


From the working ranch horse, to the disciplined dressage horse, to the hunter jumper or eventer. Regardless of the discipline, each horse's immune system and gut are all the same in the manner. All immune systems are created equal and require strong micro-biomes in their guts and healthy hooves to get along well in life.


Healthy hooves are not just all about trimming; shod, barefoot or booted.


Healthy hooves are healthy from the inside-out, the rest is icing on the cake!


Prevention of metabolic syndrome(s) is the best medicine, but if you are faced with a current challenge then feel free to contact me and I can help you!


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the world-renown author of "10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves" and "Natural Hoof Anthology" as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in NE Connecticut and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: or call/text +1 774-280-4227

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