Chapter 5 – Are some breeds more susceptible to founder?

In a way, yes. If you have a horse that’s an ‘easy-keeper’, that horse may be more susceptible. If you own one of several of the more hearty breeds, you may be more susceptible. Those breeds would tend to be Arabs, Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Morgans, and Quarter Horses. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-lovable, easy-keeping pony. These are the breeds I have come across the most when dealing with founder cases. What makes them different? I believe it’s because they are some of the toughest, strongest and heartiest breeds. They do not need the richer feeds and hays available today in order to keep their weight and / or their health up to par. For the most part, Nature (or man) designed them to live off of some of the worst food conditions and still stay healthy and perform well, and this is pretty much how they should be fed on a day-to-day basis.

In our attempt to civilize these breeds, we have tended to treat them more like “Pampered Pets”. In other words, we tend to ‘kill them with kindness’. They get fed the rich feed and hay with the higher concentrations of proteins, carbohydrates and sugars, and their bodies don’t need it order to be well maintained, so their bodies store the excess nutrients for the leaner months, but the leaner months never come because we make sure they are well fed and well cared for throughout the year. The healthiest horses I’ve dealt with have had poor grazing conditions, plenty of room to roam, little grain and hay, little or no stall time and exposure to virtually all of the elements. No, I don’t believe in treating horses poorly, but I do believe in letting horses be horses. And I believe in letting the horse’s body follow the same guidelines as the animals in the wild. When my horse is coming out of winter, her body is loosing weight. She gets almost skinny. As spring approaches, her body is ready for the new grasses. As summer arrives, her body is well adjusted and she requires little feed. As fall approaches, her body is gaining weight, storing fat to make it through winter. As winter arrives, her body is burning the stored fat to fuel her body and provide warmth. I supplement her diet with some feed and some hay, but not large amounts of hay. Her body has already stored most of what she’ll need to make it through winter. Spring arrives and she’s lean again. This has been her cycle for 21 years now. She’s a foundation Quarter Horse, who has never foundered. She does not live in a stall; she lives in a pasture with natural shelter and protection from the elements. She has always been a horse. She is NOT a “Pampered Pet”. If you’re wondering, yes, I do care for her very much. But I still let her be a horse. I feel that’s been the key to all the horses I’ve ever had.