Hay Analysis


Hi Ya'll, 

I am interested in learning more about my hay analysis and trying to determine if I need to add a mineral balancer like the recommended Vermont Blend (VERMONT BLEND – Custom Equine Nutrition) or the Colorado Mix Colorado Mix MS-091213 (horsetech.com)

I had both my grass hay and grass/alfalfa hay tested (hay analysis are attached in either horses case history). I started having founder issues in 2021, while feeding the grass/alfalfa so I switched to a grass hay in 2022. My understanding, which is very limited, is that both hays are within the acceptable range for sugar. Is this correct? Can someone point me in the right direction as to if these hays are ok to continue feeding? What other questions should I be asking to better understand my hay? Should I be supplementing with a mineral balance, if so what should I be looking for to pick the right one?

Any help is greatly appreciated! Many thanks, 
Molly G
2023, South Central Idaho
Thundar and Kingsley Case Historys - https://ecir.groups.io/g/CaseHistory/files/Molly%20and%20Thundar-Kingsley  
Thundar and Kingsley Photo Album - https://ecir.groups.io/g/CaseHistory/album?id=284753

Cindy Q

Hello Molly

Welcome to the group. 

1) Your CH mentioned you are getting some blood tests. Please read the DIAGNOSIS section of our welcome letter below for test conditions and recommended lab.

2) The hay tests provided seemed to be a basic one and might be NIR (less accurate). They don't show the ESC (ethanol soluble carbohydrates) or Starch figures, or any trace minerals (such as copper, zinc, iron). It is recommended to get your hay tested at Equi Analytical using the 603/ Trainer test. That will give you all the information you need and using the wet chemical method (more accurate).

The first hay test with a high dry matter basis crude protein of 18+% is really high protein. I would avoid that hay. As fed the crude protein would be just over 20%. Stick to the grass hay for now. If your horse is stable at the moment and you have not been soaking, you can continue without soaking but start soaking at the first sign of footiness unless you already got back your new hay test showing the starch is less than 4% and the ESC and starch combined are less than 10%.

Consider also using slow feed hay nets and splitting up the hay portion across 2 or 3 nets spread out so that it encourages some movement. As both of your horses are comfortable to move, you could consider working in some handwalk in boots to increase movement.

Looking at hay tests, I often refer back to: https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/217649 with the main part extracted for you below.

"I look first for the ESC and starch, because I really hate soaking hay. Next, I check the ADF and NDF - if they are higher than 40% (reduces digestibilty) and 60% (reduces palatability) I might think twice. (or I might not, depending on the hay season and whatever else is available)   Protein should be 8% to 11%; if it is 6% to 7.9%, I can deal with that with protein supplements, but any lower than 6% is out. (because the hay is likely no more than "grass skeletons", as Dr. Gustafson says). Season of cutting has a big effect on protein, as more mature hays generally have lower protein.  Whether first cut or second cut, more depends on the weather conditions and the maturity of the hay than whether first cut or second cut. (ie - poor weather conditions often make for later than optimal cutting, and more mature hay)   Proper soil analysis and fertilizing the hay fields can make a big difference in major minerals and trace minerals. I know Nancy achieved much better results from her hay grower when she tested hay, soil and got fertilizing recommendations .    https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/193387  

High iron and high manganese can be balanced for with reasonably palatable supplements."

There is a mineral balancing folder linked below in the DIET section, linked here as well: https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/files/6%20Diet%20Balancing
It includes more information as well as a list of people who can help you balance once you get your hay test sorted, for a fee. The price and scope varies.

Buckeye Safe N’ easy Senior that is fed to your horses is max 10% starch and 3% sugar. We recommend that starch be below 4%. Nutrena Special Care is also beyond the recommended levels here. You only need to use a minimal amount of one of the safe carriers (like beet pulp rinsed, soaked, rinsed) to carry their supplements and salt as noted Kingsley has a body condition score of 9 which is really too high.

BTW, even if your grass hay turns out to be safe, soaking it for up to an hour will reduce calories and sugar further, which will help Kingsley come down to a better body condition.

Below is your personal introduction to DDT+E, the ECIR Group protocol found to immediately address the comfort and welfare of the metabolic equine. Bookmark this message so that during your journey you may return when you need to review more information. Blue font links in each section will lead to further evidence-based and sourced information. We include a folder specifically for vets and other pros. Links previously opened will display in grey when you return to this message.


  • NSAIDs do not work on metabolic laminitis
    • Long-term NSAID use interferes with healing. We recommend tapering off NSAIDs after the initial days of use.
    • Icing does not work in most stages of laminitis and may make things worse.
    • If your equine's comfort level has not increased, then the cause of the laminitis has not been removed. The underlying cause needs to be addressed and the trim corrected.
    • Movement while using NSAIDs can cause further damage as pain is masked.
  • For pain relief also see the use of jiaogulan and why it works.
  • If the equine wants to lie down, do not encourage him/her to get up. Place feed and water where it can be reached easily without having to move more than necessary.

START YOUR CASE HISTORY. Request membership in the ECIR Group Case History site. Completing a case history is critical for in-depth, individual help. Bookmark this link. Our new Case History site is designed so that once you are registered and approved, and you have enrolled your equine, you can come in and select which section you wish to work on, returning as you need to add or update information. Please add copies of all your bloodwork results to support the details of your history. Further guidance to get you started is available in the Wiki.

In-depth step-by-step information is available from Dr. Kellon’s 2017  NO Laminitis! Conference lectures, including references to science explaining why DDT+E works. Download Acute Care for Endocrinopathic Laminitis and Tiered Management Approach to EMS and PPID on ecirhorse.org.

INFORMATION FOR YOUR VETERINARIAN.  After two decades, the ECIR Group knows recommendations in DDT+ E are often different from the equine veterinary community. We offer documentation of protocols, with deep background, evidence, and the science behind recommendations in the Veterinary Information folder. Please review and share this valuable supportive info with the team working on the ground with you.
INTRODUCTION to Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise (DDT+E)

DIAGNOSIS: Effective treatment requires correctly identifying the problem. There are two metabolic conditions causing laminitis that share symptoms. Equines can have one, the other, or both.   


    • EMS/IR is not a disease but a metabolic type. High insulin is responsible for laminitis 
and is controlled through diet as described below, with exercise as able.
      • ECIR Group has monitored use of specific medications that can be effective to lower insulin These do not replace a correct diet which must be in place first.
    • PPID not controlled through medication can raise insulin, leading to laminitis. High insulin causes laminitis, even at a sub-clinical level.
      • PPID is a progressive disease, treated by medication.
      • When first starting pergolide some equines may experience the "pergolide veil", a temporary loss of appetite, lethargy and/or depression. Wean onto the drug slowly and use the product APF to avoid this. Jiaogulan is also used in countries where APF is not available.
      • The best long-term results are seen when in diagnosed equines the ACTH is maintained in the middle of the lab reference range at all times, including during the annual seasonal rise. To accomplish this, the amount of medication may need to increase over time.
    • Neither EMS/IR nor PPID is ever cured, only properly controlled for the remainder of the equine's life. If your partner is both PPID and EMS/IR then both medication and diet management will be needed.

DIET: Crucial for an EMS/IR horse to lower insulin, the correct diet also supports the PPID equine’s delicate immune system.

In active laminitis, your first step is:

  • Remove/reduce the most likely trigger — high insulin — by using the emergency diet.
  • The emergency diet is untested hay, soaked for an hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water, which removes an average of 30% of the simple sugar content. Soaking does not remove starch.
  • Make sure you dump the soaking water where the equine(s) can't get to it.
  • Add ground flax seed (2 ounces by weight), and Vitamin E in oil (500 IU per 250 lb of body weight) to replace ingredients lost when grass is cured into hay. Magnesium, usually deficient, is added at 1.5 grams/day per 500 lbs body weight; (1/2 teaspoon feed-grade magnesium oxide) Iodized table salt is fed, 1-2 ounces for a 1000-pound horse.
  • This diet is not intended for long-term use.

    • Grass
    • Grain
      • Bagged feeds with a combined ESC and starch of over 10%
      • Bagged feeds with starch over 4%
      • Bagged feeds with fat over 4%.
    • Sugary treats, including apples and carrots
    • Brown/red salt blocks that contain iron which interferes with mineral balancing
    • Products containing molasses
    • Alfalfa hay
      • Protein and calcium are often high, which can contribute to sore footedness and make mineral balancing difficult.  

Your ultimate goal is:

  • Grass hay, tested to be under 10% ESC + starch by wet chemistry analysis. While sugar converts 50% to glucose, starch converts 100%, driving a higher insulin spike. Starch should not exceed 4%.
  • Excess and deficient minerals balanced. 
  • Safe feeds used only in an amount needed to carry minerals and supplements, under 10% ESC and starch, with starch under 4%, and fat under 4% or less.
    • Almost all commercial feeds are not suitable for EMS/IR individuals.
    • It is important to know the actual analysis.
    • Please see the Country Specific info for some safe suggestions.
  • To use a "stop-gap" product until you get your hay balanced, here is a list of "acceptable" ration balancers. This is a far second best from actual balancing.

TRIM: Addressing high insulin through diet and the realigning trim are the fastest ways to relieve pain. The proper trim for any equine is one that closely hugs and supports the internal structures of the foot for improved function. This type of trim is essential for EMS/IR/PPID equines, who are at increased risk for laminitis.

  • In general, laminitic hooves require more frequent trim adjustments to maintain the proper alignment. We recommend the use of padded boots rather than fixed appliances (shoes, clogs).
  • You are encouraged to obtain radiographs, hoof photos, and video to include in your Case History and help guide trimming needs for your horse. Example of good images are described in the Case History site and in the main group Wiki.

EXERCISE: The equine must be non-laminitic, off NSAIDs and comfortable.

  • Do not force a laminitic individual to move, or allow its other companions to do so.
  • Once the equine is moving around comfortably at liberty, hand-walking can begin in long straight lines with no tight turns. When finished walking, he/she should be as or more comfortable than when the walk began.
  • Before serious exercise can begin, a previously laminitis individual needs 6-9 months of correct realigning trims without relapse.


For a one-on-one, visual explanation of DDT+E, see ECIR Group Films.

For members outside North America, there are country-specific folders in the files and international lists in the Wiki to help you find local resources.

ecirhorse.org will provide more in-depth information. The FAQ section answers questions many new members have.

ECIR Group Facebook page.

ECIR Group Resources, printable for quick-scan access to more information when needed, such as in your barn.

ECIR discussion group Wiki provides information on the use of the Groups.io site including how to access the Case History site, information in the start here folder, message etiquette,  and many how-to pages.

Bookmark these pages, as well as this message, for easier access when you need more info.

Cindy and Glow (over the rainbow bridge) - Sep 2017, Singapore
ECIR Primary Response

Cindy Q

Hi Molly

Also you mentioned you were dealing with Sweet Itch for a long time with Kingsley. There is a useful post on Spirulina and chondroitin in the Horsekeeping forum here:




Thank you for the information. I will stick to the grass hay. I was able to request a Complete mineral analysis for both hays and have added those documents to Thundar's Case History. 
Molly G
2023, South Central Idaho
Thundar Case History - Thundar's Case History | ECIR Group Inc. (ecirhorse.org)
 Kingsley Case History - Kingsley's Case History | ECIR Group Inc. (ecirhorse.org)
Thundar and Kingsley Photo Album - https://ecir.groups.io/g/CaseHistory/album?id=284753

Old Link - Thundar and Kingsley Case Historys - https://ecir.groups.io/g/CaseHistory/files/Molly%20and%20Thundar-Kingsley

Kirsten Rasmussen

Hi Molly,

Next you'll want to contact someone trained to balance minerals to your hay.  We have a list called Hay Balancers here:
It includes more information as well as a list of people who can help you balance once you get your hay test sorted, for a fee. The price and scope varies.
They will help you determine if VT blend or another commercial mix is suitable, or if your hay requires a custom mix.  They mixed hay would definitely require a custom mix, but the protein is so high that it's not safe for a horse with EMS.  Give that one to the dairy cows.  The mixed hay also has toxic levels of iron for a horse (>500ppm).

Both hays are about 10% ESC + starch.  You might need to soak the grass hay.  It will depend what Thundar's insulin level is when eating this hay.  Have you had him tested since you started feeding the grass hay only?

Kirsten and Shaku (EMS + PPID) and Snickers (EMS) - 2019
Kitimat, BC, Canada
ECIR Group Moderator
Shaku's Case History
Shaku's Photo Album

Snickers' Case History
Snickers' Photo Album