Practical tips for managing & preventing laminitis

education laminitis Sep 02, 2020

Unfortunately for some, we are now well into the spring/summer months which is the most difficult time of year for horses prone to laminitis. Although we now know through research that laminitis can happen at any time of year, as sugar increases or ‘spikes’ in grass for a number of reasons, and not just in sunny conditions in the spring and summer.

The weather conditions in the UK are great for growing grass, however the grass in this country is generally too ‘good’ for horses, too rich and sugary. In the wild they have access to rough grass and bushes/trees, not the lush green paddocks that we use, so there is quite a difference is what the horse is evolved to eat and digest, and what we actually feed them.

Also it’s not just an issue for little native ponies as we once thought – any horse or pony can have an attack of laminitis so it’s worth us all being on the lookout with our horses.

Some of the reasons horses get laminitis:

  • Overweight
  • Underlying Conditions such as Cushings or Equine Metabolic Syndrome EMS
  • Large/ quick intake of sugar
  • Grass having a growth spurt or ‘spike’ in sugars

Some of the reasons grass is high in sugar:

  • Sunny weather: grass absorbs the sunlight
  • Sun and showers makes ideal growing conditions
  • Hours of sun, longer sunny days
  • End of summer growth ‘spikes’ in Sept/Oct

Some of the signs of laminitis:

  • Visible lameness particularly in the front feet
  • Shuffling gait in forelimbs
  • Heat on the hoof walls
  • An elevated digital pulse
  • Horse not wanting to move

And some more subtle signs:

  • Slight shortness of stride on a turn
  • Slight shortening or ‘flatness’ / lack of expression in the forelimb stride
  • Slight warmness on the coronary band
  • ‘Footy’ over stones can actually be sensitivity due to low grade laminitis

Some practical things we can do for our horses:

  • Reduce your horses weight
  • Buy a weight tape so you can monitor his weight weekly
  • Strip graze your paddocks so that your horse has turnout time but minimal grass
  • Reduce the amount of time your horse is turned out on grass
  • Consider turning out overnight when the sugars in the grass are reduced
  • Consider a grazing muzzle to reduce amount of grass intake
  • Increase exercise levels to burn calories
  • Weigh your haynets so that you are not over feeding
  • Reduce or remove hard feed from diet (does he really need it…)
  • Soak hay to reduce sugar intake even further
  • No treats!
  • Learn how to monitor your horses feet daily for increased heat and elevated digital pulses. If you monitor their feet daily you will pick up the slightest increase in heat quickly and can act on this by removing them from the grass
  • As owners it’s important that we are really strict, our horses can’t manage these factors on their own, so be strict with yourself and how you manage your horse

If you suspect your horse is suffering from laminitis it’s vitally important to get your vet out to assess your horse straight away. It may look mild to us but can be quite catastrophic in terms of damage within the hoof.

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