What's wrong with this pony? See bottom of page.
Laminitis episodes are more common
in the spring and autumn seasons, when the grass usually starts to grow after being dormant for a while and is producing a
lot of sugar. It's a sort of triple threat, as most pastures are overgrazed (stresses the grass so it makes MORE sugar) and
horses aren't used to much grass, so a sudden increase, as any dietary change can do, can wreak havoc on his metabolism, and
trigger it. Fresh green grass is most appealing after a winter of dry hay so horses are more apt to gorge on it.
When grass is starting to shoot up in your pasture you have a couple of options to prevent laminits from green grass. You
can dry-lot your horse, at least until the grass is more mature, but then it's still a threat as a diet change when you let
him out later in the season. Or you can dry-lot him year round, but is expensive to feed hay when you have grass, and it's
boring and less healthy for most horses. Partial dry-lotting, where you turn the horse out in the late evening and night time,
allows him access to grass when it's least sugary for the 24hr period, and keeps his system used to consuming some grass,
and allows him to get the exercise in the pasture. Let him have his hay ration before he's turned out so he's full and
less apt to binge.
Grazing muzzles are useful tools. They have a small hole in the bottom so your
horse can only get small bites of grass at at time. This slows him down considerably and he has to work harder. This is great
so your horse can socialize and exercise, and enjoy some grass, too. I don't recommend leaving them on more than 12 hours
a day. A combination of dry-lotting and muzzles work great! It's a great program for any horse that's prone to obesity.
Laminitis can also be triggered by retained placentas
in birthing mares, sickness like strangles or even from excessive work on hard surfaces before the hooves are conditioned
or if shod with metal shoes. For most horses, though, the diet is going to be the trigger. How do you avoid laminitis?
- Avoid sudden diet changes, espcially when increasing grain rations
or grazing on green grass.
- Avoid feeding grain
altogether unless your horse simply works too hard to get enough calories from hay. If he needs vitamins, use supplements
- Keep up with vaccinations to avoid contageous
illness. *one caveat, vaccines can cause sever allergic reaction and laminitis! Only vaccinate for what is necessary!
- Monitor your horses' births and check the afterbirth and call
the vet if any appears retained.
Do not overfeed your horse. If he's already fat with lumps over his tail head, has a creased spine or cresty
neck, he's much more likely to founder with a small diet change than if a normal, healthy weight. Obesity is being studied
as a leading factor to Metabolic disorders later in life, much like diabetes.
- Maintain hooves. Have his hooves trimmed regularly. Short hooves suffer less damage
in a lamanitic attack than overgrown or shod hooves do. Mechanical founder can happen in poorly trimmed or shod hooves, without
a dietary overload.
- Limit drug use. Over using
deworming medicines can upset the gut flora and create a pro-laminitis situation. Use them only when needed, in the proper
amount and give your horse probiotics afterward to re-establish healthy gut flora. Ditto for antibiotics and pain killers
like Bute. They all have a place, but excessive use contributes to overall distress in the body.
- Exercise your horse. If your horse is moving,
he's metabolizing the toxins. If he gets in a grain bin, walk him if he's not yet showing acute pain. Horses that ARE
showing acute pain (founder stance) should not be forced to move, esp on sharp turns. Once the acute pain subsides (about
72 hours) get him moving gently again. Movement stimulates growth, healing and burning the fat off obese horses.
ANSWER TO QUESTION ABOVE "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PONY":
Several things. First, she's very obese. Note lumpy fat
deposits over rib, spine and hips? Tail head is sunk in between fat pockets on her buttocks. She's in acute phase laminitis
in this picture. She is also suffering from chronic, or long-term laminitis episodes. Note the elf shoe hooves that
have many ripples? Each ripple is laminitis. This is years in the making.The elf shoe look is from the wall being peeled back
as it's attatchment to the coffin bone detaches as well as lack of exercise and proper trimming to keep the damage minimized.
Not visible in the picture is the White Line Disease and thrush that is eating her hooves as well, which will make her a challenge
First things first, she is now on a diet, and
once she's not rocked back like this in pain, she will be turned out and/or hand walked, and kept on a 2-3 week trim cycle
for a while while being treated for WLD and thrush infections. No horse should have to suffer this once, much less to this
chronic, deformed state.