People think the biggest risk factor for laminitis is the ‘look’ of the horse, in other words whether they are obese, have a ‘cresty’ neck, pads behind the shoulder and above the tail-head.
This thinking tends to promote the idea that horses without this body type are ‘safe’ from a laminitis episode whereas in actual fact it means disturbances to the horses metabolism have already progressed to the danger zone.
Yes horses with this EMS look are clearly ‘advertising’ that they are ready and waiting for laminitis to arrive. If they are fortunate their owners will realise or be alerted, take action and seriously restrict or even eliminate grass intake, soak hay and increase exercise. If they are unfortunate, sooner or later these horses progress to sub-clinical, chronic laminitis or some change accelerates them to ‘acute’ and over-night they become cripples. We know because we have been guilty before we became more aware!
People also tend to think, especially when it comes to small ponies and minis, that the issue is just TOO MUCH grass. But horses and ponies can develop laminitis when they are on grass that is less than a centimeter long.
For some it might seem to be working but it is tantamount to starvation and wears the incisors down well before their time. And these animals are in real danger of tipping over after rain sprouts the green shoots.
For some horses the journey to laminitis is completely unforeseen. For example a well-cared for TB with no sign of the typical laminitis-prone ‘look’ becomes tender and sore after a trim and within a few days has clinical laminitis. In this case it wasn’t the quantity of the pasture but the nutrient content which included a crude protein of 36% (extremely high while sugars were very low)
The common factor in all scenarios of pasture-related laminitis is the pasture. Either too much in the way of quantity or pasture of an unsuitable quality. We say pasture because it isn’t just grass that causes the problem. Clover is equally if not more of a culprit. Then the addition of hay, hard-feed and supplements either add to the risk or reduce it.
With appropriate management, your horses pasture grass can become friend instead of foe.
Why not just analyze your pasture and solve the problem by ‘balancing’ to it?
This only works for nutrients that may be lacking but not for the nutrients that are present in excess like potassium and nitrogen, especially in the growth phase.
The key is to become aware and more knowledgeable so that episodes of laminitis and other issues, don’t just ‘happen’.
Learn about your horse’s pasture, ‘how plants work’ and how they may be affecting your particular horse. Then you can make appropriate decisions and manage your horse accordingly. That is purpose of this page.
Alerts to more risk factors in more posts coming up
PIC:No matter what size the horse the diet is the same - it is the quantity that varies. The little guys are allowed out on long mature dried off grass for short periods (20 mins at present in the morning and 10 mins at night. The time an even if they get out at all varies according to what the grass is doing and how they are) Then they go back into the dry lot on hay with a small plain feed x2 daily containing Premium MVA and salt.