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“Rocky River News Flash”

 Even though it may not feel like it, spring is here! With spring comes green grass, especially with the rain God has blessed us with this winter. Green lush pastures are a blessing to the horse owner and horses love it, but these lush pastures don’t always bring blessings to the horse and the horse owner.


This Rocky River News Flash is for all horse owners, especially those horse owners that can look at their horse and say, “my horse is a little on the heavy side” or “my horse could stand to shed a few pounds”. Many horses are what a lot of people call “easy keepers”. These overweight, crest necked horses often have a metabolic problem where they have difficulty regulating their insulin levels and therefore tend to maintain on the obese side of the body condition score chart.  They have difficulty properly processing and storing carbohydrates.  When these overweight metabolically “challenged” horses eat too much lush green grass over a long period or sometimes short period of time, they overload on sugars (carbohydrates). Since they have problems with their insulin regulation and inabilities to properly process and store sugars their bodies get overwhelmed with chemicals from improper breakdown of these sugars.  When these chemicals get released in a large manner the horse often reacts with a condition affecting the hooves known as laminitis.


Laminitis is a condition in which the ligaments that hold the coffin bone intact with the hoof wall get inflamed.  When these ligaments (lamina) get inflamed they swell and separate causing instability of the coffin bone.  The coffin bone (P3) then sinks or rotates, otherwise known as founder.


Founder is not fun for the horse or horse owner.  This condition is very painful to the horse, can be life threatening, and can be painful to the horse owner’s wallet.  So here are some helpful hints that can help minimize the chances of your horse obtaining laminitis if your horse has plans of the spring grass buffet or is metabolically challenged.


1.      If your horse is obese, we can come to your farm and check your horse’s insulin level.  If your horse’s insulin level is elevated after fasting, we can put your horse on a thyroid supplement that should lower their insulin levels and make them less likely to acquire laminitis.


2.      If your pasture is lush, consider small amounts of turnout time during the spring months until our hot weather gets here and dries the grasses a little.  Start out with 30 minutes to an hour and gradually work your way up the time ladder with an hour every week or every other week (depending on your pasture).  Give us a call and we can advise you the best we can.  We are just a phone call away.


3.      If work or other priorities make it difficult for you to do small interval pasture turnout, consider letting your horse wear a grazing muzzle to slow the intake of grass while on the pasture.  This allows the horse more time on the pasture, especially good for the obese horse that dislikes being stuck in a stall or small paddock all day.


4.      Call us for recommendations on proper feeds to feed your horses that are overweight.  There are feeds available with less sugar content developed for the at risk laminitis horse.


5.      Keep your horse’s hooves trimmed regularly.


Let me close by explaining what you will see if you are too late on the above recommendations and your horse develops laminitis.  If your horse becomes reluctant to move favoring both forelimbs when you are leading him or her, or he or she is standing in a lush pasture when all the other horses come running in for feed, chances are your horse has laminitis.  The laminitic horse stands with his or her forelimb hooves placed out in front of their body and has much difficulty turning and walking.  Their hooves are usually very hot compared to the rest of the body and their digital pulses are elevated.  Those are the clinical signs of laminitis, but this year let us all try to minimize the number of cases we see out in the field. Give us a call and we can help you minimize these risks. Thank you and have a happy spring as we get back in the saddle!


Dr. Jonathan Featherstone - Spring 2013