Equestrian Blog

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Prevention, Treatment and Maintenance of a Laminitic Horse

It is well known that springtime brings with it the threat of laminitis, there's lots of information available on this disease along with supplements, and gadgets to help limit the risk of your horse suffering from it. As an owner of a horse who suffers from this condition myself, it is a subject close to my heart. My aim with this blog is to explain laminitis in a simple easy to understand way, whilst giving you links to investigate further. Laminitis is a disease of the digital laminae of the hoof (foot of an ungulate). It is commonly thought of as a disease of small, fat ponies who have access to too much rich spring grass, and not enough exercise. This is not the case, it is a serious condition that can affect any equine (or cattle) at any time of year. My own horse is a lean thoroughbred cross, who at 19 contracted laminitis for the first time whilst in medium work on sparse grazing. Knowing what triggers laminitis can help you to prevent the onset or deal with the early stages effectively. Although it is not known for certain what causes laminitis, there are common situations which seem to bring laminitis on in some horses; prolonged hard work on unsuitable surfaces, some corticosteroid drugs given to susceptible horses and most commonly overeating. Trying to prevent any of these triggers will help to keep laminitis at bay.
Knowing your horse and what is 'normal' for him is your biggest tool in helping to prevent and catch laminitis at its earliest stage. If your horse seems to be not quite himself, unwilling to walk or turn in his usual way, showing slight colicky signs or just generally uncomfortable on his feet he could be experiencing early signs of laminitis. These indicators will all usually present themselves before you notice the typical 'laminitis stance', heat in the feet or change to the digital pulse. Lush grazing can trigger laminitis 
If you even suspect laminitis act immediately as delay can seriously hinder your horse's recovery. If possible stable your horse on a deep bed of shavings, but don't force him to walk. Allow him to lie down if he wants to as this will alleviate the pressure on your horse's feet. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, laminitis should be considered as much an emergency as colic to prevent the condition worsening. Preventing laminitis by careful management of your horse and his environment is vital. Slowly introduce him to the spring grass, starting with just an hour at first and gradually extending the time. Try strip grazing if you have a large field as this will limit the amount of grass your horse has access to. Make sure you also adjust your horse's hard feed to allow for the extra nutrition they are getting from their grazing, many horses won't need any more than grass at this time of year. If you do feel that he needs his diet supplementing be careful to choose a low starch, high fibre diet which is appropriate for his level of work.  The Laminitis Trust provides detailed information on the disease, look out for their Approval Mark on your horse's feed bags. By being vigilant and with correct management your horse should stay healthy and happy throughout the summer months. Act quickly if your horse starts to show signs of weight gain by restricting his grazing or fitting a grazing mask. If you are at all worried about your horse's health or you suspect the onset of laminitis ring your vet straight away. Laminitis is a serious disease which can cause long term damage to your horse's feet. Careful management of your horse's welfare will help to ensure that your horse stays safe and sound throughout the year.

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