It's lovely when the grass is growing, but how can I avoid problems with laminitis?


Many horse owners worry about laminitis during spring and summer, especially those with horses that have had laminitis before or are particularly exposed due to factors like breed or overweight. 

How do I prepare my horse for grazing without the risk of laminitis? 

There are many benefits to allowing horses to graze, but it may not be suitable for all horses, and the amount must be controlled for horses that may be at risk of laminitis. Planning for a potential turnout must start early by ensuring the horse is not overweight before the grass comes in. Have a carefully calculated feeding plan, regularly monitor weight using tools such as a weight tape, and seek help from other knowledgeable horse people in the area to get objective feedback on the horse's body condition. 

How do I support my horse's digestion during the transition to grass? 

The transition to grass represents a change in the diet, and to support the microorganisms in the hindgut, horses can benefit from supplements such as Diamond V, a fermented yeast culture that serves as nourishment for these microorganisms. Fiberplex and Fiberplex Sensitive contain many nutrients that support digestion and are suitable for horses that react strongly to feed changes or have chronic digestive issues.

How do I introduce grass into the diet safely?

As soon as the grass begins to grow, it's time to slowly introduce it into the horse's diet. There are different methods, some more labor-intensive than others:

  • Hand grazing daily and gradually increasing the time
  • Turnout in a grass paddock for a limited time and using a dry lot for the rest of the day
  • Strip grazing, starting with a small paddock and gradually increasing it each day so the horse has access to more grass
  • Using grazing muzzles, but ensure they fit properly to prevent rubbing Always monitor the horse's body condition and any signs of laminitis. If possible, sparse pastures such as forest pastures and natural pastures are the best options, as cultivated pastures often have denser grass.

How do I minimize the risk of laminitis by managing grass intake?

There is ongoing research on laminitis and its causes. Not long ago, many believed that protein was the cause, but now it's known to be linked to fructans (sugars) in grass, which are affected by factors like heat, drought, rain, and frost.

Consider these guidelines to reduce the risk of horses consuming large amounts of fructans from grass:

  • Fructan content is highest when grass is stressed, such as when it's short or lacking water and nutrients
  • Avoid grazing after a frosty night
  • Avoid grazing in the afternoon/evening if it's been sunny and warm
  • Avoid grazing all day if it's sunny but cool
  • Monitor grass growth; for example, rain after a dry period can significantly increase growth

How do I adjust grazing time and type to prevent laminitis in sensitive horses?

By adjusting grazing time, type, and availability, you can reduce the risk of laminitis in sensitive horses. Avoiding pasture doesn't mean the horse should be kept in the stall; instead, create conditions for pasture turnout with limited grass availability, which is a good investment in the horse's health and longevity.

Also, provide the horse with plenty of exercise and movement during spring and summer; time for rest and recovery can be planned for winter when the risk of laminitis is lower. However, be aware that seasons other than spring and early summer can still pose a risk of laminitis, depending entirely on individual circumstances.

Wishing you a healthy summer!

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