Don't let Spring Fever take hold of your horse!
By Carl O’ Dwyer, Master Farrier
Spring can be one of the most dangerous times of the year when it comes to caring for your horse. Horses that are in good condition especially have to be watched due to the fact that most of the grasses are in seed and can cause your horse to become obese in a very short time. Clover is one of the most dangerous grasses as it has very high sugar content and only needs the sun to be at the right angle at the right time of day. Once ingested it will set off an enzyme that will get into your horses gut and then into the blood stream, which in turn will attack the bonding of the hoof wall to the bone. Once the bonding is compromised we then have the development of Laminitis (also called Founder).
Preventing this occurrence from happening is the most sensible approach. This can easily happen by ensuring that your horse is not over weight at this time of the year, especially if he/she is not in work. It will mean that you will have to restrict the amount of feed that you give them, limit the amount of grass that they get and regulate the time of grazing so that they are unlikely to consume the high levels of sugar that can cause Laminitis. A number of other solutions you can try include using a grazing muzzle, which will restrict the volume of grass that can be consumed, or a slow feeder hay net or bag which slows down your horses eating.
There are also feed supplements that you can include in their feed that can help to neutralise the overload of sugars by excessive grazing of grass and clover, such as KER EquiShure, or, suppress the amount of sugar absorbed in the highgut, for example Virbac Founderguard. In some cases of insulin-induced Laminitis Kohnke’s Own Trim can slow insulin reactivity and assist with fat metabolism and help maintain blood sugar levels. Many horse owners choose to use a combination of all three when they are faced with a horse with Laminitis. You should be diligent with a horses’ food intake as this is by far the best way to deal with foundering season.
For those who haven’t experienced horses with Laminitis, it is the most painful and debilitating disease that your horse will ever experience. It is like pushing a knife up under your finger nail and lifting it up.
The stress levels that your horse has to endure through this extremely painful time are enormous, then there is the time that you, the owner have to put in to try and return the horse to some sort of normality. This includes veterinary costs and X-rays and a variety of drugs for what could be a long period of time. On top of this, if your horse has a severe rotation of the pedal bone, the horse will require therapeutic shoes to try to stop further rotation, which increases the pain level for the horse to extreme as the shoes have to be nailed on if the horse needs Heart Bar shoes.
My advice to the horse owner is that they need to be very diligent in the management of their horses at this time, as the horses welfare always needs to be observed whether in work or spelling. Feed must always be monitored in conjunction with the time the horse is having a let up and high protein feed needs to be cut back during this time.
There is an old saying that “Prevention is better than the cure.”