March 20th – the first day of Spring and not that far away! Most everyone I know is looking forward to the change of seasons and the longer, warmer days that come with it; however, with all of the beautiful changes, including especially the luscious green grass popping up everywhere, comes the threat of laminitis that occurs when our horses gorge themselves on those tempting, tender tufts. Overindulging is just one of the causes of laminitis but I think it’s one that we, as horse owners, caretakers, trainers must keep in mind because, as satisfying as it is to see our four-legged buddies reveling in their grazing at the “all you can eat”, they do run the risk of incurring a laminitis episode as a result. It is tough to do; like most horse owners, my merry little band of retirees thinks their new job is showing up at the “early bird specials” and trolling for in-between meal treats all day; but limiting access to new grass growth, either by shortened pasture time or grazing muzzles, is actually a gesture of kindness, not punishment, in this case.
Laminitis is expensive – not only because of the emergency Vet and Farrier visits but because it causes so much pain for our horses and for us, as their care-takers, having to watch and care for them as they suffer through each episode.
There are many more causes of laminitis than just over-grazing; hormone related issues (Cushings Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome and retained placenta in mares, etc.), stress in one limb from supporting an injured limb are just a few. There is a vet in Missouri, Donald Walsh, DVM, who has done a great deal of work and research on laminitis. Dr. Walsh has a terrific website: www.ahf-laminitis.org - there is a plethora of information there and a series of videos detailing the causes, effects and treatments that is well worth the watch. I hope you can take the time to check it out. Thank you.