Spring grass: the double-edged blade!

Our area has been blessed (or cursed) with a bounty of rain over the last couple of months. This means young, fresh, green grass is sprouting up everywhere! Although this means we see fewer colics (often associated with eating dry hay in the winter time), it also means we are more likely to be seeing laminitis. This fresh, beautiful, young grass has a very high sugar content, especially when compared to mature pasture.

 

Is grazing a bad thing?

Not necessarily! Laminitis can affect any horse (because they all have feet, after all!). However, there are certain types of horses that are at a higher risk of foundering on fresh young grass with a high sugar content. Have you ever noticed that your horse gains weight and holds onto it VERY EASILY? Have you noticed that this horse also doesn’t lose weight easily? Some areas of fat are considered “highly metabolic” essentially meaning they release hormones that may predispose your horse to laminitis. There are a few places to look for fat deposits on your horse: the top of the neck (crest), behind the shoulders and around the tail-head. These areas of fat are the highly metabolic kind; the bad kind.  These hormones are ultimately linked to the development of Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance. This means when your horse eats a high sugar meal (aka fresh, beautiful, young spring grass) their bodies are making insulin but not listening to it; this most often shows up as laminitis or inflammation in the feet. When the horse’s blood sugar is too high the cells in the feet cannot function appropriately and they don’t hold up the coffin bone which allows it to rotate within the foot.

 

What are some strategies to protect my horse? 

  1. Regular exercise (lunging, riding or even free lunging)
  2. Low starch/low carbohydrate diet (Dr. Gray is happy to talk about options!)
  3. Grazing muzzles during morning and daytime hours
  4. Turning out at night instead of during the day
  5. Rotating pastures or strip grazing pastures

 

 

 

 

 

What diagnostics might be beneficial for my horse?

We are happy to come evaluate your horse if you are concerned that your horse may have some characteristics consistent with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. There are several tests that we are able to collect samples for in the field and send out to assess your horse’s metabolic status. If you are interested in having your horse evaluated before the heavy spring grass emerges please don’t hesitate to call! We are always happy to answer questions.