Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Beginning in the fall, horses naturally produce an increase in their adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH). This spike stimulates the release of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. The stress hormone increases insulin levels in a horse which can cause laminitis. An overproduction of the ACTH is called Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction. (You may have heard this referred to as “Cushing’s disease”.) Most cases can be traced back to this hormonal imbalance. Another hormonal imbalance that can cause laminitis is Equine Metabolic Syndrome: a disorder that causes insulin resistance.
While the changing of the seasons from fall/winter into spring/summer may lead you to believe your horse is at a lower risk of developing laminitis, this is actually not the case. When grass is between growth stages, it has a higher content of starches and sugars. These starches and sugars can be extremely dangerous, especially if a horse is insulin resistant. An insulin-resistant horse cannot digest these starches and sugars appropriately. High levels of insulin cause stretching in the laminae of your horse’s hooves causing the horse’s hooves to feel overworked and eventually laminitis.
To protect your horse from Fall Laminitis you must maintain their metabolic status and a healthy environment. Make sure your horse’s veterinary check-ups are up to date and have their blood tested for high levels of ACTH and insulin levels. If either of these levels are high, keep an eye on their caloric intake and stress levels.
Avoid letting your horse graze during high regrowth times for grass. For example, avoid letting them graze the day after it rains, or when the sun begins to rise. You can limit their grazing by using a muzzle. The correct amount of exercise and the location of your turnouts affect the chance of your horse developing laminitis. Consider moving your turnout location to a dry lot instead of the pasture.
Signs of Laminitis
Common signs of laminitis include your horse gaining weight or constant weight shifting. Weight change is a strong indication of their discomfort levels. Your horse may also be walking gingerly if they are in pain. Take note of how they listen to direction and if you notice their mood shifting. If they balk when asked to turn or hesitate at normal commands, these can be signs of discomfort. Check on the growth of your horse’s hooves. A common sign of laminitis is faster heel growth and curved growth rings. If their hooves have a strong pulse or feel warm to touch, we suggest acting immediately.
Supplements can be very helpful and soothing for your horse when trying to prevent or manage Fall Laminitis. Healthy food-source supplements include blue-green algae, kelp, apple cider vinegar, carrots, and oranges. There are a number of good supplements on the market. We recommend consulting your veterinarian before giving any supplements to your horse.
Why We Care
Fall Laminitis is an awful disease that causes horses a great deal of pain, but with the proper love and care, your horse can easily avoid this infectious disease. We recommend you pay close attention to your horse as the seasons change.
At Ryerss Farm, we care for aged horses. We provide a home for these animals to enjoy life with their friends in the pasture, grazing with the herd. At Ryerss Farm, the care of aged equines is our mission and we are dedicated to providing a happy, comfortable retirement for them every day.