Lamini­tis preven­tion tool­kit

Have these four things on hand to pro­tect your horse from this dev­as­tat­ing hoof con­di­tion this spring.

EQUUS - - Equus - By Chris­tine Barakat

Have these four things on hand to pro­tect your horse from this dev­as­tat­ing hoof con­di­tion this spring.

You don’t need to be told that spring is lamini­tis sea­son. No doubt you’re well aware of the fact that new grass at this time of year can trig­ger the dev­as­tat­ing hoof con­di­tion, par­tic­u­larly in horses with in­sulin re­sis­tance, pi­tu­itary pars in­ter­me­dia dys­func­tion (PPID, also called Cush­ing’s syn­drome) and other hor­monal dis­or­ders or with a prior his­tory of lamini­tis.

The ques­tion is, what can you do about this risk? There are no guar­an­tees, of course, but a few sim­ple mea­sures can go a long way to­ward pro­tect­ing horses from lamini­tis. So go­ing into this high-risk sea­son, take stock of your horse’s sit­u­a­tion and con­sider adding the fol­low­ing lamini­tis preven­tion tools to your reg­i­men.

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Most horses who are sus­cep­ti­ble to lamini­tis are easy keep­ers, mean­ing they come out of win­ter in good flesh or over­weight. And any ad­di­tional pounds a horse car­ries can in­crease his lamini­tis risk.

A tape may not tell you your horse’s ex­act weight, but re­peated use will en­able you to de­tect any gains that in­crease lamini­tis risk be­fore you may no­tice them through sim­ple ob­ser­va­tion. Check your horse’s weight when it’s time for spring vac­ci­na­tions, and ask your vet­eri­nar­ian to es­ti­mate his body con­di­tion score (BCS)---for most horses, a BCS of 7 or higher is cause for con­cern. Con­tinue to use your weight tape pe­ri­od­i­cally through­out the year.

• A GRAZ­ING MUZ­ZLE

One quandary many of us face in spring is balanc­ing the phys­i­cal and men­tal ben­e­fits of turnout with the need to con­trol a horse’s in­take of lush grass. A graz­ing muz­zle of­fers a good so­lu­tion.

Many styles of muz­zles are avail­able, and it may take some trial-and-er­ror to de­ter­mine which model fits a horse best, so start your search well be­fore spring, if pos­si­ble. Once you se­lect a muz­zle that suits your horse’s needs, con­sider pur­chas­ing a se­cond one so you’ll have a spare on hand in case the first is lost or bro­ken. Turn­ing a horse out for even a sin­gle day with­out a muz­zle can be dan­ger­ous.

Fi­nally, make sure your horse’s muz­zle is ad­justed cor­rectly---snug enough to stay in place, but not so tight that it ir­ri­tates his skin---and then be vig­i­lant about us­ing it. Yes, a horse in a muz­zle may look pi­ti­ful, but you’re pro­tect­ing him from some­thing far worse. If a muz­zle isn’t fea­si­ble or re­li­able for an at-risk horse, con­sider es­tab­lish­ing a dry lot---a pad­dock or pas­ture that has no grass---on your prop­erty.

• A LOW- CARB FEED.

It’s not just grass that can trig­ger a laminitic episode in at-risk horses. Feeds high in non­struc­tural car­bo­hy­drates (NSCs), like sugar and starch, can do the same. For­tu­nately, an ar­ray of feeds for­mu­lated for horses who are sen­si­tive to NSCs are now on the mar­ket. Op­tions range from lowen­ergy mixes for easy keep­ers to a high-calo­rie feeds that can safely fuel the ac­tiv­i­ties of at-risk ath­letes. Al­most every ma­jor feed com­pany of­fers at least one such feed.

Talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian or an equine nu­tri­tion­ist about the best op­tion for your horse, then make the switch grad­u­ally over the course of

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