With spring upon us, we are all looking forward to turning our horses out onto grass for longer, but it’s essential to be mindful of the risk of laminitis. Therefore we have put together eight top tips to help you keep your horse or pony safe this spring.
Act sooner rather than later
The grass starts to grow actively when the soil temperature consistently reaches 50C and can be very calorific. For every kilogram (dry weight) eaten, your horse could be consuming up to 500g of water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) which may include up to 75g of sugar. Studies have shown that ponies turned out un-muzzled can consume up to 5% of their own bodyweight in grass. If the same applies to a 500kg horse, this would equate to a whopping 1.9kg (nearly 2 bags!) of sugar or 12.5kg of WSC per day from grass alone.
Slim your horse down now
If your horse or pony is overweight use what’s left of the colder weather to instigate a slimming programme. Reduce feed or change to a lower calorie alternative and switch to a lower energy forage. Soaking hay for at least three hours will reduce the WSC level, although it is still advisable to have it analysed as the WSC lost from soaking is not consistent.
Use fewer rugs
Fewer rugs or no rugs at all will cause your horse to have to burn off a few extra pounds to keep warm.
Restrict access to pasture
Consider turning your horse out at night when the grass will contain less fructan (storage form of sugar) or install a strip grazing system to restrict the amount of grass your horse has access to in one go.
Try a grazing muzzle
A grazing muzzle can reduce intake by up to 80% but it must be properly fitted, allow for drinking and you must let your horse to get used to it before leaving it on for longer periods although they shouldn’t be left for 24 hours per day.
Feed an alternative safe source of forage
For horses and ponies at very high risk consider removing them from pasture altogether and feeding them a suitable forage/ short chopped fibre, preferably one that has been approved by the Laminitis Trust.
Beware of late frosts
On sunny, frosty mornings, fructan can accumulate to high levels and this may trigger the cascade of events that can lead in laminitis.
Up the exercise
Regular exercise will help keep your horse’s waistline in check and support a healthy metabolism.
SPILLERS®, through its collaborative work with the WALTHAM® International Laminitis and Obesity Research Consortia, is conducting important research into many of the areas that are thought to be involved in the development of laminitis.
Some of the recent projects include two really exciting studies which have been conducted by veterinary researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science in collaboration the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group. The first set out to undercover clues to the missing link between high insulin levels and laminitis.
The researchers considered the close similarities between insulin and a growth factor hormone called insulin-like growth factor -1 (IGF-1). There are receptors for IGF-1 on the lamellar cells within the hoof, and the researchers speculated that high concentrations of insulin might be able to cross-stimulate these cells by activating the IGF-1 receptors.
They found that high concentrations of insulin stimulated the cells to proliferate. The changes seemed to occur mainly at very high concentrations of insulin. Similar concentration levels can be seen in ponies and horses with insulin dysregulation linked to Equine Metabolic Syndrome, but are not commonly seen in normal horses that are considered to be at lower risk of laminitis.
Further work is now ongoing to determine exactly how these cellular changes induced by sustained high insulin concentrations might cause laminitis. However, it seems that targeting the IGF-1 receptor may be an option for developing new drugs to prevent and treat laminitis.
The same Australian group have also just published a paper on the influence of dietary restriction and low intensity exercise (10 minutes walking and 15 minutes trotting 5 days per week) compared to dietary restriction alone on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in obese horses and ponies.
The results showed that whilst weight loss was similar between both regimes those horses and ponies that undertook a low intensity exercise program showed significant improvements insulin sensitivity demonstrating the importance of exercise to deliver additional health benefits over and above those seen with dietary restriction alone.
All this research and knowledge places SPILLERS® in a unique position in developing products that are suitable for horses and ponies prone to laminitis, in fact SPILLERS® HAPPY HOOF® has been successfully used in many research trials.
SPILLERS® HAPPY HOOF® is a low calorie, short chopped blend of straw, alfalfa, grass, garlic and rapeseed oil containing all the vitamins and minerals needed for good health. It also contains biotin to support healthy hoof growth and of course is low in sugar and starch.
And for those concerned about molasses SPILLERS® HAPPY HOOF® Molasses-Free is a low calorie fibre blend with garlic and rapeseed oil and no added sugar making the product only 2.0% sugar. It also contains a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals alongside biotin to support hoof growth.
Both are Approved by The Laminitis Trust and can be used as a partial or full hay replacer.
The Laminitis Trust has established an approval mark for horse feeds after consultation with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Approval will be given to feeds which reach certain standards as outlined by the Scientific Committee of the Laminitis Trust.
For free advice on how to help keep your horse safe from laminitis ring a friendly SPILLERS® Care-Line advisor on + 44 (0)1908 226626 or visit www.spillers-feeds.com.