Autumn is in the Air

and with it, laminitis…

No, you are not hallucinating! The title is indeed very familiar and refers back to the last available published article, Spring is in the Air.  Many people associate laminitis with the spring and it is probably true to say that the majority of (acute) cases and probably the most severe occur in springtime. Restricted or often no turn-out during the winter followed by exposure to new grass is one of the major triggers for laminitis. With the onset of autumn, these susceptible horses are exposed to conditions similar to the winter/spring exposure; during the summer, they have been feeding on sufficiently rich food that they maintain their sugar levels only to be hammered by the peaks presented by the autumn grasses that, as in the spring, don’t have quite the right conditions to put all the sugars to good use (growth).

However, when we look at the “problem” seriously, it is less laminitis and more the owners that are the danger to the horse. Owners that don’t follow advice, owners that are too embroiled in traditions, owners that consider that they know better, owners that are quite simply bloody-minded!!!

Granted, some cases of laminitis are the result of an accident: the horse breaks out and gorges itself on the stock of chicken feed next door, for instance; others are simply owner ignorance: the horse is overfed on the wrong types of food during the winter, at the same time it is confined to a box 22 hours a day and on the first sunny day of spring, is turned out into the lushest field of rye grass in the whole of Northern Europe! For the whole day…

It is at this point that we get called in… vet and trimmer now working together – or maybe even against each other – to try and get the horse back on track. Not wishing to tar all vets with the same brush, but some – and I can name quite a few – consider shoeing, box-rest and phenylbutazone to be the answer (and we can present all the arguments as to why this is not the route to take). We will take the steps that we as professionals consider essential to get the horse back to normal as quickly as possible but we must have the cooperation of the owner – and that is where it all so often falls down.

The horse must move, must be kept off grain and cereal foods, must not be locked-up at night… And this regime must continue after the horse has recovered. And yet, how many owners revert to their old ways, locking the horse up for up to 22 hours a day, returning to the “two-meals-a-day” commercial food routine with ineffectual balancers, mixers and the o-so-deadly grains and cereals. Even compacted feeds based upon grasses are unacceptable – they cause an imbalance in the continuous digestion of the horse and disrupt the natural working of the intestines. Unfortunately, owners are all too susceptible to the marketing claims of the manufacturers and the back-up of the equine dietary specialists whose research is almost invariably sponsored by the feed manufacturers.

And then the problem rears its ugly head again…and again and again. Sheer bloody-mindedness of the owner puts the horse at risk, initially every spring and autumn and eventually the whole year around – year in, year out.

I would like to say, if you know someone like this with a horse in a similar situation, help them see the error of their ways; but the sad reality is, they will seldom believe you, or they will say “yes, yes, I know…” followed by the inevitable “…but!”

Finally, let me just emphasise once again, I do not wish to tar all vets, nor all owners, with the same brush…


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