The weird and wonderful UK weather so far this summer has meant an influx of grass, which is great for some horse owners, but for those of you with a laminitic, it can be a real worry!
Why should grass intake be restricted?
Research carried out in collaboration with the Waltham Centre for pet nutrition, has shown that ponies with unlimited turnout can consume up to 5% of their bodyweight in grass per day, which for a 350kg pony means 1.3kg of simple sugar contributing to a total of 9kg of water soluble carbohydrate (WSC = sugar + fructan) from grass alone, at certain times of the year.
How can grass intake be reduced?
- Grazing muzzles - research has reported grass intake has been reduced by up to 80%. Muzzles should always be well fitted and make sure your horse or pony can drink easily. They should only be left on for up to 12 hours and watch out for signs of bullying from others in the field.
- Strip Grazing - a handy tip is to remember to back fence to avoid paddocks continually getting bigger. Also make sure your thick skinned friend does not simply push their head through – these cases may require a double fence!
- Bare paddocks – it can be worrying when the field looks bare, but as long as your horse or pony has their head down eating, and is passing droppings they are definitely finding something to nibble on!
- Ménages or bark paddocks – most useful when grass intake has to be removed completely, remember to supplement with soaked hay/hay replacer so they are not starved!
Why should hay be soaked?
Ideally forage and forage replacers should contain less than 10% (dry matter) WSC but be warned regardless of age, look, smell of hay, you cannot be sure of its content. Further research has shown soaking hay in tepid water for 12-16hours (reducing to 6 hours in warmer temperatures) can reduce WSC by up to 50%. However, soaking is not an exact science and some hay can be higher than 20% WSC to begin with, meaning even a reduction of 50% will not meet the ideal level.
Forage analysis is the only true way to determine WSC content. Haylage should not be soaked due to potential bacteria build up and haylage specifically advertised as ‘safe for lamintics’ again cannot be guaranteed without accompanying analysis. Alternatively you could provide a hay replacer approved by the Laminitis Trust, such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® or SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free.
What is a ‘healthy’ condition score for my laminitic?
It is important that your horse or pony maintains a healthy body condition score, we do not want them to be overweight, nor do we want to starve them. We recommend body condition scoring scoring on a scale of 1-9, aiming for a score of 4.5-5.
If your horse or pony maintains weight on forage alone, consider a balancer, which provides all of the vitamins, minerals and quality protein they need, without causing weight gain. On the other hand if more calories are needed, look for fibre based feeds which are low in starch and sugar.
Prevention is better than cure and although you may still be mucking out whilst others are turning out for the summer, careful management can help to ensure you and your horse still enjoy those warm evening rides.