Spring is here and it’s once again that time of year when laminitis becomes a much-used word around horse enthusiasts. To help, the SEIB Horse Insurance team have collated some of their tips to try to help you keep laminitis at bay.

What is laminitis?

Laminitis is a very painful hoof condition and often the result of too much rich spring grass for your horse or pony. The lamini – nerve endings at the toe (or front of) the hoof become inflamed from an excess of rich/sugary food and walking is made very painful. To put it in perspective, laminitis for your pony is not dissimilar in effect to the pain caused by gout in humans.

How to treat laminitis?

Prevention of laminitis is far better than cure. Once a horse or pony has had laminitis, he will generally be more prone to getting it again. If your horse or pony gets laminitis, it is likely he will need to see the vet.

Here are some tips to help manage laminitis:

Set-up strip Grazing

Restricting the amount of lush – sugary - grass your horse or pony has access to, is a great way of helping him avoid getting laminitis. This can be done through setting up a ‘strip’ along one side of the field that is fenced using electric tape. Each day – or if the area is large – every few days, once the grass in his area has been eaten down, move the electric fence over a few feet to allow him a strip of new grass.

Reward with treat toys

If your horse or pony is being restricted in the amount of grass he has access to, treat toys can be a great way of keeping him entertained. A popular toy is a plastic ‘ball’ with a small hole in, in which a carrot or treat is placed. The horse moves and nuzzles the ball until the treat falls out and he gets to eat it. If you have a handy tree in the field, hanging a turnip from it using baler twine is another toy that may entertain your horse or pony.

Ensure plenty of exercise

Life for potentially laminitic horses or ponies is not too dissimilar to that of humans that like their food. More exercise results in the ability to eat more food. Even if this means you lunge your horse or pony every other day, it may mean he can have that little bit more to eat each day.

Keep an eye on his ‘crest’ and feet

It is often suggested that ponies that develop a thick crest along the top of their neck during spring are more likely to develop laminitis. Ponies gain weight quickly from eating spring grass, but once this extends to their crest thickening and becoming more prominent they may be at increased risk of laminitis. It can also be useful to feel your horse or pony’s front feet each day at this time of year. If they start to feel warmer than usual, this can be a sign that some pre-laminitis changes are taking place and so it is time to keep him away from any rich grass.

How long does laminitis take to get better?

Each horse is different, largely because many horses who have laminitis also have additional underlying medical problems such as Cushings or Metabolic Syndrome.

The standard advice is strict box rest for 30 days after the horse is able to move around the stable freely. Again though, this will vary hugely on the condition and some horses may need longer term box rest. Ongoing management will likely last for the rest of the horse’s life once they have an initial bout of laminitis.

About SEIB

SEIB have been providing insurance for horses for over 50 years. This experience allows us to tailor policies to suit your circumstances and ensure that you and your horses are covered should the worst happen. If you’d like advice on your insurance please call us on 01708 850000.