Laminitis is a common issue in ponies and horses. It is essential to understand what it is before managing it.

We’ve asked our nutrition expert from Bishop Burton College to answer common questions on Laminitis and explain the importance of forage to minimise Laminitis.

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis is a painful condition involving a metabolic disturbance that has manifested locally in the foot. Specifically, it is an inflammation of the laminae. Laminae are structures inside the hoof wall which help hold the pedal bone in place.

Due to the weight-bearing nature of the hoof, this inflammation is extremely painful. It is usually identified by lameness. In more severe and untreated cases it can result in a dropping/rotation of the pedal bone, which can even penetrate the sole of the foot.

How does it come about?

Unfortunately, native ponies and other good doers are more prone to developing Laminitis. Their bodies evolved to survive on harsh moorlands over winters when good grazing was scarce and so became highly effective in metabolising fibre. Therefore, the lush pasture often provided at farms and livery is too rich for them and contains much higher sugar levels than their systems can manage. Some of the more problematic sugars are complex structures called fructans which plants like grass use to grow.

For these native types, hard feeds that are high in sugar will also have an impact.

How can we minimise laminitis

Avoiding high-sugar feeds has been made easier by companies offering hard feeds aimed at good-doers. However, managing forage provisions can still be challenging.

The ideal strategy is to use an analysis company to identify if your grassland/hay/haylage sugar content is lower than 10% (which is what you need for laminitic ponies). If your forage is higher than 10% sugar, then you should consider restricting grazing, such as:

  • using a muzzle
  • track grazing system
  • strip grazing system
  • using an area for exercise that is without pasture and supplementing with a conserved forage instead

Sugar Content in grass is usually lower overnight as it is not absorbing sunlight, so turning out at these times can also help.

If your haylage is too high in sugar, consider a lower energy forage. Baillie Haylage High Fibre, Traditional Parkland Meadow, or Meadow Grass (all 4-7% sugar). Baillie Haylage is all analysed, batch coded and fully traceable, meaning you can feed your laminitic with complete confidence.

For best practice on managing laminitics through feeding regimes, follow the link to Managing A Laminitis Prone Horse or Pony.

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