If you have a horse who is prone to laminitis, no doubt you spent the spring and summer carefully limiting his access to lush grass. But don’t let your guard down just because the pasture is starting to die back. Fall can be a high-risk time for horses prone to this devastating condition.
Two seasonal factors can lead to laminitis in the fall: a re-greening of pastures by rains after a period of summer drought, and shorter hours of daylight, which trigger the hormonal changes that physiologically prepare a horse for winter. All horses undergo these hormonal changes, but in those with metabolic disorders, such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), the fluctuations can be extreme, setting the stage for laminitis.
If your horse has a history of laminitis, it’s safest to limit his grazing just as much in the fall as you do in the spring. He may need to wear a grazing muzzle when turned out on pasture, or you can move him to a dry lot, well away from any grass. If your horse has PPID, ask your veterinarian to run tests periodically to make sure his medication is keeping his hormone levels balanced.
Even if your horse has never had laminitis or PPID, take seriously any foot soreness that appears in the fall months and ask your veterinarian to investigate without delay.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #456, September 2015.