Laminitis is typically associated with lush spring pasture, but the risk of this devastating hoof condition rises again in the fall when pastures rebound from heat and drought. This means that any horses you may have been concerned about in the springtime—those who are overweight, have a history of laminitis or have pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, also called Cushing’s)—warrant the same attention in the fall. You may need to outfit those horses with grazing muzzles again or return them to dry lots until grass goes dormant for the winter months.
If you think your horse might have PPID, this is a good time to test for it. Equine hormone levels fluctuate seasonally, which can confound some tests of pituitary function. However, advances in the understanding of normal hormonal increases in the fall have made the resting adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test a good option. If you’re uncertain about your older horse’s metabolic status or would like to confirm that treatment is working, talk to your veterinarian about arranging an ACTH test in the next few weeks.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #469, October 2016.