As much as we’ve all been enjoying the recent tropical weather, the rain and cooler temperatures are inevitable. Unfortunately, this will bring some potential issues for our equine friends with it. This is mostly down to good old ‘Dr. Green’. Over the last few months the grass has been poor due to the heat and lack of rain but as soon as the rain comes there will be a ‘flush’ of grass. Especially as, for the next few months, the temperatures for the rest of summer and autumn will stay fairly warm.
When a flush of grass comes there is unfailingly an increase in the amount of colic cases that we see. The increase in good quality grass that is consumed by a horse causes an increase in the amount of gas within the intestines due to the fermentation process. This can lead to ‘gassy’ and ‘spasmodic’ colic. These are normally treated relatively easily with medication, but it is still best avoided.
It’s not news that laminitis is more prevalent when there is more of the green stuff about. In the majority of laminitic cases there is an underlying metabolic disease process e.g. Cushings and/or Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Grass alone is rarely the sole cause. It is, however, a trigger factor that can induce a bout of laminitis.
If we have a flush of grass take precautions to reduce the chance of your horse getting colic or laminitis:
- Strip grazing to limit the amount of rich grass your horse can eat each day.
- Using bare or starvation paddocks and supplementing with hay. (Please note that short grass that is growing is still rich).
- Feeding hay prior to turnout so your horse has a full stomach and doesn’t ‘gorge’ on the grass.
- Grazing muzzles are very useful (Tip: have two or three different makes that you can change every few days to prevent rubs).
- Reducing the period of time your horse has access to grass, however be aware that studies have shown that horses on limited turnout learn this and are able to eat large amounts of grass in a short period of time, so still avoid very lush paddocks.
- In the cases of laminitis insuring that Cushings and/or EMS are well controlled (blood tests).
- Reducing the calories elsewhere (especially for the laminitis risk) but reducing hard feed and hay rations. You can also soak the hay and/or use older hay.
None of these strategies are guaranteed to prevent your horses, ponies or donkeys from suffering from colic or laminitis so if you have any questions, concerns or think they are suffering from either please do not hesitate to contact us.