Spring Grass--Laminitis?

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Q: How do I determine how long to allow my horse to graze on green pasture this spring? I have a 20 yr old gelding and an 8 yr old mare...are said to be in good health by our vet.

A: First of all we need to get our terminology straight. Laminitis is what you are trying to prevent by intelligent control of grazing time. Founder is the word that is properly used to describe the physical results of laminitis. Be sure to read my article on laminitis and founder.

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If laminitis is your concern, there are a few rules of thumb that you should concern yourself with. Horses that are worked regularly do not generally get laminitis. Horses that are thin do not generally get laminitis. Horses that are fed a balanced diet do not generally get laminitis.

Watch your horses' weight. Exercise your horses daily. Keep your eye on your horses' crests. If the crest appears to be growing larger than would be considered normal proportions for the neck, and upon palpating the crest you find it is getting extremely firm, your horse should be taken off of the grass.

Your eyes should be your Number One guide. You have to ask yourself, "Is my horse fat?" It has been my observation that very few horse owners have the objectivity to gauge whether their horse is overweight or not. Most feel that their "child" is perfect, especially if it is overweight. Keep telling yourself that excess body fat is at least as detrimental to the horse as it is to a person.

If your horses have been on grass up until now, then the above observations should be taken seriously and you should check your horses daily. If they begin to gain weight or get "cresty" you should decrease their pasture time as much as it takes to maintain a good healthy body condition.

If the horses are just now being introduced to grass, then do not allow them over 3 or 4 hours per day of pasture to begin with for the first month. If they maintain proper body weight and do not appear to be developing crests, you can increase the 3 or 4 hours by one hour each week.

Some horses can tolerate fairly lush pasture full time, while others will founder on a few skimpy blades of green grass. A diligent and observant owner is the best preventative for laminitis.


Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.