HORSE AND pony owners have been reminded to be vigilant about laminitis this autumn.

National pet charity Blue Cross has issued this reminder with tips on preventative steps that owners can take.

Laminitis manifests as inflammation and swelling of the tissues within the hoof, resulting in severe pain and potentially irreversible damage.

Any horse or pony can be susceptible to the pasture-associated form of the disease, but overweight animals are at higher risk and the seasons during which the grass is growing are the most dangerous.

“The combination of sun and rain that we have been experiencing in most of the UK recently, coupled with many horses still out on summer pasture significantly raises the risk factor for laminitis,” said horse welfare supervisor at Blue Cross, Clare Bevins. “Add to the mix the fact that some owners may still be struggling with their horses’ weight given limitations on riding during the pandemic and potentially we have the perfect storm for laminitis.”

Equine owners are urged to consider the following:-

• Restrict grass intake by using electric tape to strip graze. Ponies can survive on very little. Grass is very high in soluble carbohydrates (fructans), which can lead to laminitis if ingested in large amounts, especially in spring and autumn;

• Turning a horse out at night and bringing it in during the day can help as there are less fructans in the grass at night;

• Do not turn a horse out on lush or frosted grass;

• Try to work with the landowner to decrease the sugary ryegrasses and clover in the sward and allow more traditional grasses and herbs to flourish;

• Turn out a group of ponies that need the same management together. This will minimise stress, keep them occupied and allow them to carry out normal behaviours whilst still being restricted;

• Monitor your horse’s diet carefully and remember to feed in accordance to workload and type. Dieting ponies and horses should be given around 1.25-1.5 per cent of their body weight in food – this includes any grass and hay intake;

• Follow the rule of feeding little and often. This mimics the horse’s natural feeding pattern and will help keep the digestive system working correctly. It will also satisfy the horse’s need to chew and prevents boredom;

• Never starve a horse or pony as this can lead to serious health problems such as hyperlipaemia and only feed high fibre, low carbohydrate and low sugar products;

• Maintain a good exercise programme to prevent obesity;

• Ensure a farrier attends every four to five weeks, to keep your horse’s feet in optimum condition;

• Check the horse’s digital pulses daily as changes can then be detected quickly and the appropriate action can be taken.