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Spring! 3 ways to help prevent laminitis

Updated: Mar 14

If your pony or horse is prone to laminitis, you're probably feeling some anxiety about this coming Spring, especially in combination with a wet season. We can expect very fast pasture growth as temperatures increase.


Back in the old days it was common to use a 'Jenny Craig Paddock' - or dirt lot to limit grazing, but this method limits movement. It can also cause distress for ponies separated from their herd, increasing cortisol, which contributes to laminitis.


Here are 3 ways that you can help to limit grazing without limiting movement.


1. Strip grazing

Strip grazing involves using temporary electric fencing to incrementally increase the amount of pasture that a horse or pony has access to.





Recent studies show that ponies on a strip do not move less than ponies in an open paddock, but access to pasture is much reduced.


Restricting grass intake is an essential part of many weight management programmes. Having shown in a previous study that strip grazed ponies gain significantly less weight than ponies with free access to restricted grazing over a 28-day period, SPILLERS and their research collaborators set out to discover whether eating less as a result of strip grazing also means moving less in the field.


“The results of both studies showed that the strip grazed ponies moved just as much as the unrestricted ponies,” said Clare Barfoot RNutr, Marketing and Research and Development Director at Mars Horsecare UK, home of the SPILLERS brand. “Similar amounts of time were spent grazing, standing and locomoting (which included walking, trotting and cantering) within the different groups and encouragingly, performance of behaviours related to stress and frustration were low in both studies too.”

A. Cameron et al




2. Paddock Paradise


'Paddock Paradise" is a term coined by Jaime Jackson after he studied the grazing and travel habits of wild horses. It is similar to strip grazing in that lanes are created, usually with temporary electric fencing, but in a loop, so that horses do not reach the end and stop, but keep moving around the loop, increasing movement but decreasing grazing.


This can also assist with the herd dynamics and separation anxiety. A laminitic-prone pony turned out in the loop can still graze alongside their herd which may graze unrestricted in the centre part of the paddock.


Paddock Paradise enthusiasts can also 'passively condition' hooves by adding different surfaces to the lane, like water or gravel or sand, which helps hooves become accustomed to these surfaces.






3. Grazing Muzzles


Both of the above methods include some investment in step-in posts, electric tape and chargers - as well as the investment in time setting up.


A cheaper method is fitting a grazing muzzle. This means the pony or horse whose grazing you are trying to restrict can be turned out with the herd.


Ponies locked up most of the time but turned out for part of the day can often adapt by vastly increasing pasture intake in a grazing window.


Pasture intake by the ponies grazing for three hours without muzzles averaged 0.8 per cent (with some eating close to 1 per cent) of their bodyweight, which is the equivalent of up to two thirds of the recommended daily dry matter intake for many ponies on restricted diets.

Owners therefore may under-estimate pasture intakes of un-muzzled ponies, even when they are provided with restricted time at pasture.

In contrast, the pasture intake of the ponies when wearing muzzles was around 0.14 per cent of bodyweight over three hours, representing an average reduction of 83 per cent compared to when they were not wearing muzzles.

Longland




Sound Advice Horse Heallth was the first business to import Ezy Breathe muzzles into Australia, back in the early 2000s, however, now that they are readily available at a reasonable price, both online and in retail stores, we have stopped carrying them. There are also more muzzle styles available these days.


We encourage you make sure your muzzle is well-fitted and to introduce a muzzle slowly to prevent chafing. We do not encourage total exclusion of grazing by use of a muzzle (ie covering the gaps).




References:



Endocrinopathic laminitis in the horse

Volume 3, Issue 1, March 2004, Pages 45-56


https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1534751604000307#:~:text=Protracted%20laminitis%20and%20the%20resultant,persistence%20and%20refractoriness%20of%20laminitis.


The effect of strip grazing on physical activity and behaviour in ponies.

A Cameron, A Longland, T Pfau, S Pinnegar, I Brackston, J Hockenhull, PA Harris, NJ Menzies-Gow. (2021).

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, (2022) 110, 103745.


Paddock Paradise - A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding

Jaime Jackson 2016 ISBN: 9780965800785


Effectiveness of grazing muzzles confirmed in research

Dr Annette Longland Waltham Equine Studies Group, June 2011

https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2011/06/121.shtml


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