Horse owners often think of laminitis as being a springtime problem, but fall is actually the time of year when horses are most at risk. This is due to two factors: high NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) levels from cooler night time temperatures and increased ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) secretion from the pituitary gland.
Hormonal and Metabolic Risk Factors
In the fall, horses’ pituitary glands naturally produce more ACTH which stimulates the release of cortisol (stress hormone). In turn, cortisol acts to increase insulin production, and increased insulin levels are tied to increased laminitis risk. It’s important to note that all horses experience a spike in ACTH in the fall, usually starting around mid-August and lasting until November or December, but horses that already have elevated ACTH levels due to metabolic conditions are more likely to develop laminitis.
Acute laminitis is often obvious with a horse displaying the “sawhorse” or “camped out” stance or displaying severe lameness, but more subtle signs may include:
- strong digital pulse
- heat in the hoof
- increased heart rate
- hoof rings
- shortened stride
If your horse displays any of these symptoms, time is of the essence; contact your veterinarian and take immediate action to prevent worsening symptoms.
Preventing Fall Laminitis
There are several preventative measures horse owners can take to reduce fall laminitis risk for their horses. For one, ensure that your pasture is healthy and not stressed. If grass does become stressed from drought or overgrazing, moving horses off of it will be imperative. Additionally, avoid grazing horses on cool morning grass or after high rainfalls which are typically followed by a regrowth period. For at-risk horses, using a grazing muzzle can limit grass intake and reduce laminitis risk as well.
Natural Supplements for At-Risk Horses
The Holistic Horse has several products which can help in both the prevention and treatment of fall laminitis:
Organic ChasteBerry Powder: This herb gently and effectively supports the normal functioning of the pituitary gland, correcting hormonal disturbances. Chasteberry is a safe alternative to Pergolide, a drug which can cause liver damage if used long term.
Organic Cinnamon Powder: This well-known herb can help metabolic horses by enabling cells to recognize and respond to insulin. Additionally, cinnamon acts as a powerful antioxidant which can have additional benefits for laminitic horses.
Osoleen—Support for Glucose Metabolism in Horses: Part of our line of Signature Line Formulas, Osoleen is a unique formula designed to aid in resetting your horse’s insulin metabolism and support healthy metabolic function. The blend includes the organic ingredients: cinnamon sweet (ceylon), ginger, fenugreek, Gymnema Sylvestre, chromium picolinate, magnesium citrate, and stevia.
Su-Per Mag Pro Powder: For metabolic horses, sufficient magnesium intake is essential for normal recreation of insulin and the uptake of glucose. These horses may display a “cresty neck” or fat pads in other regions of the body, all related to magnesium deficiency. Supplementing with magnesium can help break down these fat deposits.
Remember that quick treatment is critical for horses suffering from fall laminitis, but many can and do recover. However, once a horse has experienced a laminitic episode, proper lifelong management will be needed to prevent relapses.