Buttons has laminitis. On Thursday night I led him out of his stable and thought he looked a bit foot sore on the frozen ground. I tied him up outside and watched him standing, he had that weight shifted back laminitic pose. Walking, he is 'footy' it is most noticeable on asking him to turn. He seemed down and was obviously sore. I later found out he had been reluctant to come out of his stable on Thursday morning. That's not like Buttons, he's normally half way to the field before you have even finished fastening his head collar. The vet has advised 2 weeks box rest with anti inflammatories and a sugar free diet. Shetland ponies apparently don't react well to Danilon so I have decided to treat this to start with homeopathically.
I really couldn't understand it. Buttons weight is brilliant this year, he's the slimmest he has ever been since he's been with us. If you clipped off all that hair, there's actually a very small pony underneath. Both Buttons and Wolfie are on low sugar feeds. Unmollassed chaff, speedi beat and a general purpose supplement is all Buttons gets, and even then it is a handful, a token to make him think he is getting something. He gets a small amount of hay. Nothing has changed in his feeding regime, he has not had access to gorge. I have really only heard of laminitis in the winter as a secondary condition caused by something else. The vet believes it has been caused by the sugars in the frozen grass. I knew frozen grass was not good, but I was not aware of how dangerous it actually was.
'A chilly and bright morning with frosty grass often creates horse feed that triggers laminitis, because frozen grass becomes high in fructans from the chemical reaction of the frozen grass to sunlight. Sunlight causes the grass to produce sucrose, a sugar needed for the grass to grow. However, when there is frost, the grass doesn’t grow, instead storing extra sucrose as fructans. The horse’s digestive system treats these fructans as carbohydrates or grains, and — the grass turns the fructans into. Fructans are a carbohydrate that occurs in horse feed and leads to digestive issues.
Cold, sunny days are dangerous for horse diets, because sunlight spurs grass to produce sucrose, a sugar needed for its growth. However, grass does not grow in cold temperatures, so it stores the excess sucrose as fructans. Fructans can cause laminitis because the horse’s body treats them as carbohydrates or grains.'
Many of us with laminitic horses look forward to when our pastures die so that we can turn them out longer each day. We have learned that near freezing nights in fall can cause sugars to sky rocket, so horses at high risk for laminitis should be pulled off grass during this time. Many people ask ‘when is it safe to graze?’ Like many others things concerning management of laminitic horses, I learned this the hard way. One year in mid December, I turned my ponies out on a grass paddock that was nearly all dead. By the second day, they were sore footed again! Because they were barefoot at the time, I called my farrier, Gene Ovnecik to ask who could come down to put their therapeutic support shoes back on. He told me that his own chronic laminitis cases recently got sore on dead grass. So I asked him to send me some of the grass in a cooler on ice; which I froze as soon as it arrived. I also started sampling some of the dead grass in my research plots. Some of the samples still had some green, living tissue at the stem bases even though it had been below 0 F. Stem bases are a storage organ for sugars in grass, so this will have the highest concentration of sugar. I sent the frozen samples overnight with dry ice to Dairy One for analysis. Any live, green tissue must be kept frozen to preserve the sugar because otherwise the sugar might respire or ferment during shipment, giving you much lower test result, and a false sense of security. The results were quite surprising. This dead grass had some of the highest WSC concentrations I had ever seen.
Water Soluble Carbs will not wash out of grass until it is completely dead and brown. Then you have to have enough rain or melting snow after it’s completely dead to leach the sugar out. Until then, please take care with your high risk horses. Proceed with caution, and allow them to acclimate slowly, just as you would if it were June. It might be best to assume that any green grass that has been subjected to repeated freezing nights is candy - full of sugar, even if there is snow on top. If it’s still green, the rain/snow cannot leach out the sugar.'
Has Buttons had laminitis before, I don't know. I've always battled to try and keep his weight down and worried particularly at the 'dangerous' spring and autumn months, this however is the first time he has shown any signs of laminitis. Do I blame myself? Yes. I always try and give 110% to them both and always try and do my very best for them, but this time, my best was not enough. We've had hard frost again this week and periods of sunshine.
He's coping well with box rest, for the moment. He's now on a shavings bed as opposed to straw, which is a dream come true for him. He loves rolling in shavings and can be frequently seen sneaking into anyone's stable that has the door left open and a shavings bed for a quick roll. He's already much more comfortable standing and he's willingly moving around inside the stable. He's getting hay that has been soaked for in excess of 12 hours, fast fibre and happy hoof all in measured amounts, split into 3 tiny feeds a day. He doesn't understand, but is coping better than I thought he would. Buttons loves turn out and he loves the company of his hareem of mares every day. Before he came to us, he was frequently locked in a massive stable with no bedding, food or water. He couldn't see over the door and could be in there for up to a week at a time. I don't know if he's ever had laminitis before, these little horses are predisposed to it, but metabolically after everything he has endured in the past, it wouldn't surprise me, thinking of it now, it maybe has made him even more susceptible. He's heart broken as he can't have his beloved carrots. The farrier is coming up this week to have a look at his feet. Everyone is going out of their way to stop and say hello to him when they are passing and I will do everything I possibly can to get the little man back on his feet.
Susan and Zoe came up today and Buttons was given lots of TLC being groomed and scratched and fussed over. He loved every second of it.
Buttons has decided that he doesn't get enough blog time on Wolfie's blog, so he's going to have his very own blog. I'll keep you posted as to when Pony Tale is up and running.