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If horses are still out in the pasture in the late autumn, when the nights are getting cold, the risk of laminitis becomes significantly elevated. This is particularly due to the prevalence of undetected dysbiosis in the large intestine. This indicates shifts in the microflora, leading to the growth of microorganisms that are uncommon in wild horses or exist in minute quantities.

These erroneous microbes can trigger a sudden drop in pH, contributing to laminitis, particularly when fructan levels in the grass are elevated.

Fructan levels tend to rise, especially in pastures with modern cultivated grasses, coupled with sunny days and chilly nights.

Conditions like stressed grass, resulting from excessive dryness or moisture, or when the pasture is subjected to intense trampling (too many horses on too small of an area) or gnawing (“golf lawn pastures”), can lead to heightened fructan production. Stress also triggers an increase in endophytes within the grasses, which produce toxic substances harmful to horses and capable of inducing laminitis.

Exercise caution with concentrated feeds, mashes, and other feed types rich in easily digestible carbohydrates such as starch and/or sugar. Many leisure horses, particularly robust and baroque breeds, grapple with (unrecognised) insulin resistance.

Swift spikes in blood sugar levels due to sugar-laden or cereal-containing feeds can trigger acute laminitis, while daily administration of small amounts of concentrated feed can lead to chronic laminitis.

Such situations hinder horses from returning to normal blood sugar levels, ultimately resulting in chronic damage to hoof and kidney capillaries.

Feeding large amounts of carrots (exceeding 2-3 per day) also becomes a trend at the start of winter. While an occasional carrot offers some nice variety to the diet, mass feeding is unsuitable.

Due the high sugar content of carrots (up to 10%), they are especially problematic for horses with undiagnosed insulin resistance. Additionally, the pectin they contain can foster the growth of acid-producing microorganisms within the large intestine, contributing to acidification and dysbiosis, and potentially leading to chronic laminitis.

Hence, as autumn arrives and winter approaches, it becomes paramount to embrace species-appropriate feeding for maintaining equine health. Essential elements include consistent access to high-quality, lean hay. Ideally, horses should be offered 2-3 kg of hay per 100 kg of body weight daily, allowing for consumption over a 24-hour period.

Straw and twigs/branches to nibble on can also be offered. As temperatures drop and meadows deteriorate, grazing must be approached cautiously. Transitioning to a dry lot or paddock with adequate hay supply is advisable to prevent overexposure to pastures. A good mineral feed (e.g. OKAPI Pure Minerals G) and salt lick complement the basic feed. Furthermore, uninterrupted access to water is crucial (note that horses with stomach issues may drink less in cold weather due to discomfort from cold water).

By ending grazing in a timely manner and embracing a species-appropriate winter diet, you can guide your horse through autumn and winter, safeguarding against laminitis.

Should early signs of laminitis manifest, immediate consultation with a knowledgeable veterinarian and metabolic therapist is essential. Timely implementation of appropriate measures increases the likelihood of a swift and complete recovery.