Who Needs to Come off the Grass?
The situation most people find themselves in is where keeping their horse on a green paddock all year round is their only option and we are here to help.
This doesn’t mean it is ideal.
We need to clarify a few points.
It is obvious that when horses suffer laminitis they have to be kept in a totally green grass free living environment all year-round. This is where access to grass-free tracks or dry lots is essential to their management.
The next category are horses who need to come off grass immediately to resolve the issues, but who may be able to have carefully managed access to suitable grass once their metabolism has returned to normal.
We are referring to HS (head-shaking/flicking) horses, the majority of SIJ (Sacro-Iliac Joint) horses, the majority of horses suspected of PSSM (Poly-Saccharide-Storage Myopathy and all its variants) plus those who are prone to dangerous behaviour and horses with EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome).
Looking at the statistics behind our facebook page, the posts that garner the most engagement are those pertaining to horses with EMS. Clearly this is of great concern to a large number of horse owners.
The thing about EMS, is that it is a metabolic disorder which is too often underestimated in its seriousness.
EMS is a ‘PHENOTYPE’, (a collection of observable traits), where these traits are actually determined by ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS.
Most EMS horses are over-weight however many are not, but they are all distinguishable by their ‘lumpy look’ with their ‘cresty’ necks and the extra ‘fat’ pads above the tail-head, behind shoulders and on the sides of the rump. They are prone to ‘puffiness’ in general, swollen sheaths and edemas.
EMS horses will develop laminitis if the right living conditions are not strictly adhered to.
On the scale of things, EMS is relatively easy to ‘fix’ – compared to actual laminitis or head-shaking for instance, even though it has the same basic cause – that being prolonged exposure to inappropriate forage, usually vegetative (short or lush) green grass especially when riddled with clover or when Lucerne/alfalfa is fed as well.
Therefore we would definitely include EMS in the category of horses who need to live in the dry, semi-arid environment ensured by having a ‘dry lot’ option available. Doing so is the most conducive to reversing the signs and having the horse’s metabolism return to normal functioning. THEN access to mature grass can be customised to the individual.
There is no doubt, horses do develop a wide array of issues when exposed to green grass all year round. Many owners don’t realise this, and therefore don’t make the necessary changes to the diet/environment. Instead, they end up going down the slippery slope of endless and expensive investigations.
Having been caught in the same trap we know how easy it is to end up spending a lot of money ruling out all the least likely possible causes of the horse’s issues while inadvertently missing the real reason.
Alarmingly, many horses are put to sleep without aspects of their diet and environment ever even being considered as a possible cause!
It is vital for the future of horses, that the fundamental needs of the species become better understood.
Having an albeit small, arid-environment available in the form of some kind of suitably sized dry lot or track available solves nearly all the problems seen in our domestic horses.
It will be interesting to see more such facilities appearing from now on as demand increases.