Horse Pastures, Cool Weather And Laminitis Explained

Horse Pastures, Cool Weather and Laminitis explained

Cool spring weather brings in new green grass but what about the fall? Those cool weather days also bring in new green grass. So how does that relate to the horses’ diet?

Most horse owners know about the dangers of eating too much new spring grass, but have you thought much about the fall weather grass? Yes, horses can founder on both. With the abundance of rain and sunshine this year, you may find yourself mowing your lawn every 5 days. How about your pastures?

Fall is the time to fertilize and lime your pastures. If you do, keep your horses off for several weeks, not just days. We are thankful for all that good green grass, but with it comes limitation for horse grazing.

It has been known for many years that lush pastures can cause laminitis and founder in susceptible horses. According to a popular farrier publication editor, Fran Jurga, scientists have identified fructans as the culprit in grass that causes horses to founder.

IMG_9554 Chubby Horses on lush cool pasture.JPG

During the day, plants carry on photosynthesis and produce sugar. In grasses, these sugars are stored as carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose and fructans. During sunny days, horses can be grazing on pastures that are high in carbs. At night, the plants use the carbs to produce plant tissue. Therefore, carb levels are lowest at dawn. Fructans are a form of carbohydrate stored by grass. Seeds store energy as starch, grasses store energy as fructans.

Problems can arise when stress slows the growth of the grasses and the plants do not use the carbs produced during the day. This condition can develop during the SPRING (and FALL), when falling nighttime temps and frost can shut down the plants.  If the frosty nights are followed by warm, sunny days, fructan levels can accumulate quickly in the grass blades.  Grazing grasses high in fructan levels can trigger a situation in horses very similar to carb overload caused by overeating grain.  Increased carb and fructan levels can set off a series of metabolic disturbances in the horses’ intestines, potentially resulting in colic and laminitis. Until more research is done, it appears that fructans are the likely cause of grass induced laminitis or founder in horses.

Courtesy of the Tribute Equine Nutrition:

Laminitis is the inflammation of the sensitive structures in the hoof called the “lamellae.”  The lamellae hold the coffin bone tight within the hoof horn.  This condition is extremely painful and can lead to rotation of the coffin bone known as founder. A common cause of laminitis is overconsumption of pasture grass, especially when the grass is actively growing, typically in the spring or after a good rain – AND IN THE FALL. Nutritional causes are related to high intake of sugar and starch also from grain mixes high in cereal grains and molasses.

Minimizing the horses’ sugar and starch per meal is the best way to prevent or manage laminitis.  Once a horse has signs of laminitis, nutrition will always be an important factor in continuing a long healthy life.



Dr. Dan, the Natural Vet of Tennessee describes it this way:

Just so you also fully understand – molasses IS SUGAR. Both cause insulin spikes, subsequent insulin resistance from over-production by the body, hypothyroid, Cushing’s horses, etc. Sugar highs and sugar lows are the culprits. Feeding corn and sugar at the morning meal is like us eating donuts and candy for breakfast. These high sugar levels wear the pancreas out. The pancreas produces insulin to handle the sugar and then later in the day, the sugar low causes tremendous stress on the body because the body is starving to death. This hypoglycemia also wears out the adrenals (glands that handle stress) and eventually hypothyroidism, Cushing’s (from over production of adrenal glands), and laminitis, as well as metabolic issues of all types can results. Heck, the body is “just flat worn out” from the stress.

All commercial feeds are produced to “hit the middle of the road’ when it comes to vitamin and mineral fortification.

Buck McColl of Mobile Milling Bio-Zin:

Read your feed tag carefully. Have your pasture soil tested. Compare the quality of your pastures to what your horse really needs in a supplement.  Ask your farrier about your personal horse’s hoof quality.

From the Farriers’ National Research Center

Some horses react to all the above, and some don’t. You need to watch out for those easy keepers who seem to always be heavier. Going back to helping the hooves stay dry, put your horses in a dry lot or stalled overnight, let out about noon till 9pm or dark and they will have better hooves and stay on a better-balanced diet as well.

We offer a Nutritional Information Class and DVD for our farrier students and horse owns are welcome. The information comes to us from many Professional Equine Nutritionists who study the subject for living. It is part of our daily business, helping horses stay healthy with healthier hooves to stand on.

After all…”A Healthy Horse = A Happy Owner”   Villanow, Georgia  (706)397-8909 for appointments

Check out our other “Healthy Hoof Care Articles for Horse Owners”


Saddle Fit Class


Our Farrier Education includes clinics on "How To Better Serve Your Customers" and improve your overall horse knowledge. Link Casey, offered a "Saddle Fit Class" for a ladies riding club. Enjoyed by all who were already experienced riders with good horses. One needed an all new saddle & pad to fit properly and others just needed an adjustment or two. The infrared FLIR camera used showed the 'inside' of the story. What might be blamed on shoeing could actually be a saddle fit problem and vica-versa.
Click here to check out slideshows of the course!

Horse Owners/Riders LOVE our EFT Course!

  • Equine Massage
  • Flexing & identifying stress points
  • Proper Saddle Fit
  • Farrier knowledge on "Trimming" and "shoing" needs
  • Handling, the horse physiologically 
  • Visual by our Thermal Imaging to see what the problem is

All helps us in Solving The Problem!
The Fact that this is included in the Farrier Courses at the FNRC & Casey's Horseshoeing School is even Better!!!!

(Not offered at any other horseshoeing school)

Six Simple Steps for Controlling and Exercising your Horse

Not every horse can be an all-around horse, but with the training program utilized by Dan Marcum, the ultimate goal is to produce a horse that is calm, willing, supple and able to perform well in whatever discipline he is suited for.

Many of the horses started with Marcum can easily walk, trot and canter with control at the end of 30 days. In the next month, the "Six Warm Up Exercises" are introduced Marcum has developed a series of movements that teach the horse balance and lateral work. Dan’s Equine Flexion Therapy (EFT) aids in the overall wellbeing and performance of each horse. He has been very successful and appreciated by his clients !

Step 1: Walk on A Circle

The horse should travel in a large circle with both front and back feet traveling in the same track. All angles of the steps should be the same. The key is to use inside pressure with a dominant outside rein and gentle rhythmic tugs to keep the head down. The goal is to raise the horse's back, lower his head, and turn with the outside rein.

Step 2: Bend to the Inside

Bend the horse until the head and neck drop and the nose comes in slightly at a 30-degree angle to the circle. Use a soft rein, with the horses' legs staying on the circle. The key is to use the inside leg pressure with the dominant inside rein pulling toward the rider's inside hip. The goal is to get the horse flexible and obedient to the aids.

Step 3: Double Circles

Begin with step 2, and then push the haunches to the outside of the circle. The front legs travel on the circle, the back legs on a slightly larger circle. The key is to use the inside leg pressure behind the girth, with a dominant inside rein pulling toward the rider's inside hip. The goal is to encourage the horse to reach under more with his inside hind leg and move his legs laterally.

Step 4: Uni-lateral Leg Yield

Begin with step 2, and then push the horse so he is leading with his outside shoulder into a larger circle. The key is to use the inside leg pressure while moving the inside rein to the rider's outside shoulder. The goal is to keep the horse flexible and obedient to the aids.

Step 5: Bi-lateral Leg Yield

Begin with step 1, and then push the horse laterally out, evenly on the circle. The key is to use the inside leg pressure with equal reins moving slightly to the inside. The goal is to collect the horse and make him obedient to aids.

Step 6: Hindquarter Circles

Begin with step 1, and then turn the horse so that the haunches remain in a small circle, yet the shoulders rotate around. The key is to use the outside leg pressure behind the girth with a dominant outside rein. Keep the inside leg off the horse. The goal is to make the horse obedient to aids.

These exercises help build a solid foundation for the horse. They are also an excellent way for a new rider to learn how to control their horse and how much rein or leg pressure is needed for certain maneuvers.