Is Your Horse More At Risk For Laminitis In Autumn?

As the leaves change colors and the air becomes crisp, you may not be aware your horses could be at risk for laminitis during these cooler fall months. While laminitis is commonly linked to spring grass, damp autumn conditions can also be hazardous. Knowing the risks and management tactics can safeguard equine health. 

Awareness of factors like changing grass growth and frost effects can guide preventive steps. Adapting your horse’s diet and activity considering these factors ensures a safe autumn for both you and your horse.

Key Takeaways

  • Laminitis is a risk for horses during cooler autumn months, necessitating preventive measures from horse owners.
  • Understanding and addressing risk factors helps in mitigating the potential consequences of laminitis in horses.
  • Implementing effective autumn management strategies for your horse’s diet and exercise routine promotes a healthy autumn season.
a fat horse eating losts of hay

Understanding Laminitis

Definition and Causes

Laminitis is a painful condition in horses that involves inflammation and damage to the laminae, the tissues connecting the hoof to the underlying coffin bone. It affects blood flow and triggers an inflammatory response, leading to immense pain and discomfort to your horse. Some common causes include metabolic disorders like equine metabolic syndrome, hormonal imbalances, and insulin dysregulation, all of which can provoke the onset of the condition.

Recognizing Signs of Laminitis

If your horse starts to show signs of laminitis, it’s essential to act quickly for the best chance of recovery. Some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • A distinctive stance where your horse appears to be leaning back on its heels
  • Lameness, particularly when walking on hard ground or turning
  • Reluctance to move or lying down more than usual
  • An increased digital pulse in the affected foot, which can indicate restricted blood flow
  • Heat in the hooves

It’s important to consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for your horse’s specific situation.

Metabolic and Hormonal Influence

Endocrinopathic laminitis is closely related to hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders, such as insulin dysregulation or equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). High insulin levels, often resulting from the horse’s body responding to certain sugars and starches in grass, can lead to laminitis. Conditions like pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing’s disease, can cause a hormonal imbalance, potentially placing your horse at greater risk of laminitis, particularly during cooler autumn months.

Being proactive about your horse’s health and addressing any metabolic or hormonal issues can help reduce their risk of developing laminitis. Consulting your veterinarian to create a diet and management plan tailored to their needs is essential in maintaining their well-being during the changing seasons.

Risk Factors for Laminitis in Cooler Months

What Influences the Onset Risk

Several factors can influence the risk of laminitis in horses during the autumn months. As the temperature starts to drop, colder nights can cause changes in the grass composition, potentially leading to higher sugar concentrations. Additionally, hormonal problems and prolonged periods of extreme weather can also contribute to the risk of laminitis, regardless of the season source.

Body weight and obesity are significant risk factors, with overweight or obese horses being more susceptible to this condition. Stress, which could be induced by lifestyle changes or the cooler weather, can also increase the risk of laminitis. It’s essential to monitor your horse’s body condition and exercise regimen, as well as making sure they have appropriate blankets and shelter during colder months.


fat ponies

Role of Autumn Forage

In the autumn months, the grass consumed by your horse can be a significant contributor to laminitis risk. Changes in forage due to temperature fluctuations, frosty nights, and other weather conditions can cause elevated levels of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), including Ethanol soluble carbohydrates (ESC) and starch. These sugars can cause a spike in insulin levels, leading to an increased risk of laminitis. 

“There are two reasons why horses and ponies might experience endocrinopahtic laminitis in the autumn: nutrient changes in pasture and forage, and a metabolic shift,” Erica Macon, MS, PhD, assistant professor of equine science at Texas A&M University, told

The onset of colder nights and shorter days typically cause these nutrient changes, she elaborates. Additionally, during late autumn, hard frosts can cause grasses to retain their sugar content.

To reduce this risk, consider restricting your horse’s access to grass during periods of high sugar content, or consult an equine nutritionist for advice on adjusting their diet with hay or alternative forage sources.

Lifestyle Considerations

Making lifestyle adjustments can significantly help minimize your horse’s risk of developing laminitis during the cooler months. Some options to consider include:

  • Control grazing: Using a grazing muzzle (like ThinLine’s Flexible Filly Grazing Muzzle) can help to limit your horse’s grass intake, reducing the risk of consuming high sugar concentrations in autumn forage.
  • Monitor body condition: Regularly assess your horse’s body condition to avoid obesity, which can lead to laminitis. Make sure they maintain a healthy weight with proper nutrition and exercise.
  • Keep them warm: Ensure your horse has access to a warm stable during colder nights, and consider using rugs or blankets to provide extra warmth and protection.
  • Water: Provide fresh, clean water daily, as dehydration can contribute to laminitis risk.

By incorporating these preventative measures and adjusting your horse’s lifestyle, you can help minimize the likelihood of your horse developing laminitis during the autumn months.

Addressing and Preventing Laminitis

Proper Management and Nutrition

To address and prevent laminitis, it’s crucial to ensure proper management and nutrition for your horse. Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy body condition score and reduce the risk of laminitis. Implement a well-balanced diet for your horse, focusing on high-quality hay and limiting access to lush grass, as it may cause an imbalance in blood sugar levels. Keep track of your horse’s calorie intake and adjust accordingly to maintain a healthy weight to prevent laminitis.

Choose a grain or feed balancer fortified with necessary vitamins, minerals, and protein to ensure proper nutrition for your horse. Consult your veterinarian for advice on the appropriate feed for your horse’s specific needs. It’s critical to balance the diet to meet nutritional requirements while avoiding overconsumption of calories or simple sugars.

Veterinary and Farrier Care

Regular veterinary and farrier care plays a significant role in preventing and addressing laminitis. Schedule routine checkups and hoof trimming with your farrier to maintain optimal hoof health and monitor for early signs of hoof disease. Your veterinarian can also recommend medications or treatments tailored to your horse’s condition. Keep in close contact with both professionals to ensure the best care for your horse.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

In the unfortunate event that your horse gets laminitis, a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan can help limit long-term damage. Encourage your horse to spend more time walking, turning, and lying down to promote hoof capsule healing and minimize stress on affected areas. Consult with your veterinarian and farrier to customize a recovery program, which may include therapeutic shoeing or hoof pads.

During the recovery process, closely monitor your horse’s progress and adjust the plan as necessary to ensure the best outcome. By paying attention to proper management, nutrition, and care for your horse, you can effectively address and prevent laminitis during the cooler autumn months.

Autumn Management Suggestions for Horse Owners

As a horse owner, it’s essential to be aware of the increased risk of laminitis during the cooler autumn months. In this section, we will discuss some care tips for reducing the risk, recognizing early signs, and when to seek professional help for your horse.

Care Tips to Reduce Risk

Here are some essential care tips to help reduce the risk of your horse developing autumn laminitis:

  • Monitor body weight: Keep track of your horse’s body weight and make adjustments in their nutrition accordingly.
  • Provide proper nutrition: Ensure your horse gets a balanced diet with essential nutrients, avoiding excess carbohydrates.
  • Blankets: Use appropriate blankets to keep your horse warm and comfortable during cooler weather.
  • Regular walking: Encourage regular walking to promote healthy blood flow and maintain healthy hoof function.
  • Stress management: Manage your horse’s stress levels by providing a calm environment and appropriate social interactions.
  • Stable and dry lot: Provide a clean, dry, and comfortable stable environment and limit access to wet or muddy areas.
  • Grazing muzzle: Consider using a grazing muzzle to help control your horse’s pasture intake and reduce the risk of obesity and laminitis.

thinline grazing muzzle for horses and ponies


Recognizing Early Signs

Being able to recognize the early signs of laminitis is crucial in preventing further damage and providing appropriate care for your horse. Some potential early indicators include:

  • Unusual stance: Your horse may show signs of discomfort by standing with their weight shifted to their hindquarters.
  • Lameness: Keep an eye out for any signs of lameness or difficulty walking.
  • Pain: Watch for behavioral changes or signs of pain when putting weight on the affected feet.
  • Increased digital pulse: Check for a bounding digital pulse, which could indicate inflammation and vascular changes in the hoof.

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s essential to know when to seek help from your veterinarian or farrier care professional. You should contact them if you:

  • Notice any of the early signs of laminitis mentioned above.
  • Find your horse struggling with significant lameness or pain.
  • Observe sudden changes in your horse’s behavior or condition.

In the case of acute laminitis, immediate intervention is crucial for minimizing damage and managing pain. For chronic laminitis, ongoing support and monitoring from a veterinarian and farrier care professional can help ensure your horse receives the appropriate care and treatment.

By following these autumn management suggestions, you can better protect your horse from the risk of laminitis during the cooler months and keep them happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors increase the risk of laminitis in horses during autumn?

During the autumn months, two main factors may increase the risk of laminitis in horses: nutrient changes in pasture and forage, and a metabolic shift. In this season, the cortisol released by horses increases insulin levels, and higher insulin is linked to higher laminitis risk. This spike in ACTH typically occurs from mid-August until November or December (source).

How does weather impact the chances of laminitis in horses?

Mild and wet autumn weather can contribute to the development of laminitis. These conditions may lead to changes in the nutrient content of grass, making it more problematic for horses that are susceptible to laminitis.

What preventative measures can be taken to avoid laminitis?

To minimize the risk of laminitis during autumn, you can limit your horse’s access to lush grass by using grazing muzzles or strip grazing. Additionally, regular exercise, weight management, and close monitoring of susceptible horses will help you prevent the onset of laminitis.

How do diet and nutrition play a role in laminitis risk?

Horses that consume high amounts of carbohydrates, sugars, and fructans are more at risk for developing laminitis. During autumn, the nutrient content in grass changes, which can increase the risk for horses. By managing your horse’s diet, you can help balance their nutritional intake and minimize their exposure to diet-related risks.

What signs and symptoms indicate laminitis in a horse?

Some common signs of laminitis in a horse include lameness, reluctance to move, heat in the hooves, increased digital pulse, and a stretched-out stance. If you notice these symptoms in your horse, consult your veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How is laminitis treated or managed in affected horses?

Laminitis treatment depends on the severity and cause of the condition. Treatment often involves pain management, anti-inflammatory medications, stall rest, and therapeutic hoof trimming or shoeing. Working with your veterinarian and a professional farrier is essential in managing laminitis effectively. In some extreme cases, surgical intervention may be required.

About ThinLine’s Flexible Filly Muzzle

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We know what you’re thinking, ”my horse hates muzzles, I don’t want to use one”, “my horse just takes it off”, or “they are bulky, unsafe, and my horse won’t drink when wearing one”. At ThinLine, we designed a muzzle with horse health and happiness at the forefront of its development. 

The Flexible Filly Muzzle is softer, safer, and features a smarter design than cage-like apparatuses of the past. The flexible material encourages your horse to behave naturally, resulting in an all-around healthier horse.

The construction using a durable and pliable material radically improves the horses’ feel, while also maintaining effectiveness.  It’s soft and gentle on teeth and lips, so your horse will forget it’s even on. The Flexible Filly Muzzle is well-ventilated and safe, rated to break just before your turnout halter. Additionally, the grazing hole size is adjustable, allowing you to offer the perfect grazing options.

It can be used with your horse’s current halter, or could be paired with our specially designed halter and halter liners for a perfect fit! Caring for this muzzle is super simple. You can place the muzzle in a net washing bag, and machine wash with cold water, detergent, and bleach. Or, just toss it in a bucket with soap, bleach, and water then give it a scrub with a brush.

Seems too good to be true? It’s not! We researched equine behavior to learn why other muzzles don’t do the trick so we could create a simple solution for safer grazing. Horses are still able to groom each other while wearing this muzzle, scratch themselves, and behave the way nature intended, like horses! Protect your horse this fall and talk to your veterinarian about grazing practices and management.  

Read the reviews from happy horse owners, learn how to select the proper size, and see more at

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