British Farmers have every right to be concerned about the weather at the moment, the Met Office having just confirmed that this has been the coldest April for 40 years, and certainly one of the driest that I can remember (though I am happy to say I don’t go back quite that far!). However, our pony-patting pals also have cause to grumble, as horses are particularly vulnerable to colic, laminitis and other gastrointestinal problems in the current cold dry weather.
The low overnight temperatures, and resultant low soil temperatures, are meaning that grass simply isn’t growing (just like the rest of the crops, I hear you say!). However, the gloriously warm and sunny days are causing grasses to photosynthesise and create sugars that usually would be used by the grass overnight to promote growth. Instead, we are seeing short, stunted grasses that are full of sugar reserves, and harmful fructans (carbohydrates that are particularly difficult for the hind-gut of the equus to digest, especially when they are suddenly exposed to them, such as in spring after eating dry hay all winter)!
Meghan Moore of the George Veterinary Group suggests that “Sensible preventative measures including restricted pasture management and aiming for your horse to be at their optimum body condition” can combat the problem.
Meghan goes on to explain “It is important to be aware of the signs associated with laminitis, which can include lameness and a short, pottery gait, reluctance to move, weight shifting, increased time spent lying down, increased heat within the foot or altered growth of the hooves. Hopefully good management will reduce the risk of your horse or pony getting laminitis but if you note any of the signs above then contact your vet immediately”.
Thankfully, Mr Hawker has been very careful with his horses’ grazing and had a fantastic win at Kempton on 19th April, which we are all still very excited about (and momentarily distracted him from his gripes about the weather!). We are keeping our fingers crossed for a similar result on the Bank Holiday Meeting at the same track! And, more rain of course!
For all things equine, contact Holly at email@example.com