Just about every horse owner, especially those with older horses, has wondered, how quickly can a horse founder on grass? A founder can be a serious illness, but it is preventable and treatable. Founder, also known as laminitis, can occur in horses of any age, though it is more likely to happen in older horses.
One of the most common ways for horses to founder is by overeating grass. Though the grass is an important part of a horse’s diet, too much can cause serious issues. Horses eating fresh spring grass after a long winter are more prone to founder.
How Quickly Can a Horse Founder on Grass?
Founder is the result of the destruction of the blood-rich laminae that connects the hoof to the soft tissue of the foot on the horse. It most commonly occurs on horses that are over ten, easy keepers, and struggle with insulin resistance. Horses that suffer from Equine Metabolic Disease are predisposed to grass founder.
Grass founder occurs most often in the spring, as that is when the grass is growing the fastest and producing high levels of carbohydrates in the form of fructans. When high levels of carbohydrates are consumed, prolonged insulin occurs which leads to insulin dis-regulation. In return, this can cause founder to occur.
Symptoms of Founder
One of the most common symptoms of founder is heat in the hoof. Horses will often shift their weight while standing in order to avoid standing on their lame hoof. In addition, horses may also be reluctant to work, as they have pain in their hoof.
Horses may also have an increased digital pulse and an increased heart rate. Their stride may appear shortened and they may lift their hoof weirdly.
The Rate at which Grass Can Cause Horses to Founder
Within just a few hours of eating fresh, spring grass, a horse can founder. For horses that are already prone to founder, their time on grass should be limited, especially at the beginning of spring. Limiting a horse to just a partial day of pasture, only a few hours, will help prevent them from founder.
In addition to older horses, ponies and overweight horses are more prone to foundering. They should not be kept in a grass pasture 24/7, as this can easily lead to founder.
Ways to Prevent Founder
You can turn your horse out on a dry lot to prevent them from foundering. Grazing muzzles can also help prevent a horse from eating too much fresh grass. Be certain to monitor your horse for any signs of founder while they are turned out on a grass pasture during the beginning of the year.
Before turning your horse out to pasture, allow them to fill up on hay. Make sure your horse exercises regularly in order to keep them at a healthy weight. Slowly introduce your horse to pastures with fresh spring grass, as this can let them eat more over time until the chances of founder are reduced.
Grass Founder in Horses
Grass founder commonly occurs on fresh grass and can cause serious issues for horses if it is not treated in time. However, limiting your horse turnout on grass at the beginning of spring to just a few hours can prevent founder from happening.