Laminitis Survivors: Getting Back on Grass

Q. After a horse has had a bout with laminitis, can she be brought up slowly on grass again? Say 20 minutes daily? If so, how soon can this be done?

Barb, via e-mail


A. I have two main considerations: One is that I restrict exercise on a horse that has acute laminitis. I don’t turn them out until the lamellae have healed and had a chance to establish an attachment between the coffin bone and hoof wall. If the horse has a large amount of damage, I restrict turnout until the hoof capsule has grown out (around eight months).

Later in that period I may turn them out in a small pen, but I consider the cause of laminitis. I also consider whether the mare has a metabolic condition (the sugars in the grass may be detrimental).

Amy Rucker, DVM, Midwest Equine, Columbia, Missouri

I think we can and should allow horses to return to grazing once their feet have stabilized, but this depends on their metabolic status. A severely affected horse with high insulin concentrations should hardly have any grazing time (less than 30 minutes per day), whereas a horse that has lost weight and returned to normal insulin concentrations can be slowly returned to pasture starting with 1-hour grazing periods twice daily and increasing gradually. Just recognize that a horse that became obese and insulin resistant through grazing will do so again.

Nicholas Frank, BSc Hons, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts