Owners of laminitic and insulin-resistant horses and ponies across the Yass Valley should be aware of winter conditions that can exacerbate laminitis. 


According to Yass Valley Veterinary, Laminitis is a common, extremely painful, and frequently recurrent condition in horses, ponies and donkeys.

This condition affects the tissues (laminae) bonding the hoof wall to the pedal bone in the hoof. This can result in the pedal bone sinking or rotating within the hoof under the weight of the horse.

In extreme cases, this can result in penetration of the sole of the foot by the pedal bone.

“There are three general situations that Laminitis can arise. Diseases associated with inflammation, for example, Certain types of colic’s, diarrhoea, retained placenta and severe pneumonia. Endocrine, or hormone disease, Equine Cushing’s disease and equine metabolic syndrome. Horses with these underlying conditions are prone to developing laminitis due to eating lush green grass high in sugar that they are unable to process adequately. And, mechanical overload – supporting limb laminitis, for example, associated with a fracture or infected joint in the other leg so that the leg which is bearing all of the weight is at risk of laminitis,”  Yass Valley Veterinary explains. 


Sophie Fletcher, an independent NSW-based equine nutritionist from Integral Equine Nutrition, shared that while some relief can come as the cold weather approaches and lush grass browns and falls away, weather conditions involving sunny days and frost during the early morning can prompt a need to keep an eye on sensitive horses.


“Depending on temperature and species, grasses under these conditions can be making sugars (through photosynthesis) during the sunny day, but once the sun goes down and temperatures drop towards freezing the grass is unable to use up those sugars for growth and secret plant business it normally does overnight.”

She explains this can result in the potential for high sugar levels first in the morning, and if this happens over multiple days, the potential to accumulate very high levels.


“This all depends on a million things – in particular, the species of grass you have–  the tropical species will start to want to close up shop for the season, once actually dead or completely dormant there won’t be a problem, but your cool season rye, etcetera, were born for these conditions.”


According to Yass Valley Veterinary, the clinical signs of equine laminitis are lameness affecting most commonly at least two limbs, the horse leans back onto its heels to take the weight off the painful toe area, the lameness is worse when the horse walks on hard ground or turns, Shifting weight between feet when resting, increased digital pulses, and pain with the use of hoof testers at the point of the frog on the foot.


“If you suspect your horse has laminitis, bring it in out of the paddock and rest them and call us at Yass Valley Veterinary on (02) 6226 4444 or (02) 6227 5955 for Murrumbateman,” the Veterinary advises.