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Spring grass can spring forth a serious problem for horses, namely laminitis and its more severe form, founder.
I know because last fall, our Shetland pony Snowball Express got an acute case, and it was my fault it got it so bad.
Looking back, I know it was caused by a delivery of fresh-cut hay and access to fast-growing fall grass.
Now in his early 20s, Snow's metabolism has changed, and his body couldn't handle the intake of so much fresh sugar.
In hindsight, at the first sign he had sore feet, I should have immediately placed him in an area with no grass.
Since my horses roam freely and happily as a herd in the pasture, I found it difficult to impart the tough love I needed to keep him separate in a grass-free pen.
Staying off the grass
I did place a grazing muzzle on him, but since his body was already inflamed, he needed to be completely off grass.
It wasn't until Snow was rocking back on his hind legs (an effort to relieve the pressure in the front) that I confined him to a stall.
Laminitis is a very painful condition caused when the lamina connecting the coffin bone and hoof wall become inflamed and start dying off, thus losing their grip, so to speak, on the bone.
The coffin bone rotates or, in worst-case scenarios, comes through the sole of the hoof.
Sadly, Snow's coffin bone did rotate a bit, but happily not to the point it sank down through the sole of the hoof.
Some horses never recover from laminitis or founder.
My farrier, Brad Erickson, says ways to avoid it includes introducing the horses to spring grass slowly, along with limiting their intake to a couple of hours a day to allow their metabolism to adjust.
If a horse has had problems with laminitis in the past, don't give him any access to high-sugar spring grass.
Wait until it goes to seed.
The older the horse, the closer you should pay attention to him.
If a horse has any signs of Cushing's syndrome, don't turn him out on spring pasture until contacting a veterinarian to have some testing done.
Thankfully, Snow is feeling good and on the road to recovery.
Keeping an eye on
However, the signs of damage from a rotated coffin bone can still be seen in his hoofs, and it will be some time before he is sound.
Now, I keep close track of what Snow's eating and feel his coronet band daily (the area right above the hoof) for too much heat — an early sign of illness.
As he heals, his hooves are growing fast but misshaped, so they need to be trimmed every three to four weeks.
All this extra work and expense could have been avoided if I'd heeded the warning signs.
If you see signs of laminitis, get your horse off grass and call your vet.
Want to ride in a parade?
If so, saddle up this Saturday to take part in Sequim's Irrigation Festival parade.
Riders are asked to meet in the field east of Sequim behind the old Mariners Cafe location, 707 E. Washington St., by 10 a.m.
Once the road is closed to vehicles, the horses will be able to safely cross the road and join the lineup for the parade, which starts at noon.
Questions? Contact Kany Mulrony at 206-353-6400 or Kandylynnm@hotmail.com.
■ 10 a.m. Saturday — County Mounty's Horse 4-H Club open schooling show at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 4907 Landes St., Port Townsend. The one-day show is open to all. Show forms are available at most area feed stores. Phone Ashley Govia at 360-301-4103.
■ May 17 and 18, June 28 and 29 (9:30 a.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. start Sundays) — Patterned Speed Horse Association game show at the Crosby arena, 122 Franson Road in Agnew. Phone Pam Crosby at 360-670-3906.
■ 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 17 — Peninsula Therapeutic Riding Center bake sale at Swain's in Port Angeles.
■ Noon Sunday, May 18 — Cowmanship class at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew.
■ 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 19 — Back Country Horsemen Peninsula chapter meeting at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave.
■ 10 a.m. Saturday, May 24 — County Mounty's Horse 4-H Club open schooling show at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. (See above entry.)
■ 10 a.m. May 24 — BCH Peninsula and Buckhorn Range chapters ride on the Miller Peninsula. Contact Cate Bendock at 360-457-4970 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kris Lenke at 360-732-7111 or email@example.com.
■ Sunday, May 25 — Adult horsemanship class at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew. To attend, contact Mary Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360 457-4897.
■ 9:30 a.m. May 31 and June 1, 14 and 15 — Patterned Speed Horse Association game show at the Quarter Moon Arena, 383 W. Runnion Road, Carlsborg. Phone Waynora Martin at 360-683-6902.
Karen Griffiths' column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.