Monday, June 3, 2013

Pulses in the Feet

Pie has extraordinarily fine feet - large, well-shaped, with thick hoof walls and good growth.  But Pie is also apparently metabolically sensitive to grass - perhaps, having grown up on a ranch in Montana, with sparser forage, he finds our grass a bit too much.  Two years ago - the spring of 2011 - he had a laminitis (inflamation) episode, thankfully with no rotation.  We attributed that, with the benefit of hindsight, to his infection with Lyme, which often has laminitis as a symptom.  In the spring of 2012, we'd been having very hot, dry weather for a while, and he had no trouble with the grass.

I've been hand grazing my horses for a while to prepare them for being turned out in the grass pastures. Red's been doing fine, but last Friday Pie had fairly strong digital pulses in both front feet - not the backs - after hand grazing for 30 minutes.  He was not otherwise noticeably sore on any of his feet.  Since our barn does the first turnout on grass for 45 minutes or an hour, and the grass is profuse right now, that was clearly a no go for Pie.  I stopped hand grazing him and gave him a 500-lb. dose of banamine on that one day - I didn't want to give him any more as it could conceal the symptoms of grass sensitivity.  By the next day the pulses were back to normal - that is, not detectable, and they've stayed that way since.

But the result is that Pie is now in a paddock with hay - no grass - with Red as a companion in the next paddock.  They're neither of them thrilled with this arrangement, but for now it'll have to do.  Red may be able to go out and do some grazing with the herd later this week, but I'll be carefully testing Pie with a bit of hand grazing again, and unless he can tolerate almost an hour of that there's no point in turning him out on the pasture.  Our pastures typically dry up and turn down the sugars in July, so evey if Pie's penned up right now, he should be able to go out later this summer.  Dawn's pasture is occupied by the mares year-round, so it never gets lush and profuse - the geldings are in dry lot for the winter and in large grass pastures in the summer.

I've been taught by my vets that any detectable digital pulse is cause for concern, and I pay close attention to this.  A lot of lameness and foot soreness in horses is due to metabolic issue and reaction to feed and/or grass - much more than is generally realized. For more information about grass and its possible effects on horses, see

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