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07: The Fall Flare Up
Episode 721st November 2023 • Healing Horses with Elisha • Elisha Edwards
00:00:00 00:21:48

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This week, I will be covering the fall flare-up.

Horses tend to face their most significant health struggles in spring and fall. It happens in spring because the grass sugars increase as the grasses transition from hay, heightening the risk of flare-ups for horses with metabolic conditions like laminitis. Yet, fall could trigger even more issues- especially in horses with pre-existing imbalances or health problems.

Fall Hormonal Shifts and Their Impact on Metabolic Conditions

As we transition into the fall, I have noticed a surge in health issues, particularly in horses diagnosed with PPID or Cushing's disease. The fall season brings about a natural rise in ACTH levels, exacerbating those conditions in horses already grappling with hormonal imbalances. That surge in ACTH also leads to elevated cortisol levels, which, if prolonged, can pose various health risks, from muscle wasting to laminitis. That highlights the need for proactive management strategies, and makes it essential for anyone owning horses predisposed to metabolic conditions to understand those hormonal shifts.

Laminitis Challenges in the Fall

Preventive measures are essential for mitigating the risk of laminitic flare-ups during the seasonal transition. Horses that have enjoyed a seemingly healthy summer outdoors sometimes experience acute episodes of laminitis as the fall sets in. The trim plays a crucial role in preventing that, as an unhealthy trim could compound the impact of hormonal triggers.

Dietary Changes in the Transition from Grass to Hay

Fall can bring significant dietary challenges, particularly for horses transitioning from grass to hay. Without proper management, an abrupt shift from grass to hay could impact the digestive system and trigger other health issues. A gradual transition- especially for horses prone to metabolic conditions, will ensure a much smoother adjustment. That is why horse owners who want to prevent laminitic episodes must know about the higher sugar concentrations in the fall grass.

Supplementation and Maintaining a Low-sugar Diet

Supplementing essential fatty acids and maintaining a low-sugar diet will go a long way in contributing to the overall nutritional support of a horse during its dietary transition in the fall.

Environmental Allergies and Respiratory Conditions

In the fall, there is a rise in environmental particulates, like pollen, which may exacerbate equine respiratory conditions, especially in horses with pre-existing issues like COPD. Switching to round bales or using hay nets could also contribute to dust inhalation and further impact any existing respiratory health issues. Strategies like adjusting feeding setups and using netting to minimize dust exposure, are essential for horses susceptible to respiratory allergies.

Temperature Fluctuations and Circulatory Impact

Drastic temperature fluctuations are common in the fall and could challenge a horse's ability to regulate its body temperature. Older horses or those with existing metabolic challenges may struggle with those temperature fluctuations, potentially leading to compromised circulation. That, in turn, could contribute to winter laminitis. Proactive measures, including proper hoof care and trimming, help to maintain healthy circulation and prevent temperature-related complications.

Strategies for Prevention and Well-being

A holistic approach is essential for navigating the challenges of fall flare-ups. Prioritizing digestive system support through gradual dietary transitions, probiotic supplementation, and essential fatty acids are needed for a horse's overall well-being. Managing their stressors, maintaining the three Fs (forage, freedom, and friendship), and promptly addressing any signs of distress will help to reduce their stress. Taking a proactive approach to hoof care, focusing on the trim, and addressing laminitic tendencies will also ensure that your horse is better equipped to handle all the potential triggers associated with seasonal changes.

Links and resources:

Connect with Elisha Edwards on her website 

Free Webinar Masterclass: Four Steps to Solving Equine Metabolic Syndrome Naturally




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