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Are Spanish horses more prone to laminitis?

Before asking if the Andalusian horse is more prone to Laminitis we must first ask ourselves; What is Laminitis? Laminitis is characterised by inflammation of the digital laminae of the hoof, and severe cases with outwardly visible clinical signs are known by the colloquial term founder. In bad cases it can create a rotation of the pedal bone inside the horses hoof and it’s a very painful symptom of a long range of problems in the horses all over condition.Laminitis can be caused by too much carbohydrates or a nitrogen compound overload, lush pastures and freezing grass. All those causes can apply to any type of horse or breed. Likewise can any horse or breed get a colic or following infection after surgery or birth which will lead to a laminitis attack. Common causes are:

  • Carbohydrate overload:  Too much hard feed or grass that is eaten during stress can accumulate sugars or starch in a higher degree that the horse is unable to digest fast enough. The excess goes straight into the hind gut and starts to ferment which will increase the acidity in the horses gut which in turn kills the beneficial bacteria and this acid goes straight into the laminae in the feet.
  • Nitrogen compound overload: Horses can deal with some toxic non-protein nitrogen (NPN) compounds in their forage. But if there is a rapid increase in these levels, such as can be in spring time when the grass grows quickly due to sudden weather changes between sun and rain, the natural metabolic processes can become overloaded, resulting in liver disturbance and toxic imbalance and as a following symptom laminitis.
  • Colic: Laminitis can sometimes develop after a serious case of colic, due to the release of endotoxins into the blood stream.
  • Lush pastures: When releasing horses back into a pasture after being kept inside (typically during the transition from winter stabling to spring outdoor keeping), the excess fructan of fresh spring grass can lead to a bout of laminitis. Ponies and other good doers are much more susceptible to this form of laminitis than are larger horses.
  • Freezing grass: A sudden colder temperature can make the plant unable to get rid of the sugars as quickly and it’s accumulated in the plant in higher concentration. The sugar would increase the insuline level in the horse and can be a cause to laminitis due to an excess release of toxins into the blood stream.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections can also cause release of endotoxins into the blood stream.
  • Insulin resistance: Many horses are insulin resistant and such horses have a larger fat storage in certain body parts such as neck, loin, above the eyes and tail head. These horses become obese very easily and can very easily develop laminitis. Often these are horses that have been fed up on very sparse terrain with little to eat so they are not used to the high sugar content in lush grass.

  If we look at the description of a horse with insulin resistance though… It pretty much describes the baroque Spanish type horse. A horse with rounded shape, good doer, large crest or neck that stores fat in certain areas of his body. This might be true on specific lines of horses (especially the baroque type horse) but there are so many lines of Spanish horses that it’s difficult to make a generalisation for this particular breed. I think that you should take caution with any type of horse when changing his environment or feeding status. Yes we see laminitis in the Spanish horses but I am not sure that this is because of the breed or the living conditions of the horse in many cases. Horses that are being starved for large amounts of time and then after that fed fast to regain weight is not uncommon in Spain. Possible infections could also be causes to laminitis here rather than the breed.

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