Grass founder is an ailment that generally occurs in horses that are over the age of 10. Also known as Laminitis, overweight horses are more prone to developing it, and therefore, this should be the main focus of prevention.

What is grass founder?

Commonly referred to simply as founder, it is a condition suffered by horses wherein there is an inflammation in the laminae of their foot. Laminae is a sensitive, delicate tissue attached to the bone in a horse’s feet.

A horse suffering from laminitis experiences less blood flow to these tissues, therefore causing it to decay and separate from the bone. This would result in the tissues separating from the bone, causing tremendous pain to the horse. In more severe cases, the bone rotates through the sole of the horse’s foot, ending in the horse having to be euthanized.

How does it occur?

Sugar fructans are produced in rapidly growing grass. This stimulates an overgrowth of bacteria in the horse’s stomach which releases toxins to the bloodstream, which is then carried into the foot causing damage to the laminae and blood vessels.

Veterinarians believe that horses can develop this issue if they eat too much grass or are introduced to grass rather quickly. Grass stores excess energy as fructans. During spring, grass receives way more energy than it requires. More fructan is stored during this time and is the reason why horses are more prone to this ailment during spring.

Tips to prevent grass founder

  • Keep your ponies and horses away from rapidly growing grass until the rate of growth has slowed down. The slow rate of growth indicates that the grass is using or has utilized all of the excess energy it had once stored. 
  • Graze your horses on fields that have a high percentage of legumes as they do not contain fructan.
  • Avoid allowing your horses to graze on pastures that have grown through winter.
  • Keep overweight horses away from pastures that have a rapid growth rate until the rate of growth has deteriorated.
  • Fill up the horse on hay before letting it free for grazing.
  • Use a horse muzzle to limit the intake of grass.

Grass founder is a painful and life-threatening disease for a horse. It is important to understand the cause of it and ways to prevent it as well. This is mainly caused to horses that have consumed grass that stored excess energy in the form of fructan during spring. This is when the grass grows rapidly. Avoid letting your horse loose for long during this season, and wait until the growth rate of the grass to reduce before allowing them to graze regularly again. Furthermore, consider using a grazing muzzle to avoid overeating. To know more about horse grazing muzzles, click here.

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