Strangles Awareness

Strangles awareness week has just passed and following on from this we thought it would be a good idea just to give a little refresher on Strangles!



Coming into spring with the grass starting to come through – and likely some warmer weather coming soon here is a reminder of what laminitis is and what we can do with laminitis.

We have already given a brief summary on facebook (click here) and Holly has written about feeding for a laminitis prone horse / pony – click here for more details.

There is also a client evening coming up on 15th May 2024 covering more detail on laminitis - have a look on our facebook page for more details.

Why is laminitis such a concern?

Laminitis is a very painful condition of the hooves in horses, ponies and donkeys, which in some cases can start without any warning. It is common and unfortunately once you have laminitis it is much more likely to have another episode in the future. Laminitis can also lead uncontrolled pain or a poor prognosis and is one of the more common reasons horses are euthanased.

Even with milder cases horses can be on rest and out of work for long periods of time.

What causes Laminitis?

In the vast majority of cases laminitis is caused by one of two hormonal diseases (endocrine):
Cushings disease (mostly in older horses) or Equine metabolic Syndrome (EMS – similar to type II diabetes in people) which is usually seen in overweight horses.

Both of these conditions can be diagnosed by blood tests and are managed with medication, weight management, diet and exercise – details of which are coming in a blog in June, or click here for an older article.

Other causes include:

  • Diseases with severe inflammation – for example retained placenta after foaling, certain severe colics and bad diarrhoea.
  • Overloading the limb – if there is a severe lameness on the opposite limb overloading of the other leg can cause laminitis.
  • Severely overgrown hooves – a lot of pressure on the limb from overgrown hooves can also cause lamintis.


Acute sudden cases can show: severe pain, weight shifting, high heart rate, reluctant to move or recumbent (lying down) – and they can in some cases be difficult to distinguish from colic.

More chronic cases – often have more subtle signs, but have pain especially when walking on hard or uneven ground, difficulty turning and raised digital pulses.

Below is a short video of a horse with laminitis trying to move:

What to do if my horse has signs?

If out bring your horse in slowly and rest them in a box with a deep bed. Make sure there is fresh water available and keep them on a restricted diet – ideally on soaked hay, but making sure you avoid anything rich in carbohydrate or sugars – see Holly’s recent post for more details.

Most horses with laminitis will need a visit from your vet for a diagnosis, pain relief, blood tests and x-rays/treatment as recommended.


Rest on a deep bed is an important part of treatment – this should reduce further damage to the laminae in the hoof and allow the hoof to start to repair. Hoof support from pads and when more comfortable remedial farriery to fit support shoes like heartbars may also help.

A heart bar shoe in place

X-rays can be important as they allow us to see what is going on inside your horses hooves - and help assess severity and plan treatment / farriery. They can also help assess how long it will take for your horse to recover and make a plan going forward.

Rotated pedal bone in a pony with laminitis
An x-ray of a hoof showing marked pedal bone rotation - the front wall of the hoof should be parallel with the front of the pedal bone in the hoof.

Pain relief – as above horses can be in a lot of pain and need courses of pain relief including bute or other NSAID drugs and in more severe cases other types of pain relief are likely to be included as well.

Weight management – overweight horses are more likely to have equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) which is a common cause of lamintis, but losing weight reduces this risk and can control it well in many horses. In the shorter term medication can help control this condition.


Recovery can take weeks in milder cases and months in more severe cases – more than 60% of horses are back in work within 8 weeks.

How to prevent laminitis

Laminitis cannot be cured completely with many severe cases not returning to complete comfort, and recurrence being common. However steps to avoid recurrence and also the first episode of laminitis include:

  • Weight management – horses at the correct body condition are much less likely get an episode of laminitis.
  • Restrict access to very rich feeds – other than breaking into a feed room and eating a large quantity of rich food, avoid very rich pastures and feeding sugar rich foods – especially in EMS or horses with previous laminitis episodes.
  • Blood testing for Cushings disease – in older horses (teens or older) the risk of having Cushings disease increases. Monitor for signs of Cushings and consider testing every year to rule out the disease in older horses – especially if your horse has had previous laminitis.
  • Keep your horses feet well trimmed/shod – although farriery is unlikely to cause laminitis overgrown poor quality feet will not help, and severely overgrown feet may be a cause.
  • If your horse has severe lameness on another limb consider a deep bed and possibly support for the opposite weight bearing limb.
  • In severely ill horses prompt treatment and management may reduce the risk of laminitis.

If you have any concerns your horse may have laminitis please remember to speak to your vet - we can be contacted on 07747 717474, please note we can only give opinions on horses in our area who are registered clients.


What should I be feeding my EMS/laminitis prone pony?!


Forage is an essential part of all horses and ponies diets to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system so we need to find a balance when dieting.

To assist weight loss and reduce risk of laminitis and equine metabolic syndrome diet should be low in non-structural carbohydrates (simple starches and sugars) –  ideally non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content should be less than 10%.

Knowing the starch and sugar content of your hay can be tricky, generally later cut/coarser hay is lower in NSCs however it is not an exact science. There are now various companies offering forage analysis, these can be found easily with a google search.

As a general rule hay has a lower NSC content than haylage so is most often the forage of choice. Straw has the lowest NSC content - good quality straw can be used to replace a small percentage of the hay ration (no more than 30%) if needing to slow eating time.

How much?

1.5% bodyweight for weight loss – for a 500kg horse this equates to 7.5kg per 24 hour period, for a 250kg pony this equates to 3.75kg per 24 hour period

1.75%  bodyweight for maintenance – for a 500kg horse this equates to 8.75kg, for a 250kg pony this equates to 4.4kg per 24 hour period

Soaking hay

Soaking hay is a sustainable approach to weight loss – by removing carbohydrates from the hay it allows us to feed adequate quantities of fibre in order to maintain welfare and gut health while minimizing starch and sugar intake.

We recommend soaking hay for 10-12 hours for EMS and laminitis.

Soaking also removes minerals so horses need to be supplemented for these – the easiest way to do this is by feeding a balancer – most balancers are below 10% NSCs and there are lots of low calorie balancers available that are aimed at good doers.

Soaking reduces palatability so it can be necessary to increase soaking time gradually.

Soak in cold water and ideally out of direct sunlight - soaking at higher temperatures might encourage bacterial growth.

Haylage cannot be soaked due to fermentation and bacterial growth.

Supplementary feeding

As mentioned earlier it is often a good idea to supplement your horse or pony with a light/low calorie balancer to ensure they are getting the vitamins and minerals they require, especially when on soaked hay and/or a grass-free diet.

These can be safely accompanied by a molasses-free chaff or mash to increase fibre intake.

The 10% rule applies to feeds too! So look out for those little numbers on the back of the bag – less than 10% starch and sugar!


Time at grass needs to be managed carefully, consider one or more of the following options:

  • Turning out late at night (when grass sugar levels are at their lowest) and bringing in early morning
  • Track systems
  • Grazing muzzles
  • Strip grazing
  • Co-grazing with other species (sheep)
  • Yard or dust paddock turnout

How can such a small seed cause so much trouble?

As many of you are aware, atypical myopathy is a deadly disease with devastating consequences for both the horse and the owner. Atypical myopathy in horses occurs when components, usually seeds or shoots, of the sycamore tree (Acer pseudoplatanus) are ingested. One of the features that makes atypical myopathy so fatal is the relatively tiny amount of toxin required to cause disease in horses. Sadly, once the toxin has been absorbed into the bloodstream, there isn’t much we can do. This post aims to explain the disease process behind sycamore toxicity and why we have seen an increase in cases in recent years.

Sycamore trees, Box Elder trees, and the unripe fruit of the Ackee tree all contain a naturally occurring protein called hypoglycin A. If a human ingests the unripe fruit of the Ackee tree, a clinical syndrome extremely similar to atypical myopathy called Jamaican vomiting sickness is caused. The Ackee tree is not indigenous to the UK, but there is a plant commonly found in this country that contains a very high concentration of this toxin – the sycamore tree.

When hypoglycin A enters the body, it is rapidly broken down to the active toxin methylene cyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA).  This toxin blocks one of the key enzymes involved in the conversion of fatty acids to usable cellular energy. This prevents cells from metabolising fatty acids and making new molecules of glucose. Think of fatty acids and glucose as petrol and diesel, and hypoglycin A as a blockage in the fuel tank. When the supply of fuel is cut off, cells must start using their “reserve fuel” called glycogen. Once this back up fuel is used up, the cells have no way of obtaining a fuel source and the cell’s engine begins to shut down. This is why there is a delay between toxin ingestion and the appearance of clinical signs.

Figure 1: Hypoglycin A

The cells that run out of fuel first are the ones with the highest energy demands. One of the cells that work the hardest in a horse’s body are the muscle cells (myocytes). These muscle cells are the first victim of hypoglycin A toxicity, hence the name atypical (not typical) myo- (muscle) -pathy (disease). When the muscle cells begin to starve, signs such as sweating, muscle lethargy, muscle weakness, muscle fasciculations and tremors, colic signs, and dark coloured urine are seen. As the disease progresses, more and more cells begin to run out of fuel, resulting in worsening clinical signs. The deadliest feature of atypical myopathy is that the actions of hypoglycin A are irreversible. Once MCPA has blocked the cell’s fuel tank, there is no going back. The only hope is that the amount of hypoglycin A ingested was small enough that only some of the cells have a blocked fuel tank, and enough have been unaffected.

Recently, we have seen an sharp increase in atypical myopathy cases caused by an increase in the amount of hypoglycin A in the environment. The term “mast year” is used when a tree produces an abnormally high number of seeds. These seeds will subsequently go on to produce an abnormally high number of shoots. It is this phenomenon that has caused the higher-than-average number of atypical myopathy cases in recent years. Although the concentration of hypoglycin A in seeds and shoots varies dramatically, only a very small amount is needed to cut off the fuel supply to all the cells in a horse’s body. The only way to stop this devastating disease is to prevent horses from ingesting seeds and shoots containing hypoglycin A.

For further information regarding atypical myopathy, please click here. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07747 771 182.

vaccine jess

Equine Flu Vaccinations - the rules when competing

Do you know your flu vaccination rules for competitions? Lots have changed recently, and different organisations have rules that do not match. In some cases some venues have different rules too!

I’ve put together a list of organisations and their current rules for vaccination - many of you will already know about these if you attend their events, but please check if you are not sure!

This is not a complete list but I’ve summarised Pony Club, Riding Club, BD, BSJA, BE and FEI below.


Sarcoids- what are they and should I be worried?

Sarcoids are types of tumour which occur in the skin. They are the most common type of equine skin tumour and have a wide range of appearances.

Common places which we see sarcoids include between the back and front legs, around the sheath, eyes or ears or on the chest or abdomen. They are common in younger to middle aged horses but can present at any age, a genetic predisposition has been noted so there may be horses that are more prone to getting them.


Melanomas in Grey horses - should I just leave it alone?

Melanomas are skin tumours that predominantly affect grey horses. Approximately 80% of grey horses will develop at least one melanoma in their lifetime so it is part of the course of owning a grey. Here we discuss what these tumours are, how they may develop and how to make decisions as an owner about what to do if your horse has them.


Worming Resistance - why should I care?

Over the last 10 years resistance to horse wormers has become more widespread. We only have a limited number of chemical drugs we at our disposal for treating worms in horses, and with no new types of drugs on the horizon it is vital we protect the efficacy of the ones we have. In this article I want to look at how resistance happens and how our management of worms may actually accelerate it...


Worming- why horses in the same field have different worm egg counts (and why we should all be doing worm egg counts!)

Over the last 10 years the way we worm our horses has changed dramatically for the better. Due to the onset of resistance to wormers in livestock and horses, we have been forced to adapt and become less reliant on blanket worming plans. Back in the 90's and early 2000's it was common to have whole yards on worming plans that involved giving every horse a wormer every 6-8 weeks.

We now know better, and thankfully the majority of owners have abandoned this practice in favour of worm egg count (WEC) tests. One question that crops up a lot, and many clients struggle to understand, is how horses in the same field under the same management conditions can have such variation in the results of the WEC tests. So I am going to do my best to explain why in this post.

vaccine jess

2024- What does my horse need this year?!

Its come back to that time of year when we're just getting to grips with Christmas and New Years being over, where our bank balances are not quite where we'd like them to be and neither are our waist lines! I always find this a good time of year to have a think and remind myself what my horse needs this year and when these things need to be booked in!


Sponsored Rider: Team Roberts Eventing - Preparing For The Event Season

With the eventing season just around the corner, it’s time to make some plans for the season ahead with our team of horses who range from 5 years olds starting out their eventing career at BE90 to our more advanced horses who are competing at intermediate/ 3* and we look forwards to what will hopefully be a successful 2021.

Hang on, horses get asthma??

Equine asthma is now used to collectively describe airway disorders which may have been known previously as:

IAD- Inflammatory Airway Disease
COPD- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
RAO- Recurrent airway obstruction
We often see this condition spike at two different times of year: ...