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


  1. Since my Pippin had laminitis issues I was very careful about his exposure to our spring grass. It amazes me to visit less arid areas of our country and see lush green grass... and horses. I often wonder if their grass has less sugar. Do you know?!

    1. Dreaming - there is a lot of variation in sugar content among different grass types, but there are a lot of horses eating high-sugar grasses (and high-sugar feeds). Hoof health, although influenced by genetics, is largely a matter of nutrition, exercise and metabolic issues, and there are a lot of horses out there with hoof problems and lamenesses that aren't mechanical at all but due to metabolic and feeding issues. And there are a lot of lame horses with hoof issues where the problem is concealed by the use of shoes and/or pads - the horse is still sore/lame, you just can't see it any more.

  2. Luckily I don't have a lot of rich grass. Both Tucker and Chance are too tubby and might have some metabolic issues too.

    Glad you caught Pie's pulse so quickly. Laminitis is scary on any level. I'm sure he's not too happy with the sparse forage, but it's for his own good...and you can tell him I said so! *G*

  3. I'm So Sorry To Hear Of This Concern For Pie! It's Good That You Got A Dry Lot Available Though, Takes The Worry Out.

    I Monitor The Pulse Every Day, And She's Never Had One. Whew.
    She Did Get Gassy, After We Had 80 Degree Weather Then 39 Overnight...It Stressed The Grasses!
    Hang In Pie! Dry Grasses And Summer ...Soon To Be Yours.
    Glad You Caught That!!

  4. Would you be willing to talk more about this digital pulse -- how do you look/feel for it? How often (i.e. every day, after pasture time...?) Is there a "norm" that your horses reach? Thanks, Sunny


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