It's Spring, the grass is growing like crazy, and you are
worrying about the probability of founder in your horse or pony... How can
you tell if the animal is at risk or if an attack is coming? One
way is to have a series of blood tests pulled and checked for insulin and
glucose, but that is expensive and unwieldy, to say nothing of the horse's
opinion of all those needles in his neck!
What else can you do? For some time we have known that the neck
shape and feel of the crest of the horse is a good way to detect early
Look out for a cresty neck developing, and if you see one take action.
Restrict access to grazing either by putting the horse on a dry-lot or using
a muzzle. If the horse normally has a cresty neck, palpate the crest each
morning and evening. If the crest gets bigger or feels harder, then reduce
access to grass. It is also a good idea to increase the horse's magnesium
and chromium intake. Increase the Magnesium to 2g/100 lbs. body weight and
the Chromium to 0.5mg per 100 lbs. body weight.
Once the crest decreases in size or hardness, you should reduce the
Magnesium dose to 1g/100 lbs. body weight and Chromium to .25mg/100 lbs.
body weight. Keep a close eye on the neck crest as that is your quickest and
easiest barometer of the possibility of founder.
Horsemen and women have thought for some time that cresty necks are a
warning of impending laminitis, but we never really knew for sure. It was
often suggested that this was 'an old wives tale' or just a figment of our
imaginations, however recent research by Virginia Tech on the pony herd in
Middleburg, Virginia has given us some corroboration of that old wisdom.
In a number of studies, the researchers at VA Tech found that there were
several blood parameters that were early indicators of the possibility of
laminitis and founder. High insulin, high resistance to insulin (slower
clearing of glucose from blood after administration of insulin), high
triglycerides & high resting glucose were some of them.
However, in another study they found that several body characteristics
correlated well with the blood parameters that most closely predicted the
probability of the horse foundering. Most specifically, the basal level of
glucose and insulin was most closely correlated with neck crest height. Neck
crest adiposity, measured as a ratio of neck circumference to height
(measured at mid neck), was correlated with Triglyceride and leptin levels.
The neck crest adiposity was also associated with obesity.
There was a distinct difference between horses and ponies, and while the
same generalizations help (fat, cresty necked ponies were more likely to
founder), the ratios of neck thickness to height and other measurements were
generally different for horses vs. ponies.
How can you assess at home how likely your horse or pony is to develop
laminitis and founder?
The neck crest to will help you decide.
The researchers at VATech came up with the following scoring table:
0 = No Palpable crest
1 = Very slight palpable crest
2 = Can feel but not see a crest
3 = Beginning to mound
4 = Crest has perpendicular lines
5 = Crest droops to side.
A horse or pony with a score of 3 or more and a Body Condition score of 7 or
more can be considered at risk of laminitis.
A horse with a neck score of 4 or more is at risk, even if the body score is
as good as 5 or 6.
Click this link for help with the Hennecke Body
Condition Score to decide what score your horse is.
So, watch those necks. If you see the horse or pony developing a crest, or
if you can palpate a crest, it is time to take action! Reduce time on grass,
cut out grain based feeds, and increase the Magnesium/Chromium in the diet.
While this isn't news to many of us, it is good to finally get some
scientific validation of this observation.
Now is the time to keep an eye on those necks and make sure you have a good
supply of Magnesium and Chromium on hand.
Melyni Worth, Ph.D.
For further information, contact DR Melyni Worth at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-942-4500.
Dr. Melyni Worth Ph.D. - 2009 (c)
Back to Dr. Melyni's Articles Home Page
Back to Articles Home Page