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As the show season approaches, owners of horses who are susceptible to laminitis need to be on their guard.

Inappropriate preparation for early spring shows can lead to the condition, which could be easily avoided by adopting a sensible feeding strategy, according to Horse & Hound nutrition expert Ruth Bishop.

Ruth feels that the views of laminitis expert and vet Robert Eustace – who publicly criticised the showing world for its promotion of overweight horses in the show ring – are particularly relevant at this time of year.

“Coming out of a cold, wet winter and with the spring competition season looming, many equine ‘models’ are being fed to give that extra show ring condition. As a result, I’ve heard of two cases of laminitis in show animals recently,” she says.

“In the first case, the addition of two scoops of a cooked barley product tipped a show hunter over the edge, while in the second, not cutting down the high level of hard feed down on a pony’s day off caused the onset of laminitis.”

However, Ruth believes that owners are as responsible as the show system for the emergence of laminitis in show horses.

“Old fashioned judging that criticises already rotund animals for being too slim must be phased out, but good feed management at the yard also needs to be phased back in,” she says.

According to Ruth, the safest way to put on condition is to use non-starch calories such as oil, digestible fibre, feed balancers and milk pellets. Weight gain should be achieved gradually, with the extra calories combined with schooling to create top line.