I have a 6-year-old Quarter mare that foundered a couple of months ago. She has been on a diet and needs to lose quite a few pounds. Is there any possibility that in the future I could let her out in the pasture for a couple of hours or so?
To answer your question, there is a VERY limited possibility of pasture time, but most likely that will involve wearing a grazing muzzle, and strictly controlling the length of time that the mare is allowed to graze. This would also presume that before trying this schedule, the mare had already been controlled enough to return to a “normal” weight and was not concurrently experiencing any foot pain associated with founder.
Founder is a disease that most commonly affects the front (toe) region of the foot, but can affect the whole foot. The cause of founder can be varied, but is usually due to inflammation in a hoof tissue called the lamina. This inflammation (also called laminitis), can be caused by a primary (like too much grain), or secondary (such as severe colic) reason, both of which can be complicated by metabolic factors and obesity. Most obese horses are set up to be “at-risk” for founder/laminitis, and only need a small change in feed to cause the inflammation in the lamina. This change can be as simple as getting into the grain or as innocent as some extra time on rich pasture.
With this in mind, in your mare’s situation it would be VERY important to monitor her pasture time and feed intake. This would also include monitoring the time of day she is on pasture (nights and mornings are better than the heat of the day) and the season of the pasture (first cutting vs. spring growth vs. late fall) to limit her exposure to simple sugars in the pasture.