There are only two kinds of horses…. those that have laminitis and those that could someday get it!
So what is laminitis and how do horses get it?
Put simply, laminits is the inflamation of the sensitive laminar corium in the hoof, causing a breakdown of the bond between the hoof wall and the coffin bone.
Severe cases are commonly known as founder and major causes are by eating sugar rich grasses, but it can also be caused by concussion of the hooves on hard surfaces, over-eating grain, infection from retaining afterbirth, excessive weight bearing on one leg, stress, vaccinations and medications.
There are many good texts giving much greater detail on the causes and treatments, so if you own a horse, you should be aware of how this condition occurs and how to keep your horse from suffering it.
One such book with an excellent chapter on laminitis is The Sound Hoof – Horse Health from the Ground up by Lisa Simons Lancaster (read a full review). You can purchase this book from www.tallgrasspublishers.com.
This book lists the early clinical signs of laminitis as:
- Reluctance to move freely (especially on hard/rough surfaces).
- Blood stains visible in the white line or hoof wall.
- Pulse and respiration may be elevated due to pain.
- When moving, prefers to canter rather than trot if given a choice.
- Feet are off balance – may have long toes, high heels or both.
- Moves forward soundly but takes slightly shorter than normal strides.
- Sound on soft terrain but may limp or stumble on hard or rocky ground.
- Sole bruising and a stretched white line (in some horses, by the time you see this they have been compromised for quite some time).
Photo: If your horse’s hooves have numerous stress rings like this one, it probably indicates repeated episodes of sub clinical laminitis.
Late clinical signs: (Founder)
- Lies down a lot
- Standing but will not move
- Bounding digital pulse
- Sole hot to the touch
- White line stretched
- Will not allow you to pick up a foot
- Stops eating
- Sole bruise in the shape of a coffin bone
- Shifting weigh tfrom foot to foot (swaying side to side).
- Standing with front legs stretched out, back arched, trying to lean back to get weight off toes.
- When asked to turn in a tight area like a stall or narrow barn aisle the horse rocks backwards onto haunches, lifts head up and lurches around because it hurts to turn the feet.
Usually several of these signs will appear together or appear over the course of a few days.
All of the signs need to be evaluated in context. No single indicator would be diagnostic for laminitis.
If you suspect your horse has laminitis or founder then do your research, ask many opinions from varied sources (natural hoof care practitioners, vets, farriers) and comminicate with others who have successfully rehabilitated a founderd horse or pony.
Then DO someting about it – just hoping that early signs will go away is leading to a severe case which is more painful for your horse and your pocket!
Better still, assess your horse’s sitation before it occurs;
- Do you have hooves trimmed regularly? (ie: every 4 weeks – not 8, 10 or 12) to maintain good hoof balance and health.
- What is the diet? Grains, lucernes, rich grass or a fresh flush of grass all cause laminitic attacks.
- What stresses does your horse endure? Travelling, competing, over training, illness, vaccinations, de-worming and medicating can all be triggers for laminitis.
Because laminitis is a “whole horse disorder” a holistic approach works well to identify and correct the root cause.
Be especially vigilant as spring grasses are starting to emerge. Restrict access to grass during the later part of the day and at night, and keep feeding plenty of hay so your horse doesn’t feel the need to gorge on toxic grass.
An in-depth presentation on laminitis can be found here on the BarefootHoofsmith.com
More Excellent advice and articles can be found if you click here to read
Carola Adolf’s articles on Laminits.
FABULOUS ONLINE VIDEOS ALL HORSE OWNERS NEED TO SEE – learn more about the dangers of over-feeding your horse and how to tell if they are overweight. Click this link to Fran Jurga’s Hoofblog to read more about how we inadvertently overfeed our horses and cases of laminitis are rising as a consequence – the videos are each about 7-9 minutes long.