The start of spring is upon us, it will soon be time to turn the horses out to grass for the summer. Usually we turn out around the beginning of May, and this is a time when I need to
continually check my horse for any signs of Laminitis. Amy my horse had a very bad case of this about 7 years ago, for a short time we thought it would be the end, but she made a remarkable recovery which took just over 12 months, it was a very sad time and hard to watch her in pain. Here are some brief facts about Laminitis. Laminitis is a painful condition which is associated with inflammation and damage to the laminae of the horses hoof. If damage to the laminae is so serious it causes separation of the laminae tissues then the pedal bone may lose its firm attachment to the inner surface of the hoof wall resulting in either the pedal bone rotating downward or the pedal bone sinking in the hoof. Laminitis can happen because of a sudden change in diet, causing a build up of toxins, carbohydrate overload or even concussion during fast, hard road work; usually it is caused by the animal being overweight due to lack of exercise and having a high grass intake. Research has found that controlling these factors decreases the risk of Laminitis significantly but they can only decrease the chance of risk and not cure it. Horse’s affected by Laminitis stand in a certain way in order to take the weight off their feet. The forelegs are usually stretched forward so that they put most of the weight on their heels. The hind legs are also moved
forwards and tucked under their body. More commonly Laminitis affects the front feet rather than the back, but the latter is not unheard of. When Amy had laminitis my farrier made special heart bar shoes to protect the frog, and therefore allowing the horse to stand normally without discomfort. My farrier worked with the vet who came and X-rayed her hooves to see how bad the damage was, these X-rays are very expensive and due to Amy having this condition before I got her, I had no insurance to help cover it. The X-rays showed that some rotation of the pedal bone had occurred and it had also sunk. She is still flat footed to this day. The Vet did not want to commit as to whether or not Amy would pull through but did advise that she may never be ridden again. Amy had to go on a strict diet and have regular hoof trimming, we were advised to use farrier’s formula for feed which cost me around £50 per month, it was a very expensive year but as she made a full recovery, it was definitely worth it. I was even given the go-ahead to ride Amy which was just the best news ever. I was made aware by my vet about the care of horses and ponies prone to laminitis and how to help to avoid the problem happening again. I have been lucky, as since that time, Amy has not had a re-occurrence. In May when she is turned out to grass I usually bring her in at night for the first couple of weeks in order to introduce her to the grass more gradually, leaving her out at night just at the weekends and checking for any signs morning and evening, then when I turn her out full time, for the next 2-3 weeks I go up in the morning and at night to check for any heat in her hooves, a pulse in her ankle or any signs of lameness. Most horses with Laminitis have problems when turning, for instance when Amy would try to walk in a circle you could see the effort needed and the lameness was obvious. So I keep a close check on her for the first month or so. If I find heat in her hooves or a pulse I bring her in straight away for a couple of days but usually the heat is gone by the next day along with any pulse, so
careful monitoring is needed. As I say, due to these checks and careful diet and regular exercise I can, I keep her weight down and her grass intake monitored and since doing this she has been laminitis free for the last 6 years. You can find lots of information regarding laminitis on the internet or if in doubt do not hesitate to speak to your vet. If Laminitis is caught early full recovery is possible, Amy is living proof of this. Don’t get caught out like I did, you need to monitor your horse frequently, don’t just presume she will be ok, you need to physically check.