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Let's Talk About Laminitis

Laminitis is totally manageable. Don't fret. We have your back.

Laminitis is a painful and crippling condition that affects the feet of horses. It is caused by inflammation of the laminae, which are soft tissue structures that attach the coffin or pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall. The inflammation and damage to the laminae can cause extreme pain and lead to instability of the coffin bone in the hoof. In severe cases it can result in either rotation of the coffin bone, or 'sinking' meaning the whole coffin bone descends within the hoof capsule. Twenty years ago laminitis was often a death sentence for a horse or pony, but these days, with diligent management, laminitis is completely manageable. While gorging on grains (breaking into the feed shed), retained placenta, trauma, or overwork for an unconditioned horse can all cause laminitis, the most common cause is high sugars from fresh pasture.

It is important to nip laminitis in the bud.

  1. Frequently check your horse's hooves for heat and pulses.

  2. Watch closely for any short-stepping or head-bobbing in movement.

  3. Watch for any change in stances - pointing, standing over at the knee, box stance (with all their hooves together like they are standing on a small box), or base wide. These are all indicators of hoof pain. Be vigilant. Particularly in early spring or after rain.

  4. Thicker or harder crests, or fat deposits above the eyes or around the dock are also indicators.

  5. Prepare a space on your property, even if your horse is not showing signs of laminitis right now. Spring grass is usually the culprit, and that can occur swiftly. You can use your round yard, or construct a yard with pigtail posts and tape if need be, that has no, or very little pasture. Having a grazing muzzle on-hand is another option. If you catch laminitis early, and take your horse off pasture, recovery will be rapid.

  6. The safest feed will be soaked grassy hay. We have found the best method is to put the hay (1-2% of bodyweight per day) in a hay net, and dunk into a garbage bin full of water for around 30 minutes. Pull the hay out in the net and immediately hang for the horse to pick from. Soaking will leach out much of the sugar in the hay. Check the ingredients of any feeds you are giving to your horse. It needs to be less than 10% sugar. Other safe feeds include soy bean hulls (maxisoy) or beet pulp (speedibeet). Be wary of pelleted feeds that claim to be safe, as many can include inflammatory ingredients. The goal is not to starve your horse, but to provide caloric requirements in a safe way.

  7. A trim that eliminates peripheral loading for a horse that has inflamed lamina can provide immediate relief. A competent farrier or trimmer should be able to advise you on management practices.

My horse already has pulses. Now what? The first thing is to take your horse off pasture. No treats. No carrots or apples. The inflammation will reduce when the insult is removed. You can help that process by soaking your horse's feet in cool water and/or poulticing your horse's feet with Tuff Rock (whole capsule up to the fetlock joint). We also have an natural anti-inflammatory supplement called Relief Mix, which contains MSM and Devil's Claw. It's an alternative to bute, and can be used long-term for chronic conditions, whereas bute is only for short-term use due to its side effects. We have worked with horse owners to manage laminitis/insulin resistance/Cushings for nearly 20 years. Seeing your horse in pain is a terrible thing. Be patient. A condition that has taken days or weeks or years to manifest is not going to take mere hours to resolve. If you wait until your horse is lying on the ground, because standing is too painful, recovery will take longer. - maybe months. This is why we encourage you to respond to early signs. We have written a couple of blogs about laminitis in the past. Here's one that compares strip grazing, paddock paradise and grazing muzzles as methods for reducing grass intake. 3 ways to help prevent laminitis If your horse is already on the good-doer to insulin resistant to Cushings spectrum, read this post about management. Managing Cushings in the real world In our opinion, the best and most accurate resource on the internet is They encourage feeding flax/linseed as well as hay, which you can find below. Below are some tools for horse owners:

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