Laminitis is a very painful inflammatory condition of the tissues (laminae) that bond the hoof wall to the pedal (coffin) bone in the horses hoof. Contrary to the myth, laminitis occurs all year round and not just in the spring. It can occur in two forms: Acute laminitis and Chronic laminitis.
Symptoms include inability/reluctance to walk or move forward and may want to lie down. The horse may also lean back, when standing, to take pressure off their front feet. The horse will be visibly lame when moving in a circle or hard surface and have increased digital pulse in the foot and increased respiratory rate due to the pain.
Please don’t wait until your horse/pony is overweight or had their first episode of laminitis. If caught in acute stages, no major damage is done and chances of recovery is maximised if treated early.
If you feel your horse is susceptible to laminitis (native pony, cob, good doer etc), knowing how to manage it is very important:
1) Aim to keep your horses slim through exercise and managed diet
2) Use winter wisely by letting them lose some weight in winter before the rich grass comes through in spring. This helps keep the metabolism healthy and when spring arrives, you don’t have to worry about them gaining a few pounds. A common concern for horse owners is over-rugging in winter, however if your horse is native and a good doer they definitely will not need a duvet to keep them warm!
3) Keeping your horse/pony on a low calorie diet and avoiding cereal-based/molassed feeds can help your horse/pony. Please also look out for feeds approved by The Laminitis Trust (www.laminitis.org)
4) Keep an eye on your horse’s feet!
For example foot tenderness, laminitic rings, stretched white line etc
5) Limit time in the pasture and use ‘pasture free’ turnout area such as hard turnout areas. Another idea is turning your horse out in the evening/early morning and avoiding afternoons as sunlight increases production of fructan (sugar). Fructan is the element in grass that causes horses to have laminitis and fructan levels are lower in the evening/early morning as the sunlight is decreased during these times.