For Love of the Horse

Laminitis 101 – Addressing The Hooves

Severe rings indicate laminitis.

Severe rings indicate laminitis.

Founder, or laminitis, is a scary word for a horse owner, I know.  Most often, the owner believes that it is a death sentence, or at least eventually it will be.  The truth is, a horse can recover from laminitis, no matter how much “damage” has been done.  I’ve seen horses recover even when there has been severe damage and even coffin bone penetration.

It is essential to address the hooves and, most importantly, the trim.  The hoof walls must be kept short, especially the toe area.  A long toe will “pull” at the hoof wall, creating additional stretching of the sensitive, and already compromised, laminae.  The heel height is also important.  The heels need to be kept low to take the pressure off of the painful toe.  Frequent trimming is also imperative.  I have found that a laminitic horse cannot go more than 4 weeks without a trim, otherwise, the hoof wall begins to get long, stretching the laminae even further.  A lot of these horses require a 2 week touch up in between trims to ensure that the wall is kept short and the heels are kept low.

Shoes are detrimental.  Shoes with pads are detrimental.  These will reduce circulation and GREATLY inhibit recovery.

Laminitic horses GREATLY benefit by the use of boots.  Not just any boot will do.  They need very soft padding to help with comfort.  When they are a bit more comfortable, they will move more, thus speeding the healing of the hoof.  There are a ton of options out there as far as boots go.  Most of these options are great, but not good for laminitis.  A boot such as the Renegade will prove to be too hard for their sensitive feet.  Boots like the Easy Boot Trail will rub on the heel bulbs and not stay in place well.  I have found that the best laminitis boot is the Soft Ride boots.  These offer the option of a very soft gel pad, specifically softer at the toe where the horse is the most sensitive during or after an episode.  Applying a boot such as the Easy Boot RX, Easy Boot Glove, or a jogging boot, will due as long as you apply adequate padding.  I like to pad with a synthetic wool pad in these instances, as it provides cushion and is moisture wicking as well.  Either way, boots will provide your horse with adequate protection and increase comfort.  When you boot, your horse’s feet will need a break, so it is good if you can remove them for a few hours a day.  This will prevent rubbing and irritation.  Keep the boots clean and free from debris that will be irritating as well.  If you do find that you cannot remove them daily, the Soft Ride boots can be left on for much longer periods, but they still should be removed and checked every couple of days or so.

Inside view of a Soft Ride boot.

Inside view of a Soft Ride boot.

The use of a poultice may also help with comfort and may help with the abscessing (which I will discuss in another blog).  There are many poultice options available (like Epsom salt poultices), your horse’s comfort level will tell you which option will work best for him/her.

Last, and maybe most importantly, your horse NEEDS movement.  It is detrimental for your horse to be standing in a stall.  This WILL inhibit recovery.  Encourage movement by spreading hay around so they can move around and “graze”.  This is not only good for their feet, but good for their mind as well.  If you do not have the option of an area for turnout that does not have grass, you may take your horse out for very short walks, letting him/her decide how far and how fast you move.  Do this a couple times a day, being sure not to over-do it.

Don’t give up.  All of these things will provide some comfort and will promote faster recovery.  Recovering their hooves is only part of the process, but is a good place to start.  Hang in there and tell your horse that you’re doing all you can to help.  They will know.