Laminitis! What do I do?

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The mere thought of Laminitis for any of our equine friends is just terrifying!  It sends the hair rising on the backs of our necks and the pits of our stomachs to recoil. I've heard some people say their vets or farriers tell them its 'the end' for the horse.  

But, IA quick checklist: 

'm here to tell you ... that's NOT TRUE!

For almost 20 years I worked with pathological hooves ... laminitis, founder, sinking founder, perforated founders ... and while some horses were not able to go back to their original 'work', a solid 95% of them were!  

Here is just one extreme example. Now, granted, this pony wasn't in heavy-duty work ... but she was giving pony parties and doing little kid lessons. She foundered, and PERFORATED all 4 hooves. In 6 months she was back to giving little kids rides and happy as a clam. (remember, this horse wasn't just 'laminitic' .. she was full-blown, perforated foundered!) The owner and hoofcare person didn't recognize what was happening to begin with so the initial laminitis progressed into the founder stage. 

This is a simple graphic showing the progression of recuperation:


And here is her first xray: 

Her front right hoof progression: 

As you can see -- she was about the worst one can imagine. BUT ... again, she went back to her former state of 'work' and is still goin' at it today ... 5 years later and goin' at it strong! So a horse in a state of Acute Laminitis stands a way better chance of ful recovery than the girl above. !! 

So, if you've got a horse that is suspected laminitic or has been seen by a farrier or veterinarian and is diagnosed as 'laminitic' ... don't despair ... take a deep breath and don't let anyone tell you "it's the end" for your horse. Do NOT believe it! 

The first thing to do is to MAKE SURE the hooves are trimmed CORRECTLY for that horse ... that may be a difficult exercise to complete. If you're suspecting your horse is developing laminitis look for a person who has a solid track record for recovery of laminitic and foundered horses and is a BAREFOOT specialist!  Someone who understands the anatomy and physiology of the equine digit. Ask to get references. If you can actually SEE, for yourself, recovered horses then go see them!  Don't just accept any old trimmer ... or anyone who even just says, "Sure! I can help you with your laminitic pony!" ... No, you want to BE SURE that you find someone knowledgeable and EXPERIENCED!  Every horse is different and every hoof may require something different in terms of corrective and rehabilitative care. 

Now that I've said to make sure the hooves are trimmed CORRECTLY ... that's means NO SHOES! If the horse is shod then you want to have those shoes removed asap. 

Conventional care is usually specifies special orthotic shoes, lock in a deeply bedded stall; withhold all grain and only feed a poor quality grass hay. I've found more success with a more 'natural approach' to treating this condition. 

First, remember, the BEST thing for a hooves is MOVEMENT ... in the first few days after diagnosing you do want your horse to only move as he or she is comfortable in doing. I do NOT recommend giving chemical pain killer of any kind as that may cause the horse to move TOO much, thus, tearing the laminae even more than initial insult. The chemical pain killer can also cause gut issues which would only serve to stress the laminitic condition. 

I recommend turnout 24/7 in a small, flat area; NOT stalled! Do encourage movement as the *horse* wants ... spread out the hay (good quality grass and timothy mix) so the horse can 'graze' at will - as much as the horse wants; Put the water source a ways away from the hay so the horse has to walk to it. Add 1/4 cup of medium hardwood activated charcoal to the water to help pull the offending toxins out of the body. 

If the horse is used to being turned out on grass then a small area of grass grazing can be provided. If the horse is NOT used to grass grazing do NOT turn the horse out to grass!  

Provide an area that IS soft and cushy so if the horse wants to lie down he/she can in comfort. If you can, also provide an area of cool water, dug out pond or small stream in which the horse can stand at will. It that's not possible then you may want to stand your horse in shallow pans of cool water several times a day. Adding a 1/2 cup or so of medium quality, hardwood activated powdered charcoal to the soak is most beneficial!

Something really helpful for the horse is to provide and area of smooth pea stone in which the horse can stand. It provides massaging comfort and when given a choice, that is where most horses will choose to rest.  

You want your horse's hooves to FUNCTION well in order to get that circulation moving through the hooves .. that means good FORM ... which means correct trimming. So that is imperative ... again, find someone who is EXPERIENCED and SUCCESSFUL at rehabbing laminitic horses and does it without shoes! 

If the horse is not moving well, put on boots or other protective measures to cushion the hooves and help comfort. The main idea is to encourage movement at will. 

Do NOT force movement for a few days ... up to 72 hours/6 days. Gentle HAND WALKING several times a day for short periods of time but only if the horse will WILLINGLY walk with you. 

I, personally, use homeopathics and essential oils to help laminitic horses. Plus, I use specific, raw forage diets (fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.). There are specific remedies to be used with care. If you're interested then please contact me personally about it. :) I am happy to offer consult.

Suffice to say that the reason causing the laminitis must be addressed in order to safely treat it with homeopathics, herbs and oils. So, that part of the treatment is purely individualistic according to each case. The same applies to the diet that is recommend. 

After a few days of rest your horse should be showing improvement. The Acute stage of laminitis lasts only 24 - 72 hours. Once through the acute stage then the condition will either clear up and the hooves will grow out new horn nicely or it may progress into the founder stage. The severity of the lameness directly relates to the severity and extent of the damage to the laminae. If treated aggressively at the first signs of lameness then most can recover fully. 

 A checklist:

--Trim correctly
--Turn out 24/7 
--Free choice good quality grass hay
--Limit or totally eliminate all processed food for at least 72 hours.
--Use anti-inflammatory herbs or essential oils along with homeopathic remedies -       Consult for specific diet, homeopathic and herbal/oil treatments 
--Detox (this can be done homeopathically as well) 

This is the pony described above. You can see the new hoof growth and she's standing very comfortably. This is about 5 months after the initial start of my treatment. 


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:   Gwenyth also offers an online home-study of Natural Hoofcare 101 ... please go here: to view information and to register. 




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