Healthy Hooves: Lessening the Risk of Laminitis

Unfortunately, Laminitis is a fairly common condition meaning preventing laminitis in horses is important in their day to day care. Once a horse or pony has had a bout of laminitis, they become more prone to subsequent attacks. Although, laminitis can be caused by stress and concussion, by and large there is a direct link to the horse’s metabolism and their body’s inability to process high levels of starch and glucose in modern-day diets. In true terms, laminitis refers to inflammation and deterioration of the sensitive laminae within the hoof wall.

The signs of laminitis can be quite subtle, but should your horse suffer an attack careful observation on your part means you can be quick to act and limit the longer-term impact. Sometimes we are hasty to put subtle signs, such as, reluctance to turn or pick up their feet down to our horses being downright stubborn or awkward. With hindsight, when they show a little reluctance, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to reserve judgement, exercise caution and check whether there is any sign of heat at the coronet band or hoof wall. It would also be wise to check to see if the digital pulse is pounding. A combination of these symptoms could be an indication that your horse has laminitis. Keeping an eye on your horse’s stance at rest will also offer early indication. If they seem to be resting their weight predominantly on their heels or shifting their weight from foot to foot, they are in some pain and trying to find a comfortable position to stand in.

It’s important to be vigilant about the different methods of preventing laminitis in horses, especially those who are at higher risk including those who have suffered previous attacks of laminitis; horses that are overweight, those with free access to rich grazing and those with overlong feet. Supplements to encourage healthy hoof growth are advisable as warm dry weather can be unforgiving on the hoof wall. Feeding supplements, like Hoof & Health, containing Biotin is a good idea throughout the summer months.

Preventing Laminitis In Horses: What You Can Do To Help…

Adapt diet to suit environmental factors and workload. A horse with a high carbohydrate diet or those who are overweight will suffer first; However, starvation is not the answer, grass and hay alone will not provide all of the vitamins and minerals required for your horse to stay healthy. All feed manufacturers will try to sell you their products: use your judgement and remember every horse is unique, no one size will fit all. As a rule of thumb feed a diet which is high in fibre and low in sugar and carbohydrates. Cut out the sugary treats and maybe try something like Hilton Herballs – they are low in sugar and contain a delicious blend of mint, rosemary and oregano.

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preventing laminitis in horses over exercising
Take it easy when exercising. Although exercise is important for fitness and vital in maintaining blood supply to the feet, sometimes forcing the horse to move through the pain (or blocking the pain completely with painkillers) can cause more damage as the horse will move around and tear the ligaments within the hoof wall as the pedal bone pulls against it. (The lamellar attachments that suspend the pedal bone within the hoof wall simply disintegrates)

Hoof health is important. Add supplements such as Hoof & Health to encourage strong keratin growth and book your farrier in regularly to ensure the hoof is balanced weight remains evenly distributed, irregular shaped hooves can lead to a bout of laminitis. Avoiding fast work over hard ground is crucial in preventing hidden trauma and mechanical damage to the internal hoof structure.

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preventing laminitis in horses over exercising

Don’t forget to look after hooves from the outside too. The dry weather and warmer weather means that, if not kept moisturised, hooves are more prone to crack and chip DivaFeet Hoof Defence Clay or Hoof Balm are perfectly formulated to stop bacteria forming during the warm wet summer showers and our Hoof Oil is 80% more absorbent than other oils and ideal for adding moisture.

Restrict grazing and ensure you adapt turnout according to grass growth. Spring grass is the worst, but we also see spikes in laminitis after summer rain showers. Fast growing grass disturbs the gut flora but making the stomach more acidic and killing off the helpful bacteria.

Also be mindful of external factors. Stress can induce laminitis and some medicines, such as
steroids, are renowned for causing laminitis in high-risk horses.

Whilst we do our best to give the most accurate and helpful advice to do with the health of your horse, we do recommend seeking the opinion of your vet if there is anything you are unsure about!