Horses and green pasture.

Laminitis, commonly known as founder, is a serious condition caused by the inability of some horses and ponies to adequately metabolize highly soluble carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in lush green or freshly growing pastures, usually in spring and early autumn. An excessive amount of sugar causes an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. The bacteria create a toxin that interferes with the blood supply to the hooves, which creates structural changes, inflammation and significant pain. Early veterinary attention is important to ensure a correct diagnosis and to provide relief from the intense pain.

While excessive weight is not the sole cause, which is often the mistaken belief, it can definitely exacerbate the condition, so weight management is an important part of laminitis prevention.

However, the most important and effective prevention is to restrict access by horses to large amounts of fresh green pasture. This is absolutely critical in horses that have foundered before — these animals must be completely locked away at the first sign of a green flush after rain, no matter what time of year it is.

To further complicate the issue, hay and chaff harvested during the ‘high sugar’ periods of spring and late summer/early autumn can also contain high levels of the sugars that cause laminitis, so locking horses away from fresh green grass and feeding them on sugar-rich hay or chaff is equally dangerous.

Laminitis requires intensive management for many weeks, even months in severe cases, to return the hoof to its healthy state. Once a horse has had laminitis, it is prone to getting it repeatedly, if not adequately managed. In chronic cases, strict dietary management is needed for the lifetime of the horse.

It is therefore very important to catch the disease early and to manage it intensively, to prevent further recurrences.

For more information on how to manage a horse with laminitis please contact us today.