Laminitis is largely a medical problem reflected by the hooves as mechanical failure.
Equine laminitis aka founder is a complicated and emotional subject. It is emotional because it can be so debilitating to a once robust horse and also because it can be so expensive over a fairly long period of time with absolutely no guarantee of success. Owners need to consider these things to be fair to the horse and themselves. The medical aspect is still unclear but scientists are gaining ground. The mechanics however are much more well understood. Thanks to the likes of Dr. Scott Morrison of Rood and Riddle, we now have a very successful set of protocols allowing any skilled farrier and veterinarian team to have tremendously better odds of success. Here I will focus on the farrier (mechanical) aspect of laminitis with other overview information an owner might benefit from. If you suspect your horse of having acute laminitis, call your veterinarian right away.
Laminitis is a disease of the sensitive structures of the hoof which can result in separation of the hoof from the pedal bone (P3). The pain can be thought to be similar to hitting your finger nail with a hammer and then having to walk on it, or peeling off your fingernail by having to walk on it.
There are different classes of laminitis:
1. Subacute: mild
2. Acute: severe
3. Refractory: unresponsive
Chronic: Continuation of acute phase. Begins at first signs of movement of P3.
1. Early chronic: First sign of P3 movement can occur within days to months of acute symptoms.
2. Chronic active: P3 has rotated or sunk (founder) and may continue, possibly penetrating the sole.
3. Chronic stable: P3 has stopped moving. There is hoof and sole growth. Clinical signs improve.
Deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT)
Dorsal coronary corium
Too much carbohydrate rich food. Too much grass rich with sugars. Cushings. Obesity. Colic. Retained placenta. Abnormal concussion (road founder). Drinking cold water before cooling off. Black walnut shavings. Any kind of stress.
The horse is painful in the toe area of the hoof which can be confirmed with the hoof testers. This toe pain causes the horse to develop the “laminitis stance” characterized by rocking back of its front feet onto its hind feet as much as possible.
Increased digital pulse pressure (throbbing). Heat in hoof.
Heels grow faster and toe may not grow at all. Toe is often dished.
There are two modes of treatment necessary for laminitis: Medical and Mechanical. Again, we are mostly concerned with mechanical treatment options here, as that is what we do, but the medical aspect must be healed before the hooves will reflect any recovery. Laminitis is largely a medical problem reflected by the hooves as mechanical failure.
Mechanical treatment depends mostly on the type and level of laminitis. Below are the most common treatment modes I have used.