Preventing Laminitis

Aside from restricting grazing, other anti-laminitis measures include:

  • Avoiding sugar spikes, feed concentrates in small meals and make sure bellies are full of roughage before turnout – grass has a much faster rate of passage through an empty gut, and a sudden influx can upset the bacteria of the hindgut. Hungry horses also consume grass at a considerably faster rate!
  • Providing a consistent habitat for gut flora, they don’t like surprises and if they die in large quantities it can cause laminitis – this happens when a feed is abruptly added or removed. Make changes gradually – for sensitive individuals this means gradually introducing different batches of hay and different fields.
  • Providing supplementary magnesium.
  • Increasing exercise, this increases insulin-sensitivity and reduces hormone-releasing fat deposits.
  • Maintaining good gut health, with plenty of roughage, dentist checks, and maintaining a low worm burden.

Bum Cheeks

That’s how one owner described her horses frog infection! Untreated infection can cause a deep cleft right down to the sensitive corium, and if allowed to extend between the heel bulbs it can create a condition called sheared heels where the two sides can be moved independently (the photo above shows a severe case where most of the frog has been eaten away).

Rife hoof infections generally stem from leakage of serum and blood products into the tissue, typically as a result of inflammation associated with high carb diets. Right now we’re seeing an unusual spate of infection following all the recent rain, the moisture has softened the build up of material that would normally have steadily exfoliated off but was retained in the dry conditions.

Treatment of the external symptoms is simple and effective but once its muddy cleaning and drying is much more of a chore, so best to clear up infection before more autumn rain.

First dispense with anything bought from a tack shop, and anything you wouldn’t use on your own skin. Most commercial products and the old favourites like iodine damage healthy tissue creating a habitat for reinfection. The local chemist has everything you need in the baby care section…

Clean the sulcus gently but thoroughly with a solution of 1 cap milton to 1 gallon of water, you might need a syringe to squirt it into the depths, and especially to get under heart bar shoes if your unfortunate enough to have them. Dry carefully, a strip of towel is useful to pull through, it will remove any leftover crud too. Once absolutely dry slather with sudocreme. If there is room then coat strips of gauze with sudocreme and pack very carefully into the sulcus, or use Red Horse Hoof Stuff which does a fab job – but prepare the piece before you need it as it’s a nightmare to get out of the tub!

While the sulcus is growing out, and fresh tissue growing in, stay out of sand schools – if you’ve ever had sand in your pants you’ll know why!

Central Heating

Horses need more energy to maintain body heat when the temperature falls below approximately -1º (in dry, still conditions, with a nice thick coat and in good condition).

It’s been below freezing for days now but before putting on thicker rugs be sure to turn up the central heating…

Digesting feed produces heat and especially digesting fibre, the activity of the microbes in the hindgut is an important source of heat. If your horses teeth aren’t so good there are short chops and soakable fibre feeds that can replace hay, the latter with the advantage they introduce liquid at the same time.

There are various soakable feeds on the market to suit both high and low calorie needs. Speedi-beet is very versatile as it has as much energy as most “mix’s”, but only 5% carbs. A tiny quantity swells to provide a decent sized meal to appease a good doer, but a larger amount can be fed to increase condition. Straight alfalfa feeds and grass pellets are also good soaked, though alfalfa doesn’t suit all horses and the carb content of grass pellets should be checked.

Of course movement generates heat too…

Keeping Your Finger on The Pulse

With digital pulses no news is good news – a healthy hoof will have no pulse or a barely discernible tic, a stronger pulse generally indicates inflammation. Every horse is an individual, so get to know your horses typical pulse. Some find it easier to locate the point on the fetlock as demonstrated here, others on the pastern.

Whenever you can try locating the pulses of different horses, so you develop an idea of what feels weak and what feels strong.

Typically professionals use a scale of 0 – 5, this is how I describe the scale:

0 – no pulse discernible
1 – like the beat of a butterflies wing
2 – a butterfly on steroids
3 – between two and four!
4 – you can see your fingers move on top of the pulsing artery, I’d class this as bounding, like a small kangaroo.
5 – like an angry kangaroo, definitely a “bounding” pulse, you can sometimes see the pulse with the naked eye before you even touch the skin

Inflammation can be a sign of an abscess, quite likely if its only raised on one foot, however if a pair or all four feet are affected then laminitis is a strong possibility. Bear in mind however hot weather and exercise can also result in raised pulses.

Knowledge is Power

Whether you’re dealing with your vet, EP, chiropractor, osteopath, physio or dentist, don’t be intimidated by their experience, take full advantage of their knowledge, ask questions and keep asking until you understand! Most equine professionals will gladly take the time to explain to you the how’s and why’s of their treatment for your horse, but it’s up to you to take a proactive approach to horse management and ask! It’s the very best way to learn.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Horses spend between 16 to 18 hours grazing; whether chomping on hay or nibbling on grass your horse will consume on average 2.5% of its own body a day, no mean feat when you consider the average horse is about half a ton! But have you ever stopped to wonder what your horse is actually eating? Grass roots draw up nutrients from the soil to grow strong stalks and leaves, but just because you grass is lush and green doesn’t necessarily mean it’s providing your horse with the right balance of minerals. If the pasture is deficient or heavy in one or other mineral then the grass will reflect that imbalance. While horses can tolerate a wide range of mineral imbalances with no obvious outward signs many of the nagging horse issues for granted as ‘usual’ in horses such as sun-bleaching, tendon/ligament/joint stiffness, immune system imbalances, muscle and nerve problems, poor fertility, bone problems, and hoof issues can all have a nutritional component.

Before you rush off to the feed merchant and reach for the pretty label on the shelf its worthwhile investing in a bit of detective work to find out what you’re up against. ForagePlus offers an analysis service of both your pasture and hay/haylage. This is a small investment which will save you in the long run, benefit your pasture and most importantly your horse. A field analysis offers you a road map to your horse’s basic diet and allows you to adjust your feed plan accordingly. If you need a little help digesting all this data they also offer a great personalised feed plan to help you keep your horse in top form.

Kathy Watts has a wealth of information on her site SaferGrass on pasture and nutritional management of horses for both the prevention and treatment of laminitis, carbohydrate intolerance, insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, cushing’s and cushingoid in horses as well as practical guides to help horse owners ensure they do what can to prevent their development.

Stepping Ahead From Serious Injury

Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time around horses will know they have a nose for trouble, they are always coming up with new ways of giving us minor heart attacks whether rolling against the fence in a 23 acre pasture or auditioning for a place on the Olympic gymnastics team by managing to get a hoof through the noseband of their head collar when your back is turned outside the tack room.

They have a near gravitational attraction to mishaps. Most can, thankfully, be taken care of at home, and those rare more serious misadventures sorted out by a skilled vet. But there are instances of truly catastrophic injury, when you and your vet may step back and wonder what do next. For those situations when hope is slim, we highly recommend getting in touch with Dr Jolly of Step Ahead Farm, his site is not for the sensitive (or when eating your lunch) but his work in the treatment of extreme equine injury to help horses heal and return to a functional life is something to be commended.

This US vet offers a simple and easy to implement concept for healing, and his essentials for the treatment of injuries are a must in the first aid kit of all yards and barns no matter how small. Even for horses with long term injuries that were either left untreated or where treatment has been unsuccessful there is a chance that his methods for revitalising old injuries could be that answer to helping your horse return to a health active life.

This is one site we really recommend you bookmark, and one we have given to our own vets, hopefully you and your horses will never need his help but should the worse happen his consultation could be what you and your vet need to help your horse heal.

Ride Local

Whether you’re new to an area or just wanting to get to know your home patch a bit better, the Ordnance Survey now offers customised OS maps centred on any post code in the UK.

This is a great way to see what is located within riding of the centre of the universe (aka your stable yard). Simply pop in the post code of the desired map centre, pick your map scale and format (folded for fitting into saddle bags, or flat for the tack room wall), design your own cover and they offer free delivery to. It’s a great excuse to add some adventure to your hacking, so tack up and explore those green spaces around your yard.