Unfortunately, many of the following symptoms of Laminitis are considered normal. Many horse owners, even equine professionals, will ignore these symptoms unless the horse is actually lame. However, they can all indicate serious pathology in the hooves and be a sign of things to come. Assess your horses' hooves for the signs of Laminitis and take measures to stop it getting worse.
TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A LAMINITIC HOOF:
Steeper hoof wall growth at the hairline when compared to the toe
Stress or growth rings
Divergent growth rings – closer at the toe than at the heel
White line stretching and separation
Here are a few photos of typical laminitic hooves displaying some of the characteristics listed above. Some are more obvious than others!
The picture below may not look as severe as the previous hooves, however, the separation in these hooves is a serious problem for hoof function and stability.
Flaring in hoof walls indicate a loss of laminar connection. If the laminar connection is healthy, tight and firm then the hooves won’t have a flare.
Often the dorsal wall flare – shown above – is easiest to see at first, but it may be necessary to really get down on the ground to see it! Sometimes it can be easier to take some photos to really assess flare, this is what I do anyway as I don’t like lying around on the ground for any period of time next to a horse!
Get your camera down on the ground, and I mean actually rest it on the ground, and make sure your lens is aligned with the centre of the hoof. Snap away and assess the angles later on your computer. This is also a very good thing to do every couple of months, keep a record of your horse's' hoof growth and you may find you see a pattern throughout the year.
The hoof above is showing severe quarter separation extending around to the toe, sometimes it can be seen at the toe only and may also be known as ‘Seedy Toe’ or ‘White line Disease’. Nothing you can do to the external part of this hoof will fix this problem. The fix needs to come from the inside – through proper diet and management – for this hoof to grow a better connection. It also will never ‘reattach’, instead the wall needs to ‘Grow in’ from the coronary band at the top.
Diet plays a pivotal role in the healthy growth of new hoof wall and laminar connection. Choose an excellent quality mineral mix such as Missy’s Bucket, provide a low sugar and starch diet and reduce Iron intake. Along with appropriate trimming and exercise, these steps will help your horse get through the dangers of Springtime Laminitis free.
In the next article, we will be looking at a series of photos that clearly demonstrate how a hoof grows and see some examples of changes to the hoof wall that mirror management changes. Learn how to ‘Read’ your horses hoof wall.
For more info on Laminitis including treatment, rehab and prevention, have a look at the book‘What is Laminitis? – A Practical, Step by Step Guide to Recovery’ written by Rebecca Scott and Zoe Messina. Available in the shop as a PDF.
‘If your horse has laminitis, this is the FIRST book you should read! A review by Linda Whitfield Cowles – Equine rehab specialist.
You may find that your horses coat has already started shedding, this is triggered by the longer daylight hours and marks the start of the long winter coat loss! This process will continue over the next few months and it's important to provide adequate nutritional support during this time to encourage a healthy and shiny new summer coat.
Often during Spring horses are locked up for extended periods to keep them off the rich grass and the danger of Laminitis at bay. Compared to fresh grass, the nutrient profile of hay can be quite different. This is because some vitamins and fats are fragile and are lost in the curing process or can decline over time. There are some main nutrients that should be considered.
The herb Jiao Gu Lan has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Because of the herb’s ability as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it has beneficial effects for horses suffering from Laminitis. It also has a powerful ability to increase blood flow in the hoof due to its ability to modulate nitric oxide.