Laminitis - Avoid The Pitfalls


  1. Happy, Healthy, Good To Go

Action to take :– continue to feed plenty of fibre, quality magnesium, salt, bio-available minerals and vitamins to ensure your horse is healthy and happy good to go. .  

  1. Sound but subtle changes present – flat feet, tender on stones, feet that are weak and flare easily if not shod or trimmed regularly.

Action to take : - Review feeding plan and ensure fibre content is increased and include excellent levels of magnesium, salt, flax seed oil and bio-available minerals and vitamins.

  1. Tendency to be a "fatty” or has a cresty neck. Flat feet.

Action to take: – Reduce grass and carbohydrate intake from hard feed, increase hay intake (soaking maybe necessary**), include excellent levels of magnesium, salt and bio-available minerals and vitamins.

Maintain regular exercise as it is very important for hoof health and managing the horse’s weight. 

**How to soak hay - submerge in water for at least 1 hour. Use fresh water each time. Soaking reduces sugar content by at least 40%. Only soak what will be eaten within 6 or so hours during the day, as it may go moldy, particularly in the summer months. Horses may initially reject soaked hay but as long as it isn't moldy they will eat it. 

  1. Equine Metabolic Syndrome present – cresty neck, fat across top of body but ribs can be showing, flat flared feet, puffy sheath.

Action to take: - Reduce carbohydrate intake from hard feed and allow grazing for only 1-2 hours per day or less. Soak the hay and use slow feeder haynets if possible. Include excellent levels of magnesium, salt and bio-available minerals and vitamins.

Exercise is still very important for hoof health and managing the horse’s weight at this stage.

Stages 1, 2, & 3 above are the most effective ways to intervene at this stage 4, and cost much less than the vet if you let them get to stage 5 or 6.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome is COMPLETELY reversible.  It is the horse’s response to poor diet management.  

  1. Crest is now hard, feet are tender and noticeably worse after rain and flush of short grass. Noticeable lack of hoof connection (appears as a flare high up the hoof or "run away” at the toe). Lays down often. Leaning back on feet. Laminae is no longer supporting coffin bone.

Take Action NOW! :- Remove from grass completely, give Devils Claw for pain relief and also turmeric with pepper and flax seed oil is good analgesic and pain reliever. If pain is severe, call your vet. Implement further recommendations from stage 4. Laminitis is a diet management problem and your horse needs you to take action NOW!

  1. Catastrophic failure of hoof laminae resulting in full-blown laminitis.


Your horse needs you to Take Action Now!

Call your vet and tell them it is an emergency. You now have a very sick horse. He will be in a great deal of pain and needs urgent veterinary attention.

Hose or ice your horse's hooves is very worthwhile if done within the first 72 hours of an acute attack, stand horse on soft ground such as shavings, wet sand or soil (do not do this if coffin bone has penetrated the sole), tape foam padding to sole ensuring it does not restrict circulation. 

Easy Boot "Clouds" are good boot for severely acute laminitis horses. Gentle exercise within what the horse can cope with is important. Only walk straight lines - no circling. 

It is never too late to take action, but please for your horse's sake, be Proactive not Reactive and keep vigilant for the signs of this very painful and avoidable equine health condition.

We strongly recommend seeking the advice of a experienced barefoot trimmer. HoofNZ is a good place to start. Avoid aggressive trimming methods that include trimming sole to artificially create concavity and excessive trimming of the heels. 

Nature has an amazing ability to heal and the barefoot method speeds healing enormously. Corrective  shoeing(an overused term) slows or even prevents healing. Check out our case study Laminitis Rescue and Rehabilitation - A natural Approach. 

 I would like to thank Katie Sloane, barefoot trimmer based in Karaka South of Auckland for her contribution to this article. Katie, fellow members of Hoof NZ as well as other barefoot trimmers following Pete Ramey or Jamie Jackson methods, have a huge depth of knowledge and are a fantastic resource for those wanting to ensure their horses have the best possible care of their hooves. Facebook support groups such as The Natural Hoof Pro has excellent information for all horse owners. 

Contact us if you are unsure of what to do or where to go for help.