Loring Hart-Woods, Hart-Woods Equestrian
The great Julius Caesar had a horse that suffered from laminitis..?!?
Well, maybe, maybe not; but his mounted legions certainly had trouble with this debilitating and often fatal cause of what we generally describe as “lameness” in their horses.
It’s an old, old condition. The phrase “No hoof, no horse” coined in England as recently as 1751, is a troubling truth and the fundamental cause of laminitis, or “founder” as its commonly referred to in the United States.
How it actually comes about is still an unsolved mystery.
Laminitis is technically defined as inflammation of the digital laminae in the hoof. The word “laminae” from Latin, means “thin layers pressed together”.
There are around 600 pairs of interleaved laminae in a typical hoof.
Collectively they’re responsible for the suspension of the coffin bone.
Such delicately thin layers of tissue to support such bulk…what was God thinking!
Greek writings suggested that feeding too much barley grain led to lameness.
Later, the Romans observed the disease following overuse of horses on stone roads and recognized foot impact trauma as a major cause of the condition.
Fast forward to the 21st century.
Amazingly, we’re not much more advanced than our Mediterranean cousins when it comes to truly understanding how this happens to our beloved ungulate pals.
One significant reason being that laminitis is a symptom of a primary cause.
For example, the animal eats a large amount of concentrated food high in carbohydrates. The reaction which follows is general inflammation throughout the animal’s body which is caused by improper digestion leading to lactic acid bacteria buildup.
This inflammation occurs in the hoof as well.
However, the hoof wall is a rigid structure which doesn’t allow room for this added pressure. This condition compounds upon itself leading to founder.
Carbohydrate overload, colic, nitrate overload, fever, long toes, and prolonged contact with hard surfaces, have also been proposed as triggers of the inflammatory reaction in the hoof.
All the average equestrian can do is educate his or herself, and care for these creatures the best way possible.
I personally recommend “mirroring“, in as much as is possible, the way the horse would behave naturally.
I feed hay 4 times a day, as ungulates are grazers and do so most of the daylight hours.
I also limit processed feeds and supplements.
As we become busier and busier, thanks to the modern world we live in, we have become way too blasé about concentrated feeds. It’s just too convenient to pour a scoop of feed into a bucket.
Get back to basics!
Keep your horses out, moving around freely as much as you can.
Mimic Mother Nature. Like your mum, she knows best!
Maybe someday we’ll have a cure for cancer and the common cold.
Maybe the same for laminitis.
Until then, we should continue to do our best for these lovely creatures we’ve made dependent upon us.
It’s the least we can do considering all they have done for us!
Horses Helping Heroes