Last Updated on July 7, 2022
Founder is a debilitating and life-changing condition that affects many horses. The question of can a horse recover from founder is one that many veterinarians are asked, as the long-term prognosis for a horse with founder is a big worry. Let’s find out everything you need to know about founder in horses!
What Is Founder In Horses?
Founder is a condition that affects the hooves and foot of the horse. It is a common cause of lameness in horses, and occurs for a variety of reasons.
When a horse has founder – more correctly known as laminitis – inflammation occurs within the laminae of the hoof. The laminae are velcro-like connections that secure the hoof capsule to the foot of the horse. When these tissues become inflamed, they weaken and the strong bond between the foot and hoof is compromised.
Due to the extreme weight of the horse, this weakening of the laminae can lead to structural changes within the hoof. The distal phalanx, or coffin bone, is torn away from the hoof wall and will rotate downwards or sink. This is not only very painful for the horse, but these structural changes in some cases are irreversible.
The reason for the inflammation in the laminae is not fully understood, but it has been shown to be linked to specific metabolic disorders and other diseases in horses.
One of the most common reasons for founder in horses is a condition called Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), which causes insulin resistance in affected horses. EMS most commonly affects obese horses, and causes abnormally high blood glucose levels.
Another common cause of founder in horses is an age-related disorder called Cushing’s Disease, or PPID. Again, this condition causes blood glucose levels to fluctuate to high levels, which is linked to inflammation of the laminae.
Other causes of laminitis in horses include high levels of endotoxins as a result of system infections such as septicaemia, colitis, endometritis, or pleuropneumonia. Horses that fracture a limb are also highly likely to suffer from laminitis in the opposite weight-bearing limb.
How Is Founder In Horses Diagnosed?
If your veterinarian suspects that your horse has founder, they will carry out a full clinical examination. Classic signs of laminitis in horses include bilateral forelimb lameness, and increased digital pulses to the affected feet. The horse will be reluctant to move, especially on hard surfaces, and may spend more time laying down than normal.
When a clinical examination leads to a strong suspicion of laminitis, your veterinarian will normally carry out a series of foot radiographs. These will show if any sinking or rotation of the distal phalanx (coffin bone) has occurred. Markers will be used to assess the position of this bone in relation to the hoof wall, which will help to determine the likelihood of the horse making a full recovery.
An important factor in treating laminitis in horses is to identify and treat the underlying cause. Without this measure, the inflammation in the laminae will continue to occur and the founder will not be stopped.
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Can A Horse Recover From Founder?
The question of can a horse recover from founder will depend on the severity of the structural changes within the hoof capsule. Your veterinarian will take measurements from radiographs which will help to determine if any rotation or sinking of the distal phalanx has occurred. A full recovery from founder also depends on whether the underlying cause can be brought under control.
Even the mildest case of founder in horses will require a long period of rest to allow the laminae to repair and strengthen. This will normally consist of at least one month of box rest, and in some cases may be much more.
If significant changes to the position of the distal phalanx are identified, then this greatly reduces the likelihood of the horse making a full recovery. Minor changes can be corrected through remedial farriery work, such as careful trimming of the hoof and the use of supportive shoes.
In a severe case of laminitis, the distal phalanx can rotate and sink to such an extend that it protrudes from the sole of the hoof. These horses have a very minimal chance of recovery, and should be euthanised.
Summary – Can A Horse Recover From Founder?
So, as we have learned, the question of can a horse recover from founder depends of the severity of the changes in the hoof and the underlying cause of the founder. A horse with a mild case of founder that is treated quickly can make a full recovery, although it may require a long period of rest. A horse with chronic long-term founder may succumb to permanent changes in the structure of the hoof, which may mean that it will never make a full recovery.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on can a horse recover from founder! Have you ever known a case of founder that was successfully cured? Or perhaps you’ve got a pony with long-term founder that requires constant medication? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
How Do I Stop Founder?
Founder is a complex medical condition of horses, and treatment should not be attempted without the support of your veterinarian. A horse with founder will require box rest, dietary management, and medical therapy to treat the underlying cause.
How Long Does Horse Founder Last?
A mild case of horse founder may only last for a couple of days, but the changes within the hoof take a long time to heal. Horses with founder should be rested from work for at least one month.
How Do You Fix A Foundered Horse?
Founder in horses is a medical emergency, and the horse should immediately be confined to a stall to prevent further damage to the hoof. A successful treatment plan for laminitis relies on supporting the hooves whilst also bringing the underlying cause under control.
Can You Reverse Founder In A Horse?
A mild case of founder in horses can be reversed with remedial farriery work, alongside medical therapy and box rest. If the changes within the hoof are severe, then it may not be possible to reverse the founder.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE