Founder, or laminitis, is a serious hoof condition. Due to the unique circumstances in which it may occur and the species it affects, many new horse owners are unaware of the condition. Others are unsure of what to do if they suspect the founder. Here’s what you need to know, and home remedy options for a founder when mild enough to treat at home:
What is “Founder”?
Although laminitis and founder are used interchangeably, laminitis is frequently used to refer to an initial onset and symptoms. Founder, especially the term “founder prone”, is used to describe a chronic condition significantly affecting the coffin bone. The term “laminitis” comes from the disruption of blood flow to both the sensitive and insensitive laminae, which secure the coffin bone to the hoof wall. For a run-down on basic hoof structure and anatomy, click here. Many times, the laminae become permanently weakened and will interfere with the wall and bone bond security.
Causes Founder in Horses
Unfortunately, there is no singular precise cause of laminitis. Even though it is a hoof issue, causes are frequently from another problem in the horse’s body. The most common cause is “grass founder”, or sudden and excessive access to sugary forage without adaption. Overweight and insulin-resistant horses are, particularly at risk. Some of the known causes include:
- Abrupt change in diet, specifically excessive sugars or feed grains
- Sever colic episodes
- High fevers or certain illnesses
- Retained placentas in mares
- Certain toxins in a horse’s body
- “Road founder”, or hoof concussion
- Excessive weight imbalances
- Other foot diseases
- Steroid use in overweight or insulin-resistant horses
Read more about What Causes a Colic In Horses? Best Colic Treatments
Laminitis can be acute or chronic. Acute symptoms include lameness, increased digital pulses in hooves, hoof heat, certain responses to hoof testers, or a half park or “sawhorse” stance. This is quite noticeable and occurs when the horse has front feet stretched out with the hind feet tucked (often with an arched back indicating discomfort). Chronic laminitis symptoms can include sole bruising, wide white lines, hoof rings, cresty necks, dropped soles, or even dished hooves. Laminitis can be so severe a horse may end up being humanely euthanized if the coffin bone has rotated and penetrated the sole beyond treatment.
Home Remedy for Founder
At-home treatment for the founder should only be used with veterinary guidance for acute symptoms. For chronic laminitis, we recommend an equine professional such as a podiatrist work with your horse for immediate and long-term treatment plans. However, mild cases are often treated at home with proper veterinary oversight.
The first step is any treatment plan is a diagnosis. At-home remedies for mild founder include:
- Immediate dietary restrictions: no grain feed, dry-lot pasture, and hay by a veterinarian
- Anti-endotoxins and anti-coagulants or vasodilators
- Anti-inflammatory administration as approved and advised by your veterinarian
- Cushioning stall to max effort with high shavings for maximum comfort when standing and encouragement to lay
- Specialty shoeing as advised by your veterinarian and farrier
Although certain breeds are at a higher risk, there are preventative measures you can take. All feed needs to be secure and away from horses, and rich pasture grass should be introduced slowly. Horses with compromised immune systems are at particularly high risk. Diet and weight management are essential, as are regular farrier visits.
The founder is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. Be sure to monitor your horse’s weight, food intake/exposure, and maintain a regular farrier schedule. For more information, contact your equine veterinarian.
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