It's spring, that annual stock-taking time when horse owners should be taking serious care of their horses' feet and examining them for signs of changes brought on by the shift of seasons and feeding as brown grass turns green. It's time for owners to talk to vets and farriers about their horses' overall condition and to look at age and lifestyle factors that might be increasing a horse's risk of laminitis-related lameness or a serious episode of the debilitating disease.
As laminitis education has progressed, preventative measures to deflect full-blown spring laminitis are becoming more widely used. Horses with a higher risk for laminitis are impatient but safer spending most of the spring in stalls and dry lots, while others have to grin and bear grazing through a muzzle or on a limited turnout schedule only at certain times of day. Some horses may be on medication or in the midst of weight loss or control programs and there are plenty starting on new forage-based nutritional programs this year.
But many horses will still have laminitis, and even if they aren't overtly lame, they need to be carefully examined. Savvy horse owners now follow a schedule to monitor blood levels of the hormones insulin and ACTH, particularly if horses have a previous history of laminitis, or show signs of chronic laminitis-related conditions like insulin resistance and Cushing's disease (PPID).
A good spring checkup for laminitis prevention looks at the feet, the body condition and the bloodwork before the horse begins extended turnout on grass.
Nothing explains a problem more clearly than a good video can, and three ponies profiled by Liphook Equine Hospital in England are instructive not only in the necessity of combined foot and medical management of laminitis, or in the combined expertise of both veterinarians and farriers, but also in the ability to explain the disease simply and clearly to owners.
These videos were produced as part of the Talk About Laminitis education project in Great Britain, funded by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, on behalf of its medication Prascend for horses with Cushing's disease.
Introduction: Smokey's story focuses on the medical management of this aged pony with elevated adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and insulin levels and a history of repeated laminitis. Liphook Equine Hospital vet Tom McGinley and the owner discuss the pony's condition and care in this short video, but the hoof treatment is not detailed.
Echo's story illustrates farrier Richard Lovejoy's lameness examination of the horse. He looks not only at the hoof's deformation from laminitis, but also how the pony's conformation and movement are related to the condition and his hoof shape. Richard then sets out a classic treatment program using a plastic Steward clog with impression material, Magic Cushion, and casting tape as vet David Rendle asks all the right questions.
The "Jimmy" video was included in the popular Talk About Laminitis "Laminitis Revolution" web-based seminars, a major laminitis education broadcast funded in the UK by the British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare and Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
If you haven't already watched these videos, please plan an hour of your time to watch at least the first one, if not both, as soon as you can. While it is limited to endocrine-related laminitis problems, the Laminitis Revolution is a one-stop update on problems that are affecting horses this time of year.
In Great Britain and Ireland, endocrine blood tests for horses this spring are being underwritten by the Talk About Laminitis program. This will be the third year of the program, which has enabled the collection of data on 15,000 horses so far.
Sign-in is required to use the B-I education archive.
The information shared by Liphook Equine Hospital and the Talk About Laminitis initiative makes it clear that we may see the evidence of laminitis in the spring when the grass appears, but the underlying problems exist all year, and must be understood in order to insure a horse's health and well-being.
While these three videos explain two of many possible treatment plans for horses that are already suffering from endocrine-related laminitis, you should also review the information in the Animal Health Foundation's five-part series (total time: 37 minutes) on understanding and preventing all forms of the disease, featuring the research of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit and Dr. Chris Pollitt, as funded by the AHF.
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