Laminitis is the most dreaded of all horse conditions - intense pain and often long lasting and tragic results. While we do know a lot about the causes of laminitis and ways to help the laminitis horse, there are also these amazing little tidbits of laminitis information that might just help your horse avoid laminitis all together. Black walnut trees contain toxins that cause laminitis. A horse standing on black walnut shavings absorbs the toxins rapidly through the hoof wall. Butternut trees are also a laminitis inducing tree. Your horse’s resting hear rate will increase ever so slightly by about 5 beats per minute. This happens a few days before lameness sets in. We all know that horse hooves will heat up when the laminitis starts to set in, but did you know that the hooves actually spend a few hours being ICY COLD before the heat sets in? Many horse owner never experience this as it’s short lived. You can significantly slow or stop the chemical triggers that cause laminitis. Icing your horse’s laminitis hooves for 24-48 or longer hours physically slows the rate at which the chain reaction of chemicals tells your horse’s feet to inflame. Some protocols are suggesting ice therapy for up to 72 hours. Yes, these are 24-72 hours consistently. Your horse’s hoof shape reflects laminitis. A horse with laminitis grows more heel than front. Perhaps a good reasons to photograph your horse’s feet every time the Farrier is there. Chronic abscesses are a real possibility for the horse that has experienced laminitis. A good way to monitor for a brewing abscess is to know your horse’s baseline digital pulse and monitor it daily. Checking the hooves for heat daily also helps, but is a bit more subjective than the pulse. Laminitis is the inflammation of the internal hoof structures. Founder is when the sinking, rotation, or other change to the position of the bones inside the hoof. Both are horribly painful. Daily attention to your horse’s legs, hooves, and overall health go a long way to preventing laminitis.
How to train your horse to love his ice therapy! It’s true that most horses are absolutely fine with ice therapy! After all, we have trained them to get into trailers, jump over things with us on their backs, do fancy things with their feet in front of judges, and wear all sorts of things like saddles and blankets. So if you have a horse that seems to object to his ice therapy, here are some tips to make things more positive for everyone. Don’t start with buckets. Horses know that buckets are supposed to contain FOOD - not ice! Skip the buckets and go for something that doesn’t require you need an ice machine, a hose, a bucket, and enough patience to keep refilling it after every spill/ Baby steps. Teach your horse that only positive rewards happen when he wears boots or polo wraps. Lots of praise after you put them on. You will find that after a while, this is part of his life and he’s ok with it. Then use this to transfer to ice wraps after his exercise. At first, use the wraps empty. Then lots of praise, some more praise, and then even more. Do this for days or weeks until he is totally chill in his wraps. The baby steps continue. Then add in some ice packs - but the defrosted kind. Again, so much praise. Do this for days or weeks. Then baby steps continue some more. Then add the FirstIce packs to the wraps - nice and cold! Don’t stop with the praise. Some other ideas to help your horse LOVE his icing time. Let him eat! A strategically hung hay net in the cross ties is a fantastic way for him to pass the time. Let all of his favorite massage spots be worked on. Nothing like helping your horse feel better with a nice massaging and groom after a workout. Just add in the ice wraps and it’s a two for one horse special. Make sure he is not super distracted by lunch time happening without him, the horse eating tractor loading hay outside the barn, the invisible horse eating monster in the corner. Braid his mane. Many horses love to be braided, and it can put them into a sort of trance. Bonus that you get to practice braiding. Any other activity that your horse loves! Combine that with his ice time and you have a happy and healthy partner!
We asked Charlotte's owner and rider, Cortney, some questions about what it's like to take care of Charlotte - the feathers, the legs, and going to shows. All while breaking the mold of what a typical eventing horse is. Tell us about Charlotte! My mare Charlotte is 9 years old this year, described on her registration as bay with white hairs throughout. In person she looks very roan. With a large white blaze. Her personality is so willing to please no matter who the person is. Her eyes are so soft and have such a personality its like you can tell what she is thinking. She has very large hooves and a beautiful thick tail. Her only conformation flaw is her severe parrot mouth! How did you come about owning a Clydesdale? What came first: eventing or the horse? I was in search of expanding my vaulting career and found charlotte as a potential vaulting horse. So, to answer your question the horse came first. I did a lot of research on different draft horses for vaulting, the most common was a warmblood or draft cross of sorts, they have the build for a team of people to do vaulting but they also were more common for there stamina compared to a full draft. Charlotte is a full draft but her conformation is smaller and more petite in our favor. What are some of your daily grooming challenges? Feathers are a huge challenge. Brushing, detangling, and keeping them dry is the largest challenge. I bought her own hair dryer so I can wash the feathers and dry them in the winter or on rainy days. Charlotte’s mane grows like crazy, I swear I thin and pull her mane once a week and it doesn’t change much. Her thick mane makes for difficult braids for the show but they look so fancy when they are large and they stay way better than the small ones. I also do yarn braids instead of the rubber bands. Charlotte has a love hate relationship with her face, She loves certain parts of her face brushed after a ride when she is itchy from working so hard. But before you ride you can only brush in the middle of her blaze, haha. Sometimes even Charlotte acts like a picky mare. On a good grooming note, she loves belly scratches! We use hoof conditioner, MTG for her tail and feathers, and she’s well pampered. Tell us about the feathers! The feathers are a hassle but definitely not a burden. I read a few different articles about how the feathers are there for a reason. They are hard to keep up, with the risk of scratches or mites. But they also help with the water run off from her hooves. I did shave them when I first got her because her scratches were really bad, she would lay down to itch her legs or rub them on any water bucket or trough. This sometimes ends with a broken bucket or two from her sitting on it. I noticed in the rainy season that her hooves started cracking and the scratches did not get better. With proper care and keeping them dry and clean she is very comfortable and happy. They are also very flashy, with out them I think she may look like a TB/Clyde cross and she now stands out in her true colors. One of the only down falls to the feathers is finding boots to fit her legs. Her legs are one size and the large fluffy feathers add another layer. I have a sizes XXL for her back legs and even they had to be stretched a bit before they fit. Her feathers some times poof out at the bottom like bell bottoms! How have the feathers helped or hindered your ability to care for her legs? Along with everything else, I do use a prescribed spray from the vet if she seems at all uncomfortable or starts itching her legs. What’s your post ride leg care routine? I check all legs thoroughly of any heat or swelling. Check also for any new nicks or cuts in case she is over compensates or over reaches. Normally after work she gets cold hosed and her legs get iced depending on the work done. Charlotte absolutely loves the comfort of Ice Horse products along with Back on Track products. Are there any challenges of owning a draft horse that jumps? First off is trailering, we need an extra large wide trailer to travel in. Thankfully my trainer has a large trailer that she fits in comfortably for the time being. Another challenge is fitness, we cannot take too many days off. We have to keep up the stamina and endurance. Along with fitness, we are not the fastest. At competitions we cannot afford to loose time with stops or refusals. We pace our selves and don’t use up too much of our energy in the warm up ring. We warm up over a few fences before setting out onto the cross country field. One of the biggest challenges is that Charlotte is aClydesdale. It is in their nature to pull a wagon or cart, however we are now telling her to not pull against me but sit back and collect before jumps which is the complete opposite. It was difficult to teach her to rewire her brain. My own fitness is a challenge as well. I have to keep myself sharp and in shape to keep up with her fitness levels. She can not be pushed around, I can’t make her do anything, but I need to be able to try to support her. One of the many perks to owning a draft horse is its like riding a comfy couch. Harder to fall off as well if she gets spooked or jumps sideways. Another perk is that I keep her barefoot, we do not have any issues slipping or getting around on grass or sand. How do you support the rest of her health? Charlotte is very much pampered, she has monthly chiropractics that I schedule around her shows so she is in tip top shape and very comfortable. Her hooves are trimmed every 6-8 weeks, they grow pretty fast for a barefoot horse. One of her major health issues is her teeth. She has severe parrot mouth that thankfully does not get in the way with her day to day eating, drinking, riding etc. However she does have to have her teeth done every 3-4 months. How does Charlotte’s training routine differ from a TB or Warmblood? This is my first year of eventing so I have not really had the opportunity to ride and jump thoroughbred and different warmbloods. My trainer has done an amazing job changing up her techniques to fit with our partnership. We train 5-6 days a week. I believe we need to train harder and longer than most of our fellow competitors due to her size and stamina. Its so much harder to get around the arena and cross country field for her so, I set her up for success by keeping up her endurance year round. We do lots of hill training and galloping on the track at home. In warm up we conserve energy by only warming up over 3-5 fences or so to feel confident but also to not waste any energy. For example we went cross country schooling today and we warmed up a little walk trot and canter. We keep up over all the jumps and she was actually not nearly has sweaty or tired as the other horses and it takes a lot more to get those large legs over the jumps! A typical work week for Charlotte : Sunday- hills/trail/endurance Monday- flat/dressage Tuesday- jump lesson Wednesday-trainer (jenny) rides Thursday- flat/dressage Friday-track work/ground work or she will get this day off as well depending on how intense the work week was. Saturday is her day off! What advice would you give someone looking for a draft or draft cross? Drafts are very well mannered and level headed, they are so willing to please. There are many different draft breeds in the area so decide what discipline you are reaching for and take the time to do the research. Find a great partner and listen to your horse, you mind find that your Clydesdale just may want to be an eventer. Also keep in mind they are a heavier breed and not the easiest ride some times. They need lots of prep for the task at hand, keep up on the endurance and take the time to build up the muscle. They may get tired faster but they are so willing to work. Charlotte use to barley make it through the 30 min pole exercises, and now she can do an extensive grid work lesson and barley break a sweat. We can also make it through a one day event with her still ready for more, she is so much stronger. Even though drafts seem more burley they still all the pampering like any other horse. They need ice therapy and whole body support help with blood circulation, soft tissue care, and any soreness from training! What else do you want people to know? Never give up on your dreams. I know Charlotte and I may never go to a 4* but maybe we can be a demo or a rider on the outside of the competition to help with crowds. But right now we set a new goal every month and try to achieve that goal. We always learn how to be better and keep improving. Charlotte and I are going to be the first Clydesdale at a 3 day / long format this year. My job plays a huge part in all this as well. As a 911 dispatcher for my area I have a very full schedule of training and work that I always make time to ride and care for Charlotte. She is so important to me and the time with her is my oasis away from the stress of my job. I take both my work job and my eventing career very seriously and professional. You can follow Cortney and Charlotte on this Twitter! https://twitter.com/Eventing_Clyde
Cortney M has a special horse - Charlotte the Clydesdale. Turns out, Charlotte is quite the eventer! Here's her story, as told by Cortney. My Clydesdale is registered through the USA Clydesdale registration (clydesusa.com). Her registered name is HBR’s Northwest Commander’s Caden, but we call her Charlotte. Her dam was bread on the Northwest Clydesdale farm then sold while pregnant to a farm in Gig Harbor called HBR where Charlotte was born on May 10th 2008. She was raised on the farm for about a year, then sold to an HBR family member who started her under saddle. In July 2011 she was then sold to a lady that did mostly trail riding with her. I came across a Craigslist add of a Clydesdale in the area up for half lease in May 2013. I called her up and we hit it off great! For the first two months the owner was intent on not selling Charlotte, however she had just had a baby and was unable to continue to care for Charlotte and wanted what was best for her. She came to me with a proposal in June 2013 of a one-year lease to own option. I had created such a bond so quickly with Charlotte I did not want her to leave my life so of course I took the proposal. The first few months of the lease, we moved Charlotte closer to my home and started equestrian vaulting training. Charlotte was originally purchased to help start a vaulting team in Snohomish County. I grew up with a dressage and vaulting trainer and I wanted to share my love for the sport and teach others in the area. Charlotte is the perfect vaulting horse, she is level headed and extremely talented and athletically built. She looks and acts like a Thoroughbred Clydesdale cross. A few weeks at our new barn, Charlotte started jumping out of the pasture. One day she was found next door at the Fire station in the bay with the firefighters. We decided to raise the fences and get Charlotte a new friend. I came across a draft mule in need of rescuing on the sunnyside feedlot website and thought he would be perfect, we named him Templeton. The vet was out to check Templeton and asses the next steps for his health. Turns out Charlottes new best friend is actually a 40 year old draft mule. They were inseparable after that. Throughout the year we moved around from different barns to find the to find the perfect fit. In the mean time we continued to practice dressage and some vaulting but Charlotte did not seem to like it. So we decided to take a break from training and just enjoy each other. We mostly did trail riding at the time. I soon found out with the occasional jumping out of the pasture still, she also enjoyed jumping logs and streams on our trail rides. I could see her eyes light up and ears perk forward every time we came to something we could jump. I had never done any jumping and was extremely out of my element but I could tell it was what Charlotte wanted to do. After a few recommendations and multiple calls we found the perfect fit! The perfect trainer, barn, atmosphere, support group, and all around perfect barn family. So, the real story of the eventing Clydesdale starts when we moved to Tall Firs Equestrian Centre with Lodestar Training. Jenny, our new trainer, took us under wing and listened to my goals and challenges. She listened to my goals of wanting to take Charlotte around a cross country course and start competing. In the spring of 2016 I started my first jumping lesson with poles on the ground, I remember thinking this should be easy. I knew nothing, it was difficult trying to keep my new jumping position and steer and keep the momentum over 3 ground poles! Each day we practiced and trained over our ground poles and grids to get better and better in anticipation of out next lesson. It means the world to me that I found a trainer that has never given up on me or my dreams. She keeps pushing us to be the best we can be everyday and such compassion for my horse. She never batted an eye when I told her I wanted to learn how to jump with a Clydesdale, she even did extra research on her own time and changed her training techniques to fit our special partnership. So we were determined to show the world a Clydesdale could do what everyone else can. We trained out little hearts out the next few months and entered into our very first outing. It was a one day show on Whidbey Island. Our small one day show started out with dressage in the morning and ended with cross country in the afternoon. Along with learning so much packed in that one day we also placed second in our class! Throughout the rest of the fall into winter we practiced 5-6 days a week. Always changing things up between jump lessons, dressage lessons, and any endurance and conditioning we could do. We found multiple ways to continue to learn more in preparation for the up and coming show season. Toward the end of winter, coming into spring we did 2-3 more one day shows always placing in the top 10. Our first recognized event was just around the corner. May 26th-28th we were on the road to Equestrian Institute Horse Trials in Washington. I was so nervous but felt very prepared. We got set up with our Lodestar training stall decorations, hand walked the horses around the property and got them tucked in and settled for the night. Picking up my packet made everything seem so real, I was really at recognized event with a full Clydesdale. We made it! Throughout the weekend we made so many friends, learn so much, and ended in the ribbons with a 5th place. Not bad for our first event. We have continued to show and grow as a team through the spring into summer. We take many lessons and schooling trips to get out and about. Charlotte and I are extremely excited to do all the activities and the vet check in our very classy yellow outfit, everything associated with out very first three day event! You can follow Cortney and Charlotte's adventures on their Twitter page: https://twitter.com/Eventing_Clyde
Laminitis can happen at any time - although most cases happen in the spring and fall. Some studies have even found that laminitis happens more in the fall. Here are five things to remember about laminitis, your horse, and the changing seasons. 1. As days get shorter, your horse’s body tells him to do a few things. Grow a winter coat, start packing on some pounds, and increase levels of Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, also known as ACTH. ACTH level can be easily measured with blood tests, and the results give your Vet a picture of your horse’s metabolic health. The normal and metabolically healthy horse will have increased levels of ACTH in the fall. The horse with a compromised metabolism will have dramatically increased levels of ACTH in the fall. This is dangerous, as the ACTH tells your horse to produce more insulin, which compromises the integrity of the hoof’s laminae and can make a bout of laminitis much more likely. 2. Temperature differences can lead to increased stress on pasture grass. When grasses are stressed, they will start to hoard “sugars” in an effort to survive. In the fall, cool nights and warm days signal the grass to start hoarding “sugars”. A good rule of thumb is to avoid grazing when the overnight temps are below 40 or so. Wait until afternoon. However, you also may have a fall heat wave, which can also stress the grass in the afternoon. Be prepared to adjust accordingly. Check your horse's hooves for heat daily, if not more. 3. Be aware of the ground’s hardness. Periods of drought or an early freeze can leave the earth hard and unforgiving. As your horse moves around on the hard ground, he might be more likely to get a stone bruise. Hard ground is also more concussive, which creates some problems. Avoid riding on hard surfaces and make sure your horse has somewhere comfortable to stand. A mat or bedding in an outdoor shelter are good ideas. 4. Know that damage from laminitis can take a few hours. Yes, hours. The moment that you even begin to think something is wrong, call the Vet and get your horse into some ice. You may just think he’s walking a little slower, or he doesn’t want to turn so easily, or his digital pulse is a bit stronger. Don’t hesitate. Ice has many benefits to the horse with laminitis. 5. Keep exercising your horse! The horse in a regular exercise program is less likely to develop laminitis. Your Veterinarian and trainer can help you design an exercise program for your horse’s medical and physical needs. It’s up to you to not skip days because the weather seems too cold or you have too much homework. (But really, make sure the homework gets done.) It’s often fun and a great way to really bond with your horse riding in all sorts of weather and temperatures. Keep a watchful eye and monitor those hooves all the time! Ice Horse Laminitis Kit If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold - reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Learn more about the laminitis kit here!
What are the bones in the horse hoof? The most distal bone in the horse’s leg is the coffin bone. This critical bone has other names, such as distal phalanx, third phalanx, or even P3 for the abbreviation fans. The coffin bone is the hoof shaped bone that attaches to the laminae in the hoof. The coffin joint is the intersection between the coffin bone and the next bone up, the short pastern bone. Which is also called the second phalanx or P2. Adding one more bone to the mix, the navicular bone sits behind the coffin bone and below the small pastern bone. There’s a patch of cartilage between the navicular bone and the coffin joint, and a patch of cartilage between the navicular bone and associated tendons. The navicular area also has a bursa, which is a sack of fluid that helps the tendons within the hoof glide around. These structures and the coffin joint are within the hoof and support the weight of your horse. That’s a lotta weight for some small bones. Inside the hoof, the coffin bone attaches to the blood and nerve infused laminae layer. This sensitive layer connects to the insensitive laminae layer which connects to the hoof wall. Any trauma or disease to the hoof can severely affect the laminae and the bones inside the hoof. There’s also the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) inside the hoof, which comes from the back of the leg, into the hoof, under the navicular bone, and attaches to the back of the coffin bone. The DDFT functions to flex the coffin joint, helping your horse walk. There are so many structures in the hoof that many things can happen. Believe it or not - the coffin bone (or navicular bone for that matter) can fracture, despite the protection of the hoof. The coffin bone is also capable of becoming deformed due to the shape of the hoof. Think about a club foot or constricted heels that change the hoof shape. This can affect the coffin bone. The navicular bone is just visible here, sitting right on top of the end of the coffin bone. You can see the coffin bone all the way to the fetlock in this photo. The coffin joint itself can become inflamed - much like a hock joint or a stifle joint. Wear and tear from repetitive motion creates inflammation. The navicular bursa can also become inflamed. Osteitis, specifically pedal osteitis, is another issue to be aware of. Osteitis is a demineralization of the bone - and in the case of the coffin joint, is largely due to concussion, hard ground, frequent bruising. The coffin bone itself is damaged. Supportive farrier work, rest, and even medications are often warranted. This will cause lameness, and can be seen on X-rays. And then you have the generalized navicular syndrome condition, often referring to a horse as “having navicular.” What causes this? Perhaps is the cartilage in the area degenerating, perhaps it’s a mechanical change, perhaps it’s an arthritic type of change. It’s been shown that navicular changes may also be related to toe first landing and other mechanical changes due to compression of the area and/or poor farrier care. Every horse will have a different set of circumstances. The take away message from all of this is that your horse’s coffin bone and surrounding structures take the weight of your entire horse. Daily attention to the digital pulse, regular health check ups including lameness exams, regular farrier care, and proactive X-rays of the hoof can save your horse a lot of discomfort if issues are caught early.
Your horse’s stifle joint is the joint directly above the hock joint on the hind leg. It’s the largest joint in the horse’s body. The stifle joint functions to flex and extend the hind leg, moving your horse along. The passive stay apparatus that locks your horse’s hind leg so the other one can rest is also part of the stifle joint’s function. When comparing anatomy to the human skeleton, the stifle joint is equivalent to the knee. However, the human knee is straight when we are standing, and the stifle is angled when the horse is standing. Surrounding structures of the stifle include bones, muscles, and soft tissues. Above the stifle is the femur bone, below the stifle is the tibia, and the patella knee cap sits towards the front of the stifle joint. Inside the stifle joint, there are two femorotibial joint cavities. Within each of these joint cavities, you also have a medial and lateral compartment. Also within the stifle joint, you will find menisci (cartilage discs) between the femur and the tibia. There are also two cruciate ligaments within the femorotibial joint that help the stifle remain stable. On either side of the leg, you horse has collateral ligaments. The quadriceps femoris muscle and the femoropatellar ligament keep the patella in place. The patella is also supported by three patellar ligaments below the patella. There are many conditions that can affect your horse’s stifle joint, which will, in turn, affect his movement, comfort, and health. Leaning about these conditions and knowing what to watch for can allow your horse to have a better chance and healing and feeling well. You may have heard of OCD, osteochrondrosis, in the stifle joint. This happens when the bones and cartilage in the joint develop unusually. Bone cysts and fragments can occur. The treatments vary from horse to horse, as does the long term prognosis for a sound horse. Age, overall health, and the specifics of the horse’s OCD play into a surgical or medical treatment plan. It’s entirely possible to find OCD in weanlings, as well as older horses. Take a peek at the hock, here, too. So much range of motion! You might also find a patellar luxation in the stifle joint of the horse. This occurs when the patella literally pops out of place. This is uncommon, and can be corrected surgically. For most horses, this condition doesn’t create any discomfort, but their stance is affected. The patellar luxation can happen to the side, or it can happen where the patella is lifted up, causing the leg to “lock”. Horses can also have stifle injuries involving the bone, such as a fracture, or a tear in the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles). Kicks to the stifle are often the culprit here, as are running and jumping. Long term wear and tear as well as acute injuries can damage the stifle joint and surrounding tissues. There is also the case of a horse that finds himself tangled in fence, or has a cut puncture near the stifle joint. Infection is a real threat, and can permanently damage the stifle joint. Really, any cut or wound can become infected, and when this happens over a joint, things can go sideways in a bad way quickly. As with other joints, the stifle can develop degenerative joint disease. This DJD usually has it’s start with arthritis and ligament injuries. Ice therapy reduces inflammation! So - now that we have had a primer into the stifle joint - how you do know what’s going on in there? Your daily grooming routine should include using your hands and eyes to cover every single inch of your horse! Feel for heat, swelling, tenderness, cuts, scrapes, anything unusual on the actual joint. But - you may also find your horse is sore in his back - specifically the croup and loins (loins are directly behind the saddle, keep going to the tail for the croup). Hind leg problems are often transmitted to your horse’s back. On the ground - do you notice if it’s harder for him to pick up one hind leg? What about turning around in his stall, is it easier in one direction than the other? What about how his hoofs track up when he walks next to you? Does one hind hoof overtrack the front, when the other hind hoof doesn’t overtrack at all? Stifle issues also show up as a lameness. For a rider, the canter is the gait where you will feel and see trouble. Cantering on one lead is harder, picking up the canter is difficult, shifting from trot to canter is hard. Also consider “cross firing”, the case where your horse will have the correct lead up front but the wrong lead behind. Bending is also tricky. Conformation also plays a part. If your horse is post legged, his stifles are more susceptible to problems. The patella is on the left of the joint in this photo. Ultimately - it’s up to you to read his body language during grooming and interpret his “training issues” as a sign that something is wrong. As always, work with your Veterinarian to get to the possible causes of anything weird that you find. Keeping in mind that it’s proven fact that the longer you wait, the more expensive the Vet bill is, make the call early! There are many things you can do as a horse owner to stay ahead of issues in your horse’s legs, one of them being just paying attention! Also preventative care, like ice, can go a long way to reduce microscopic inflammation that becomes an issue later on. Don’t forget about a safe training plan, daily turnout, and a balanced diet. Lameness exams (even if your horse appears to be sound!) can spot issues before your horse says “NO” and major damage has occurred. Take off! It really just boils down to being informed about your horse, and using prevention to keep him healthy, instead of waiting until he’s visibly lame.
What’s the big deal about icing horse hooves? If you have ever seen a horse with laminitis, you understand the agony and suffering that goes on. It’s horrible. Doing everything you can to prevent such a situation will help your horse have a better life! But laminitis is not the only circumstance in which case your horse’s hooves can use some ice therapy. It's a good idea to combine lower leg ice therapy with hoof ice therapy. Many things can influence the likelihood that laminitis can develop, so ice your horse’s hooves proactively if your horse has or does any of these things: Fever. The inflammation that occurs in your horse’s body during a fever can spread rapidly into the hooves via the enzymes that are involved in the inflammation. Diarrhea. Same scenario here. Diarrhea can upset your horse’s entire system and lead to dehydration, organ failure, and laminitis. Act fast. Working on hard ground. Frozen ground, hard ground, rocky ground, a surface that is new for your horse… you get the idea. Concussion of the hoof can create pain, inflammation, and worse in the hoof. It may be a bruise, it may be laminitis, but it can be helped with proactive icing of the hoof. Injuries. It might be that your horse is cast, has been on a trailer for days, was kicked or stepped on, has a soft tissue injury in the hoof…etc. This can create a scenario for pain and damage to occur to the hoof. While it seems like a tough structure, the hoof can be injured. Injury to the opposite leg. Lameness or injury that causes your horse to be non weight bearing (three legged) shifts dangerous amounts of weight to the un-injured leg. Laminitis is common in these situations. A prime example of this is the horse that steps on a nail or screw--the infection in the hoof is beyond painful, causing non weight bearing in the other healthy hoof. This is a definite time to call the Veterinarian! Binge eating. So your horse got into the feed room, or he managed to get out of his grazing muzzle and nom down on some grass. This sends a cascade of events through his gut and into his hooves that can lead to laminitis. Ice right away and call the Veterinarian for this emergency. (PS - this goes for binge eating hay, too… a horse that doesn't normally eat timothy but suddenly eats a boat load of it can have the same cascade of events.) These Big Black Boots provide ice therapy around the entire hoof! In a nutshell, the real reason to ice your horse’s hooves is to make sure they don’t fall off. Well, not literally, anyway, but your horse’s hooves are designed to carry his enormous body on four tiny little tootsies, and then we climb on board and ask them to run fast and jump high. So you begin to see why keeping them comfortable starts at the hoof level! Always involve your Veterinarian with any questions or issues that you discover with your horse. It’s always great to ice your horse’s hooves before you need to. Work hard to prevent laminitis in your horse with daily care, lots of pampering, and preventive care. Did you know? Ice Horse products are endorsed by leading equine veterinarians. Learn more about the science behind our ice therapy products.
What are splint injuries in horses? Splints are a fairly common occurrence in horses, and for the most part they are fairly benign. It’s always critical to involve your Veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan, as some splint injuries can be critical. There is much use of the words “popped a splint” to mean many different things. So let’s clarify a bit. The splint bones are small bones that run along the cannon bones of all four horse legs, inside and outside. The splint bones are attached with the interosseous ligaments. Keep in mind that the lower leg where the splint bones live is also chock full of other tendons and ligaments that interact with each other, so a splint injury may have larger implications depending on where the injury occured. What you usually find is a hard walnut shaped lump on your horse’s leg. Your horse may or may not be lame. Chances are that you will find the walnut lump while grooming. Splint injuries range in severity and location. Splint area injuries range from damage to the interosseous ligaments, damage to the knee where the upper end of the splint bone resides in relation to the knee, or the outer coating of the splint bone has been whacked or damaged. You can also have a total fracture of the splint bone. This photo shows the two splint bones along the horse's lower leg. Because of the complex nature of splint injuries, it’s always best to consult your Veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Your Veterinarian can determine a few things. One, is the injury the splint bone itself or the interosseous ligament? Two, how lame is your horse - what's the best exercise routine? Three, what’s the treatment plan? Then, and only then, can you proceed. Splint injuries have so many contributing factors, including conformation, diet, exercise habits, soft tissue injuries, kicks, knocks, interference, farrier work, etc. You and your Veterinarian can examine all of the contributing factors to create the best plan for your horse, even if he’s super sound and you think the injury is just superficial….remember the proximity of the splint bone to joints and soft tissues. This is an improperly healed splint fracture. It’s very likely that your horse will be rested, wrapped, receive ice therapy, and be hand walked during recovery. When you first discover a splint, call your Veterinarian to get a plan together before his exam. Cold therapy can help relieve inflammation with soft tissue problems, and act as an analgesic to make your horse more comfortable during the healing process!
What are some risk factors for your horse developing laminitis? Horses of any type can develop laminitis - so it’s always a good idea to monitor every horse closely for any sign of laminitis. As with most medical issues, and especially with laminitis, do not wait to call the Veterinarian. Early intervention is critical! There are also some horses in the world that are more likely to develop laminitis - and the more you work with your Veterinarian the more likely you are to manage the risks. Here is what you should know about laminitis risk factors: Metabolic issues, such as IR (insulin resistance), EMS (equine metabolic syndrome) and Cushing’s disease all are risk factors for laminitis. Simple blood tests can alert you to any brewing issues, long before you see the tell tale signs of fatty deposits, cresty necks, and insane winter coats. Some Veterinarians suggest yearly tests for these conditions on all horses over the age of 13, with exceptions for younger horses on a case by case basis. Management of these conditions with a low carbohydrate diet, grazing muzzles, repeat blood work, medications, and diligent grooming can help you reduce the laminitis risk. Every horse is going to be different - it’s up to you and your Veterinarian to come up with a good treatment plan, and up to you alone to do the daily monitoring and execution of the plan! Age/gender/size. Older horses are at a higher risk of laminitis, as are geldings. Ponies are more likely to develop laminitis than horses. Rich pasture and high sugar content feeds are certainly higher in “sugars” which are known to play a part in some laminitis cases. If you have any doubts or concerns about your horse’s diet, an Equine Nutritionist can help you sort things out. . The obese horse is more likely to develop laminitis, among other things. Exercise levels may also play a part in your horse’s laminitis risk profile. It’s very easy for your Veterinarian to guide you through how to determine your horse’s body score to analyze his weight. It’s also super easy for you to tape your horse frequently to determine his weight - this will help you in tracking trends over time. Certainly the propensity for developing laminitis is carried in your horse’s genes. Hoof design and size and strength all play a role here, too. A hoof in danger will usually feel warm or hot, be sensitive, be unwilling to turn, and have a palpable or strong digital pulse. There are also a few other factors that can happen to any horse, at any time. Supporting limb laminitis occurs when a horse’s injured leg is too painful to bear weight, so his other leg bears more than it’s fair share and develops laminitis. The race horse Barbara is a famous example of this. Road founder, aka concussive laminitis, happens when the footing is hard and unforgiving and your horse experiences repeated concussions on his hooves. This is case in point of why icing your horse’s legs and hooves after exercise on any questionable footing is a good idea. The dreaded loose horse that gorges on grain. Laminitis here occurs due to the violent overload of sugars in your horse’s system that trigger dangerous amounts of endotoxins, a by product of digestion, which cause laminitis. Get those hooves in some ice! The bottom line is to know your horse inside and out. Work closely with your Veterinarian regarding weight, regular blood work, an exercise program, and appropriate pasture types and time for your horse. Remember, too, that one call to your Veterinarian if you even remotely suspect laminitis can save his life. Begin ice therapy on the hooves immediately and follow your Veterinarian's treatment plan to the letter. Don’t wait!
What does the changing of season from summer to fall mean for my horse and the risk of laminitis? I’ll bet that every single horse owner understands that spring grass is super high in sugar, and therefore a bit risky for some horses developing laminitis. But, in the fall, there’s a totally different mechanism to understand and manage when it comes to your horse and the risk of laminitis. It involves your horse and his body naturally making more ACTH in the fall. It’s always a good idea to work directly with your horse’s Veterinarian for specifics, and how your horse’s individual ACTH level changes and needs to be managed. Managing laminitis risk is also more than just managing access to pasture and sugars, so be sure that you and your Vet are looking at the whole picture - bloodwork, exercise levels, previous incidences, lots of stuff. The Big Black Boot provided a way for your horse to receive continuous cold care for a case of laminitis. One thing to keep in mind… if you even suspect something is going on inside your horse’s hooves, act quickly by calling your Veterinarian. You may also want to start icing your horse’s hooves to reduce inflammation and give you horse some pain relief. The following comes from the Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group, Inc, (ECIR) and outlines this mechanism. Research has shown, and most veterinarians recognize, that the vast majority of laminitis cases are related to hormonal/endocrine disorders, specifically those involving insulin resistance. Avoidance requires diets very low in simple sugars (ESC) and starch, i.e., the components of the diet which cause an insulin rise (fructans do not elevate insulin). While it's true that regrowth of fall pastures and/or exposure to cold nights can raise the simple sugar and starch levels in grass, fall laminitis can, and often does, strike horses which had no trouble handling spring pastures and even many horses with no access to pasture at all. Eleanor Kellon, VMD, veterinary advisor to ECIR Group Inc, explains. “The typical case of fall laminitis is experiencing laminitis for the first time, or as a repeat of a previous fall episode. They are in their teens (or occasionally older) and owners report no change in diet or management. The cause is the seasonal rise in the hormone ACTH.” Cooler weather, thinner pastures, and trees shedding leaves all signal a fall risk of laminitis. ACTH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its function is to stimulate the adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol induces insulin resistance and also makes the blood vessels in the hoof more sensitive to chemicals mediating constriction. “All horses experience this seasonal rise in ACTH”, said Kellon, “but it can be much more pronounced in older horses, particularly those in the early stages of PPID (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction – Cushing's disease) which may not yet be showing any obvious outward symptoms.” The ECIR group has been following horses with hormonal disorders for over 15 years. In that time we have seen many horses whose first sign of PPID was an episode of fall laminitis. If your horse experiences this, have a talk with your veterinarian about testing for ACTH and PPID. The usual dietary measures are not enough when high levels of ACTH are involved. These horses require therapy with pergolide. For more information on the seasonal rise in ACTH, Cushing's Disease and insulin resistance in horses visit www.ecirhorse.org and our outreach group at https://ecir.groups.io/g/main. About ECIR Group Inc Started in 1999, the ECIR Group is the largest field-trial database for PPID and IR in the world and provides the latest research, diagnosis and treatment information, in addition to dietary recommendations for horses with these conditions. Even universities do not and cannot compile and follow long term as many in-depth case histories of PPID/IR horses as the ECIR Group. In 2013 the Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, was approved as a 501(c)3 public charity. Tax deductible contributions and grants support ongoing research, education, and awareness of Equine Cushing's Disease/PPID and Insulin Resistance.
Of the many things that can affect your horse's hooves, bruises can be tricky to diagnose and treat. With multiple possible causes, hoof bruises can create lameness and possibly advance into abscesses and laminitis for your horse. Involving your Veterinarian and using supportive treatments, such as icing, can help your horse heal from a horse bruise quickly. Hoof bruises are one of the many things that can affect your horse’s hooves. They can be the result of stepping on a rock, being trimmed incorrectly, or even stepping on some frozen ground at just the wrong spot. Many hoof ailments present in a similar fashion, and you might notice some of the following in your horse: Tender footed Walking gingerly, especially on hard surfaces Heat in the hoof Strong or bounding digital pulse What these things are a sign of – it’s not just limited to bruising! Bruises Laminitis Fractures Abscess Puncture Foreign Object - like a nail or screw Horrible infection Hot nail Because a few of these things are life threatening (nail in the hoof, laminitis, puncture wound), calling the Veterinarian is the best thing you can do. You should also know that some seemingly minor things can lead to bigger and more horrible complications, not to mention some huge Vet bills. Also know that your Farrier is awesome at his job, but his job does not include diagnosis, treatment plans, medications, or working with the soft tissue of a hoof. Bruises can show up as a hot pink, red, or purple coloration. Some bruises are not obvious. Sometimes your Vet will need to pull a shoe, trim some of the hoof, or do a bit more digging if an abscess is suspected. Bruises in your horse’s hoof are similar to a bruise on your leg - lots of broken blood vessels, swelling, pain. You can see the purple bruise along the outer edge of this hoof. Hoof bruises also run the gamut from totally mild and not lame, to horribly painful and very lame. Some bruises take a few days to heal, others take weeks. Some are caused by bad footing, some are caused by a rogue rock, some are caused by a frolic down a hard and unforgiving surface, some bruises are the result of a trim that is too short. Complications can include abscesses and even laminitis. Horses that are plagued with hoof bruises may have underlying causes, like thin soles or low grade laminitis. Treatments include stall rest, time, anti inflammatory agents, icing, hoof packings like magna paste, protective boots, or padded shoes. Icing your horse’s hooves has multiple benefits, including pain relief, a reduction in inflammation, and healing support.