Published in Saddle Up Magazine August 2015
In last month’s article I discussed the difference between Laminitis and Founder. I explained that laminitis by definition is inflammation of the lamina in the hoof. The lamina affected are the sensitive lamina (surrounding the front and sides of the coffin bone) as well as the solar corium (the underside of the coffin bone). I also discussed that low grade laminitis left untreated, or during acute laminitis, the coffin bone can rotate within the hoof capsule becoming foundered. Founder is simply the rotation of the coffin bone. There is no almost or partly foundered. Either the bone is rotated or it is not. However, the severity of the rotation can vary. This is dependent of the overall health of the hoof prior to the laminitis, the length and severity of the laminitic episode as well as the current trimming/shoeing protocol. In this issue I want to show you what a foundered hoof looks like both inside and out.
In order to demonstrate a foundered hoof, I will first show you a healthy one. The hoof wall is well connected all the way from the coronary band to the ground, it is not flared, pulled forward, or separated.
In a foundered hoof the wall at the coronary band will start out at a healthy angle, even if it’s just for a 1/4 of an inch. As it descends it will abruptly change angle and flare forward. The lamina will be stretched or separated and the hoof wall will be flared. There are occasions where a wall can simply flare and not be foundered, in these cases the angle change is less abrupt and usually there will be more than one deviation.
While it is extremely important to seek veterinary attention in the event of a laminitic event, it is also important to have your veterinarian x-ray your foundered horse and work closely with your farrier/trimmer in order to determine the severity of the rotation and how to correctly trim the hoof to alleviate pain and allow a healthy hoof to grow in. Founder is very serious but often times can be repaired. You must first understand how and why your horse developed the laminitis that lead to the founder, and remove all future triggers. This usually means working closely with your veterinarian to determine blood glucose levels, hormone levels and ruling out other various disease that can facilitate laminitis. Second you must have a competent trimmer/farrier that understands the condition of the hoof and can trim to alleviate the rotation and grow in a healthy well connected hoof wall from the coronary band down. This rehabilitation process can take 6-12 months depending on the severity and how fast the individual horse’s hoof grows. Often the horse can return to light work well before rehab is complete, but it is dependent on the individual case and I would strongly recommend to consult your veterinarian and farrier/trimmer first.
Laminitis or Founder, Two terms that are often used interchangeably, but do you know the difference?
Published in Saddle Up Magazine July 2015
The terms Laminitis and Founder are often used interchangeably by vets, farriers, trimmers and horse owners alike, however in my opinion they have two very different meanings. Laminitis is the inflammation of the sensitive lamina surrounding the coffin bone. This includes the sensitive lamina, found along the front and sides of the coffin bone, as well as the solar corium which is found on the bottom of the coffin bone. The sensitive lamina is the vasculature covering the coffin bone and it has nerves and a blood supply. The insensitive lamina is located on the inside of the hoof wall and has no blood supply or nerves and is semi-rigid in structure. The sensitive and insensitive lamina interlock like Velcro. This connection of the lamina supports the coffin bone’s position within the hoof.
There are two kinds of Laminitis, Acute and Chronic (Founder). Acute Laminitis is when the sensitive lamina becomes inflamed and the blood vessels swell. This causes pain because they are interlocked between the leaflets of the insensitive lamina that are semi-rigid and this connection doesn’t leave room for swelling. The solar corium can also become inflamed during the acute phase and cause bruising and eventually abscessing. A horse with acute laminitis will be extremely tender in their hooves, reluctant to move forward and often adopts a rocked back stance. Acute laminitis will usually last 2-5 days, and must be diagnosed by your veterinarian, who will also likely provide short term anti-inflammatories and care instructions. They should also work in conjunction with your farrier/trimmer to try and alleviate hoof pain and prevent further damaging the hoof. You must figure out what triggered the laminitic attack in the first place in order to prevent it from happening again. There are many causes for acute laminitis, some of the common ones are: carbohydrate overload (excess grain, green grass), hormonal changes (mares cycling in the spring), excess concussive forces (increased work on hard ground), over trimming, adverse reaction to medications, systemic infections, and stress.
Chronic Laminitis or Founder as it is typically called, is the rotation and or sinking of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule. A horse can have acute laminitis and not founder if the triggers are removed quickly enough and the lamina heals. However, if the cause for the laminitis is not removed and the hooves are not properly trimmed and protected the horse can continue to suffer damage to the sensitive lamina which eventually lets go of the connection with the insensitive lamina, allowing the coffin bone to rotate and sink within the capsule. Whether it rotates one degree or ten, any rotation or sinking at all is classified as founder. Once the lamina separate they cannot be immediately reattached, but the connection can be regrown down from the coronary band as new hoof wall grows in. You will have to work closely with your farrier/trimmer in order to allow the hoof wall to grow in well-connected again, and often a shortened trimming cycle is necessary. It is a long process to rehabilitate a foundered hoof but it is possible.
Founder is very common, and many horses live and even compete on foundered hooves without their owners knowing it. It’s not until these “timebomb” hooves eventually cause lameness that owners become aware. This is why education and knowledge become so important to the horse owner. Learn to understand what you are looking at when examining your horse’s hooves and how to evaluate their hoof health to prevent and avoid these types of problems in the long run.
Published in Saddle Up Magazine June 2015
Time is precious and a healthy relationship with your hoofcare provider is crucial to your horse’s wellbeing. Here are a few tips of what you should expect from your provider and what he/she is hoping to see from you.
Be on time. This works both ways as everyone’s time is valuable. If your appointment is scheduled for 1pm, arrive early to prepare your horse and his surroundings for the visit. Do not arrive at 12:59pm just ahead of the trimmer and rush to halter the horse and scramble to get him ready. Instead have your horse haltered and waiting calmly, perhaps lunged if they are in a particularly anxious mood or have trouble standing still. A trimmers schedule can change throughout the day, so please allow them a little bit of leeway. Perhaps a 15 minute window surrounding the appointment time. Anything more than that and they should call to touch base and see if your schedule is flexible. If you or your trimmer are unable to make the appointment at least 24 hours notice is necessary, 48-36 hours is better, but the situation might not always allow.
Be prepared. Having the feet picked out is a nice treat and even having the horse lightly groomed should impress your trimmer. I am not stating that your horse be groomed as if they were to beshown immediately following the trim, simply if the legs and hooves are muddy, perhaps curry them off. Your provider likely has several other horses to see after you and would like to stay as presentable as possible. Have your horse on a clean, flat dry surface if possible. A barn isle way, a stall mat, or even just a flat packed dirt area or driveway. Being able to assess the hoof while on the ground is a key component formulating a trimming plan and will make your provider’s job easier. Trying to see hooves in tall grass or mud can be difficult. Your trimmer should also arrive prepared with all of the tools required, and ready to work.
Stay in the moment. Be aware of your horses’ behaviour while being trimmed. Being firm and fair with your horse is important in keeping your trimmer safe while they are doing their job. Do talk to your trimmer, but also pay attention while holding your horse so that you can alert the trimmer to a potential spooking hazard or you can let them know if your horse is uncomfortable in a specific position. A horse that is moving around and distracted can be hard to trim, so keeping them focussed on the task at hand is important. If you are unsure how to handle the horse in a given situation, ask your trimmer how they would like you to handle the horse while they are working underneath him.
Communication is key. Expressing any concerns or questions you have regarding the trim is very important. An open line of communication will ensure you are both working in the best interests of the horse. Your trimmer should be open to answer your questions, and also explain how or why they are doing things the way they are if you ask them to. The answer of “because that’s how it’s done”, is not acceptable.
Payment is due when services are rendered. If you are hoping to pay at a later date or with a postdated check, please consider asking your trimmer if this is appropriate prior to the appointment. With technology today a lot of mobile services are set up to take credit or debit on the spot. However not all have these devices so please check at the time you book your appointment if that is how you intend to pay. Your trimmer should also be prepared to write you a receipt should you require one, and the amount owing should not be more than quoted to you when the appointment was booked unless it was discussed before or during the trim. This occasionally happens if the condition of the hooves require something extra that the trimmer couldn’t anticipate prior to the appointment.
Kristi Luehr is a barefoot trimmer/farrier, author, and founder of the Okanagan School of Natural Hoof Care. She is certified by the Canadian Farrier School as well as the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care, and also has certification in equine massage and dentistry. Her focus is to educate owners about hoof anatomy, function and proper barefoot trimming that supports and grows healthy and functional hooves specific to each horse's individual needs. She is the author of two online courses specific to hoof care and is always striving to create more educational content for students to learn from.