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Hidden Dangers: Keeping Horse Founder at Bay

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founder in horses

As horse owners, we can all appreciate the sight of horses grazing on a lush green pasture! But there are dangers that can lurk in those lush pastures. A common cause of laminitis in horses is the beautiful green grasses of spring and summer.

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis in horses is a painful inflammation of the tissue within the foot that connects the hoof wall to the coffin bone. In severe cases, the coffin bone inside the hoof tears away from the hoof wall and rotates downward. This rotation is called horse founder.

founder in horses

Click here to learn how to prevent founder in your horse.

When considering diets for horses that are laminitic (horses prone to founder or already foundered), there are two distinct types of horses: those who founder due to a change in diet and those who founder due to other causes (colic, hormonal imbalance, etc.).

Early signs of founder in horses include:

  • Less active and reluctance to move
  • Depression
  • Heat in the hooves (hooves warmer than normal)
  • A "pounding" digital pulse at the back of the pastern
  • "Sawhorse" Stance: hind feed under his body and their front feet placed farther forward than normal
  • Pain response when pressure is applied to his sole

If you think your horse is exhibiting signs of founder, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Caring for the High-Risk or Foundered Horse

  • Avoid Sweets: Most (but not all) founder prone horses are carbohydrate sensitive and are over weight. Avoiding feeds high in sugar and starch is a necessity. A quality diet that is low in calories and high in fiber works well to allow them to gradually lose weight while staying healthy.
  • Soak Hay: Soaking your horse's hay in hot water for 30 minutes or 60 minutes in cold water will help remove excessive sugars in your horse's hay. Be sure to pour off the water and be aware that wet feed gets moldy quickly! If your horse has not consumed all of the hay within a few hours, discard the uneaten hay.
  • Biotin: Consider feeding your horse a supplement containing biotin to encourage healthy hoof growth. Manna Pro Sho-Hoof is an excellent supplement for the foundered horse. Sho-Hoof contains biotin and other nutrients important to overall hoof health.
  • Exercise: Movement is necessary to support good circulation to the hoof. Depending on the severity of your horse's hoof condition, determine if and how much movement would benefit your horse's hoof. Complete stall rest is generally not the right solution. Contact your veterinarian to discuss if movement will benefit your horse at this time. 
  • Corrective Barefoot Trimming or Corrective Shoeing: Corrective horse hoof trimming is a must for the foundered horse. Search high and low for an experienced farrier, with a background in trimming foundered horses. Look for tips from a farrier in our next blog!
  • Use a Hoof Dressing: Applying a hoof dressing to your horse's hooves at least three times a week will help support healing and encourage new hoof growth. If you prefer a thicker, moisturizing hoof dressing, try our Corona Hoof Dressing. If you prefer a thinner, quick drying hoof dressing, try Cut-Heal Hoof Heal.

Have a Thin Laminitic Horse?

If your laminitic horse is thin, still avoid high starch feeds, but rather feed beet bulp (molasses free) or forage based feeds. Laminitic horses can handle calories from fiber and fat but not from starch and sugar.Start to Finish Cool Calories 100 is an excellent source of fat, contains no starch or sugars, and is a great weight gain supplement for founder prone horses.

Remember, no two foundered horses are the same. Finding the right solution for your individual horse is of the utmost importance.

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.

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