Do You Know the Symptoms of Laminitis?
"When I went out to greet her, she remained on the ground."
I thought it was a bit odd she didn't come trotting as she usually does.
One day in late March I noticed our mare lying down in the field. This wasn't unusual as every so often she could be found resting on the ground and basking in the sun. I didn't think anything of it and went about my way. When it was time for her afternoon feeding, she had come in from the field and was eagerly waiting her rations.
The following day I looked out and once again saw her lying down. Thinking she was just being lazy, but just to be sure, I took an apple out to the fence and called her. She got up and slowly walked over to me to take the treat. I thought it was a bit odd she didn't come trotting as she usually does, but for the most part she seemed to be fine. Since she still had a healthy appetite, I was not overly concerned.
When I saw her lying down in the field for the third straight day, I was puzzled. This certainly was not normal behavior, and yet she didn't seem to be ill in any way. I walked out to see her, and as I approached she got up to greet me. I placed a halter on her and started leading her back to the paddock so I could groom her. As I was leading her, she was a bit hesitant in her walk and seemed to have an ever slight limp in her front leg. I then thought she had injured her leg or might have had something lodged in her hoof.
I closely examined her legs and feet for any signs of injury, but could find none. Since she was still eating normally and didn't appear to have any obvious injury, I thought maybe she sprained her leg. I decided I would keep a close watch on her, but I still was not too concerned.
Once again I found her lying down the following day. When I went out to greet her, she remained on the ground. I encouraged her to get up and put on her halter. She wouldn't budge when I tried to lead her. I gave her some more encouragement and she began to walk. I could see now that she was experiencing pain in both front legs and was walking very slowly and dragging her hooves.
Now being concerned, I contacted our equine vet who would not be available until the following day. When the following day rolled around, I didn't see our mare lying down, but instead she was standing. She was standing, though, in a very peculiar manner with her weight shifted toward her back legs while pushing back on the heals of her front hooves. I could see her back legs were very weak from supporting the weight shifted to them.
Seeing our mare in this condition, I thought it best to cancel the field visit by our vet and trailer her to a large animal hospital that would be better suited to diagnose and treat whatever condition she may have. The equine hospital staff where I took our mare specialized in "lameness" in horses. After watching her walk and taking x-rays, the hospital staff determined she had laminitis and began to founder. This is a condition where the coffin bone inside the hoof detaches from the wall and begins to rotate downward.
In our mare's case, her condition was actually fairly minor. Though the animal hospital could not tell me with any certainty what caused the condition, they advised removing her from the grain supplement I had been feeding. The treatment was simple. They had me administer bute for a few days for the pain. But more importantly, they provided instructions to our farrier on how to trim our mare's hooves so the tips were much shorter and more rounded. Much like the natural condition of horses in the wild. In about four weeks she was back to her normal self again.
Shortly thereafter, I began feeding her a sand colic preventative. To get her to eat it, I went ahead and added some grain. After about three days, our mare began to walk "funny" again and drag her front hooves. After consulting with the animal hospital who originally diagnosed her condition, they immediately had me stop feeding the grain, once again stating that a rich grain diet is believed to be a source that could trigger the onset of laminitis. So after going on an alpha hay only diet with more frequent farrier visits, our mare has been doing well ever since.