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Grass-Related Laminitis – What you can do...

Donkeys Founder horses Laminitis ponies

There are other great people out there who have, with the most amazing dedication, successfully brought their horses back from serious laminitis. All kudos to them, it is no easy task. This is why we harp on about prevention.

Unfortunately for many horses and ponies, until people have experienced the horrors of Laminitis it is easy to be too lackadaisical about prevention and suddenly it is too late and equines come down with it left, right and centre and their owners are faced with providing ‘intensive care’ for the worrisome and demanding journey back to soundness.

We have learned a lot from helping all the ponies at Mini Ha-Ha Rescue Haven that Jen Heperi has rehabilitated. We have refined and honed things down and find following these points give the best results in sometimes remarkably short time-frames. (As in the case of the horse in the photo).

The task is more of a challenge for big horses, the same approach works but you need to be even more meticulous about each step and often it can take longer to achieve.

So here is a summary of what we do:

1. Remove access to ALL grass. 
You will need a dry lot or a grass-free area that must be 100% meticulously grass free – this is not negotiable. Do what it takes with old carpet, waste bedding/hay or whatever means at your disposal to cover up and prevent access to anything green.

2. Have your vet attend for assessment, to provide immediate pain relief. X-Rays may be necessary. If you don’t know how have your vet show you how to monitor the Digital Pulse so that you can check this daily.
The level of pain experienced by horses and ponies with acute laminitis is excruciating. The heavy artillery pain relief is necessary until the day you go out there and see he is walking of his own accord. Ameliorating excruciating pain takes priority over a possible digestive upset occasionally associated with using short-term pain relief.

3. Provide soft footing or memory foam padded boots. The purpose is to both support the bone column and keep the horse as comfortable as possible. Sand is good.

4. Provide hay that has been soaked in water for 45 – 60 minutes prior to feeding – an old bathtub is ideal for this. Be meticulous that the hay is plain grassy hay, no clover, and no Lucerne. We have come across many laminitic horses and ponies with laminitis who were better within 24 hours of removing the Lucerne (alfalfa) from the diet. Lucerne is often recommended for laminitis because of its comparatively low sugar content but this small advantage is outweighed by its mineral imbalances. In our experience avoid it.

5. Cut out ALL hard feed and syringe in (multiple times a day) the following mixed in water:
*1 tsp salt with *1 Tbsp SOS (NZ &Australia) Alleviate C (UK) 

The purpose of this is to correct mineral imbalances that have been caused by the grass. It is not critical exactly how much you get in, the main thing is to get some in over multiple times during the day – the bigger the horse the more you give, more often.

6. Once the horse is out of the crisis – IE: up and moving around, you can resume small PLAIN hard feeds of white chaff, linseed meal, a little copra, flax seed oil, in which to mix salt AlleviateC/SOS and Premium MVA (NZ & UK) Supreme (Australia) 
It is very important to add the vitamins, minerals and amino acids because the soaked hay on its own will not sustain optimal health let alone repair the damaged tissue.
Don’t be tempted to feed anything else.

7. Postpone trimming the hooves (unless they are extremely long) while the horse is in pain, leave until the horse is out of crisis.

8. Do not exercise the horse at all until he is moving comfortably of his own accord, then some hand-walking.

9. Icing the hooves can be helpful but we have seen speedy recoveries without doing so.

10. Prepare a larger grass free dry lot or track to allow the horse more movement once he has recovered enough. Once your horse has had laminitis, he will be very susceptible to relapse, each relapse being more serious than the one before. He will need this area for most of the year depending on where you live.

These are the crucial things to do. Yes you can do other helpful things for your horse. While they are not essential, anything you can do to make the horse more physically and mentally more comfortable is a good thing.

PHOTO: Liane Rhodes from the UK had been struggling for several months until she followed these instructions to the letter, with her lovely buckskin mare Indiana. The full story can be found on The Horse Code at THREE RAVENS TRACK LIVERY

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