The Two Words that Scare the He!! out of Horse People


Yep there are two words that scare the bejesus out of every horse person. Words we only want to hear about in relation to other peoples horses, not our own. Words we only want to read about. Not words we want to live.

What are they? LAMINITIS & FOUNDER! I’m right aren’t I? You hate these words. And you hate them more if you have ever had a horse with either diagnosis.

I won’t get into all the specifics here, I assume that most of you are informed enough on the subject since it is such a widespread problem. I am quite familiar with the topic on account of being a natural hoofcare practioner. And also, I happen to have one of those dreaded laminitic horses that foundered a few years ago.

Yeah, Merlin, my big ole beautiful Cremello Quarter Horse, foundered about as bad as a horse can. P3 penetration in both front feet. It was heart wrenching. It was iffy for a while. I cried so much that I thought my tears would have washed away the barn.

We made it through though, and now he is as sound as can be. I learned a lot. I never gave up, even when I was advised to. I admit, I wondered at times. Was I doing the right thing by trying to save him? Or was I prolonging his suffering?

Well meaning friends suggested I put him down. For a fleeting instant I pondered it.

But I guess I’m just too stubborn. I’m a bad quitter. And it took several months to get him past the worst of it and to see that the light at the end of the tunnel, wasn’t a train. But we made it through. And I knew that my experience could help others. Either in my hoofcare practice or now with Alternative Animal.

Getting a horse over laminitis and founder is the tough part. Preventing it is easier. DUH!

So I thought I would share some tips that I have found to be very helpful for Merlin and horses in my Naural Hoofcare Practice.

1. Learn how to check the digital pulse and how to detect heat in the foot.

You can google it if you’re not sure. It just takes some practice. For me that is the single most important thing to know in managing a horse with laminitis. Get in the habit of checking twice a day, everyday. Morning and evening. Some horses can have a slight pulse all the time but if there is a problem, i.e. inflammation, the pulse will be “elevated”. If you are checking it daily you will know what “elevated’ means to your horse. And if there is also heat in the foot,  it’s time to take action.

2. Grazing Muzzles

Ok I’m gonna be straight up here. If you think that a grazing muzzle is cruel, get over it! What is really cruel is a horse that is in excruciating pain because his coffin bone has penetrated the soles of his feet and he can’t walk because he’s been on the grass too long. Laminitis is incredibly painful, even if it’s not as severe as that. A grazing muzzle can be the difference in your horse being able to be out on pasture some, and getting to be the social being that he is designed to be. I’m sure if we asked them they would prefer being out with the grazing muzzle on, to being in jail and away from their buddies without one. The Tough One easy breathe grazing muzzle is my pick. It has nice large holes for the nostril and it does not cover as much of the face. Honestly, Merlin doesn’t seem to mind it at all.

3. Don’t starve a Laminitic horse!

A lot of  horses that fall into this category are overweight and often referred to as “easykeepers”. Some people think that they need to not feed the horses so that they will lose weight. This is the wrong thing to do. They are usually over weight because they metabolize sugar differently. Unless the laminitis is an acute situation like stress, or eating a 50lb bag of food, these horses need to eat, just not like all the others. What is helpful is to be mindful of WHAT they eat. If feeding anything extra besides hay, I prefer whole oats. And only enough to mix in any supplements that are needed. I have found that if I keep Merlin on a supplement to help balance the glucose utilization, he can be out more, and be a horse. The supplement that I have found to work the best for him is GLUCO-SUPPORT . One day off of this and he came in with sore, hot feet and an elevated pulse. This supplement makes it possible for him to be out on pasture early morning to early afternoon without a muzzle. I bring him in in the afternoon, give him this supplement and put him back out before I go to bed, in his grazing muzzle.

These are but a few suggestions that could make life with a laminitic horse better for you both. For more in depth information on laminitis and safe grazing times go to

I could go on and on about  this topic but I will maybe save that for a future post. This is just what is working for me. I know there others of you that have tips you could share. There is no one right answer for this problem but by sharing your story others can learn.

Do you have a horse that suffers from laminitis or has foundered? I’d love to hear your story? What works, what hasn’t worked? Please leave a comment below in the comment box. Your experience could help another horse not ever have to experience the pain and suffering that poor Merlin did.

Together, we’ll save the world…. one horse at a time!

To your pets,

Roxanna Whittington