walking-with-horseWhat is Laminitis? As reported in Understanding Lameness (Western Horseman, 2009), laminitis, or founder, means the laminae in your horse’s hooves have started to detach. The laminae bind the coffin bone to the inside of your horse’s hoof wall, andtheir detachment impacts many structures within the foot. The layer of cells called the basement membrane lines the coffin-bone side of the attachment and provides the physiological basis for this attachment. The coffin bone, basement membrane, and hoof wall must all work together to provide support for each of your horse’s legs. Here’s a more advanced look at what’s going on inside your horse’s hooves.

The hoof wall rim and the frog are the major weight-bearing structures in the foot—not the sole. The leg’s bony column is supported by the coffin bone, which attaches to the hoof wall’s inner surface. That connection makes the hoof wall the major support structure. So, keeping the hoof wall—the support structure—attached to the coffin bone is a crucial connection. The laminae’s role is to sustain that connection.

Laminae extending from the face or surface of the coffin bone intertwine, orinte- digitate, with laminae originating from the hoof wall’s inner surface to create the important attachment between the coffin bone and the hoof wall. When disease damages the laminae, the connection between the hoof wall and coffin bone weakens. When the disease progresses, the laminae sometimes completely separate. When the laminae can’t maintain the attachment, the coffin bone rotates or begins to sink under the horse’s weight. Instead of the hoof wall acting as the support structure, the small coffin bone now bears all the body’s weight and presses onto the horse’s sole. The new support arrangement interferes with blood circulation to hoof structures and causes great pain. The horse’s weight is no longer supported in a way to protect the structures inside the hoof capsule.

It’s also important to remember that the basement membrane is a thin layer of cells associated with the coffin-bone laminae. These cells are crucial to keeping the two layers of laminae connected. However, the basement membrane is weakened and damaged by laminitis’ triggering factors, several yet-to-be-identified factors that can cause your horse’s foot structures to change. Laminitis researchers soon will know exactly what happens after your horse eats too many carbohydrates and before his feet pathologically change. Researchers do know that laminar structures weaken if the area doesn’t receive enough glucose or oxygen. If the basement membrane weakens or disintegrates, the hoof wall and coffin bone can permanently separate, whichresults in rotation or sinking of the coffin bone.

If the disease process is discovered in time, your veterinarian can minimize or stop your horse’s coffin-bone rotation, and can potentially reverse the rotation with the help of your farrier in some cases. The ability to recover most likely is related to the amount of damage to the basement membrane cell layer. However, by the time most horse owners see clinical laminitis signs, the disease process, including the early separation of the laminae. already is under way. For that reason, laminitis always should be treated as a medial emergency to achieve the best outcome.

Your horse’s systemic or whole-body blood circulation also impacts the pathology of his hoof structures. Blood seems to deliver the triggering factors that eventually alter the hoof’s laminae. Scientists continue to study circulation and the connection to laminitis.

Research and Testimonials:
Lisa Rasmussen shares, “When my 24-year-old, slightly overweight, Arabian broodmare developed a bad case of laminitis several years ago I was devastated. At the time, I thought I was feeding her a balanced diet: alfalfa hay and sweet feed. Boy, was I wrong! After reading an article called ‘A Study of Laminitis,’ by Kathryn Watts, on thehorse.com, I realized that my horse’s diet might have triggered the case of laminitis. The article explains that there is and important link in sugar and starches as a cause for laminitis.

“A week or so later, I discovered EquiPride and EquiLix at my local horse expo. I asked about how this product might help with laminitis. The EquiPride and EquiLix, it was explained, is loaded with flax and omega 3s which reduce inflammation in the laminae. Additionally, the product is starch- and sugar-free and is predigested. The predigested nature helps to body to absorb the vitamin and mineral package more readily. It is important for a foundered or laminitic horse not to have starch or sugar. I also loved the fact that the product had the digestive oligosaccharides (prebiotics) that would aid digestion as well.

“I picked up two pails to try. After the first pail, my mare was walking again in the pasture without Bute or any other medication. We did shoe her to take some pressure off her feet. By the time we finished the second pail she was walking, trotting, back to her old self again! I strongly believe that we gave Mustique the nutritional tool to help her body to regulate and heal itself. I immediately placed all of my horses on EquiPride.

“My horses have been on EquiPride for over six years now. They all maintain beautiful shiny coats (they even dapple now), strong healthy hooves (they go barefoot), strong digestive health (no colics, I lost two horses to colic prior to using this product), and calm, even dispositions (I have all Arabians!). The product worked so well for my horses, I decided to form a new business and distribute the product to other horse owners.

“I trust the product for my horses and am excited to share research and feedback with you here. Feel free to comment after each blog entry. Please use this blog as a place to talk about your horses health and let me know if EquiPride is helping you, too. I love to hear your stories.”

Here’s what Dr. Ashleigh Olds, DVM, of Aspen Creek Large Animal Clinic, in Conifer, CO, had to say about EquiPride and laminitis–and Cushings, too. “I just wanted to let you know that I have used EquiPride on several hospitalized horses with excellent results. One in particular, a badly laminitic mare with Equine Cushing’s disease, really started to turn the corner when I put her on EquiPride.”

Questions for You:
Is your horse prone to bouts of laminitis? Is he an easy or hard keeper? Has your horse shown signs of fatigue or stress?