When A Horse Founders?

Founder (laminitis) in horses is a serious condition of the foot caused by the pedal bone rotating and pointing towards the horse’s sole. It is also one of the most common reasons for disability and lameness in ponies and horses. This is extremely painful and in some cases it may be necessary to euthanize.

  • One of the most tell-tale signs of founder is when a horse leans back, almost looking like it is stretching. Horses do this to try to alleviate the built-up pressure in their infected legs. Horses will also turn up lame, meaning that they move with a noticeable limp in one or more of their legs.

Can a horse recover from founder?

It takes weeks to months for a horse to recover from laminitis. In one research study, 72% of animals were sound at the trot after 8 weeks and 60% were back in work.

What does it mean if a horse founders?

Founder is a common cause of lameness in horses. It involves damage to the laminar connection between the hoof wall and the coffin bone. This often leads to rotation and/or sinking of the coffin bone which causes severe pain and can permanently damage the hoof structure.

How do you know if a horse is foundering?

The signs of founder are easy to recognize: they are the result of both front feet being sore. The back feet may be involved too, but the front feet bear 50% more weight than the rear so they usually hurt more. With both feet being sore the horse’s steps shorten and become slower making the horse or pony look stiff.

How do I stop my horse from foundering?

To avoid grass founder:

  1. Allow the horse to fill up on hay before turning out on grass for a few hours.
  2. Place a grazing muzzle on horses predisposed to foundering to limit their forage intake. Grazing muzzles limit grass intake but allow the horse to exercise throughout the day.

How do I stop founder?

Treatment of Founder (laminitis) in Horses

  1. Medications. The veterinarian will administer a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve pain and inflammation.
  2. Heel Wedge Cuffs or Foam Supports.
  3. Cold Therapy.
  4. Complete Stall Rest.
  5. Surgery.

How long does horse founder last?

Founder is a complex condition and weakens the support for the bones inside the hoof, so making sure the hoof strikes evenly is essential to prevent further damage. Much like a broken fingernail, full repair does not happen until the damaged part of the hoof has fully grown out which takes 6-12 months.

What is the difference between founder and laminitis?

The terms “laminitis” and “founder” are used interchangeably. However, founder usually refers to a chronic (long-term) condition associated with rotation of the coffin bone, whereas acute laminitis refers to symptoms associated with a sudden initial attack, including pain and inflammation of the laminae.

Can a horse founder on hay?

Horses can founder even though they are on a senior feed diet. A simple grass hay diet is recommended for horses at risk of foundering. Senior feeds are made with ingredients that are typically high quality and easy to eat; however, horses susceptible to founder may continue to have problems.

How do you tell if a horse has foundered in the past?

Observant horse people recognize the appearance of a “foundered hoof”. These feet typically show several signs in combination: a dished dorsal hoof wall, dropped or flat sole, a widened white line and obvious growth rings or lines on the hoof wall.

Can a foundered horse eat grass?

There is no fructan in warm-season grasses, yet horses can still founder on them. Since the same environmental conditions that create high fructan concentrations also increase sugar and starch levels, it’s best to just limit all NSCs.

Can a horse founder on grain?

Colic and/or founder (laminitis) are problems of major concern to horse owners. One known cause of colic and/or founder is starch overload from grains or commercial concentrates. Starches are carbohydrates that are highly soluble and quickly digestible into sugars.

Grass Founder

Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, has written this article. The beginning of spring may be the most pleasant time of the year, but if we have horses that are prone to grass founder, this season may mark the beginning of major troubles for some of our horses. In particular, horses who are above the age of 10, are easy keepers, and/or are suffering from insulin resistance are more susceptible to grass founder and should be the focus of founder prevention efforts. In the case of laminitis or founder, as it is more popularly known, the laminae, which are delicate and blood-rich, are destroyed, causing the horse’s hoof to separate from the soft tissue of the foot.

Several factors, including frequent trauma on hard ground (road founder), grain overload, a retained placenta, hormonal imbalance (Cushing’s syndrome), certain medications (corticosteroids), obesity, and lush grass can cause laminitis to develop.

Insulin is responsible for transporting sugar into the horse’s tissues, where it is required for normal function.

Because of this, blood vessels in the horse’s foot are being destroyed.

  • In extreme situations, the coffin bone may twist through the sole of the horse’s foot, causing an infection that can lead to the horse’s death if not treated.
  • Because of the protracted glucose absorption caused by high carbohydrate levels in the grass, as well as the delayed insulin response, insulin dysregulation occurs in otherwise healthy and normal horses (Figure 1).
  • Veterinarians and nutritionists have known for a long time that plants store energy in their seeds in the form of starch, which can induce laminitis in horses if they are exposed to grain too early or eat an excessive amount of grain over their lifetime.
  • If the fast developing grass generates more energy than it requires during the warm spring daylight hours, it stores the surplus as fructans in its root system.
  • Fructans are stored in high concentrations in the stems and leaves of the grass during the spring, when there are bright days followed by chilly nights.
  • Later in the year, when the temperature differences between day and night are more regular, the majority of the fructan produced by the plant during the day is consumed by the plant each night.

Following the dissemination of this knowledge, we may develop a number of ways to limit the consumption of fructans by grazing horses as well as the occurrence of grass founder. In order to avoid grass founder, follow these steps:

  • Maintaining your horse’s weight with regular exercise and nutrition control is essential. Prevent ‘easy keepers’ and ponies from roaming around in lush, quickly developing pastures until the grass has slowed in its growth.
  • Provide your horses with high-concentration legume pastures such as alfalfa or clover to graze on, as these are low in fructan and high in other nutrients.
  • It is best not to graze horses on pastures that have been grazed extremely short throughout the winter since there will be a high concentration of carbohydrates in the fresh, quickly developing grass.
  • If your horses have cresty necks or are overweight, keep them in their stall or paddock until the pasture’s pace of development has decreased, then gradually introduce them to the pasture.
  • Allow the horse to graze on hay for a few hours before sending him out on grass for a few minutes. Grazing muzzles should be used on horses that are prone to foundering, in order to reduce their feed consumption. Grazing muzzles restrict the amount of grass the horse consumes while allowing the animal to exercise throughout the day.

When it comes to grass founder, like with any other health-related concern, your local veterinarian is your greatest source of knowledge. THE AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND: DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists, Dr. Thomas R. Lenz is a trustee of the American Horse Council, a former chairman of the American Quarter Horse Association’s research committee, and a former president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. It was written by the original author in 2020 and has been reviewed and updated by AQHAReview and update by the original author in 2020

What Causes a Horse to Founder and Can They Recover From It?

Any links on this page that direct you to things on Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will receive a compensation. Thank you in advance for your assistance — I much appreciate it! It was suggested to us that our horse could have stumbled. Our grandson quickly recognized our anxiety and inquired as to what founder was and why we were so anxious. When a horse develops founder, which is also known as laminitis, it is caused by a variety of factors such as food, genetic susceptibility, and overmedicating.

It is an extremely dangerous ailment that has the potential to cause the horse’s demise.

To avoid and manage this severe and painful disease, you’ll need to be well-versed in a variety of topics.

Understanding the anatomy of a horse’s hoof is critical.

The hoof must first be understood in order to comprehend what happens when laminitis arises before we can discuss the origins of the disease. The adage “no foot, no horse” holds true now just as much as it did in the past. Bone and laminae are found within the hoof, and they are the components that allow the horse to stand and move. Whenever the laminae become inflamed, the horse will develop lameness on that particular leg. That inflammation will begin to spin the coffin bone, producing discomfort and long-term issues, eventually leading to the formation of what is known as founder.

What causes founder?

Horse founder is a dangerous and frequently fatal ailment that can be brought on by a variety of factors, including injury or illness. The following are the most common reasons why horses fail: Feeding horses a diet that is excessively heavy in sugar or starch might lead them to stumble. This occurs when the horse’s digestive system is overburdened by a significant amount of sugary food, resulting in decreased blood flow to the horse’s feet. Make certain that your horse is at a proper weight.

  1. Horses have a natural need to chew on their cud.
  2. Overeating in and of itself, as well as weight increase, can cause this.
  3. Horses require simply grass and hay to maintain their health.
  4. For example, grain is an useful energy source for horses on chilly days or when they are going to exert themselves physically.
  5. Your horse will benefit greatly from having some hay mixed in with the grain during feeding time.
  6. Some grasses, especially if consumed first thing in the morning, can cause laminitis and founder in horses.
  7. To understand more about the grass that horses consume, you should read Grass For Horses: Why it’s Important and the Different Types of Grass.
  8. If the adjustment is made too quickly, the horse may suffer from colic.

If you’re a new horse owner, spend some time researching about horse diets and talking to vets and other horsemen who have been in the saddle before. Most veterinarians will advise you to supplement your horse’s hay or grass if it is in need of more energy.

Horses are mammals, and like other mammals, they can acquire a condition that is comparable to what we call diabetes in people. When insulin is unable to convert food into glucose, the muscles are harmed. When this occurs, the horse is more susceptible to developing laminitis. If your horse is insulin-resistant, you should take preventative actions to lessen the likelihood that it will develop laminitis, such as removing grains and sugary feed from its diet and exercising the animal as much as possible before symptoms appear.

  • A two-year research conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that some local breeds were more prone than other breeds to founder than other breeds.
  • When possible, avoid exercising your horse on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time.
  • Percussion injuries can be seen from two different perspectives.
  • Riding a horse hard can cause long-term damage to the foot, including the development of acute and chronic laminitis in the horse.
  • The farrier will need to know what sort of riding the horse will be performing in order to properly fit him.
  • It is also necessary to have a reputable farrier on hand.
  • The second point to mention has to do with shoeing.

Especially if the interval between visits is more than eight weeks, this can be a serious problem.

They are expanding at a rapid pace.

This is especially significant for people who feel that a horse should be allowed to “go barefoot.” Horseshoes, like our shoes, are used to protect the hoof, just like our feet are protected by our shoes.


Contrary to popular belief, excessive usage is a contributing factor to the disease.

When horses are fed a high-carbohydrate diet, the response to steroids is considerably more dramatic than it is otherwise. Horses given steroids after consuming a high-carbohydrate diet were found to be much more likely to develop laminitis, according to the researchers.

Only one to two percent of surgical procedures result in this outcome, but it does occur sometimes. The administration of low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) following colic surgery, on the other hand, has been shown to be useful in avoiding laminitis. If you’ve ever taken a peek around a black walnut tree, you may have observed that the soil is deficient in nutrients and nutrients. This is due to the presence of a poison in the tree’s bark and leaves. Horses are extremely vulnerable to this poison, and they can die as a result of exposure.

Chronic laminitis, often known as founder, will develop as a result of prolonged exposure.

The presence of even a small percentage of black walnut shavings might trigger this issue.

It may also be related to general biological changes that drive pregnant horses to become insulin-resistant, making them more susceptible to developing laminitis in the future.

The Symptoms of Founder in Horses

Founder is a medical disorder that can strike at any time and inflict lasting harm to the body. Thus, it is critical to recognize the indications of founder early on and to get your horse treated as soon as possible. Swelling around the foot and ankle joints, as well as a change in stride, are frequently the first signs of plantar fasciitis. Pain may or may not be present at the time of diagnosis. Other signs of founder include a noticeable pulse in the foot, a reluctance to move, and standing with its front legs stretched out in front of it.

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It is possible to discern a difference in the sole of a horse’s foot in severe instances, and sometimes the pedal bone is clearly visible.

So, what can I do to prevent founder?

Some of the answers are very self-explanatory. Make sure the horses stay away from anything that contains black walnut, such as shavings, trees, or wood fences produced from the tree! Keep a check on the horse’s nutrition, keep an eye out for weight concerns, and make sure the horse’s feet are properly trimmed on a consistent basis. If your horse is grazing on lush, rich pastures, a grazingmuzzle should be used. The following link will take you to an informative article on grazing muzzles: click here.

Some are more difficult to deal with. When it comes to trimming and shoeing, please consult with your farrier and your big animal veterinarian to ensure that the horse’s feet are balanced. It is not necessary to avoid all drugs; rather, it is important to ensure that they are not misused.

Horses can recover from founder.

Acute laminitis is a condition that can be treated. It is possible that things may improve; however, this is not guaranteed. It is dependent on the underlying cause, the degree of the injury, and the horse. Typically, stall rest is provided to a horse suffering from acute laminitis. You should ideally keep your horse in a stall with soft bedding, particularly one with thick pine shavings or plenty of nutritious hay, in order to decrease the tension on the hoof. Chronic laminitis is a condition that can be treated.

  1. When a horse is diagnosed with chronic laminitis, the question of euthanasia is frequently brought up in conversation.
  2. Chronic laminitis worsens over time, eventually causing the horse to be unable to stand because to the tremendous discomfort.
  3. It may not be possible to save the horse at this point, and the most humanitarian option may be to put your partner out of its pain as a result of the situation.
  4. It’s never an easy decision to make, no matter what kind of furry loved one we have in our lives.


If you imagine of a healthy coffin bone as being “Velcroed” to the interior of the hoof wall by interlocking sensitive and insensitive laminae, you can better appreciate laminitis (also known as founder). It is known as laminitis when the Iaminae become inflamed and begin to break down, resulting in your horse experiencing laminitis. As long as the inflammation is moderate (as it may be in the case of a stone bruise, for example), there isn’t much of a concern. However, if there is enough cell death to disrupt or dissolve the interlocking link between the hoof wall and the coffin bone, the coffin bone might begin to spin, causing the animal to lose its balance.

  • Chronic founder can occur when a healthy horse gets into the grain, has a bad drug reaction, experiences repeated concussion on hard surfaces, has colic surgery, is exposed to black-walnut wood, or has a leg injury or unsoundness that causes a load-bearing trauma on the other leg.
  • If you and your veterinarian are able to identify one of these causes, your horse is suffering from acute founder.
  • Chronic Founder is distinguished by the presence of more permanent alterations in the structure and blood flow of the hoof wall.
  • Long-term high stress from performing, extended medicine, or—and this is a relatively new concept—insulin resistance, a disease I liken to human diabetes, can all contribute to it.
  • One consequence of insulin resistance in humans is the development of degenerative alterations in the tiny blood vessels, which is analogous to the development of degenerative abnormalities in the laminae of the foot in horses.
  • Despite the fact that chronic founder might manifest itself unexpectedly, you may find yourself dealing with it for years.

In the August 2002 edition of Practical Horsemanmagazine, there was an article with the same title.

Living with Founder

Doctor of veterinary medicine and farrier William Moyer, DVM, provides guidance to horse owners who are dealing with the devastating hoof conditions laminitis and founder.

Swollen Knees in Dressage Horses

In this video, veterinarian A. Kent Allen, DVM, of the United States Equestrian Team explains why a dressage horse’s knee is swollen and presents three possible causes.

The Equine Lameness Exam

If your trail horse becomes lame while riding, contact your veterinarian immediately and request a lameness examination. I’ll walk you through each phase of the lameness examination in this section. In addition, I’ll provide you with the lameness grading method developed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). The more information you have, the more prepared you will be to assist your horse in his rehabilitation.

Equine Founder – Causes and Treatment

Equine founder is a term used to refer to equine laminitis, which is defined as inflammation of the laminae in horses. Located between the toe bones and the hoof wall, the laminea is a tissue portion of the horse’s foot that provides cushioning and support. This tissue is densely packed with blood arteries that supply nutrients to the hoof. The presence of inflammation in this tissue is problematic. Horses who are overweight are at risk for The Horse as a Founder Equine laminitis is a condition in which the blood supply to the toe section of the hoof is cut off.

  • If this continues for an extended period of time, the tissue will die and the bones will rotate.
  • Seedy toes are the term used to describe this condition.
  • In addition, the bone of the toe actually begins to spin such that it enters the sole of the hoof, as if that weren’t awful enough.
  • One of the problems with equine founder is that, once it has occurred, the horse is more susceptible to laminitis in the future, which can become chronic if the horse is not closely monitored.

Signs of Equine Founder

Equine laminitis is a painful condition that normally affects mainly the front feet, although it can also affect the hind feet in some cases. Walking or standing will be difficult for the horse, and he will show symptoms of discomfort when doing so. When the horse is standing, he will seek to shift the weight off of his front foot. They will accomplish this by moving their back feet more forward under their belly and extending their front feet forward in an attempt to carry more of their weight on their heels rather than the painful toes of their feet.

Causes of Equine Laminitis

In horses, laminitis can be caused by a variety of factors, the most prevalent of which is grain overload, followed closely by absorption of excessive green grass and abrupt diet changes. One of the other explanations is that the horse is being ridden too hard, especially if the animal is overweight or out of shape. The repeated forceful shock of a horse, such as when it is run on cement or put through heavy effort on a racing track, can also induce founder. Giving cold water to a hot, sweaty horse before allowing the horse to calm down can trigger laminitis in the horse.

  1. The good news about equine founder is that it may be readily avoided in the first place, and that it can have a positive outcome if treated properly and promptly.
  2. The overabundance of grain is a crisis.
  3. If you feel that your horse has consumed an excessive amount of grain, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
  4. Introduce your horse to green grasses one step at a time.
  5. Keep a close check on horses that are primarily fed pasture, since this is very crucial.

The circumstances described above are excellent for the development of laminitis in horses. Equine founder is a condition that affects horses in particular. Some horses might get so ill that they are unable to consume green grass or pasture for the rest of their lives.

Prevent Equine Laminitis with Common Sense

  • Slow down the rate at which the feed changes
  • It is not advisable to run on concrete. Horses in a green grass pasture should be closely monitored. Don’t overfeed grain to your animals. Infections should be treated as soon as possible. Never ride a horse too forcefully
  • It might cause injury. Pneumonia may be prevented with immunizations and suitable housing
  • Horses should be allowed to cool down before being given water. Keep your horse’s weight at a healthy level
  • And

Treating Laminitis in Horses

Horses who have suffered from a grain overload and are taken to a veterinarian are given enormous amounts of mineral oil through a stomach tube to help them recover. This is done in order to prevent the grain from being digested and thereby preventing founder and colic. Antihistamines are frequently administered with caution so as not to induce toxicity. Overweight horses and ponies who have been diagnosed with equine founder are put on a weight-loss diet to help them lose weight. Unless the founder is derived from grass, the animal will not be permitted access to green grass pasture.

  1. Corrective shoeing performed by a qualified farrier can be beneficial on a variety of levels.
  2. This is essential for tissue regeneration and for encouraging the bones of the foot to realign themselves appropriately after an injury.
  3. Acrylic compounds are sometimes used to strengthen and protect the sole of the foot, as well as to build up sections of the hoof.
  4. However, if founder is treated promptly and effectively managed, it can result in a horse that is capable of living a long, healthy, and useful life.

More Topics Related to Founder in Horses:

Jarl Viale, a farrier, answers some questions concerning horse shoeing in this informative interview.

Horse Grain

Learn how to prevent laminitis in horses by giving them appropriate quantities of horse grain concentrates.

Equine Nutrition

What amount of feed should you give your horse? Everything from salt blocks to grain options may be found here. This material is meant to help horse owners better understand and cope with the wide range of diseases and injuries that can arise over the course of horse ownership. It is not intended for use by veterinarians. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian when it comes to the care and treatment of your horse. Home Horse Illnesses and Disorders The Horse as a Founder

What is laminitis, and how can it be prevented or treated? – RSPCA Knowledgebase

Laminate foot laminitis (also known as founder) is an inflammation of the ligaments of the foot, which are the soft tissue structures that connect the coffin or pedal bone of a horse’s foot to the hoof wall. Extreme discomfort is caused by the inflammation and injury to the laminae, which also results in the coffin bone being unstable in the hoof. In more extreme situations, it can result in the entire separation of the pedal bone from the hoof wall as well as rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof wall.

Once a horse has experienced an episode of laminitis, he or she is more prone to experiencing another bout. Laminitis can be treated but not cured, which is why early detection and prevention are so critical.

Initial (acute) symptoms

  • In spite of the fact that all four feet are susceptible to being damaged, the forelimbs are more commonly and seriously afflicted than the hindlimbs. Equine patients that are affected by this condition are reluctant to move and adopt a’sawhorse’ attitude, in which they rock their weight off the most severely damaged forelimbs. Horses suffering from laminitis will frequently lie down. As a result of the intense discomfort in the other supporting forelimb, it will be difficult for you to lift up one of your forelimbs. To the touch, the hoof wall and coronary band (the soft tissue that surrounds the top of the hoof) are frequently warm. When foot testers (a tool used by your veterinarian or farrier to detect hoof pain) are used, there is frequently discomfort, particularly around the toe area. In contrast to analog pulses, digital pulses are powerful and quick (the digital pulse may be discovered at the rear of your horse’s fetlock). Request a demonstration from your veterinarian if you are unsure of how to do this.

Chronic symptoms

This kind of inflammation is identified in situations where the inflammation has been present for a long period of time and structural alterations are now evident:

  • “Rings” of laminitis appear on the surface of the afflicted hoof, and these “rings” correlate to earlier bouts of laminitis in the horse. The curvature of the hoof wall is similar to that of a dish or slipper, with lengthy toes. A bulge in the sole corresponds to the rotation of the pedal bone in the hoof when the bone has rotated in the hoof
  • Due to restricted flexibility in its front legs, the horse will tend to bear greater weight on its rear legs, which is known as the “laminitic position.”


Overfeeding obese ponies is a fairly prevalent cause of laminitis, especially during the spring months following a period of heavy rain. In grasses and clovers, the soluble carbohydrate content increases as a result of the rain. When consumed, this triggers metabolic changes in the body, which results in altered blood flow to the laminae of the foot and ankle. Among the other reasons are:

  • When a horse gets into a feed shed or bin, he may be overfed grain, resulting in grain engorgement. a mare’s placenta remains in situ after foaling
  • Situations characterized by septicaemia Obesity (a major predisposing factor in laminitic horses)
  • A weakened immune system. Lameness that prohibits one leg from sustaining its own weight, resulting in laminitis in the other supporting limb
  • Extreme labor in unshod horses on hard terrain, or over-enthusiastic hoof clipping might result in trauma.

Risk Group

Ponies that are overweight, as well as their crossbreds, are more susceptible to laminitis. Any horse suffering from one of the conditions listed above, on the other hand, may be impacted. Those horses that have had past episodes of laminitis (e.g., hoof rings or slipper-shaped feet) are more susceptible to subsequent episodes of laminitis due to the fact that they have fewer healthy laminae remaining to provide support for the pedal bone. The spring season is when the majority of instances of laminitis caused by overfeeding occur.

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If you feel your horse is suffering from laminitis, you should seek veterinarian care right once. A radiograph (X-ray) of your horse’s foot will likely be required depending on the severity of the clinical symptoms. This is done to evaluate how much rotation there is in your horse’s hoof and how much pressure is being applied to the pedal bone. The information gained from this will offer your veterinarian with a baseline against which to measure response to treatment as well as the required information from which to collaborate with your farrier to get the best possible outcome.


To have a successful outcome, early diagnosis and treatment with a strong focus on prevention are essential, as is a positive working relationship between you, your veterinarian, and your farrier:

  • First and foremost, eliminate the source of the problem. The removal of horses from their food supply should be done quickly if they have acquired laminitis as a result of overfeeding. When a mare has retained her placenta, it is a medical emergency. Your veterinarian will need to remove any residual placenta, rinse the uterus with saline, and begin necessary medical care right away. Horses suffering from a septicaemic condition will also require vigorous medical care from your veterinarian
  • Anti-inflammatories will be the cornerstone of treatment in this situation. According to the etiology, severity, and stage of laminitis, consult with your veterinarian about the most appropriate treatment and dosage rate to be used. Horses suffering from this condition must be kept in thick shavings so that they may dig their hooves into a comfortable posture. Alternately, you may choose to use a sand yard, but it is critical to use a hoof pick twice daily to prevent sand from building up in the sole. Exercise should be avoided during the early stages since it may result in additional rotation of the pedal bone
  • Proper hoof care is essential. Your farrier should speak with your veterinarian and trim the hoof in accordance with the degree of rotation of the pedal bone. Ongoing nutritional control is also important. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate feeding schedule. In addition to getting additional feed sources that are high in soluble carbohydrate, many feeds that are marketed as safe for laminitic horses are not suited for use in your horse. Until you are able to obtain veterinarian assistance or guidance, feed just hay
  • Horses want companionship. You should make certain that horses confined during laminitis therapy have the opportunity to socialize with other horses.


  • Make certain that your horse or pony is fed a well-balanced ration that is appropriate for their kind, age, and level of exercise. Access to rich pasture should be restricted, particularly during the rainy spring months. If you fear your mare has retained her placenta (12 hours later may be too late), or if your horse appears to be in any way sick, seek veterinarian treatment immediately. Regular foot care from a professional farrier is essential for your horse’s well-being.

The Equiculture Responsible Horse Carepage contains further information.

What is Horse Founder? (Signs, Types, Causes & Treatment)

In order to spot the red flags that may indicate disease, pain, or discomfort in your horse, it would be beneficial for you to have a basic awareness of the many components of a horse’s anatomy. This will assist you to recognize the signs of illness, pain, or discomfort in your horse. The limbs of the horse are one of the most important parts of the horse’s bones. Being in possession of a horse that has inflamed or diseased tendons and joints or who has otherwise crippled hooves is an emergency scenario that requires immediate medical treatment in addition to a slow and meticulously supervised recuperation period.

This article will go through the signs, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from this ailment.

What Is Horse Founder?

Let us talk a bit more about the anatomy of the horse. Among the bones that make up a horse’s lower foot anatomy are the navicular bone and the coffin bone, both of which are crucial. The navicular bone’s primary function is to cushion and bend with each step taken by the horse. The coffin bone, on the other hand, becomes embedded in the horse’s hoof. The soft tissue surrounding it, known as laminae, is responsible for helping to adhere this bone to the hoof wall. Horse founder causes this attachment layer to become inflammatory, and in severe situations, it can even cause the surrounding soft tissue to disintegrate completely.

The importance of prevention cannot be overstated since once a horse has been diagnosed with laminitis, it becomes prone to subsequent recurrences. Another thing to keep in mind is that this severe illness is not curable, but can only be controlled with prompt and careful treatment and attention.

Signs of Horse Founder

By simply glancing at the outside of the hoof, you will be unable to determine whether or not a horse is suffering from laminitis (founder). As a result, it would be beneficial if you were aware of the common red flags to look out for while dealing with this condition. While standing, a horse “may well lean back on its rear feet in order to alleviate the sore front feet,” according to BlueCross, a British charitable organization dedicated to animal welfare. Additional indications of lameness or failure to bear down the entire weight of the horse’s body on the afflicted limb may be present.

Typically, in situations of acute horse founder, the coffin bone will sink deeper into the hoof capsule, causing the hoof to collapse.

Hock sloughing is a serious problem that can result in the horse’s coffin bone breaking through the hoof wall in the worst case scenario.

TypesSymptoms of Horse Founder

There are two forms of horse founders, both of which are acute and chronic. Unfortunately, the redistribution of weight from the afflicted leg to the supporting limbs may potentially result in support-limb founder in the supporting limbs.


  1. In the case of acute founder, the symptoms are frequently severe and manifest themselves quite quickly. In certain instances, the coffin bone and laminae are separated from one another in a highly traumatic manner. Chronic Founder: Symptoms of acute founder persist for more than three days after the onset of the illness. Once a horse has suffered a recurrence from a prior bout of laminitis, the condition is considered chronic. Support-Limb Founder: This condition occurs when healthy limbs are stressed as a result of bearing the horse’s additional weight.


Although horse founder can affect any of your horse’s feet, the condition is most commonly seen in the animal’s forelimbs and hindquarters. Some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms are as follows:

  1. Walking with your heel striking the ground
  2. Movement of the pedal bone (which may be detected by a skilled set of hands)
  3. Having a preference for one limb over another
  4. If you move him, he shows signals of agony and evident pain
  5. Has a greater proclivity to lie down
  6. Refusal to get out of bed
  7. Will not elevate the limb that has been injured
  8. Lameness that appears out of nowhere
  9. Touching the hoof wall may cause a sensation of warmth.

Causes of Horse Founder

Believe it or not, being overweight in horses is one of the most common causes of laminitis in horses. Consider this: a horse can weigh anywhere from 900 to 2,000 pounds, depending on its breed and intended use, on average. It is not necessary to be a medical professional to appreciate the delicate nature of a horse’s limbs. When compared to the size and weight of the horse’sbarreland head, its legs appear to be rather little in comparison. The major purpose of a horse’s limbs is to support the body and act as shock absorbers when the animal is moving.

When it comes to caring for your horse’s limbs, you should pay close attention to the condition of each one.

Horses are frequently overworked and asked to carry loads that are beyond their physical capabilities.

Other Leading Causes of Horse Founder

  1. Overworking oneself or working for an excessively long period of time
  2. Bacterial infections that are severe
  3. High fevers or other ailments that are extreme
  4. Grains should not be overfed (particularly in barn situations). The illness in the supporting limb is caused by lameness in one of the legs. Pregnancy and foaling
  5. Inexperienced hoof trimming
  6. Stressful conditions such as traveling and changing habitats
  7. Inexperienced hoof trimming The onset of laminitis can be triggered by hormonal illnesses such as Cushing’s syndrome or Equine Metabolic Syndrome, as well as by other inflammation-related ailments.

Diagnosis of Horse Founder

As a horse owner, you most likely already have a trustworthy and reputable equine veterinarian on whom you can rely for the medical care of your horse. However, if you have spotted any of the signs previously described, do not hesitate to contact the police department right away. Whatever the situation, whether you need to arrange transportation for your horse to a medical appointment or your veterinarian has consented to travel to your property, you should keep a record of all of your horse’s medical history in one convenient area.

  1. Especially in the field of equine veterinary medicine, vital signs constitute a substantial element of the examination and should be performed in a thorough manner.
  2. Following a detailed and thorough physical examination, the actual process of assessing and diagnosing a potential danger of laminitis may begin in earnest.
  3. The severity of the laminitis will be determined very instantly by an expert veterinarian, who will therefore be able to eliminate the need for standard diagnostic procedures such a lameness examination.
  4. They may also make an attempt to move the horse’s limb to see how far it can move in a given direction.
  5. In that situation, the veterinarian might also administer a numbing drug to the injured leg while watching the horse gallop around.
  6. It is no surprise that veterinarians and horse farriers are both familiar with the sensitive nature of feet.

In addition to these precautions, your veterinarian may recommend complete panel diagnostic tests to examine your blood count, insulin levels, bacterial levels, and other parameters, among other things.

Treatment of Horse Founder

Despite the fact that laminitis is incurable, it may be cured and controlled effectively with proper care. Unfortunately, as a horse owner or as a veterinarian in the field, this is a condition that should not be taken lightly at any time. One research published in the National Library of Medicine of the United States followed the negative results of horses diagnosed with horse founder to the letter. The findings were rather disturbing, suggesting that 247 horses were euthanized and another 13 died (as a consequence of a combination of various diseases) as a result of a source population of 591 horses with laminitis, according to the researchers.

  1. For starters, though, your horse is in a great deal of discomfort, and your veterinarian will prescribe a prescription to help him manage his discomfort.
  2. As a result, you should keep your veterinarian informed of any changes in your condition, and they will make any necessary adjustments to the medication and dose based on the stage and severity of the laminitis.
  3. If your horse does not receive visual stimulation and does not have interaction with other horses, socially-induced stress may exacerbate his or her condition.
  4. In addition to this, consult with your veterinarian about the possibility of using horse putty, which gives frog support while also assisting in the prevention of bacterial and fungal diseases.
  5. The icy-bucket challenge is also a good initial step to do if you see any indications of laminitis and want to wait until your veterinarian comes.
  6. Consult your veterinarian on the best ways to assist your horse’s physical and joint health during its healing process.

Recovery From Horse Founder

As your horse recovers from laminitis, you should have a fresh understanding of how important proper hoof care and food control are to his overall health. In order for your farrier and your veterinarian to agree on the optimum procedure for trimming and shoeing your horse’s hooves, you will want to schedule a consultation with each of them. And, much like with weight management in people, you cannot go on a diet, lose a significant amount of weight, and then return to eating in the same unhealthy manner as you did before the diet began.

Remember to feed your horse according to its breed and intended use.

Furthermore, it would be preferable if you offered a dieting horse a smaller amount of the food you normally would.

Pay close attention to seasonal and climatic variations, since these might have an impact on the amount of forage available.

However, because laminitis is a highly unpredictable disease that can affect any member of theEquus Caballosspecies at any time, it is important to be vigilant in following preventive measures and paying attention to your veterinarian’s advice and recommendations to play an active role in your horse’s health and wellness.

Final Founder Thoughts

Laminitis can occur as a consequence of non-nutritional reasons such as a traumatic injury or as a result of another chronic disease; nevertheless, obesity and a poorly managed pasture and feeding regimen are the primary causes in the vast majority of cases. The health of your horse’s feet and the length of its life are dependent on how you manage its lifestyle. Make careful to discuss whether or not your particular horse breed is appropriate for the purpose for which you plan to use it. In addition, keep up with the latest feeding and supplement developments so that you may make frequent adjustments to your horse’s diet in response to seasonal changes, pasture deficiency, as well as your horse’s age, weight, and workload requirements.

Green Grass Founder – Laminitis

Explore the area surrounding the dry lot. It seems like there’s no way for the horse to get around the barrier and have access to some grass on the other side, yet there could be. Keep in mind that a dry lot implies no grass, not short grass. At this time of year, grass is growing rapidly everywhere, and you’d be astonished how much the horse is actually consuming in one sitting. Furthermore, grass that has been stressed in this way frequently has greater sugar levels. Exercise is the single most effective treatment for EMS.

  1. A second technique is to limit the amount of time the horses spend on the pasture, with the morning being the best time to do so because the sugar level of the grass is lowest.
  2. (This is a tactic that many people use when eating at all-you-can-eat buffets!) Agrazing muzzle is the option that I like.
  3. The disadvantage of this strategy is that certain horses, such as Houdini, are escape artists and will manage to get their muzzles off.
  4. So that’s spring, with all of its benefits and dangers.
  5. The grass turns a magnificent shade of green and begins to produce sugars once more.
  6. When it comes time to answer, you first sequester him in a stall where there isn’t even a speck of greenery to be found.
  7. There will be no alfalfa, no grain, no orchard grass, no apples, or anything else you might imagine.
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After that, contact the veterinarian and inform your farrier of the situation.

For the purpose of treating founder, the goals of the game are to reduce inflammation in the foot and to provide structural support.

(This is one of the reasons that treating foundered Cushing’s horses is such a difficult task, but that’s a topic for another time.

Following that, we’ll pack the foot with styrofoam or similar packing material to relieve the pressure on the hoof wall and prevent further damage.

Following that, we’ll look into medications.

A strong nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), it will assist in making the horse more comfortable.

I’ll also utilize DMSO, which will be supplied through a tube that will be passed through the nose and into the stomach.

Aside from that, I like making your barn stink.

In the olden days, they’d put the foundered horse in the creek and leave it there.

As of today, you can place the horse in a tub filled with ice water for at least a half hour at a time, repeating the procedure whenever possible.

You can’t put too much pressure on yourself like this.

Of sure, you’d suffer frostbite, but his feet don’t have the same circulation as yours.

If your horse looks to be having difficulty with EMS, we may decide to include thyroid supplements in the treatment plan.

Horses can be hypothyroid, and there are some very fascinating disputes in the scientific literature over whether or not horses may be hypothyroid.

We’ll gradually wean your horse off of this supplement, but it will take some time.

She should keep the heel and shave the toes off of her shoes.

When you elevate your heel, you relieve the stress on the tendon that attaches to the bottom of the coffin bone and pulls it backward.

This allows you to rotate your foot more freely. Forefoot deformity requires extensive treatment and can take months to correct, so you should arrange sessions with your farrier every four weeks until the problem is resolved.

Laminitis and founder – Lameness

A horse with laminitis has been spotted.” data-medium-file=”ssl=1″ data-medium-file=”ssl=1″ data-large-file=”ssl=1″ data-large-file=”ssl=1″ title=”laminitis” alt=”A horse suffering from laminitis.” src=” alt=”A horse suffering from laminitis.”” The width and height of the image are 300 and 224 pixels respectively. data-recalc-dims=”1″> A horse with laminitis has been spotted. The illness of founder is still poorly understood, according to Robert N. Oglesby, DVM, after years of diligent research.

The presence of higher blood protein levels in horses with chronic laminitis has been discovered in a new study, indicating that the potentially lethal hoof disease has a systemic component.


In most cases, founder may be identified by the fact that both front feet are painful. The back feet may also be implicated, but because the front feet carry 50 percent greater weight than the back feet, they are more likely to be harmed. When both feet are hurting, the horse’s steps grow shorter and slower, giving the impression that the horse or pony is stiff. He will put his front feet out in front of him while leaning back on his rear legs to assist reduce the weight on his front legs while at rest.

As the discomfort intensifies, he may find himself spending an increasing amount of time lying down.

Why it happens

The Hammock is a type of hammock. Founder is a disease that affects the laminae of the foot and is caused by a virus. To comprehend founder, it is necessary to first comprehend what laminae are. When weight is carried from the leg to the foot, it is not transported directly down through the bottom of the sole as it would otherwise be. The laminae are responsible for holding the foot (coffin bone) bone in place against the hoof wall. Consequently, weight is transferred to the hoof wall and subsequently down the wall to the ground as a result of this transfer.

  • Consider the image of a guy relaxing on a hammock to better understand this relationship.
  • The laminae are represented by the hammock and ropes.
  • The hammock, which is attached to the tree, helps to hold the entire weight of the guy.
  • Eventually, when the founder is bad enough, the hammock (laminae) splits, spilling the man (toe bone) to the earth below.
  • However, during the acute phase of the founder, there was an issue in that inflammatory cells, which are a crucial mediator of inflammation, were not present.
  • What Causes the Hammock to Break?
  • It is simple to see why: All of these symptoms of inflammation — heat, swelling, and pain — were present in this case.
  • It was frequently difficult to determine what was causing the irritation.
  • This was difficult to believe because the increased heat and pulse seemed to imply greater blood flow, which was not the case.
  • The goal of these shunts in a healthy horse is to keep the horse’s foot warm in extremely cold weather by increasing blood flow to the foot.
  • When tissue is injured, inflammation occurs, which aids in the fight against infection and the removal of damaged tissue.

Recent study reveals that platlet aggregation, which results in the formation of thrombi (clots) and the rerouting of blood away from the lammelar capillaries, may be a significant factor in the development of ischemia (AJVR, v 58, n 12, pg 1376).

Acute v. chronic

There are two types of founders that are easily distinguishable. During the acute phase of the condition, the symptoms appear rapidly and the severity might vary depending on how severely the laminae have been injured. Some specialists on lameness feel that in the acute version of the disease, the majority of the damage is done in the first few hours after the onset of the ailment. Ponies and overweight horses who are exposed to quickly increasing grass or excessive concentrate are more susceptible to the chronic type of founder.

The damage done during a flare-up is typically not as severe as the damage done during an acute attack, but the damage can accumulate over time.

It is critical to obtain radiographs if an acute case of founder arises in order to keep track of any changes in the foot.

It is possible that you may be monitoring developments over which you have little influence, but the rate and degree of change will serve as the greatest predictors of what is to come.

Some causes

Certain of the reasons of founder are well understood, yet there are some situations that are difficult to comprehend. Listed below are some of the most prevalent causes of acute founder, in no particular order:

  1. Horse going into the feed bin and consuming an excessive amount of grain
  2. Gram-negative bacterial infections accompanied by endotoxemia
  3. Excessive trauma to the foot
  4. And obesity. Standing on black walnut shavings, I’m thinking about. A hot horse consuming an excessive amount of cold water in a short period of time


Treatment in the case of an emergency Acute founder is usually a medical emergency that need specialist assistance to prevent irreparable harm. The following are examples of first aid measures:

  1. Make an appointment with the veterinarian. While you’re waiting, make an effort to convince your horse to walk. This helps to improve circulation while also alleviating some of the discomfort. Take him for a walk on extremely soft terrain. Force him to walk if he refuses to walk with moderate prodding
  2. Else, he may suffer more consequences. Walking foundered horses has become a contentious issue, with some claiming that it causes more harm. A large number of moderate founders have responded favorably to walking on soft ground, as I have witnessed. If the horse does not want to walk after being gently encouraged (with a light whip), do not force him to do so
  3. This is a good rule of thumb. If veterinary assistance is not immediately accessible, bute (2 gm/1000 pounds twice day) or aspirin should be administered.

Medication There are now dozens of therapy regimens being considered for the treatment of founder, many of which are based on hypotheses that are at odds with one another. There has been little evidence that one medication is more effective than another, with the exception of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) phenylbutazone (bute). It appears that in certain circumstances, what worked the previous time does not work this time, and vice versa, what did not work the previous time does work this time.

  1. Keeping the horse as comfortable as possible necessitates the assistance of a trained professional.
  2. There is no proof that these medications are more effective at relieving the pain of founder than bute since the reaction to pain relievers is typically dosage dependent: the more you give, the more pain relief you get.
  3. We have a better understanding of how much can be given for how long and with what consequences because of Bute, which is a significant benefit.
  4. It has been demonstrated that banamine can inhibit some of the effects of endotoxins on tissues.
  5. Endotoxin blocking effects require a high dose, and it is advisable to stick with the upper end of the manufacturer’s recommended range.
  6. Trimming and ShoeingThere have been several shoeing recommendations for acutely foundered horses, and although many are somewhat better than no shoes and loose footing, others are far worse than that.

It is possible that the horse with a low quality sole and hoof wall will be an exception. If these horses are unable to be kept comfortably without shoes, the following options may be considered:

  1. It is determined by which of the following may help you in your situation: reversed shoes
  2. Egg bar shoes
  3. Heart bar shoes
  4. Any of the above with pads or pads taped on alone. Which of the following may help you in your situation is determined by which does the best job of relieving pressure at the toe and its associated sole

Soaking The Soles of the Feet Foot soaks in water are a popular therapy that is regularly advised. Cold water has always been utilized, and I believe that soaking a horse in cold water might provide some pain alleviation. It has been pointed out that cold generally causes blood flow to be restricted, and warm soaks have been recommended as a preferable alternative. When it comes to acute founder, I no longer wash the feet and have not observed a difference in the predicted outcome. Hooves that are developing abscesses as a result of their founder’s infection should have the abscesses opened, drained, and soaked in antiseptic solution.

Summary of Treatment

In terms of therapy, it is still difficult to beat:

  1. Bute was given intravenously for pain. The dosage is adjusted to get the desired effect. Taking off the horse’s shoes and rolling the toes can be done if there is excellent sole support from the remainder of the hoof wall. You want the sole to be concave when seen from the ground up. The toe and the corresponding sole should be elevated above the ground. Trimming should not be performed on a horse with bad walls and thin soles. These horses are in desperate need of all the assistance they can receive. It is possible that horses in this group will require additional care and treatments. Placing the horse in a spacious stall or a small pasture with very soft ground is the best option. If there is a grain overload, many doses of mineral oil administered through stomach tube, as well as Banamine administered as fast as possible, are quite crucial. Acepromazine at a modest dose (.02 mg/kg 4 times day) to enhance blood flow


Recovery prospects are poor anytime the following conditions exist:

  1. Despite therapy, rotation continues to occur. The angle of rotation is more than 12 degrees. If a return to sports activity is desired, it is critical that the temperature be less than 6 degrees. At the level of the coronet, the coffin bone begins to slip away from the wall and become visible. A horse’s ability to rise is hindered by pain. There is always hope in the event of severe pain and limited rotation, but some of these horses will need a long time to recover from their injuries. It is possible that they may require care and medicine for several months.

Severe, unresponsive founder

If the horse is in significant discomfort but his rotation is not very noticeable, examine the possibility that single abscesses are the source of the problem. Usually, abscesses manifest themselves unilaterally, so you first realize that one foot is significantly worse than the other, although abscesses may manifest themselves quickly in the other foot. Any parts of the sole that appear to be sore should be investigated further. It has been advocated for numerous years by Dr. Redding of the Equine Podiatry Center in Lexington, Kentucky, that when confronted with significant rotation, elevating the heels by 12 to 15 degrees can be advantageous.

When patients are handled in this manner, he has observed instances stop spinning.

The hypothesis of the deep digital flexor (DDF) releasing the pull on the toe bone is sound both on paper and in practice, according to the research.

Contacting the Podiatry Center is recommended for those who are interested in learning the newest advances on this technique.

Once severe rotation occurs fast or if the pasture begins to sink to any significant degree, the chances of recovery to even pasture soundness are slim to none.

Originally published on Horseadvice.com, an internet information resource for the equestrian and horse business since 1994, this essay has been reposted with the permission of the author.

2005 Horsetalk.co.nz published the original version of this article in 2005.

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