Monday, April 14, 2008

My experience with laminitis (founder)

A comment left on my previous entry got me thinking back to a horse I used to own.

Before I had Blue, I owned a registered Tennesee Walking Horse gelding.

Pleasure Boy was never as dependable as Blue is, nor as settled. He shied easily. Since he refused to cross railroad tracks, I couldn't get him on the river bottoms, which is my favorite place to ride.

He was the only grazing animal on the place at the time. Although I'd had other horses over the years, I had never encountered a case of laminitis. One day in May I went to get him and he was limping horribly; I assumed he'd hurt a foot or a leg somehow. When he didn't get better in a couple of days, I called the vet, who immediately diagnosed the problem: laminitis. He told me that any time a horse's neck starts getting fat (cresty neck), you need to remove them immediately from grass; do this in time and you can prevent a case of founder.

He explained that my horse must be kept off lush pasture forever, because once the animal has foundered, he never gets over it. You simply have to deal with it, as a diabetic deals with his condition. Boy was to have no grain and no alfalfa hay, only grass hay; he was never to be allowed to graze in a pasture again. Cliff had to plow up a small pen so no grass was left there; Boy had to live on dry lot for the rest of his life. As long as I managed the condition properly, he was still fine for me to ride, once he got over the limping (which took two or three months, as I recall).

I went to work at a distribution center in the year 2000 and really didn't have the time and energy to ride any more. So the man from whom I bought Blue found a buyer and sold him for me.

A couple of years later I read "Seabiscuit" and got horse fever again. I heard about two Foxtrotters for sale and we went to look at them. Both of them had extremely cresty necks, much worse than Pleasure Boy's had ever been; the man assured me they had never foundered, but I only half believed him. However, I knew how to deal with a foundered horse, I already had a dry lot, and I figured for $1,000, this horse was worth the money, foundered or not. (At today's prices, he'd only be worth $500 or so though.)

When I asked the old windbag of a farrier I used at the time if Blue had foundered, he answered in the affirmative.

Blue and I turned out to be very compatible, and I had no problems with him at all. I kept him on a strict diet of grass hay, and he lost some excess weight, but his neck stayed as fat as ever.

The next spring when the vet came to give routine vaccinations and do a sheath-cleaning, I asked him if Blue had foundered.

No. He had never been foundered. The old windbag farrier had retired, and the new guy, the one I still use, agreed that Blue had never foundered. It's easy to tell when you look at the hoof, even for someone like me. That white line was as straight and true as it could be. I still don't know why the first farrier lied to me.

With the four horses that are here now, if the grass gets too lush in spring, we shut them into a smaller pen and just turn them out to pasture for an hour or two a day; because if there's too much grass coming on too fast, any horse can founder. But with the four horses, they usually keep ahead of it enough that there's no danger.

That's me on Pleasure boy, long after he foundered. He was a much prettier horse than Blue. I think Blue's big neck detracts from his appearance. He has the most beautiful heart, however, of any horse I've known.

Pleasure Boy would never have let my granddaughters hug him like Nattie is hugging Blue, in this shot taken in 2004.

And as I responded in the comment section of my previous entry, our grass has only barely started to grow; it's been a long winter. We even had a hard freeze last night.


Donna H said...

Well I learned something today. Being the "city girl" that I am I googled laminitis/founder and learned quite a bit about the condition. What a beautiful horse!
Donna H

Midlife Mom said...

Wow! How did I get so behind on your posts!? Maybe it's that chain that has kept me in my sewing room this week! lol! Boy do I hear you on the laminitis deal. After the nightmare we went through with Buddy last summer I never want to experience that again! This summer we're going to have to do what you did and that is keep him out of the lush grass and only on any grass for short periods of time. We don't have lots of pasture land so it gets eaten down pretty well with the other three chowing all day so he should be able to go out longer as time goes on. I really don't think he would survive another bout of it at his age.

Love your pictures of Secret! What is her secret anyway???? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thanks for showing my tote bag. Those are fun to make and I really need to get on the stick and make more as my inventory is way down but I'm into these wall hangings right now and really enjoying it. Just got another order for a Princess one, that should be fun, I go from tractors to snowmen to princesses! Keeps it interesting.

No I don't have an Ebay store, just an account. Tried selling them on Ebay but there are usually 1200 gazillion tote bags on there to pick from so unless I can get a 'themed' following I won't sell them there. I tried with cats but it wasn't a go. I can do better at the local tack shop paying just a 10% commision.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

Having had a few easy keepers I now stick with appendix quarter horses. I've never seen one that was an easy keeper. My wife has a Foxtrotter that could become an easy keeper, but we don't let her stay out in the pastures for long.

I wonder if they can do lipo-suction on horses? ; )