Traditional belief was that a founder diagnosis meant certain fatality or at least total lameness for life. We now know that in most cases, the horse has the ability to heal given the right diet, environment, trim and hoof support.
Hoof Boots & Glue-On Composite Shoeing
Modern farriers and veterinarians have access to alternative methods of care that help improve prognosis for the laminitic horse. Hoof boots and composite horseshoes offer an excellent alternative to the concussion of nailing metal shoes. Companies such as Easycare, Inc. and Softride sell hoof boots and pads that offer cushion and support for painful feet. Hoof boots are excellent for laminitic horses because support can be added or removed from specific areas of the foot. For example, many foundered horses do quite well with increasing weight bearing on the frog to help relieve the sole. Boots can be easily changed, cleaned, or removed for veterinary or farrier work.
Glue-on composite horseshoes offer excellent concussion absorption, traction, solar coverage and support with no nailing. Preparation for gluing shoes on the horse means a bit of extra work such as thoroughly drying the foot. But if the hoof is prepared properly, composite shoes stay on the feet 6-8 weeks much the same as any other shoe.
Analgesic hoof packing materials can be added inside either boots or shoes to fight infection and give extra cushion.
Right: Easyshoe Performance
Limiting turnout to a suitable dry lot will prevent grazing on green grass. You will need to offer clean water and hay, which can be placed in a slow feed hay bag to slow consumption. Nibble Net, Hay Chix, Hay Pillow, and most large tack stores sell slow feed nets. 1 to 1 1/2" holes are recommended for horses that are obese. 2" holes can be used to slow consumption a moderate amount.
Footing that the horse lives on is plays a very important role in hoof support and healing. You want to avoid deep mud and rocks at all costs! You want a reasonably soft supportive surface like sand or shredded rubber. If the horse must live on rocks or crushed limestone, it will be very important to use hoof boots or shoes to cushion the soles.
Shown at the right is a perfect example of an excellent dry lot situation. Rubber mats, sand, a run-in barn, and pipe corral panels give this foundered horse a safe and healthy living area where he can develop sound feet. He is wearing glue-on Easyshoes and is in a great exercise regime. His hay is weighed daily and he eats a small amount of high nutrient yet low sugar pelleted feed.
Not so Fast!
Slowing the consumption of hay can be a very useful tool in decreasing the weight of obese or otherwise metabolically challenged horses. Slow feed hay nets are made in many different styles depending on your needs. The mesh holes of slow feed bags can range from 1/4" to 2".
Laminitis or Founder?