What is Founder?

© 2018 ~ 2022, by Terry Mercer

Contributors: Dr. LeAnn Blackford, DVM, DACVS, Dr. David Davenport, DVM, MS, MS, CNS, Dr. Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, Roberta Gleicher

What is Founder? (Part 1 - 956 words)

The simple answer is extremely severe laminitis. Though, for most horse people, including some farriers and veterinarians, use the words ‘laminitis’ and ‘founder’ interchangeably and synonymously, they really aren’t. The difference is like ‘all compound fractures involve a broken bone, but not all broken bones are compound fractures.’ There are many different symptoms diagnosed as ‘laminitis’ that are not ‘founder,’ but all instances of ‘founder’ have ‘laminitis’ issues.

Laminitis is basically inflammation of the laminae. There are approximately 600 pairs of interleaved tissues, referred to as the ‘laminae,’ which connects the coffin bone to the hoof wall and helps cushion it in normal use. Laminitis can be virtually anything involving the hoof wall (inside or out), starting at the cornet band and down, with signs of inflammation of the laminar bond.

Whereas founder more specifically requires the ‘separation’ of the coffin bone from the hoof wall, which can then rotate causing drastic pain and absolute lameness. As Dr. David Davenport, DVM, MS, MS, CNS pointed out, “Founder is at the far end of the spectrum known as ‘laminitis.’”

The reality of what causes founder remains the same, as do the ways to avoid, prevent, and in most cases treat it. In all cases of ‘founder’ the hoof wall separates from the laminae, which can then allow the coffin bone to separate from any support, or attachment sites within the hoof, and then rotate. Too much rotation can become crippling.

If there isn’t a specific physical injury damaging that area, then laminitis is often caused, or perpetuated, by a decrease in blood flow to the laminae (the hoof wall and connective tissues within the foot). If there is a lack of blood for too long, the health of the hoof will be in jeopardy; the laminae can begin to die and separate (from the coffin bone) if the blood flow is inhibited for too long. That is the beginning stages of founder. With a detached laminae, the coffin bone might then rotate, essentially crippling the horse, this would be known as a severe founder.
Acute laminitis is considered potentially life threatening, and thus a medical emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately.

Once the hoof wall begins to separate, rotation of the coffin bone becomes likely, depending on how (method and speed) it’s treated. This causes discomfort, which turns to extreme pain, and the slightest weight on that hoof is avoided. Horses can then become unable to walk, or walk as if they are on egg shells (in obvious pain). That’s why catching it quickly is so important, and getting the proper treatment is vital to any chance of treating the problem. In severe cases, when the coffin bone has rotated too far, it can push clear through the sole of the hoof, which usually results in no feasible treatment. Ultimately the death of the horse by euthanasia; because treatment is either way too costly or otherwise impossible at that point.
The reality is by the time most horse owners notice there is a problem (especially with the acute cases) the damage is already in process. Getting it stopped, and reversed (when possible) becomes the challenge. We’ll get to that later, but AVOIDING IT is often the best medicine! That is usually pretty easy, once you understand the causes… and watch your horses weight, health, and general motion.

What Causes Founder?

There are generally three different ‘types’ of founder:
1. Grass Founder, aka ‘Pasture-Associated’ or ‘endocrinopathic laminitis’
2. Rock Founder
3. Mechanical Founder

Each of them can usually be avoided… and can be either ACUTE (here, now, serious, urgent) or CHRONIC (daily, could be serious, requires awareness, and management)

Grass Founder is most common. ANY horse can grass founder by eating too much grain or grass high in fructans (or non-structural starches). It is not always related to EMS (equine metabolic syndrome), but horses with EMS are more prone to laminitis/founder than otherwise healthy horses.

This disorder is often characterized by insulin resistance. Horses with this type of founder usually have a high concentration of insulin in their blood stream (hyperinsulinemia… which is similar to type-2 diabetes in people). Also important, researchers have shown that injecting horses (and ponies) with high doses of insulin CAN INDUCE LAMINITIS in horses that aren’t insulin resistant. Blood tests CAN determine if a horse is insulin resistant, and thereby help determine how much potentially there is to issues, boosting awareness and avoiding future issues more easily.

Acute cases of Founder tend to happen more often with horses that were ‘kept in’ for the winter, and turned out in the spring without any real or effective restrictions on what they eat in the pasture.

It’s important to understand that non-structural STARCHES are the problem, because horses are ‘rapid digesting,’ they quickly convert starches to sugars… which can spike the blood sugar levels, especially in animals with insulin regulation issues.

‘Slow digesting’ starches (structural starches, aka FIBER) are generally not a problem, as they take longer to break down within a gut, and are considered low-glycemic, which provides the body energy without spiking the blood sugar levels. Unrestricted access to excessive amounts of non-structural starches are what is the most common cause of ‘Grass Foundering.’

Common grasses found in most pastures, store energy to help with their own growth cycle, survival and seed production. Energy is a form of starch. The ‘structural’ starch generally isn’t the problem, it’s the ‘juice’ and ‘meat’ inside the grass that is ‘non-structural’ and can be the problem when a horse eats too much. However, founder can also, happen when horses are fed too much non-structural starches from grain or treats.

See our next issue to learn more about Founder, ways to prevent and treat it.

This is Part 2 of ‘What is Founder’ by Terry Mercer (1297 words). If you missed part 1 please check it out before proceeding…

Treatment should be done by, and at the recommendation of, your Veterinarian who has actually seen the horse, and the current situation! Foundering is an emergency that requires immediate care, and professional help, to minimize permanent damage. If you suspect an issue IMMEDIATELY CALL YOUR EQUINE VETERINARIAN! BEFORE it becomes serious, or potentially untreatable.

Tips for avoiding:

Grass Founder: LIMIT Legumes, including any alfalfa and clover, because they store energy as non-structural starch. However, some alfalfa is lower in NSC than the average grass hay, depends upon the batch and maturity; which is why testing can be important.

Allow horses to fill up on low starch, even soaked, hay before turning them out on grass, as they will generally eat less of the grass in the field if they are already full. Consider a grazing muzzle, as it can also limit what they can get in the field.
Limit the time they are turned out, and consider the time of the day.

Cool-season grasses and hays, such as bluegrass, fescue, and rye, tend to be higher in fructans/sugars than warm season grasses such as Bermuda or switchgrass. However, all tend to fluctuate during the year, and depending on the time of the cutting (or eating).

Make sure there aren’t insulin resistant or PPID (Cushings Disease – malfunction of the pituitary gland), check with your veterinarian if there is any concern or question on this.

Road Founder: caused by repeated hard concussion on asphalt, cement, rocks, or other extremely hard ground… or by stepping on, or kicking, something that injures the hoof wall. This type of Foundering is more common on horses without shoes, and those being pushed too hard on surfaces they are not used to.

Mechanical Founder: Usually happens because of either wrong trimming of the hooves, or NO TRIMMING, which causes a structural imbalance. It could also happen by prolonged standing on one foot (usually to offset injury in other foot), laminitis could develop in the ‘good’ foot.

Unless your veterinarian advises otherwise… DO NOT do any trimming on horses with detached walls, or thin soles, as those issues often need all the support they can get, and special care must be given. Length, angle, thickness are all important. Of course, really long toes will likely need to be cut off, but it’s usually done after x-rays and at the direction of the veterinarian. 

Unless you KNOW the cause, you should make sure the issue (whether laminitis or founder) was NOT caused by poor trimming. While it’s rare, it’s not impossible… or uncommon; especially if the lameness issues or concern happened within a day or two of a trimming. If there is any doubt or question, have your veterinarian or professional THIRD PARTY double check… (not the person that did the trimming, or necessarily their direct competitor). It is important to rule the farrier out as the cause of a Mechanical Foundering.

Horses with any type of founder issues will likely require some corrective farrier work, specialized trimming. The coffin bone should be nearly parallel with the ground, with the toes backed up (rolled), so the hoof will have sufficient break over when walking…. special pads or shoes might also be required.

Again, the moment a horse is suspected of having laminitis (or founder) your Veterinary should be called. Never trust a stranger over the phone, in a magazine or on the internet, in any article or chat, even this one… because ‘Dr. Google’ has never seen that specific horse with the problem you see, and neither has the person on the phone or in the article.

Other causes of Laminitis or Founder could be:
• Black Walnuts (in shavings, bedding, also from pollen & droppings from BW trees)
• Certain drugs (including corticosteroids)
• Colic – severe cases
• Cushing’s disease (PPID – malfunction of the pituitary gland)
• Enteritis
• Foot disease(s) not treated quickly enough
• Hormonal imbalance
• Imbalance (excess weight bearing ON ONE LIMB)
• Ingestion of a lot of cold water too fast
• Obesity
• PPID – malfunction of the pituitary gland
• Potomac horse fever
• Retained placenta (after foaling)
• SIRS in the hoof or laminae region (systemic inflammatory response syndrome)
• Toxemia (blood poisoning)
• Ulcer, gas, or leaky gut syndrome

Causes of SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome):
• Hemorrhagic shock (oxygen deprivation from blood loss)
• Hypothermia or hyperthermia
• Immune-mediated diseases
• Infection
• Ischemia (restricted blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen and glucose)
• Metabolic Endotoxemia (Initiates Obesity and Insulin Resistance, doctors have identified bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as a triggering factor)
• Profound hypoxia (a condition in which part of the body is deprived of necessary oxygen supply, at the tissue level)
• Surgery
• Trauma (usually direct to the region)

Diagnostic indicators of some health issue or valid concern in adult horses:
• Elevated heart rate above 60 beats per minute (normal is around 30-40)
• Hyperventilation or tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing)
• Increased white blood cell count
• Temperature abnormal (rectally) above 105°F or below 98°F (normal is 98.5 to 101.5)

Signs of potential problems involving Laminitis or Foundering:
• Abnormal pulse in the feet
• Bruised soles
• Dished hooves
• Flat Feet
• Heat in the feet (not necessarily just the coronary band)
• Lameness (limited to hoof region)
• Reluctant gait (hopping or shudder steps)
• Rings in hoof wall (wider toe to heel)
• Sawhorse stance (when still)
• Shifting lameness (when standing)
• Walking on ‘egg shells’

Check the soles of the feet, make sure they are clean and nothing is sticking in (or out) that shouldn’t be there. Make sure there aren’t any abscesses, sores, abnormal, or unusual things with the sole and the frog. If there is no damage to their soles or hoof, and the problem is caught quickly, unless your veterinarian says otherwise, you should attempt to get your horse to walk as soon as possible, OR MASSAGE THE FROGS, to help increase circulation. That can help relieve some of the pain, especially when walked on very soft ground or sand. Horses in pain probably won’t want to walk, encourage them. Discuss the best options and most practical methods with your veterinarian. Horses will benefit by the frog pumping blood through their legs (your veterinarian can help that happen).

If your horse hasn’t yet foundered but refuses to walk, consider the ICE BATH… around 40 degrees (not below 35 degrees). Remember, unless they are standing in an ice bath, above the coronary band… and/or getting treatment that otherwise helps, they will not have a greater blood flow in the lower legs and hooves just laying or standing in one place (blood flow is vital to the health of the hooves).

If there is any concern with the sole of the hoof, or anything sticking out that shouldn’t be, do NOT walk them unless your veterinarian tells you to. Try to help keep them calm, and stand quietly, while waiting for your veterinarian.

It is important they know your animal, feed, pasture, property, training routine, and goals. There should be someone on site… that can actually see your horse, take x-rays, and witness the environment, so they can better serve you and your horse. Following the directions (or instructions) of any stranger that doesn’t know those specifics could be the difference between an effective treatment vs chronic founder issues, and potentially having to deal with a crippled horse for years (or worse yet, putting them down because effective treatment isn’t feasible).

With all that said, there really are some effective treatments available. However, they nearly always dependent upon THE STAGE at which the problem happens to be, when the treatment starts. The first step to any effective treatment is a proper diagnosis, with the second being to remove any relevant factors that might have caused the problem, or at least limit and monitor, unless your veterinarian says otherwise. As soon as you can, if lameness or founder is suspected.

See our next issue to learn more about Founder, ways to prevent and treat it.

This is Part 3 of ‘What is Founder’ by Terry Mercer ( 1274 words). If you missed part 1 or 2, please check them out before proceeding…

Some general things you can usually do:

Eliminate all EXTRA feed. Do not allow them access to any other animals feed. No grain, molasses, beet pulp, flax, and NO ALFALFA on laminitic horses, until and unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise. Certain alfalfa might be fine, but your veterinarian should give you direction based on the factors that effected your horse, and might make some alfalfa acceptable in some circumstances.

Next, consider soaking hay in water prior to feeding, as this can really help, because it will reduce the sugars (non-structural starches) by as much as 40% with just an hour of soaking. Make sure you rinse it good, pat it dry, and then TOSS OUT all that water (it’s now filled with starches, DO NOT REUSE THE WATER, or allow any animals to drink it). Caution is also given, in that you should never allow soaked hay to sit around (uneaten) for more than a few hours. You don’t want any issue with mold growth, and in the winter, you don’t want it to freeze. Make sure there is plenty of water (to drink), but NOT really cold drinking water. You’ll want to avoid any shock to their gut.

During flare-ups of laminitis, the horses should not eat any form of grain, just low-starch hay, water, and have access to a salt block. It is good to soak and rinse the hay, as it will help remove non-structural starches, focusing more on fibers. You can feed quality supplements that are high in hoof and joint supporting nutrients, but low in sugar and starch.

Dr. LeAnn Blackford, DVM, DACVS pointed out a couple important studies that demonstrated that Ice Water or Ice Boots have helped PREVENT ACUTE FOUNDER in horses that were prone to foundering, when they had:
1. high fever,
2. colic surgery,
3. non-structural starch overload

NOTE: the horses have NOT YET foundered, but were prone to it… and deemed likely to founder had they not received the quick preventive treatment. Some speculation is that temporary restriction of blood flow BEFORE (laminitis), but after the dangerous situation, is similar to pumping the stomach if something bad was eaten. Founder happens after laminitis begins, and the treatment is different depending on the stage and circumstances.

If it (the ice baths) are done quickly enough, it has shown to help prevent the problem or limit the damage. Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, head of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit, shared some ideas on the function and uses of cryotherapy at the 4th “Promoting Excellence Symposium” of the Florida Association of Equine Practitioners (FAEP) in 2008. Pollitt said two factors emerged in clinical trials as “crucial to the success” of early intervention and duration of treatment.

1) The earlier an at-risk horse can start cooling, and
2) The longer they can remain cooled

These factors are paramount to the effectiveness of the treatment. Pollitt said an at-risk horse should undergo cryotherapy as soon as possible–definitely before clinical signs of laminitis manifest. “There’s no real limit on the application of cryotherapy,” Pollitt said, citing one study in which the horses remained in constant cryotherapy without damage for seven days. “I have no problem with leaving it on for as long as you think the horse is at risk from disease in other areas of its body.”
Once a horse HAS foundered, soaking the feet in COLD water is strongly DEBATED… especially IF detachment has already OCCURRED!

Some believe icing foundered hooves, give the illusion of pain relief, because it ultimately restricts blood flow which is key to hoof health. It’s the blood that carries the necessary nutrients to the cells, but those nutrients must be in either the diet or supplemented, because they are key to health and healing. Use drugs for the pain and/or to increase the blood flow to the legs, as prescribed. Use corrective trimming to improve the angles as necessary; those things can help minimize the pain naturally. Increasing the supply of building block nutrients is generally a far more effective treatment for those that have actually foundered.

Therefore, in PRE-FOUNDERED horses that are at-risk, if you’re doing any soaking, be sure to use COLD water for as long as possible (around 40 degrees… for as long as 7 days). IF the horse has ALREADY foundered, unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise, you probably want to avoid icing. The body needs nutrients, and a healthy blood flow to promote any viable solution. It really depends on the severity of the issue and the treatment protocol, and the REASON the horse foundered. If it was NOT a ‘feeding’ related (grass founder), there has been some promise (and positive results) using ice baths/soaking with a combination of the vascular dilator Isoxsuprine, as a carrier for the key nutrients Gluquestrian supplies which targets the synovial fluids, joint and connective tissues. Key nutrients are necessary for the health of the entire body, but especially important for the joints and inner hoof laminae when there is a problem.

The different options for treatment are important, and varied, depending on the ‘reason’ the founder happened, and the ‘stage’ of the situation… and whether it’s acute or chronic.

• “Prevent” implies it hasn’t happened yet
• “Prone to” is doesn’t have, but might likely happen, without quick treatment

There are quite a few references saying vascular constriction AFTER founder HAS OCCURRED inhibits healing. The most important and established principles of treatment include aggressive nutritional support, with the correct building block nutrients, pain management (no herbs), cryotherapy (especially preventive), anti-inflammatory therapy (as necessary), and biomechanical support (such as a raised heel, rolled toe, through your veterinarian approved farrier).

While a few products on the market have been proven to help, there are many more that claim to help, prevent, cure, treat, solve… yet they really don’t. It is important to consult specialists that regularly deal with treating founder and navicular type issues before blindly trusting any OTC (over the counter) treatments or any supplements, especially if they don’t have a results based-guarantee that lasts for the entire treatment period (at least 12 to 16 weeks).

Avoid any and all OTC products that only have a 1 container or 30 day guarantee.

Avoid ALL PRODUCTS WITH HERBS… especially during the treatment period, unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian; at best only mask the pain and symptoms.

Avoid any products that have glucosamine HCl in it, as you’ll just be wasting your money and not really helping your horse. (See the GAIT Study)

Consider using styrofoam pads, or cushioned boots; help cushion the affected feet. Remember, BALANCE… deal with BOTH FEET, bilaterally, to maintain the balance and support. A good farrier already knows this, and will respond accordingly.

Be aware of pain killers and symptom blockers, as they give a false sense of security, and can absolutely allow the problem to get worse while blocking the symptoms.

Keep overweight horses, ponies, and chronic problem horses in stalls or dry paddocks during the spring, with very limited pasture access… until a pasture’s growth rate has slowed. Introduce animals to the pasture slowly. (Asymptomatic stalled horses are at greater risk. Dry paddocks allow greater movement.)

If there are any abscesses or opened wounds, make sure they are treated… opened, drained, and soaked in what your veterinarian suggests (with appropriate antiseptics applied and protective padding added). Remember, ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN if there is a concern or doubt.

See our next issue to learn more about Founder, ways to prevent and treat it.


This is Part 4 of ‘What is Founder’ by Terry Mercer (1283 words). If you missed the previous parts, please check them out before proceeding…

Whenever there is a concern of laminitis or founder, you should consult your veterinarian, as they can actually see your horse… the hooves, and the environment. Those professionals can take x-rays to determine if there is any detachment or rotation, and probably determine why the horse foundered to begin with… which could help in the treatment of that horse, and save other horses on the property.

Chronic founder requires daily supervision, feed limits and controls, daily exercise regime, and often dry paddock and stall with deep soft bedding when this is an issue or concern. Prevention and avoidance of flare ups is key.

Owners/daily caregivers should be very aware of what their horse’s healthy weight and body condition is, as well as any special instructions by the veterinarian. Daily exercise is almost always necessary in horses with laminitis, but it is usually very limited to walking… no riding, jumping, or stress on the hooves. Chronic founder means constant vigilance is necessary, as the issue is not just left in the past and can flare up at any time, with less provocation than a horse that has never had the problem.

In 2012, researchers at Texas A&M found that an anti-inflammatory protein, apolipoprotein A-IV (APOA-IV), a protein produced by the small intestine, was over 100% higher in cases of chronic laminitis, which suggests a bigger link to the digestive tract. They found 16 proteins that have significant differences in their levels in horses with, and without, chronic laminitis. The research could be key to determining the potential for a horse to contract founder issues because of some genetics.

We know genetics plays a significant role, because certain types of ponies, miniature horses, donkeys, Morgan’s, and certain drafts are often the most common breeds to be diagnosed with founder. Although any breed can (and do) founder, certain breeds are statistically more likely to have founder issues than all others, even when getting the same feed, trimming schedule, and treatment.

It’s also important to understand that horses that foundered in the past, often have signs that are visible to most veterinarians, farriers, trainers, and experienced horse people.

For many, if they foundered in the past because of diet, you might see a thick ‘cresty’ neck and/or unusual pads of fat over the tailhead. Those are also potential symptoms of PPID and EMS, either of which could be a contributing factor, and it not a 100% sure indicator of founder; because those signs aren’t likely to exist on horses that suffered from road or mechanical founder. Other subtle signs visible to most veterinarians, farriers, trainers, and experiences horse people could be dishy hooves, and/or distinct (much wider than usual) growth rings on hoof walls, wavy lines that widen toward the heel.

Horses that suffer from chronic founder will require extra awareness, patience, and effort.

There are some things you can do to help insure they still have a long, happy, and healthy life:

MINIMIZE all sugars and non-structural starches when chronic laminitis or founder is an issue! This includes grains, molasses, sweet feeds, any treats!

Unless your veterinarian advises otherwise… consider having the SHOES REMOVED during the treatment process. In general, you want concave soles and balance. Getting the frog in contact with the soft ground can help get the blood flowing better… and it’s that blood flow that is vital to the health of the hooves and lower legs. Rolling the toe could help. If you live somewhere there really isn’t much ‘soft’ soil or sand, and shoes are necessary, consider reversed shoes, egg bar, or heart bar shoes WITH PADS when possible. Those have shown both promise and success in many cases. Overgrown and unbalanced hooves can be another cause of founder. Having a “Long toe + low heel” configuration can create an unnatural pull on the coffin bone, and could contribute to the path of laminitis episodes.

The ‘frog’ is a ‘pump’ to help get the blood flowing throughout the lower legs
of healthy horses. So, any prolonged problem, that keeps the frog from helping pump the blood, can be tough on both the injured leg, AND the leg attempting to compensate for the injured leg. Too much standing in the same place can also compress the blood vessels, inhibiting circulation… which can perpetuate problems, and even create Mechanical Founder. (Which is another reason why excessive stall confinement is a problem for horses with chronic founder.)

It is important to note that an estimated that 60 to 75% of the horses that experience a detachment (of the coffin bone) with more than a 9% rotation WILL HAVE ‘chronic founder’ for the REST OF THEIR LIFE! This means the horse will be permanently lame – unridable, unable to compete, show, or work… and otherwise gimping around for the remainder of their life. They will require constant vigilant care. It is entirely possible that your veterinarian will suggest they are euthanized, because the trauma has gone too far, and any safe, reasonable, care, verses the constant pain they are in, might leave euthanasia as the only humane option for horses with severe chronic suffering.

Ask your veterinarian about the following:

Isoxsuprine, a vasodilator, helps increase the blood flow to the lower extremities (ie. Legs and hooves). The science has existed since 1983 with some impressive results. It can act as a carrier for quality nutrients, such as those listed below. Caution is given if you are competing in an organization that banned the drug Isoxsuprine, though why attempt to compete on a horse with serious laminitis or founder issues? Travel, feed changes, water issues, and disrupted schedules, can all add to stress… which can lead to Colic, which has been linked to the start of some laminitis and founder issues.

Gluquestrian powder, by MD’s Choice, is a premium joint supplement, supplying the body the base nutrients the joint tissues need, in forms they can use. In general, just 2 tsps. three times a day… or 4 tsps. twice a day, to maximize joint health. This helps improve the quality and viscosity of synovial fluids, improves strength and flexibility of ligament and tendons, as well as the health of all connective tissues… including the laminae, which attaches the coffin bone and hoof wall. Inside of the hoof is often where most of the damage has occurred, and is key to hoof health.
LifeData Labs Farrier’s Formula, a good hoof supplement, with the nutrition the skin, hair, and exterior of the hoof require to be healthy.

Remember, if you are trying to help solve a problem, just a ‘maintenance’ dose is usually going to waste of your time (and money). Be sure to check with your veterinarian and/or product manufacturer for specific dosing requirements, as there is usually a significant difference between preventive vs maintenance (of health) vs therapy (for slight issues) vs treatment (when there are serious issues, injuries, or problems).

Be particularly vigilant to split the dosage into at least twice a day, to help get the body the necessary nutrients it needs for optimum health and healing. If there is a serious problem, splitting into three times a day is even better. Foundered horses likely need much more attention, and higher doses, for at least 6 to 18 weeks (sometimes longer, if there is rotation or other serious hoof issues). Moving an affected horse to deep soft bedding, and a sandy dry paddock ground surface, will also usually help a great deal.

See our next issue to learn more about Founder, particularly Chronic Founder, and ways to help prevent and treat it.


This is Part 5 of ‘What is Founder’ by Terry Mercer (1018 words). If you missed any of the previous parts please check it out before proceeding…

You have a HARD KEEPER, if your horse has any one of the following:

• • chronic lethargy,
• • chronic susceptibility to infections,
• • excessive sweating (without reason),
• • has an increased thirst (without reason),
• • has foundered in the past,
• • increased urination (without reason),
• • slow to shed out their winter coat

If any of those are true, you will need to be extra cautious, and watch for signs of problems. CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN if there are any concerns! Things you can do to help reduce or prevent the problem:

• Turn them out on pasture for just an hour or two, earlier in the morning, when sugar levels are lower. As Doctor LeAnn Blackford, DVM, DACVS, pointed out, AVOID allowing them to be in the pasture in the afternoon, because the sugar levels are higher during the daylight hours.

• Avoid allowing unrestricted access

• Look for feeds that deliver calories from FAT, not sugar or non-structural starches

• BREAK UP THE RATIONS into multiple SMALL MEALS throughout the day! This can absolutely help avoid drastic fluctuations in glucose, insulin, and hormone spikes.

• WATCH OUT FOR TREATS! Most are filled with sugars (bad starches)

• If you don’t have a dry paddock, grazing muzzles can help limit intake, especially during peak grass growth periods/seasons.

• Keep horses off new fast-growing pastures (fructan is higher),

• Drastically limit their time on pastures.

• Avoid allowing grazing in pastures recently exposed to bright sunny days followed by low temperatures, as a growth spurt means high fructan. (elevated problem potential to high risk horses).

• You can send grass samples to a laboratory for analysis to be certain of sugar content, especially if there is an issue or concern. You can test throughout the year, in different seasons and climate conditions, so you can better identify (or eliminate) patterns (problems or pastures) too high in fructan levels; and, feed accordingly.

• For some, a dry lot, or round pen, might be the only safe turnout.

Inflammatory laminitis is less common, but can still turn into founder. It is usually easily avoided with a good farrier, and reasonable vet care when there is a problem. As are bacterial infections, which can usually be stopped (or avoided) before they become an issue. You can

• Prevent ‘starch overloads’ (over eating). Fermentation, in the hindgut, can lead to laminitis issues. Consuming too many non-structural starches, is an issue.

• Avoid all sugar and non-structural starches

• Feed regular hay first (low fructan) to fill their stomach with fiber, as that will slow other feeds eaten down, and the added fiber will help things digest more thoroughly.

• Feed problem horses with issues separately, away from others, so they can’t over eat, and won’t feel the need to over stuff themselves competing for food stuff, thinking they might not otherwise get any (or trying to keep another from getting as much).

• Avoid making big dietary changes often, as it can disrupt the intestinal flora, which is a vital part of a healthy digestion, immunity, and general health. Consult veterinarian!

• Avoid black walnut shavings, PERIOD! Especially in bedding! Simply STANDING ON wood shavings containing just 20% black walnut can INDUCE ACUTE LAMINITIS within just a few hours. Even the pollen and leaves from these type of trees have proven to be a problem, they don’t even have to eat it. Quality horse bedding is free of this component; however, there are bulk sellers of wood shavings for hog fuel, and bedding for other animals, that still often contain black walnut.

• Do not allow them to eat Red Maple Leaves… as these have also been linked to many cases of founder.

Your veterinarian should double check the diet your horse is getting, making any necessary changes… to both the feed AND any supplementation. However, things like Gluquestrian (for inside the hoof) and Farriers Formula (for outside hoof wall) have proven helpful, whether your veterinarian knows it or not.

• You want to be consistent
• You avoid all medicinal herbs without specific veterinarian approval
• You will want to keep your horse healthy
• You neither want either over or under weight

If there is any laminitis or founder issues, you MUST INTERVENE QUICKLY… before there is detachment, and absolutely before the coffin bone rotates. CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN!

• Padding, and/or padded boots, can help… remember, you should use preventive care (bilaterally) on the uninjured foot also, while the healing is happening in the other foot. Compensating for the painful afflicted foot can cause a ‘mechanical founder’ issue in the otherwise healthy foot.

• Light exercise, walking only, on SOFT GROUND (sand or grass) can help… if there are no open wounds or abscesses, because it promotes circulation. Exercise based on your veterinarian’s directions.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! In the case of founder, that ounce is worth 1,000 pounds of horse… and thousands of dollars in treatment costs.

As ROBERTA GLEICHER, author of Equine Nutrition Secrets, Dangers, and Solutions, pointed out when going through the drafts of this article, the variables in the causes are why it is so important to CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IF YOU SUSPECT your horse might have any of the issues or concerns, before they actually become foundered. Quick, correct, and early treatment are absolutely key to any hope of preventing or minimizing damage.

Equine Vet J. 2004 Apr;36(3):255-60. Equine laminitis: cryotherapy reduces the severity of the acute lesion. van Eps AW, Pollitt CC. CONCLUSIONS: Cryotherapy, when applied to one foot, markedly reduced the severity of acute laminitis in this study. We propose that vasoconstriction (preventing delivery of haematogenous trigger factors) and hypometabolism (reduction in lamellar MMP activity) were the primary therapeutic mechanisms. POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Although further research is needed, we suggest cryotherapy as a potentially effective prophylactic strategy in horses at risk of developing acute laminitis. PMID: 15147134 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

More sites, and case listing on our website, at: www.VetSupplements.com/
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Professor Jørgen S Agerholm, DVM, PhD, DVSci, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Copenhagen University in Denmark, conducted an important study, feeding 3 sets of horses three different feed protocols, then measuring the temperature of their coronary band multiple times a day for a few weeks. Their conclusion was that diet was found to have no influence ON CORONARY BANDS TEMPERATURES.

The study only exposed one common fallacy: a high fructan meal does not always equate to a high temperature in the coronary band, just a high temperature in the coronary band doesn’t always mean founder. In fact, they learned that a horse can have a serious temperature variance among their hooves, as much as 62.6 Fahrenheit (or 17 Celsius) without any other issue, but that the hooves should usually be within a few degrees of each other, if there weren’t any external factors impacting the temperatures.

Unusual heat in one or more hooves COULD STILL BE a valid sign there is some injury or illness issue that might need to be addressed. Horses acting differently, or like they are in pain, or walking on egg shells, should get immediate veterinary care. Horse owners should still use caution though, because laminitis cripples or kills numerous horses each year.

van Eps AW, Pollitt CC, Underwood C, Medina-Torres CE, Goodwin WA, Belknap JK. Continuous digital hypothermia initiated after the onset of lameness prevents lamellar failure in the oligo fructose laminitis model. Equine Vet J. 2014;46(5):625–630.

Kullmann A, Holcombe SJ, Hurcombe SD, et al. Prophylactic digital cryotherapy is associated with decreased incidence of laminitis in horses diagnosed with colitis. Equine Vet J. 2014;46(5):554–559.

Garcia FA, Pinto SF, Cavalcante AF, et al. Pentoxifylline decreases glycemia levels and TNF-alpha, iNOS and COX-2 expressions in diabetic rat pancreas. Springerplus. 2014;3(1):283–294.

Sanchez LC, Robertson SA. Pain control in horses: what do we really know? Equine Vet J. 2014;46(4):517–523.

Faramarzi B. Morphological and biomechanical properties of equine laminar junction. J Equine Vet Sci. 2014;34(5):589–592.

Fugler LA, Eades SC, Moore RM, Koch CE, Keowen ML. Plasma matrix metalloproteinase activity in horses after intravenous infusion of lipopolysaccharide and treatment with matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors. Am J Vet Res. 2013;74(3):473–480.

Schnabel LV, Fortier LA, McIlwraith CW, Nobert KM. Therapeutic use of stem cells in horses: which type, how, and when? Vet J. 2013;197(3):570–577.

Kochová P, Witter K, Cimrman R, Mezerová J, Tonar Z. A preliminary study into the correlation of stiffness of the laminar junction of the equine hoof with the length density of its secondary lamellae. Equine Vet J. 2013;45(2):170–175.

van Eps AW, Leise BS, Watts M, Pollitt CC, Belknap JK. Digital hypothermia inhibits early lamellar inflammatory signaling in the oligo fructose laminitis model. Equine Vet J. 2012;44(2):230–237.

Reesink HL, Divers TJ, Bookbinder LC, et al. Measurement of digital laminar and venous temperatures as a means of comparing three methods of topically applied cold treatment for digits of horses. Am J Vet Res. 2012;73(6):860–866.

Shan D, Wu HM, Yuan QY, Li J, Zhou RL, Liu GJ. Pentoxifylline for diabetic kidney disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;2:CD006800.

Visser MB, Pollitt CC. The timeline of metalloprotease events during oligofructose induced equine laminitis development. Equine Vet J. 2012;44(1):88–93.

Belknap JK, Black SJ. Sepsis-related laminitis. Equine Vet J. 2012;44(6):738–740.

Virgin JE, Goodrich LR, Baxter GM, Rao S. Incidence of support limb laminitis in horses treated with half limb, full limb or trans fixation pin casts: a retrospective study of 113 horses (2000–2009). Equine Vet J Suppl. 2011;40(40):7–11.

Reilly PT, Dean EK, Orsini JA. First aid for the laminitic foot: therapeutic and mechanical support. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2010;26(2):451–458.

de Laat MA, McGowan CM, Sillence MN, Pollitt CC. Equine laminitis: induced by 48 h hyperinsulinemia in Standardbred horses. Equine Vet J. 2010;42(2):129–135.

Pollitt CC, Visser MB, Visser MB. Carbohydrate alimentary overload laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2010;26(1):65–78.

Belknap JK. The pharmacologic basis for the treatment of developmental and acute laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2010;26(1):115–124.

van Eps AW. Therapeutic hypothermia (cryotherapy) to prevent and treat acute laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2010;26(1):125–133.

Fugler LA, Eades SC, Koch CE, Keowen ML. Clinical and matrix metalloproteinase inhibitory effects of pentoxifylline on carbohydrate overload laminitis: preliminary results. [Abstract]. J Equine Vet Sci. 2010;30(2):106–107.

Terry RL, McDonnell SM, Van Eps AW, et al. Pharmacokinetic profile and behavioral effects of gabapentin in the horse. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2010;33(5):485–494.
Geor RJ. Pasture-associated laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2009;25(1):39–50, v–vi.

Robertson TP, Bailey SR, Peroni JF. Equine laminitis: a journey to the dark side of venous. Vet Immunology Immunopathology. 2009;129(3–4):164–166.

Van Eps AW, Pollitt CC. Equine laminitis model: cryotherapy reduces the severity of lesions evaluated seven days after induction with oligofructose. Equine Vet J. 2009;41(8):741–746.

Coimbra R, Melbostad H, Loomis W, et al. LPS-induced acute lung injury is attenuated by phosphodiesterase inhibition: effects on pro-inflammatory mediators, metalloproteinases, NF-kappaB, and ICAM-1 expression. J Trauma. 2006;60(1):115–125.

Malone E, Ensink J, Turner T, et al. Intravenous continuous infusion of lidocaine for treatment of equine ileus. Vet Surg. 2006;35(1):60–66.

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Learn About Laminitis and Founder In Your Horse — 22 Comments

1. Delmer Seehusen on December 28 said:
Hey! Excellent blog by the way!

2. Gene Massingh on March 16 said:
Needed to send you a quick remark to say thanks a lot yet again over the fantastic information you’ve documented on this page. This has been strangely generous, when people with the knowledge and ability to help prevent problems supply unreservedly what most people offered for sale, in an ebook to make some money for that information. I am certain there are thousands of more educational moments ahead for people who scan your blog posts. Again, THANK YOU!

3. Virgil on March 27 said:
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In my opinion, it might make your posts a little bit more interesting. Add photos, add solutions more clearly… and this is something every horse owner should read (and love). Great start!

4. navi pymi on April 4 said:
Such an informative article. Thank you!

5. Gigy Jack on April 30 said:
I wish I would have seen this twenty years ago. It would have sure saved me a lot of stress and money, and probably the suffering of a horse or two. I had to learn this stuff the hard way. Great information. I’m sure many people, and their horses, will benefit in the future. Thank You, Gigy

6. Foundering on May 22 said:
May I just say what a relief to find someone that really knows what they’re talking about over the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people have to read this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you are not more popular since you surely possess the gift.

7. Gannon on May 25 said:
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19. Porfirio on June 30 said:
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