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Even though laminitis used to occur mainly in the spring, more and more horses are now being observed to have bouts of laminitis in the autumn. Laminitis also does not always occur as the “textbook type”, i.e. with a sawhorse-like posture and front legs stretched forwards.

Much more common are subclinical episodes of laminitis, which – if not recognised as such and treated in time – can lead to considerable and chronic damage in the long term. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the horse, in order to be able to react immediately.

What can indicate initial or slowly progressing chronic laminitis?

The horse walks with a shortened stride or tenderness

The gait looks restrained, as if the horse is tense in the shoulder, more so on hard ground than on soft ground. The horses don’t want to properly roll over their toe, so they lift the foot off “too early”, which accounts for the restrained gait pattern and the shortened strides. On cobblestones, hardcore or gravel, movement is avoided (horse favour the grass verge instead) or refuse.

Soft riding arena surfaces or giving grounds are well accepted. The softer the ground, the more movement in the gait.

There’s an exception: Horses that have just had their shoes removed. These horses often have sore feet because the hoof horn first has to get used to the new load. This process can take up to a year.

the horse avoids turns

Turning on the foot in a tight turn is avoided, the horse prefers to walk in a circle in order to turn. Caution, laminitis can occur on both the front or hind hooves or on all of them at the same time. Therefore, when turning, pay attention to both forehand and hindquarters.

the hooves feel warm

Hooves may be warm after exercise, same applies to horses who live outside with daily free movement as supposed to stabled horses. But the colder it gets, the colder the hooves become.
If you are unsure, just check the temperature of the other horses in the group for comparison. If you check the temperature of your horse’s hooves every day, you will get a good sense of when they are “too warm” – even before pulsation occurs.

Horse is lame or walks tensely after the farrier / hoof trimmer

Here, the farrier is often blamed for having nailed the horse wrong or trimmed too much. Of course, this can technically happen, but in the majority of cases it has little to do with the treatment and a lot to do with subclinical laminitis.

If the horse is already suffering from (chronic) inflammation in the hoof area, then even the slightest change in hoof balance or a millimetre too much rasped horn can cause considerable pain.

Stretched white line, White Line Disease, lesions in the hoof horn, hoof rings

Especially when the hoof is trimmed, these problems can be seen very clearly. Stretching of the white line (i.e. when it is much wider than it should be) is indicative of incipient separation and is often accompanied or followed by coffin bone drop or rotation. It is then all the easier for decay germs to penetrate into this torn white line (white line disease), which can literally hollow out the hoof wall from the inside.

Lesions (haematomas) in the hoof horn also indicate inflammatory processes. Therefore, take a close look at the sole of the hoof when it has just been trimmed. Ring formation in the hoof horn is always a sign of metabolic problems and a sign that one should take a closer look at where they come from.