Over a lifetime, the wear and tear caused by carrying several hundred extra pounds can increase a horse’s susceptibility to arthritis and other chronic degenerative bone diseases.
descend and rotate within the hoof. “If there’s no rotation of the bone there’s a chance the horse can fully recover,” says Judd. “But when the laminae detach and the bone rotates, those attachments never fully heal. The horse is then prone to repeat episodes of founder for the rest of his life, oftentimes with less and less dietary triggers.”
But, says Judd, the lingering effects of a single episode of founder can spell trouble down the road. “If a horse foundered when he was younger, he may always have a certain level of discomfort. Then, as he gets older, that worsens. Throw arthritis on top of that and you’ve got an old horse who is in too much pain to move. It’s a common reason we end up putting older horses down.”
Beyond founder, excess weight takes a toll on a horse’s bones and joints. Over a lifetime, the wear and tear caused by carrying several hundred extra pounds can increase a horse’s susceptibility to arthritis and other chronic degenerative bone diseases.
But you can head off these problems. Familiarize yourself with the body condition scoring (BCS) system and talk to your veterinarian about what your horse’s ideal weight would be. And if he starts packing on the pounds, adjust his diet---you’ll need to supply him with fewer calories than he is burning. A haybased diet and plenty of exercise---both as turnout as well as ridden work--are the key to equine weight loss. This may mean outfitting your horse with a grazing muzzle during the spring and summer months or arranging to have someone else ride him when your own schedule keeps you from the saddle.
A horse doesn’t have to be obviously obese to be at a high risk of laminitis, however. Those who have equine metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance are already at increased risk of laminitis because their bodies do not respond to insulin appropriately, leading to spikes in blood insulin levels after certain meals. Exactly how these spikes are related to laminitis is the subject of ongoing research.
Laboratory tests can identify horses with metabolic conditions definitively, but you may notice physical clues on your own. “These horses have fat deposits in very specific places, on the crest and over the tail, for instance,” says Judd. “The horse may not be fat all