The risk that never goes away

We learned the hard way that when a horse is pre­dis­posed to lamini­tis, com­pla­cency can have dev­as­tat­ing costs.

EQUUS - - Eq Backpage - By Harold Roy Miller

Shasta, our Fox Trot­ter geld­ing, is in­sulin re­sis­tant, which is a meta­bolic dis­or­der that leaves him prone to lamini­tis. We didn’t know this when we bought him as a year­ling. In fact, we didn’t even know what those two con­di­tions were.

We learned---quickly---af­ter Shasta de­vel­oped lamini­tis when he was just 2 years old. Lamini­tis is a hor­ri­ble dis­ease. The soft con­nec­tive tis­sues that an­chor the horse’s cof­fin bone to the in­te­rior of the hoof wall be­come in­flamed, which causes se­vere pain. The horse be­comes re­luc­tant to walk or some­times even stand. The af­fected hooves will feel hot, and you can feel a bound­ing pulse in the fet­lock. In se­vere cases, the cof­fin bone can tear away from the hoof wall, ro­tate down­ward and ac­tu­ally pierce the sole of the hoof.

It also pierces the soul of the owner. Watch­ing your horse suf­fer causes great an­guish. A horse in this kind of pain seems to sim­ply lose in­ter­est in life. He moves slowly, if at all, and seems to care lit­tle about food, wa­ter or his sur­round­ings. In the worst cases, the kind­est thing is to end the suf­ferer’s life.

When Shasta was 2, he be­gan walk­ing gin­gerly, then he lay down and was re­luc­tant to get up. Our ve­teri­nar­ian di­ag­nosed lamini­tis and pre­scribed a course of ac­tion. For­tu­nately, x-rays showed that his cof­fin bones had not sep­a­rated from the hoof walls, so his case was not that bad. My wife and I nursed Shasta as di­rected, and grad­u­ally he im­proved. In time he seemed just fine and as sound as ever, although we did no­tice some changes in the shape of his feet.

We re­searched in­sulin re­sis­tance and lamini­tis and, with our ve­teri­nar­ian’s ad­vice, we changed Shasta’s diet to limit starches and sug­ars, and we bought him spe­cial vi­ta­min and min­eral sup­ple­ments. We had been feed­ing our horses var­i­ous types of hay, in­clud­ing al­falfa and oat hay. We know now oat hay has a high su­gar con­tent, which may have trig­gered that first episode.

Years passed, and Shasta thrived. He be­came a fine sad­dle horse. He was never un­sound, and in time our wor­ries about lamini­tis faded. We were good to him---too good---and al­lowed him to gain weight. He de­vel­oped fat de­posits and a cresty neck.

Then, when he was 16, Shasta had an­other at­tack of lamini­tis. This time, the x-rays showed that the cof­fin bone in one hoof had started to ro­tate. We called in a far­rier ex­pe­ri­enced with lamini­tis and had Shasta trimmed to sup­port his dam­aged foot. We also put Shasta, and all of our horses, on a weightre­duc­ing diet.

Shasta’s in­sulin re­sis­tance may have in­creased his vul­ner­a­bil­ity---but we know that this bout of lamini­tis was brought on by too much food and not enough ex­er­cise. This time, we have only our­selves to blame for the worry and the ex­pense be­cause we had for­got­ten that this par­tic­u­lar horse is pre­dis­posed to this hor­ri­ble con­di­tion. We can barely for­give our­selves for not re­mem­ber­ing that his good health is noth­ing to take for granted.

As of this writ­ing, af­ter sev­eral months, Shasta seems to be do­ing much bet­ter. He’s a lit­tle slim­mer, his cresty neck is de­creas­ing and he even fox­trot­ted to his feeder to­day. It will take more healing and a few more trims un­til we will know when---or if--we can ride Shasta again.

And thank God if time and trims are all it takes for him to sur­vive and re­cover. This is a les­son we will not for­get.

CLOSE CALL: Shasta is re­cov­er­ing from his sec­ond bout of lamini­tis, which oc­curred many years af­ter his first.

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