Probably NOT Laminitis

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Q: Thanks for your article. I have moved to cold weather country this past summer and have two gaited horses. They have been doing fine this winter. But today I am a little concerned. I found them laying down this afternoon...unusual....and one was reluctant to get up. Once up they seemed to move fine. However their front hooves were quite warm. Later I attributed to this to having them tucked underneath themselves while laying down. The hooves did cool off. Heart rate seems normal as does respiration...coats aren't damp. They aren't parked out or camped out. I have seen them eating this afternoon again. Activity might be reduced.

My question is this...when I rechecked them this evening...their hooves...front more than back...feel warm to me..(.warmer than their coat is to the touch). But frankly I'm not used to feeling horses hooves in freezing snow. Maybe their hooves always feel warm in contrast to the air....and maybe their coats don't because they are so thick. Do you know if this is true?

I have recently changed their grain in take......they were on about 1 to 1 1/2 quarts of an equine senior (had some grain in it) and I switched them to a grain mix of the same amount a few days ago when the weather started getting colder. I'm thinking that was too abrupt...but the quantities seem unlikely to case a problem. do you know anything about that either.

Of course if anything further develops I will call my vet...someone suggested I give them some bute...any thoughts.

A: Your reference to MY ARTICLE causes me to wonder if you have read everything on my web pages concerning laminitis. To be sure that they are available to you, I am going to give you my current web page URL. There are several articles, Q&As and a laminitis update that should be of interest to you.

From reading your e-mail, I would say that your horses are probably not foundering. However, let's go over some of the things that you stated and that you have concerns about.

It is not unusual for horses to lie down in extremely cold weather, and you are correct in that their hoofs would feel warmer if they are lying on them, as they sometimes do. In feeling horse's hoofs, whether you are experienced or not, you should compare one foot to the other 3, and one horse to another. Generally speaking, if determining heat is so difficult as to leave you feeling unsure, chances are that they are normal.

You stated that the front hoofs felt warmer than the back ones. That would be normal. The front hoofs are closer to the heart, and the circulation would be better and therefore the feet would feel warmer.

If the horses are not blanketed, just feeling the surface of the coats would make it difficult to detect warmth. However, if you dig your fingers into the coat, getting below the surface of the hair, I think you would find it to be a lot warmer.

You mentioned that your horses were getting Equine Senior with some grain in it. This causes me to wonder how old these horses are. Of course Equine Senior is sometimes fed because it is more palatable to some horses and digests more easily than whole, rolled or crushed grain. If your horses are seniors, they should stay on Equine Senior, with a sweet feed added to it. The molasses in a sweet feed adds calories for the horses to burn, and therefore adds warmth.

One and a half quarts of grain is not a large amount of grain. How much grain a horse should be fed really needs to be determined by the eye of the owner, taking into consideration the horse's health, condition and activities. If you believe or your vet has stated that your horses are healthy and in proper flesh, then you are obviously feeding them enough. When a horse has a heavy winter coat it can be difficult to tell when he begins to loose weight. Be sure to actually feel the rib and hip area to determine how well covered the bones are, because looks can be deceiving.

For most horses a quart and a half of grain, even abruptly changed, is not enough to trigger laminitis or colic. In the future, however, I would recommend you make changes to feed more gradually.

I assume your horses also have free choice to good hay and/or pasture. Grain will supply calories to keep your horses weight and strength up, but digesting roughage keeps him warm.

For many years now I have recommended that any horse ten years old or older be fed a daily allowance (read the label) of MSM. I recommend Vita Flex brand because I have found it to be of good quality and purity. The reluctance of your horse to rise could be because he has some arthritic problems, especially if he is a senior. MSM could help.

Also, since you are asking me for my two cents worth…I would recommend a good waterproof turnout blanket. It keeps the horse dry and warm, and doesn't force him to burn his calories to stay warm, thus making it easier to keep weight on the horse. By keeping the cold off his joints and muscles, a blanket can help keep an older horse from getting so stiff. If you do blanket, be sure to take the blankets off and give the horses a good grooming and examination at least every couple days before putting the blankets back on.

Your horses should also have access to a run-in shed when they are in the pasture. They will sometimes need to seek shelter from wind and cold rain.

When in doubt, call the vet. I can only do so much by answering your e-mail. I can not see your horse, nor am I a doctor. A good relationship with a local veterinarian can be invaluable. It is best to establish this relationship BEFORE an emergency occurs.


Geronimo Bayard

Note: A day later I received the following response from the horse owner:

Thank you for your kind response. All turned out well, my horses are fine. I definitely am a little jumpy...this is our first winter...but their weight has been great. I agree with all your advice ...MSM...shelter...blankets...and appreciate your taking the time to contact me.

I do have a vet, but am not yet real comfortable. That will take time. You'd be surprised how many people told me a quart and a half was way too much...and on and on. But the feedback from my tried and true horseman friends agreed with you. Thanks again.


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This entire web site is copyright © protected.  © 1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard, © 2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.