Laminitis Recovery Info
Laminitis is a condition that many people become familiar with when trying to help a particular horse. Our equine sanctuary rescued Gandalf, the magnificent horse shown in the photo, in the early 2000s. At that time, he was fighting against Pasture Induced Laminitis.
The poor fella could hardly stand as he was in so much pain, so we had to find a way to help him recover from the excruciatingly painful condition.
After extensive research and unwavering dedication, we provided him with the necessary support for a complete and lasting recovery.
Since then, over the past two decades, we have assisted hundreds of horses afflicted with laminitis, gaining valuable insights into the associated challenges and successes. We are happy to share what we've learned to help others.
Higher New Zealand Laminitis Risks
It's essential to be aware that Aotearoa has a higher risk of laminitis than most other countries. As a result, it's possible that advice given by other sources may not be suitable or apply to our unique conditions. For example, returning horses to grass too soon can be dangerous as our grass contains much higher plant sugars and mycotoxins than most other countries. This is due to a combination of factors, including our temperate climate, rich farming grasses, and less ozone, resulting in extreme grass growth during spring and autumn that can cause severe risks for all horses to develop laminitis. Therefore, we highly recommend following country-specific recommendations to avoid risking any further suffering or a relapse of laminitis for your horse, pony, or donkey.
The Laminitis Recovery Plan
STEP 1-RING THE VET-WORK WITH THEM WITH A RECOVERY PLAN AND OBTAIN IMMEDIATE PAIN RELIEF: If your horse is suffering from laminitis, whether that has been triggered by plant sugars, metabolic disease, mycotoxins, illness or infection, lameness or disease, or from post-surgery, or pregnancy or during lactation, or if through supportive limb laminitis or concussive force etc...it is now vital to take the proper steps to ensure their recovery. The first step is to contact a vet specialising in equine health, as they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to help your horse, including providing the necessary pain relief, which is essential in the early stages as it is an excruciatingly painful condition that needs urgent treatment. During the Vet visit, it's also recommended to have blood tests taken to check your horse, pony or donkey for Equine Metabolic Conditions such as Insulin Resistance, Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction -PPID (Cushing's) & EMS, Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PPSM) etc, which can help to decide on how it is treated and managed, such as if the horse will require metabolic medication such as Prescend to help with hormone regulation etc...
STEP 2-GET THE HORSE OFF THE GRASS AND FEED MEODOW HAY INSTEAD: The second step is immediately removing your horse from all green grass and growing plant matter, which are high in inflammatory sugars that will only make matters much worse regardless of the initial trigger that caused the laminitis Instead of feeding green grass, feed the horse clean ad-lib meadow hay from a slow feed hay net 24/7. You can have your hay tested at Hills Labs here in New Zealand, which can be measured for NON-STRUCTURED CARBOHYDRATE LEVELS (NSC) that should be below 10% to be safe hay for a horse with laminitis. Soaking the hay in clean water for at least two hours can reduce sugars and inflammation. If you suspect your hay is not low in sugar, please do this, but use it within 24 hours to avoid developing moulds. You can also reduce calories by feeding a 50-50 meadow hay and barley straw mixture. It's important not to feed grains, carrots, apples, or Lucerne-based products, as these can be highly inflammatory and impede your horse's recovery.
STEP 3-EMPATHIC HOOF CARE: Long toes and unbalanced hooves can put excessive force onto the toe of the hoof, causing further stress to the delicate laminae area. Therefore, we recommend having a barefoot hoof care professional to carry outa light, non-invasive trim on a fortnighly basis to help to balance to hoof to create more comfort for your horse whilst reducing this stress on the hoof.
STEP 4-HOOF CUSHIONING AND PROTECTION: Try to provide your horse with a soft standing area such as sand or soil and/or padded hoof boots to reduce hoof pressure. It's important to avoid over-trimming the hooves and to use hoof boots with padded insoles rather than metal shoes to protect the hooves and maximize the horse's comfort. Our range of hoof boots can be found on this link: https://www.naturalhorse.co.nz/hoof-boots
Finally, do not return your horse to grass for several weeks at least. Every time a horse's hooves become inflamed through diet or other triggers, this process kills off nerves, blood vessels, and tissues. This frequent inflammation can lead to irreversible damage inside the hoof that is stage 2 of lamintis which we call Founder, and can result in having to put the horse down.
Therefore it is vital to have a good grass management plan to prevent further relapses.
Anti-Inflammatory Bucket Feed
These components that make up this feeding approach below can help to heal your horse with anti-inflammatory ingredients given in the horse's food.-please be aware that we are not trying to feed the horse with this small meal but rather provide anti-inflammatory ingredients that will help to facilitate healing and recovery.
Give the following small bucket feed 1-2 times per day in addition to ad-lib (this means the horse or pony should never go without hay) low sugar meadow hay in order to achieve balanced glucose levels, as well as to aid in recovery and reduce inflammation.
Divide the amounts up and spread over the whole day's feed if using multiple feeds per day:
CARRIER: use a small scoop of meadow chaff per feed to get the meds and anti-inflammatory ingredients into your horse, pony or donkey- this is very low sugar and is safe to use as long as it is lucerne and clover-free. If you don't have chaff, chop some hay into small pieces with scissors. Please be aware that we have found haylage, baleage and lucerne products, such as damp fibre ranges can often contain hidden inflammatory ingredients that can be responsible for further laminitic flare-ups and can slow recovery due to that, so we advise avoiding them during the recovery stages.
LINSEED/FLAXSEED: (linseed is flaxseed-they are the same thing.) Flaxseeds contain a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient called Omega 3, which can help to reduce inflammation for laminitic horses and includes decent amounts of vitamin E. This powerful beneficial antioxidant aids in recovery. Please only give the bare minimum of these dose rates to a horse with acute laminitis of 50-250g of freshly ground flaxseed or linseed seeds( which are the same thing) per day per horse, depending on size). Freshly ground seeds have the best effect, but flaxseed/linseed meal or flakes or pellets can also be used -minis should get just 50-75g max per day, ponies 100g, cobs 150g, horses 200g and larger warmbloods and drafts up to 250g max. If your horse is reactive to flaxseeds, you can try chia seeds or hemp meal instead if available in your country(currently not available in New Zealand as incredulously it's illegal to feed hemp to animals here)
FLAXSEED OIL:-to aid digestion and reduce the risk of colic and reduce inflammation further, 5ml for minis, 10ml for ponies, 20ml for cobs, and 30-50ml for larger horses of cold-pressed flaxseed oil-max per day
EQUI-PROTECT:- one of the triggers for laminitis is mycotoxins found in various plants and pasture grasses, including hays and chaffs, which can cause inflammation in the horse's body. Therefore, feeding a good supplement to protect from this can make all the difference for Laminitic horses. Equi-Protect is our own specialist detox formula, which we developed to help Gndalf all those years ago. It includes natural plant extracts with toxin-binding properties-this is to prevent laminitis being triggered by mycotoxins or aflatoxins found in grass, plants, hays and chaffs-give dose of 5-30g. Natural Horse Equi Protect per day, depending on size. This link for more info and prices on this product:
VITAMINS, MINERALS AND AMINO ACIDS:-laminitis is often worsened by mineral imbalances from our deficient New Zealand soils, which affect the foods our horses eat, so this carefully balanced formula helps to plug the nutritional holes that have been missing in the lamanitic horse's diet, to helps regain balance give between -5-30g Natural Horse Premium Mineral/Vitamin Formula-again depending on size
Please see this link for our affordable formulas:
PRO+PRE BIOTICS + LIVE YEAST+ AMINO ACIDS: We have found that horses and ponies with laminitis are often severely compromised in the digestive biome, so we developed this product as a direct response to help with that. We call it Equi-Digest, and it is a proprietary blend of digestive bacterium, live yeast and amino acids. All of this helps to repopulate the struggling digestive system, while the live yeast mops up excess sugars produced in the hindgut to help horses with metabolic issues. And it's been a game-changer to repopulate the microbiota for accelerated recovery of Laminitis, as well as helping to reduce glucose absorption and reduce insulin spikes.
Our EquiDigest can be found here:
SALT: salt helps to increase blood flow, which helps with laminitis, so we recommend using up to 1 heaped teaspoon of non-bleached, non-processed salt such as Himalayan or Sea Salt, which is available from most supermarkets and leaving out a raw salt lick if your horse needs any more salt.
MORE GOOD GUT HEALTH PRODUCTS:-organic apple cider vinegar, if included with the mother, which is the naturally occurring culture, can help to repopulate the horse's digestive system with beneficial enzymes. We recommend a capful of cider vinegar, including mother-around 10ml-add to water below
WATER: Add a cup of water and mix well
PAIN RELIEF- BUTE + LIQUID DEVILS CLAW: We recommend using Bute for the first few days to alleviate pain for Laminitis, and ten we transfer onto to Devils Calw for longer-term use as we have found it much safer on the gut. This is the best way we have found to reduce inflammation. Please do not use those made with ethanol/alcohol, as we have found it worsens some horses, as neat alcohol is highly toxic to horses and can cause further inflammation. Add the recommended dose rates of liquid Devil's Claw to help with inflammation as a great alternative to using bute, which can be very hard on the stomach.
To buy our Safe Devils Claw
This is a short-term basic diet to use whilst your horse recovers from laminitis. Please head over to the recommended feeding guide pages for a maintenance plan.
Feed ad-lib meadow hay (and straw if available on a 50-50 ratio) from a slow feeder haynet 24/7
Provide clean drinking water at all times.
If at all possible, provide your horse with another horse companion to stay either with them or nearby to help reduce stress during his or her recovery time, and allow him/her to stand on a soft surface of shavings, sand, or even soft soil can be used for best results.
PLEASE NOTE: we do not support the use of metal or fixed shoes to assist with the recovery of laminitic horses, as we have found they can make matters much worse by reducing the healing effects of the horse having good circulation, as they fix the hoof in one place which is not beneficial in our experience to healing or for your horse or ponies comfort. We have had much better success with more modern hoof protection in the form of flexible and well-padded hoof boots, which can be found here:
How To Make A Quick and Easy Grass Free Area
Firstly the don'ts:
PLEASE DO NOT USE WEEDKILLERS AROUND HORSES OR ANYWHERE THEY COULD GRAZE-it is highly poisonous and can cause colic and death, and is of especially high risk to laminitis horses as their health is already being compromised.
Mowed grass also doesn't work as the short grass makes much higher levels of plant sugars in a bid to survive when chopped, so please don't mow it.
Now, the Do's:
Dissolve salt in a bucket of hot water and stir in well until all crystals have fully melted away. You can buy fine-grade agrisalt from most merchants like Farmlands for about $16 per 25kg bag and add it at a rate of 2kg per 10 Litres of hot water. Normal salt can also be used in whatever is available off a small area, preferably with pigtail standards with electric tape-(don't use the electric wire type tape as it can cut and cause injuries).
Then, either swill or use a high-pressure weed-type water sprayer to soak the area with the salted water, preferably in dry conditions, for faster results, and it will kill off the grass without harming the horse or having any long-term effects on the soils. It works pretty quickly, so it is ideal for making a fast, dry lot.
Further Reading and Websites For Laminitis Support
LAMINITIS TRUST: http://laminitis.org/
EQUINE CUSHINGS AND INSULIN RESISTANCE SUPPORT GROUP: https://www.ecirhorse.org/
ROYAL VET COLLEGE LAMINITIS INFO PAGES: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/equine-vet/information-and-advice/fact-files/laminitis#:~:text=In%20cases%20of%20laminitis%20associated,pain%20experienced%20by%20the%20horse.
A HORSE OWNERS GUIDE TO PASTURE INDUCED LAMINITIS: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pub/em-9354-horse-owners-guide-pasture-associated-laminitis