Reducing forces on the hoof wall

01 November 2010, at 12:00am

brings together recent comments about laminitis, its causes and treatment

ADJUSTING a laminitic horse’s weight bearing plays a crucial role in the animal’s recovery, Dr Debra Ruffin Taylor of Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, told delegates at the 2010 Western Veterinary Conference held in Las Vegas earlier this year. 

“I want to take whatever corium integrity that is left, and I want to put it in a situation to promote healing,” she said. “But I can’t do that with drugs alone. I need to consider the mechanics.”

There are several mechanical problems that could be addressed to relieve some of the weight that the horse was bearing down on injured tissue.

She suggested taking the horse off hard ground and putting him on dry sand or pea gravel. Dr Taylor said she preferred small pea gravel to dry sand, because the sand could get wet and harden like cement.

If a horse with laminitis stands on pea gravel or dry sand, he usually puts his toe down into the gravel lower than the heel, relieving some of the tension in the deep flexor tendon.

“When they extend their elbow, they are telling you that ‘deep flexor tension is bothering me right now, and I have to extend my elbow to escape it’. If you are winning over laminitis, they will quit standing like that,” she continued.

Dr Taylor said she used impression materials with shoes, hoof boots and casts, and soft hoof pads under the boot, shoe or cast. Her favourite padding material is a wrestling mat cut to the shape of the foot: she will cut a hole in the wrestling mat under the tip of the coffin bone to relieve pressure on regions with very thin sole.

Many hoof care systems for laminitic horses have common mechanics and each will remove some (or all) of the forces on the hoof wall. Some of these systems also help decrease tension in the deep flexor tendon.

A horse at risk for contralateral limb laminitis needs to move so that he occasionally steps off the sounder limb. As soon as possible, he should be made to take a few steps throughout the day.

“Even 10 steps four to six times a day makes a big difference,” she said. “When the horse is bearing his full weight on a limb, there is no blood flowing into that limb. Releasing the weight-bearing increases blood flow.”

Another exercise that might help is to rock the horse’s sound leg a little so that it lifts up this foot or at least releases the tension in the tendon, she said.