Founder and Laminitis Exposed: A Review

I have a 26 year old Thoroughbred gelding named Southern Gentleman (aka Teddy), that has been with me for almost 17 years now. About 3 years ago, his neck started looking a little cresty. The vet was coming out in a couple of weeks for spring shots and he was in otherwise excellent health so I did not make a special appointment. After her examination, she recommended that we draw blood for an ACTH level test as she suspected he was developing insulin resistance, most likely coupled with Cushings disease, which is common in older horses. To my great dismay, the test came back with very high levels of the ACTH hormone. I was devastated. I knew that insulin resistance horses are more susceptible to laminitis and founder, and for me, it was my worst nightmare.

I have seen firsthand the effects of this horrible disease, thankfully never in a horse of my own. When you combine an uninformed horse owner who loves their horse, with a disreputable veterinarian, the result for the horse can be catastrophic geng le. I watched a wonderful Arabian stallion progress from mild laminitis to full blown founder to the point where the coffin bone punched through the bottom of the hoof and the horses hooves were literally being held on with duct-tape.

The vet convinced the owners (while charging exorbitant amounts of money daily, that the horse was a fighter and not ready to give up so they should not give up on him. He suffered horribly well beyond the point where he should have been humanely euthanized and in the end died one of the most ghastly deaths I could have imagined for a beloved animal.

I have since seen other cases where the horse was properly treated and recovered, but to see a horse in that kind of pain is not a scenario that I want to experience in my barn or in my life. So, when I got Teddy’s diagnosis, I went on a mission to learn everything I could about Insulin Resistance, Cushings, and Laminitis. When it comes to IR, carbohydrates sugars are a major issue. As it turns out, my senior horse was on the worst possible feed for a horse in his condition, it had the highest level of non-structural carbohydrates of any feed on the market at the time! I switched him to a new feed and luckily, the diet change alone brought his ACTH level down and got rid of his cresty neck.