Laminitis is an inflammation of the laminae between the hoof wall and pedal bone. It is a very painful condition that can affect all horses and ponies, not just those that are over-weight.

Normally it affects the front feet but can cause pain in all four feet and horses will display a characteristic ‘hobbling’ gait.

The affected feet usually feel warm to the touch and a strong pulse may be felt at the heels, indicating inflammation.

It may be difficult for the horse to pick up their feet, as the weight then shifts to the opposite leg, and hoof testers across the sole of the foot normally elicits a painful response.

In extreme cases, the pedal bone loosens within the hoof capsule and a dip may be seen at the coronary band. In such cases a bulge in the sole may also been seen, due to the sinking or rotation of the pedal bone.


Laminitis can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Obesity;
  • Feeding a diet high in sugars or carbohydrates;
  • A sudden change in feed;
  • Rich, green grazing, especially in the spring and summer months as the young grass is higher in sugars;
  • Excessive concussion on hard ground;
  • Overgrown feet with long toes;
  • Corticosteroid medication;
  • Stress;
  • An increased loading on one foot when the other is injured; and
  • Cushings disease.

Diagnosis and management

Should you suspect your horse or pony has laminitis, consult your vet immediately. Generally the following treatment measures are recommended:

  • X-rays of the feet allows assessment of whether the pedal bone has sunk or rotated within the hoof capsule. X-rays will also assist in corrective shoeing as it allows the farrier to determine exactly how to trim the foot, and shoe in order to provide the most support possible to the frog and pedal bone.
  • Keep your horse on a low-calorie, low sugar and high fibre diet. You may need to adjust your horse or pony’s management and feeding during the spring and summer months to restrict intake of green grass.
  • Corrective shoeing, balancing of the foot and frog support is vital. Discuss the problem with your farrier to determine the plan of action going forward.
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications.
  • Box rest on supportive bedding.