There are three types of laminitis:
Laminitis is caused by insulin dysfunction which is common in horses who have equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease . When horses with these conditions eat foods with a high amount of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC’s), their insulin levels increase dramatically, which in turn can cause damage to the lamellae, resulting in laminitis .
Unfortunately, it is difficult for owners to find out if horses have equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease without testing. However, a recent study found that certain breeds are more likely to have equine metabolic syndrome than others . Horses that have this syndrome often have fatty deposits, particularly over the nuchal ligament and at the head of the tail . The breeds most likely to have equine metabolic syndrome include :
Endocrinopathic laminitis is not limited to horses who have equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease. Studies have found that some risk factors for laminitis include :
The go-to method for most people is the ‘shove-them-in-a-paddock-and-keep-them-lean’. Of course, It is essential that horses always have something to eat, or else it can cause gut health problems. However, as we know, horses who become obese are more at risk of laminitis.
Dr Nerida Richards claims that it is important to keep glucose levels as low as possible in horses who are at risk of laminitis, and so their diet should have as few NHC’s as possible . While this can be easily managed when it comes to the feed we give them, it is almost impossible to determine how much NHC’s are in a pasture as it can change within the day . However, evidence shows that pasture that is well-irrigated, that doesn’t weather sub-zero temperatures, and has plant species that are considered subtropical, is usually the safest and unlikely to cause laminitis .
Exercise also plays an important part in preventing laminitis. In humans, it has been found that exercise improves insulin sensitivity and can reduce inflammation . Related results have been found in ponies, though in both cases it was found that the exercise needed to be more intense than what is usually undertaken . The European College of Equine International Medicine recently suggested some exercise recommendations for horses who are likely to suffer from insulin dysfunction . These recommendations are extrapolated from medical research and clinical studies. They suggest :
Laminitis is always going to be feared by horse and pony owners. However, arming yourself with knowledge about the condition and how to manage it is the best way to help your horse.
 Belknap, J.K & Geor, R.J 2017, Equine Laminitis, John Wiley & Sons Incorporated
 Richards, N 2020, Your Guide to Feeding the Laminitic, FeedXL
 Menzies-Gow, N 2018, Diagnosing and Treating Laminitis in Horses, Vet Record
 Durham, A.E, Frank, N, McGowan, C.M, Menzies-Gow, N.J, Roelfsema, E, Vervuert, I, Feige, K & Fey, K 2019, ‘ECEIM consensus statement on equine metabolic syndrome’, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Consensus Statement, pp. 335 – 349