Founder is a condition that can be found in the hooves of horses. For the most part it occurs during the spring, but it can happen any time of the year. Any horse of any age can founder. In some case the horse is able to recover, in others the condition is crippling or even fatal.
The cause of founder begins with laminitis, an inflammation of the tissues that connect the hoof wall and the bone. The tissues that connect the wall and bone are very sensitive and when they become inflamed they break down and separate. This causes a great deal of discomfort and pain for the horse.
In really bad, untreated cases the hoof wall detaches entirely from the bone. If this happens the bone will be able to rotate and when the horse adds weight to its leg, the bone can be pushed down through the sole of the hoof hitting the ground.
Founder can occur as an acute or a chronic condition:
In an acute situation, a horse will appear stiff and will not want to move. Its weight will be shifted to the non infected legs, in most cases this is the hind legs. The hoof will feel warm and a throbbing pulse may be felt. An acute attack may leave a ring around the horses hoof.
A chronic case is where the bone with shift and possibly penetrate the sole. The hoof may grow very quickly, up to 12 inches in come cases, and look bent. In cases of chronic founder it is often necessary to have the horse euthanized, but not always.
If there is even the slightest notion of Laminitis, a vet should be contacted. Antibiotics or an anti-inflammatory may be administered as well as something to prevent blood clots. In chronic cases the treatment can be very long and expensive.
Treatments that are used for founder include removing almost all hay and grain from the horses diet, a blood transfusion, lots of rest, no or very limited exercise, removal of shoes, keeping hooves in cool water or a muddy puddle.
Laminitis is caused by many things such as eating to much grain, hay or lush grass, drinking lots of water at a time when overheated, retaining the placenta after giving birth, having a high fever, sickness or any very stressful situation.
Horses that are more so at risk are horses that are overweight, have had acute founder in the past, those fed a high grain diet and horses such as draft horses, which are naturally a heavy breed.
When a horse founders it may or may not make a full recovery. Many times they are turned out to pasture and used just for viewing. Keeping up on regular trimmings and vet check up is very important for a horse’s health and should be done regularly.