Could your horse be laminitic and you are not aware of it?
Yep. Actually could be.
I explained in another blog post about the 4 stages of Laminitis.
The first stage being the "Developmental" Stage. This is a stage that does not present with any clinical symptoms. In other words, your horse could be in the Developmental stage of Laminitis right now and you wouldn't know it. You wouldn't know until you see the tell-tale ring around the hooves maybe 4 months down the road or so. Then you can look back and maybe determine what the cause was. (Please note that a ring just underneath or at the coronary band is indicative of ACTIVE Laminitis)
Not all horses are so lucky as to be able to self-heal their Developmental Laminitis. Horses that are forced to stand in their iron shoes in stalls for 23 out of 24 hours; eat pounds and pounds of bagged, processed feed, artificial supplements, rich hay and rich grazing for that one hour turnout are all at higher risk of developing laminitis than those who are allowed to be horses. That is, allowed 24/7 turnout with free choice hay, shelter and grazing ... fresh forages (varied fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds) provided at least 3 times a week if not every day ... living in a herd situation where access to other horses is inescapable ...
There are other situations, as well, of course, that cause Laminitis - mostly metabolic reasons. We've talked about those, as well - http://scootboots.com/blogs/blog/causesoflaminitis
So, exactly how does one even think to suspect one's horse is going laminitic?
First of all, one needs to really KNOW his or her horse and their personality and their habitual behaviors and ways. All horses react to 'not feeling quite right' in different ways. Some isolate themselves and don't want to hang out in the herd; some get overly grouchy; some appear very depressed, lethargic; some turn balky when asked to move out and will begin to refuse jumps or cantering or even being saddled up. Others may exhibit a rapid respiration, excess sweating, and, interestingly, even new fur whorls at the laminitis acupoints of the body. The mane may have a section that has switched sides (without help from the wind) indicating a change of energy going through the horse's body. A reluctance to pick up the hooves for cleaning as usual and possibly avoidance of gravel or rocks whereas the horse was usually willing to go over any terrain. A shortened stride can be an indicator of developing laminitis.
If you find your horse is 'off' you want to feel for the digital pulse. One should "know" the normal digital pulse for the individual horse. Some have very pronounced pulses that is quite normal for that horse while others may develop a perceptible pulse.
The hooves may feel a bit warmer than usual on the resting horse.
And maybe your horse is just a tad 'owie'. He will indicate that by reluctance to move or by shifting his weight back and forth from one front hoof to the other.
Rainy season and winters can be tough on horses and their hooves. Generally speaking, a horse that goes laminitic every fall and spring is battling a metabolic issues such as developing Cushings or Insulin Resistance. But it may also be that the (bare) hooves are not trimmed properly. Adjustments need to be made in trimming according to the seasons. I found that a nice 45 degree bevel from heel to heel along with higher than "what's considered 'acceptable' by most trimmers" heels to help with seasonal discomfort and laminitis. In fact, when I allowed my horses to grow more heel, (allowing for an inch of collateral groove depth at the heel buttress) started beveling all around the hoof wall that my horses and my clients' horses stopped with their seasonal owies altogether! Of course, with bare hooves then one should not be trimming down the sole proper and only skimming the bars, when necessary, to the sole; never 'carving them out'. Keeping the toes back for a proper breakover helps the hooves function at their best and most comfortably as well as alleviating some of the discomfort of overly-long toes.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Making sure the horse is eating like a horse, living like a horse and the hooves are trimmed as correctly as possible for that individual horse will go a long way in helping to prevent the seasonal laminitis. KNOWING your horse and observing him, everyday, can help prevent a developmental stage of laminitis progressing into full acute laminitis. I know my horses' patterns and behaviors. Any out-of-the-ordinary pattern or behavior sends a red flag right up for me and I'll make an extra effort health check on that horse immediately.
If you find your horse IS exhibiting some of the off things we've just discussed then there are a couple of things you can do:
Cold water soaks at this time can greatly diminish and even halt any further development of inflammation in the hooves.
Eliminating processed feed and adding some fresh forages with herbs and maybe some essential oils to the diet can help.
Movement ... yes, the movement will increase circulation so *gentle* movement will help.
There are some 'natural' anti-inflammatories that can be given that may help but I prefer to not give anything chemical in that way.
Put out the hay as far away from the water source and shelter as possible to encourage movement.
I would not ride the horse if he seems 'off' until I have ferreted out the reason for the off behaviors.
Observe, carefully, and take note of what makes the horse feel better and what makes him feel worse.
Take the temp, the respiration, the pulse in case you do have to call your veterinarian out. He or she will ask about that.
Bottom line is take the time and effort to really KNOW your horse so if he is off at all you'll be able to spot it and, hopefully, be able to thwart any full blown laminitic situation.