Laminitis in horses and ponies is a common problem. The exact cause of laminitis is still not clear, but the risk factors are becoming increasingly known.
A sport horse that is trained daily has only a small risk of laminitis. Another remarkable fact is that horses in natural areas almost never suffer from laminits.  

What is laminitis?

Inside a hoof is a coffin bone, the hoof leg is attached to the hoof shoe, the hard outer part of the hoof. The connection is held by laminea. With laminitis there is an inflammation of the lamellar structure. That comes with swelling, congestion and fluid accumulation. Because the hoof shoe has such a hard structure, it can not expand, which is why this inflammation causes enourmous pain. Compare it with the pain of a torn nail, it hurts, everybody knows it!
A horse with laminitis is in pain, it is however very important for the horse to stand in a right position. Most often both front legs are affected because horses carry most of their weight on their front legs.

How can you tell that a horse / pony has laminitis?

Depending on how serious it is, you can observe the following symptoms:

  • The horse stands with its front legs stretched out and leans back in order to relieve the pressure on its front legs. If it is affected on all four legs, the horse will put its front legs back a little and its hind legs forward a little to distribute its weight as evenly as possible. 

  • The horse would rather not walk, is stiff and walks on eggshells, so to speak. This means that when putting the foot down, it wants to land on the back part of the hoof as much as possible because this is the least painful part. Consquence: your horse/pony lies down a lot.

What are the risk factors for getting laminitis?

Concentrated feed

Concentrated feed contains a lot of grain products that are rich in carbohydrates but hardly contain any fibre. As a result, the carbohydrates are released very quickly but also stop quite suddenly. Despite all the efforts of the pancreas, blood sugar level first rises quickly, only to drop rapidly a little later. 

Molasses is a widely used ingredient in concentrates (such as muesli) as molasses prevents dustiness and horses like to eat molasses. In addition, molasses is usually used as the main ingredient in feed blocks! The more eager horses gobble the food (pellets and/or block), the more people like to buy it. However, molasses is a residual product of the sugar industry and consists mainly of fast-digesting sugars.

Fresh spring/winter grass is a notorious cause of laminitis. It used to be assumed that laminitis was caused by a high protein content, but this theory is now outdated. At most, protein contributes to the risk of laminitis, and the high fructan content of grass is now seen as the main culprit.

An increased fructan content occurs when the grass is unable to complete a normal metabolism (growth process). The grass is then under stress. The temperature of the grass is one cause of this. Too low a temperature is something that occurs frequently, especially in spring, which is probably why spring grass has such a bad reputation. Fructan levels can also be high at other times, such as green winter grass when there is no frost. 

Overweight in a horse or pony, combined with too little exercise and a diet that is too high in energy, make it likely that it will develop laminitis.

Overloading a foot, for example because the other leg has an injury (collateral laminitis).

Laminitis treament
First of all, it is important to provide support.

Equi No Bute supports the horse and provides comfort to the musculoskeletal system.


Your horse should be kept resting, although it is important that, depending on the severity of the laminitis, the animal does get some exercise. Spray the hoofs with cold water or if possible, put the horse in the mud. The cooling will have a painkilling effect and the hoof will soften slightly. In case of acute laminitis, the farrier may remove part of the hoof wall to allow the fluid to escape. 

Hoof trimming
It is very important to consult your farrier in case of laminitis, because he can prevent a chronic change of the hoof by correct trimming or by applying a shoe, as the animal is inclined to walk on the back of its hoof as much as possible. 


The following can be done to prevent laminitis:

  • Avoid intake of fructan. Make sure that you have a feeding plan that suits your horse. You can consult your veterinarian or a nutritionist for this purpose. 

  • When grazing, make sure your horse does not get too much, too vigorous and too sugary feed from the grass.

  • Avoid sudden changes in the diet.

  • Adjust the diet to the horse's needs.

  • Be careful with sugary foods.