I realise that this is a controversial topic but I feel that it needs to be discussed.

You must not make horses with acute laminitis walk, since this is likely to cause further separation of the laminae.

If you are in any doubt as to whether to walk your laminitic horse or not, do not do so!


When I was at college 30 years ago, when we still thought that laminitis was an inflammatory condition, we were instructed that we should make laminitic horses walk. We were told to do nerve blocks to make them walk, if necessary.

With our present knowledge, one has to ask how we could ever give this advice.

Presumably some got better, but then again many will have got worse. As I have pointed out elsewhere, some get better anyway and some deteriorate regardless of what we do, so presumably we stopped giving the advice because a greater percentage got worse.

At that time the advice was not just to make the horse walk but was also to trim the heel as low as possible and also to shorten the toe, even in the acute phase.

As I have stated above, I do not advocate walking the horse in the acute phase, and I also would be extremely careful about trimming the feet at this stage also. However I am pretty sure that the ones that had their feet trimmed and were walked would have fared much better than those that were walked without the feet trimming.

I have come to the conclusion that we should be both trimming the feet of laminitics in a similar fashion, by lowering the heels and shortening the toes, at the earliest opportunity once sufficient stability has returned.

If you are in any doubt as to whether to walk your laminitic horse or not, do not do so!

My reasons.

I believe that if we leave the foot untrimmed then the dorsal laminae will continue to have greater forces on them and are more likely to separate further under the stress of walking. The notes on Strasser’s plastic sheet and on "How should we trim the chronic founder foot?" relate to the chronic laminitis situation, but I feel it also applies to the acute phase, but only once they have recovered sufficient stability.

Regardless of the mechanism involved, exercise increases insulin sensitivity and clinical experience tells me that inactivity increases insulin resistance. (See Metabolic Syndrome) Two of the four horses/ponies I have euthanased this year have been persistently confined to their stables.

If, as I suspect, there is a connection between Equine Metabolic Syndrome and the theory that impaired glucose uptake by the epidermal basal cells can cause laminitis, then improved insulin sensitivity from exercise should help to maintain the integrity of the laminal bonds. (See Pathogenesis)

I believe that the best way to prevent laminitis in the previously unaffected horse is to give them regular exercise and to regularly trim the feet.

The only difference in the laminitic is the instability of the pedal bone in the hoof, but once this has settled then the same regime should improve the chances of preventing a recurrence of the laminitis.

Careful consideration must be given to each individual case to assess the potential damage that might be caused by walking the horse. Remember that pain is an indication that there is instability in the foot.

I believe that we are less likely to make a laminitic horse worse when walked if the feet have been trimmed with a low heel and shortened toe and I would be far more reluctant to walk a horse, untrimmed and still with a tilted pedal bone.

If walking your laminitic horse makes it worse at the time or the following day then there is insufficient stability present and walking should be stopped until the foot is more stable.

If you are in any doubt as to whether to walk your laminitic horse or not, do not do so!

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