What Is Founder In Horses?

The anatomy of horses can often be seen as a complex thing. If you haven’t been trained in veterinary surgery then you might not be able to easily identify all aspects of a horse’s body and how, if a horse is injured, it can be healed and helped. 

What is founder in horses?

This is why if you own horses, it is always vitally important that you know all about how their bodies work and what to do in situations in which they are hurt and whilst you are waiting for a vet to arrive.

This article will answer some of those questions and will ensure that you will never have to ask again what is founder in horses.

What Is Founder In Horses?

Whilst you might automatically think that a horse’s founder is related to the ancestry of a particular horse, the founder of its breed or of its individual family lines,

this isn’t the case. In fact a founder is in fact the colloquial term for a rather nasty foot infection that afflicts some horses. 

Founder’s scientific name is in fact laminitis, and it is caused by inflammation of a part of the horse’ foot called the laminae.

The laminae is the fleshy part of the hoof or foot that attaches the coffin bone also known as the pedal bone of the horse to the hoof wall. 

Because the laminae is relatively soft flesh and because it is connected to other important parts of the horse’s foot, this means that when it gets inflamed it can be extremely painful for the horse and cause them a great deal of discomfort. 

Whilst a horse having founder or as it is also known laminitis is not fatal in of itself it can be if not properly treated.

Now that we’ve explained what founder is, let’s detail some of the symptoms that can be associated with it so you can easily spot it if one of your horses has it.

What is founder in horses?

What Are The Symptoms Of Founder In A Horse?

The symptoms of founder in a horse are not simply associated with swelling of the hooves; you can tell a horse has founder in many other ways because the symptoms are obvious across the horse’s entire body. 

For example, if a horse has laminitis, it will likely be in its forelegs rather than its hindlegs and instead of wanting to walk,

the horse will sway from side to side because attempting to walk and put pressure on the hooves sets off the pain which is why the horse is reluctant to walk. 

It will also want to lie down because it will be much more comfortable for the animal.

The horse’s digit pulse, the pulse that can be found at the back of a horse’s fetlock, will also likely be very fast because of the pain that is rushing through the horse’s body. 

If the case is particularly chronic then the horse might attempt to put more pressure on its back legs which is colloquially known as the laminitic stance.

If your horse is displaying any of these symptoms, then it is more likely than not to have contracted a case of founder. 

We’ll now explain exactly how best to treat laminitis. 

How To Treat Founder In Horses 

Whilst laminitis is not immediately fatal, it can prove to be very uncomfortable for horses and so must be treated as soon as possible.

It is of course always best to ensure that you call a vet as soon as you believe one of your animals is sick – vets are specifically qualified to deal with diseases like laminitis and it is always best for them to deal with it rather than do it yourself. 

However, if you are unable to do that then the best way to treat this disease is to remove the horse from its immediate surroundings as this will have likely contributed to causing the disease.

Then you must get the animal on a series of anti-inflammatory drugs as soon as possible – it is always best to discuss with your vet on the specific anti-inflammatory and the dosage which will depend on your horse’s size and age. 

Once your horse is on a series of anti-inflammatory treatments, it is best to then place your horse in a stable with deep shavings meaning that they can put their hooves into a comfortable position whilst the anti-inflammatory drugs take effect and reduce the swelling on their hooves.

It is also making sure that the horse’s hooves are properly trimmed to ensure that the horse’s hooves don’t dig into their flesh anymore than they should. 

Whilst the horse is taking time to recover it is also worth making sure that it is able to have some company.

Horses like to interact with one another and if your horse is on its own then it can easily slip into depression which is often bad for an animal that is ill – if the horse is fairly happy then it is more likely to recover quicker as it will take its mind off the pain it is experiencing. 

It is also important to ensure that you monitor what the horse is eating – too much food can be one of the causes of founder,

but it is also important that your horse is getting enough food to ensure that it still has a healthy appetite whilst recovering as lack of food can also set back recovery. 

Why It Is Important To Know What Founder Is 

Founder is a disease which can affect any horse at any time in their lives. That is why it is such a deadly disease and one that can cause great discomfort and pain to both the horse and to its owner.

This is why you not only need to know about founder but also how to treat it as well. 

Whilst a vet is likely to be able to ensure that your animal gets better, one of the worst things for someone who owns an animal is lack of knowledge because it can make you feel helpless and unsure of what to do. 

By having knowledge about this particular condition you can be certain that if you ever come across it you’ll know how to tackle it and ensure your horse once again becomes as healthy as possible.

Catherine McDowl
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