The learning curve in my trimming practice has recently been taking a turn for the steeper.
Normally when someone calls me with a severely laminitic horse, I just tell them to call my friend Sue, who is Very Experienced with these problems. However, the other day, a new client called and didn't tell me in advance that his two mares (sisters) were suffering from a bad bout of laminitis. So I had to deal with it.
The mares were having a very hard time walking - you could see the "ouchouchouch" at the moment when they had to break over their toes in the front. They had the tell-tale "ditch" running around above their hairline, showing how compromised their feet are - the end of the digit sinking down inside the hoof capsule. (An ideal foot has a "muffin top" bulging out above the hairline.) Their toes were very overgrown, and taking them back did help, but I was afraid to go too far, as without x-rays you just don't know for sure where the tip of the coffin bone is lurking.
The two mares had no problems with their hind feet - which shows how much laminitis is affected by mechanical factors - that may be because as there's much less leveraging in the hoof wall of the hind feet, the weakened laminae don't come to grief in the same way. I assume that the chemical situation does not differ fore and hind.
The owner is nice, and good with his horses. But he's used to paying an Amish guy $15 per horse for a trim, and so my price is already a bit much for him, never mind me wanting to come back every two weeks to work with the mares until they're sorted. I went back once at half-price, but I fear he may not have me back anytime soon again. I also feel I missed an opportunity to really educate him about the nature of laminitis. As my friend Sue says, half the job is education.
However, the experience had some benefit for me, as it finally made me go out and buy 2" thick roofing insulation foam and Gorilla tape to have on hand for any future encounters with badly laminitic horses.
And I learned something interesting. These mares get laminitis every spring, as do their mother and another sister (who live elsewhere). So this year their owner decided they would get no spring grass whatsoever. (He does know that grass is a factor.) He kept them in a bare paddock with not a single stick of green anywhere in reach.
And they got laminitis worse than ever.
The worse part makes sense, because the paddock is very small, and the mares were therefore not able to get much exercise and movement, which exacerbates the problem. However, why did they get laminitis at all? So here's what I've been wondering: is there a light trigger?
Horses produce matrix metalloproteinase, which temporarily loosens (or whatever the technical term is) the laminar attachment in order to allow the hoof wall to grow past the structures underneath it, to which it is attached by the laminae. Of course, the more hoof growth, the more MMP is needed. Fructans in the grass causes a rise in MMP production, and if the chemical (or whatever the technical term is) isn't dissipated (owttti), an excess of it will cause runaway detachment of the laminae.
When spring comes, bringing with it greatly enhanced nutritional opportunities, it's a good time for the horse to grow a lot of new hoof. So it makes sense that the sugary grass of early spring would trigger a lot of MMP production to allow for the extra growth. And might it also be the case that increasing daylight, which triggers shedding, is a signal to step up MMP production too?
Whatever the cause, I'm thinking let's everybody start spring with nice short toes.
Question: has anybody out there had any experience with this product: MMP Stop, made by For Love of the Horse? I'm longing to know if it works. I tried their UVeitis formula, and it really worked. If their MMP Stop formula works, it could be a great boon to some people.
P.S. In case anyone is wondering about the roofing insulation and Gorilla tape, here you go: