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Based on 36 years of working with laminitic horses, equine veterinarian Donald Walsh believes both obesity and a lack of proper nutrition weaken the laminae and other supporting structures in the foot.
As a result, the Pacific, Mo., vet is convinced that nutrition will continue to be a major laminitis concern until all of the disease’s “trigger factors” are fully understood. Only then, he maintains, can we move away from focusing prevention on events associated with laminitis rather than actually preventing them.
When it comes to nutrition, Walsh says excessive grain intake is a common contributor to laminitis. Whether a horse overindulges in an unlocked feed room or is fed more grain than needed, the risk of laminitis is increased.
“While people love to feed horses and many horses have voracious appetites, our horses need less food and more exercise,” he told attendees at last fall’s third International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Not only do owners feed their horses too well, but judges expect show horses to be fat and round. “Judges and owners need to realize how unhealthy it is to make horses overweight only to please our eyes,” he says. “Obesity is a huge problem for the U.S. horse population.”
He says radiographs have shown that the appearance of the laminae begin to change once horses start to become obese, even before other critical signs of lameness from laminitis are observed.
“When a horse becomes…