Drugs Vs. Heart Bars For Treating Founder

Specializing in laminitis work, this equine vet has not used bute on a foundered horse for 20 years

Having used the heart bar shoe successfully for many years and having worked closely with deceased Texas farrier Burney Chapman on it, I feel qualified to speak about its merits in the treatment of laminitis. 

Based on our extensive work, there appear to be only two reasons for the heart bar shoe to fail:

  • It isn’t applied properly.

  • While the heart bar is designed to help prevent P3 rotation, bute and other drugs can mask the pain. They tend to  encourage a foundered horse to keep walking while promoting rotation and increasing tearing of the laminae. Yet some vets who frequently prescribe bute for laminitis cases encourage owners and trainers not to work these horses while injured.

You can’t expect a heart bar shoe to prevent rotation if we’re promoting rotation by keeping the horse up on its feet.

The typical foundered horse stands with its front feet extended while trying to walk on its heels. This may take away some of the pain of the tearing action of the laminae, but it is not good for the horse. 

I have not used bute on a foundered horse for at least 20 years. Instead, I rely on the heart bar shoe from the first day to control pain. However, this shoe must be applied by a professional farrier to support the third phalanx and help prevent rotation based on specific measurements determined by X-rays.

I realize some other vets and farriers do not shoe horses in the acute stage. They…

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