First Aid for Laminitis


You think that your horse has laminitis- HELP!

It can be difficult to know what to do for the best, and no doubt everyone on your yard will want to give their opinion, leaving you with plenty of conflicting advice. With that in mind here are nine practical steps to take if you suspect that your horse has laminitis


  1. Call your vet

It’s essential to call the vet. This sounds very obvious but sadly so many owners think that that they will ‘wait and see’ during a bout of laminitis,  or that it’s normal for their horse or pony to become a bit ‘footsore’. Don’t forget that horses are prey animals and will generally try and conceal lameness or injury, so a ‘foot sore’ pony could actually be in a lot of pain. Some owners think they should call their farrier, and although the farrier is an essential part of the recovery process they cannot diagnose or offer pain relief like your vet can.


     2.Don’t be tempted to ‘self-medicate’

Do not give any medication without speaking to your vet first. Many owners have some nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medication such as phenylbutazone at their yard, but this should never be given without consulting with your vet first. Often medication that has been kept has expired, or hasn’t been stored correctly. Your vet will have a variety of pain relief options, these will be faster acting and more effective than an out of date sachet of bute.


     3.Remove the horse from the pasture

With any suspected case of laminitis it is essential to limit any further damage to the laminae by reducing movement. The horse or pony should be removed from the field, and stabled immediately. Due to the painful nature of the condition the horse should be allowed to walk at their own pace, however long that takes. It may be appropriate to travel the horse in a low trailer if the field is a longer distance from the stables. If no stabling is available a small pen will need to be created, within the field to reduce movement, or you could use a field shelter.

     4.Make the horse comfortable

A horse suffering from a bout of laminitis will be experiencing a lot of discomfort, and stabling on a deep bed of shavings is ideal. The horse needs to be able to dig it’s hooves into the bedding material to provide pain relief, and the deep bed must be continued right up to the door of the stable. Some owners like to use sand but this must be dry and not too tightly compacted, and cardboard bedding could also be used, the bedding material just needs to be able to mould around the hoof and provide support to the frog.


     5.Keep the horse calm

Keeping the horse calm, quiet and still is essential while you wait for the vet, and also in the short term management of the condition. It is sensible to ensure that the horse has a companion close by, it will help to keep them as relaxed as possible. If your horse is stressed, your vet may be able to provide a mild sedative to settle them. 


     6.Don’t starve them

The laminitic horse should not be starved, and this is a common misconception about caring for a horse or pony with laminitis. They do need to be fed an appropriate diet which is lower in non structural carbohydrates. Your vet will help you to devise a suitable diet to help manage laminitis, but soaking hay is an effective way to reduce the sugar content. Hay can be soaked in cold water for several hours, but for a more immediate option warm water can be used, soaking hay for 30 minutes to one hour to make it a safer forage choice for the laminitic horse or pony. A Trickle Net is an excellent way to feed soaked and rationed forage, providing more hours nibble time and a welcome distraction from boredom and pain. 

     7.Easy reach

It is essential that both hay and water are easy for the horse to get to, as limiting movement and reducing any further pain is the priority. For horses who like to look out over the door, keeping hay and water close to the door will limit the to and fro and help rest those painful feet. 


     8.Frog support

While you wait for your vet to arrive another practical step you could take is to provide your horse with some frog support, this would be particularly helpful if you aren’t able to stable the horse on a thick bed of shavings or sand. The idea is to help the horse take more weight through the frog and take pressure of the wall of the hoof, thus relieving the laminae.

You can purchase specialist frog supports, and these may be part of your horse’s recovery plan. (Maybe keep some in your first aid kit.) However you can use a roll of vet wrap (unrolled) on the frog and simply tape it to the hoof. This will provide the same benefits in an emergency situation.


     9.Be patient

Laminitis is a tricky condition to manage, but there are many success stories of horses who have made a brilliant recovery from this condition. You might find that the recovery process is longer (and more frustrating) than you expect so do be patient. There is lots of help and support out there, and many horse owners are in the same boat as you. Sharing tips and ideas for recovery is always positive, but beware the myths and always give your vet a call if you’re unsure of anything. Many owners are reluctant to call the vet thinking that a visit will always be required, but most vets are very happy to take a quick call and guide your decisions for horses already under their care. 


I hope that you have found this article helpful, remember laminitis can affect horses and ponies of all ages and sizes, and it is essential to call the vet if you suspect that your horse is suffering with this condition.


If you’d like to learn more about laminitis, and how to manage this condition you can take part in the first ‘National Laminitis Awareness Day’ which I am running on 10th July 2019. You can take part in live web chats, finding out more about laminitis, feeding the laminitic horse, underlying conditions. There will be free factsheets to download, and I’d love you to take part by sharing pictures of your horse with the hashtag #lamiaware.

It’s going to be an action packed day.


You can register for more details at the link below

Nicola Kinnard-Comedie MSc, BHSAI Int. SM
Owner and founder of NKC Equestrian Training
0782 4326245

About the author

Nicola Kinnard-Comedie owns and runs NKC Equestrian Training, a training company providing Online and One day Horse First Aid Courses across the UK, together with qualified vets. These courses and workshops are designed for horse owners to update their knowledge on preventative health care, wounds, colic and infectious diseases, and have been developed together with vets. As with with human first aid recommendations for Horse First Aid change over the years, and these courses are the perfect opportunity to ask the vet lots of questions and enjoy a relaxed day of training, or you can learn at your own pace with the online course.