Horse owners must be on guard against foundering!
Hope is dead.
Thatís a painful statement at any
time and in any situation.† Itís
especially painful to me now because I sold Hope, a beautiful
Mountain horses, and many other
breeds, are known as easy keepers.† That
means it takes very little food to keep them in optimum condition.† Too much food can cause a painful condition
called founder.† It can strike in a very short
Founder can be caused from
illness, stress, sometimes even vaccinations.†
However, the most common cause of founder is overeating.† And, the most common time for a horse to
founder is in spring when the new grass is filled with sugar.
Horses will gorge on the new
grass, causing serious weight gain and - if not properly managed - founder.
Precursors of founder include excess fat all over and a rock-hard crest of fat on the neck where the mane attaches.† Foundered horses will exhibit unwillingness to put weight on their front feet.† This is because founder causes the lamina to swell, making the feet hot and very painful.† Imagine having a giant, hot poker shoved under every toenail.
In the worst cases, the hoof can
detach or the coffin bone can come out through the bottom of the frog.† Such cases require a lot of time, care and
special shoeing.† Such cases also often
result in euthanasia.† Thatís what
happened to Hope.
Her owners apparently couldnít understand that Hope could not be left out on pasture.† She needed to be put in a grass-free corral and fed small amounts of dry, grass hay.
Horses donít have the sense to
quit eating when it causes them harm.†
Iíve seen horses so foundered they could not stand but would still graze
while lying down.† Thatís why itís the
ownerís responsibility to regulate the horseís feed and amount of consumption.
Once a horse has foundered, it will be more likely to founder again.† That makes attention and prevention is so important.
If founder is suspected, a veterinarian
should be called immediately.† He or she
will probably recommend an anti-inflammatory medication like
Some folks swear by placing a foundered horse in a cold stream to bring down the temperature of the feet.† Icepacks also are helpful.
Prevention is best.† Our 30 acres of pasture is divided into small
paddocks to accommodate our easy-keepers.†
We made the divisions by putting in T-posts and running strands of a
rope-like hot wire.
Most of the paddocks look like the green on a golf course all summer because the horses mow every blade as it appears.† I monitor their weight carefully and let them into new paddocks for a few hours daily Ė as their weight and energy output permit.† Obviously, a horse being ridden regularly will require more pasture time than a horse that is just standing around.
Become aware of your horseís
physical condition.† The ribs of a horse
in good weight will not be easily visible, but can be felt with slight
pressure.† The neck will be soft and
pliable.† There will be no bulge in the
mane area.† If you have questions, ask
your vet to evaluate your horseís weight.
Please take the time to monitor
your horseís physical condition.† One of
my horses, Chocolate Jewel, started to founder recently.† She looked fine at morning inspection but was
obviously lame when evening came.† The
pasture looked sparse, but apparently offered too many calories.
I called the vet, dosed Jewel with
the prescribed amount of medication and immediately removed her from pasture to
a dry lot.† She was sound when I took her
to the vet in the morning and has remained so Ė because I cut off the cause of
When sheís lost a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise, Iíll reintroduce her to an already closely grazed pasture for short periods of time.† She will probably always have to be watched closely and never just turned out day and night to graze.
However, with the program, sheíll also probably live to a ripe old age in complete soundness.† The extra time it will take to regulate her feed is more than worth it to me.
raises horses and writes from a 20-acre farm near