Managing a Laminitic Pony’s Overgrown Hooves

The end result of laminitis is often a discrepancy in hoof growth, in which the heels grow faster than the toe

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Laminitis is the result of systemic disease with local consequences in the feet–including mismatch in growth between toes and heels. Ponies on rich pasture seem especially vulnerable to laminitis. The end result is often a discrepancy in hoof growth, in which the heels grow faster than the toe due to compromised blood supply to the inflamed laminae in the toe. This mismatch in hoof growth initially causes an excessively long heel. If the hoof is not trimmed appropriately, and often, the extra heel horn collapses and the heels become under run. If affected feet are left untrimmed for many months, support literally grows out from under the animal and he is walking on the collapsed heels; the hooves become shaped like Aladdin’s slipper, turning up at the toes.

During the summer of 2007 I worked with a rescued 10-year-old laminitic Miniature pony gelding in which all four hooves were severely overgrown. His feet had gotten to the point that he was uncomfortable standing. He spent most of his time lying down, reluctant to get up and walk to water. When he did walk, it was very slowly and cautiously. He had chronic laminitis and reportedly had several episodes believed to be associated with grass overload. The pony displayed a characteristic laminitic stance with forelimbs placed out in front and hind limbs positioned under his body.

The left front foot was most severely affected. All of his heels were underrun, and he was walking on the exterior hoof wall. The sole and frog of the front hooves were visible from the front of the pony.

After an examination to determine his health status and radiographs of his feet, I felt we could help him. Radiographs showed the bones had minimal changes. There was very little degenerative joint disease in the coffin joint; there was minimal bone deformity, even though the alignment was completely off since the hooves were so overgrown. The hoof-pastern axis was broken backward in all four feet

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