Whether we’ve lost a horse to laminitis, or ached for those that have battled it, laminitis is something all of us can agree on; we continually hope equine researchers will discover a cure.
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Kip Deville. Barbaro. Secretariat. All were champions, and all share the lamentable status of having eventually succumbed to an illness that haunts all horse owners: laminitis. Whether we’ve lost one of our own horses to the insidious disease, or whether we’ve ached for the caretakers, veterinarians, and brave horses that have battled it for months at a time, exhausting every treatment option, laminitis is something all of us opinionated horsepeople can agree on–we continually hope equine researchers will discover a cure.

My first memory of laminitis takes me back to first grade. I sensed something terrible the morning my parents drew all the shades on windows on the back side of the house that faced the barn and pasture and forbade me to look outside. The American Saddlebred they’d purchased on their honeymoon, Star (the first horse I’d ridden as a toddler), was going to be put down because she’d foundered and was beyond our veterinarian’s help. The man operating the backhoe was at work. I was confused and my mom was in tears.

I recall watching the 1990 Kentucky Derby coverage a few years later, during which I saw tribute footage of a muddy Secretariat happily wheeling around his pasture (video taken before his death in October 1989). It was hard to believe such a vibrant animal had lost his fight.

Through my teenage years I would ride past Star’s grave and wonder whether laminitis was something that was going to end the life of every horse it hit. Since then, and in my last 11 years at The Horse, I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch researchers from all over the country and world peel back the layers of laminitis, learning more about the metabolic processes that typify it, uncovering evidence about better treatment methods, and examining new ways to prevent the disease in the first place

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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