Current research suggests that laminitis has either metabolic or vascular causes. The First International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot made no apologies for presenting laminitis research in its current state of incompletion. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine hosted the conference at Florida’s Palm Beach Ritz Carlton Resort on Feb. 8-9, when 16 speakers presented practical and research-oriented insights into laminitis and founder.

In spite of disagreement on the hows and whys of laminitis, the laminitis research community exchanged ideas fluently and candidly. All agree that further research and funding are needed for a complete understanding of the debilitating disease.

David Hood, DVM, of Texas A&M University, headlined a group from his laboratory that presented research reinforcing that laminitis is caused by a disruption in the blood flow to the foot. Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, of the University of Queensland in Australia, countered Hood’s ideas by detailing metabolic in vitro “triggering” of basement membrane damage by enzymatic factors, which results in irreparable destruction of the laminae linking the hoof wall to the inner foot structures (see “Stepping Ahead” on page 95).

A grant from John and Marianne Castle of Palm Beach and New York launched the conference, which included a luncheon dedicated to one of their horses, an Appaloosa named “Spot.” The Castles recalled their horse’s stoic endurance of treatments, support devices, and experimentation, and the ethical and emotional dilemmas they faced until the horse’s inevitable euthanasia. James Orsini, DVM of UPenn announced the formation of the Spot Foundation, which will be used to fund laminitis research and the launch of a laminitis research web site,