My Winter Laminitis Struggles

I mentioned in a much earlier post, I had asked the vet to test Ava’s blood for iron levels…

The results of the Iron test:

Ava’s levels: 305 mg/dl.

Normal range is: 105 – 277

Below are links for information on iron levels and laminitis:

“The role of iron overload as a risk factor for IR (Fernandez-Real et al, 2002; Jehn et al, 2004), and therapeutic effect of lowering body iron levels (Fargion, 2005; Piperno, 2004), has been documented in man”

More links related to high Iron/laminitis:

I was told by another vet that although Iron and laminitis show a correlation. No causation has been proven. But high iron has other issues, so needs to be addressed either way.

Nutrient Requirement Calculator:

No Iron added Supplements:

Vermont Blend – $72.00 (60 day supply) $1.20 per day.

U-BALANCE FOUNDATION – $159.95 (60 day supply) $2.67 per day.

California Trace Plus – $70 (40 day supply) $1.75 per day.

All have free shipping. Vermont Blend will send a free sample.

Ava loves the Vermont Blend. She will eat it straight. Joy isn’t quite as fond. She doesn’t hate it, she just doesn’t really care either way.

Since I’m not feeding grain, and neither horse likes beet pulp, I’m looking for a supplement, or ration balancer, with no iron that both will eat without requiring additional prep.

Nothing New

I forgot to post this. This is from July 25th. I’ll update on a new post. 

I had the Vet back the 19th (July). Nothing new to report. Vet put Joy at a 5.5 on Henneke body scale. Ava at a 6, and Jessie at a 6.5.

The new farrier came July 11th. I like the angles of Joy’s feet much better. He was incredibly patient and kind to the horses. All of the feet looked dramatically better after he was finished. Ava’s back to bossing the rest of the crew around, bucking and trotting around the pasture. 

Joy hasn’t been sound at all since the last time she was trimmed (May 26th). She seemed more comfortable immediately after trim. Not dramatically different, but less ouchie. She’s slowly been getting better and better since this last trim. 

When new farrier trimmed Joy’s hind feet on the 11th, this is what we saw:

Front feet didn’t look like this. 

Lyme tests on Ava and Joy came back negative. Both horses on Magnesium and 1/2 a cup  (measuring cup) of grain with grass hay twice a day since December. 

I have a some tweaks I need to make to their diet to add in the nutrients and fats they need. I’m not sure I understand what and how much yet. I was kind of wishing an Equine Nutritionist would suddenly appear, but I’d never have the money to afford them. 

I’ve been depressed. I hate when my horses aren’t comfortable. 

Outdoor Riding All Year

In Michigan, an indoor is rather mandatory if you want to ride consistently all year round. Without it, you’re at the whim of nature, and let me tell ya, nature isn’t too kind around here in the winter.

I haven’t ridden since December 26th. Everything has been covered in a layer of ice. It finally melted late last week. I was able to lunge Joy Friday, but Saturday it rained all day, today it is snowing like crazy (and it’s only in the 20’s), and tomorrow I leave for Texas.


January is not looking like it’ll be very productive for under saddle training.

I worked on getting Joy used to the clippers yesterday. That went far better than I had expected. At first she snorted and moved back a bit, but within 5 minutes she was ignoring them completely.  I didn’t actually touch Joy with the clippers running yesterday. Only with them off. Since I have the time, I figured I’d do small increments of desensitization with a slow progression (since I have a tendency to rush these kinds of things).

Ava, who was snooping through the stall bars, got all kinds of wiggy when I turned the clippers on. Snorting and blowing and acting like she’d never heard these strange contraptions before. She’s never been super about clipping, so I suppose this is a good thing for her too. It just surprised me that she would react as she did when she’s been clipped a good number of times in her life.

This is one of the aspects I love about having my horses at home. I have the time and ability to spend a few minutes every day just working on clipper desensitization. Heck, I can hang the clippers from the stall wall if I want. Whatever I need to do to help the horse get used to them, I can do, because I own the joint. Haha. It’s really nice to have that freedom.

Oh, and it is so freaking awesome to have outlets at each stall. It meant I could plug the clippers in anywhere I needed them. No more extension cord running the entire length of the barn getting wrapped up in legs and stepped on. Woo Hoo!

Ava Update:

I’ve got Ava on one really small handful of grain twice a day in order to give her her supplement. Then she gets pretty much free choice hay, but its mainly in a slow feeder hay bag. I know she’s lost weight since she developed laminitis, but it doesn’t seem like she’s losing very much. I’m not sure what to do about that. The weather makes it really difficult to exercise her. I’m not gung-ho about limiting her hay.

October 12, 2015

She developed laminitis November 26, 2015.

January 9th, 2016

I have to get the vet back out, do a full work up on her. See what else is needed, or what I need to change, so that I can get Ava back to full health. I know she’s not sneaking anyone else’s grain. She’s only getting crappy grass hay. There’s no grass in the pasture. She doesn’t get any treats or extra feedings. Nothing. I’m beginning to think the mare can live off air. Which is extremely sad, because Ava so enjoys her food.

Joy’s also been on a diet, and she’s lost quiet a bit. I actually have Joy on more grain then I have Ava on. Double the amount of grain (same amount of hay). Both have had nearly the same amount of exercise this past month.  Yet Joy is losing weight, and Ava doesn’t seem to be losing very much.


Here’s a comparison from Dec to Jan:



She almost looks heavier now then she did in December!

Crap like this makes me want to sell all my horses and throw in the towel! I have no idea what I’m doing….

The Game

Ava must be feeling better.

As I walked out to fetch her from the field, Ava systematically led me to the furthest end of the pasture. Once there, Ava cantered and bucked her way back to the front of the pasture.

Me… halter in hand, making the long walk back to the front.

Once I got back to the front, Joy came over to sniff me. Then Ava walked over.

I walked Ava out of the pasture, and down the long lane bordering our property. At the back, it opens up to a field. Ava jerked her head up and froze. I could hear Joy bellowing back at the barn. Long, angry calls interspersed with the sound of galloping feet.

I led Ava around the ditch and down the path along the back edge of the property until we reached the trail through the pine tree’s. Ava whipped her head up and around, seeming to express either annoyance or excitment. I wasn’t sure which.

I tensed my grip on the lead. I never know if the head fling will be followed by a rear, or end there.

No rear. We followed the path through the pine tree’s as Joy galloped back and forth beside us in the pasture.

Back at the barn I brushed Ava down and cleaned her feet. She easily picked each up, but leaned back and forced the foot down when I held the left fore up too long. Still better than before. The concrete still makes her mince her steps.

I tried to weight tape her again. I’m over the weight tape. The arbitrary nature of it confuses me. Three measurements with three vastly different values this time. For some reason I was able to successfully tape her for three weeks. Now suddenly I’m stumped and unable to determine the exact spot to measure at. There’s got to be a better way to do this.

I put Ava back in her stall, and scratched her neck. She head bumped me softly in the chest and then went to work on the hay I’d left in there.


Today I saw two gray horses streak across the back field with their riders bent low over their necks. Three dogs trailed quietly behind them. I wanted to go with them. I was contemplating tacking up Joy and madly galloping out in hopes of catching up with them.

They were gone before I could even finish the thought.

Which was good, because I’m not ready to “madly gallop” Joy anywhere, let alone to catch two riders who are heading who knows where.

Ava’s Laminitis Update

It’s been approximately two and a half weeks since Ava started showing signs of laminitis.

I’ve been tearing my hair out over this.

On Nov 30th, Ava weighed 1,115lbs. Today she weighs 1,065lbs. She’s been losing roughly 15lbs every five days.

Frankly, I thought it’d be a dramatic weight loss of a hundred pounds a week when I took her off the grain.   Yeah, I’m an idiot.  Apparently I believed the grain was saving Ava from utter starvation.  Anyway, sans grain, Ava’s only losing about 15lbs a week.

She’s been largely confined to stall the last two weeks because she was so sore. Last weekend I started turning her out in the pasture with Joy and Jessie for a few hours a day. She’d hobble around for brief stretches before finding a quiet spot to lay down. She was down more than she was up.


The last two days though, Ava’s been on her feet the majority of the day.  She appears to be moving around with significantly less pain. And yesterday after I turned her out she was more than happy to bully the other two horses off their hay piles, and wander around the pasture. She’s even wandering up to the gate whenever one of us walks out there (which she hadn’t been before).

I think she’s getting better!! Fingers crossed!!

Ava update

Ava has made it clear that the pitiful handful of grain she’s getting is not satisfactory. The other morning I was changing her hay bag out for a full one when Ava lunged and snapped the air above my head. A split second after that she beat feet to the back of her stall with this “OMG! I’m in trouble now!!” look on her face.  Throughout this whole event, I was standing there holding a massive hay bag in mid-air while my sleep addled brain tried to figure out what just happened.

Moral of story – Hungry mares need watchful eyes.

I received the Heiro supplement in the mail and started Ava on it last Wednesday. It says to start them on 2 scoops, twice a day, for 5 days. I’m only giving Ava a tiny handful of grain in order to give her her bute. The Heiro stuff smells like cinnamon. I think it smells good. Ava made it clear I’ve ruined her pitiful portion of grain. She won’t eat the grain at all now. Which is saying a lot, because I’ve rarely seen Ava turn down anything.

So, I started shoving it down her throat like wormer. She’s sure I’m trying to kill her.  She goes to great lengths to prevent me from getting it in her mouth, but when I’ve just spent $150 dollars for this stuff, then it’s going in her one way or another.


I don’t think she looks fat. Maybe I’m biased. What do you think?



I have no idea what I’m doing. I have a piece of styrofoam the vet gave me, a bottle of bute, and some Heiro supplement. How does that fix this?!?!

I don’t know what I’m doing!!!!!






Poor Ava, she’s developed laminitis. Vet has given her a good prognosis, but I’m a horrible, horrible horse mom for allowing this to happen.

I went out Thursday after Thanksgiving festivities to feed the horses. Ava, the food hound, is always the first one in, but that day she was last. She seemed very sore and when I took her out of the stall she had the characteristic leaning back stance that usually marks laminitis. I checked her fronts for heat and pulse, but honestly they didn’t seem hot to me, and I couldn’t find the pulse at all. Which probably just proves I’m a terrible horse mom.

After a frantic call to the vets office, they said banamine, then switch to bute the next day, and ice the feet. I waited out the weekend to see if there was improvement, but by Sunday I knew I had to call the vet. Monday morning the vet was out. I had been holding out hope for a diagnosis of bruised soles, or something equally benign, but the vet squashed that pretty quickly.

I was confused as to how Ava could get laminitis. I went over everything Ava gets for feed with the vet. I pointed out the complete lack of grass in the pasture. Vet agreed that Ava’s diet normally wouldn’t have been an issue. Ava is chunky, but not obese.

The vet thinks it’s related to insulin resistance. There’s a test for this which costs about $35 dollars, but the vet said your horse has to fast for a certain period of time and Ava had eaten earlier that day. We opted to assume insulin resistance and treat for that since there weren’t any other factors that jumped out as to why she would founder.

The vet suggested a supplement called Heiro, which she said they’ve gotten the best results from, so I bought a three month supply today (ouch). Hopefully it’ll arrive by Wednesday.  Ava will be on that for life now, so if any one is wondering what to buy me for Christmas…   hahaha

I’ve taken Ava off grain completely for the next couple of weeks (per vet suggestion).We’re going to try to get her down to 950 lbs (she’s at 1,115 lbs).  I have my trusty weight tape to track Ava’s weight loss. Once Ava’s lost some weight, then I need to transition her over to something like a ration balancer or a grass balancer.

The irony is that I had been slowly decreasing Ava and Joy’s grain the last few weeks to get both of them to drop some weight. Apparently I was too little, too late.

Farrier is supposed to come Thursday to roll Ava’s front toes to make break over quicker and hopefully reduce some of the pressure on soles.

Joy’s also on a diet.  I have to weight tape Joy today. I should’ve asked the vet for an estimate on what the ideal weight for Joy.

I now have two very surly, hungry mares in my barn. If I don’t make it out of the barn, tell my husband I love him.

Vet said there’s some rotation of the coffin bone in both feet, but that she believes Ava can make a full recovery.  That poor mare though. Bad enough she has a stifle injury, now I’m trying to kill her with laminitis.

Here are the x-rays. I love that vets can email me copies of the xrays. How awesome is that?


Right Front

Right Front

Left Front

Left Front


Five hundred dollars later… I have a plan in place for getting Ava back to sound, and hopefully I can prevent any re-occurrences of this in the future.

I still feel like crap that I allowed this to happen to her. Hopefully all goes well and she’ll be back to her old self soon.

Hubby bought me two Multi-Purpose Neoprene gel wraps today so I can ice Ava’s feet more easily. I was using bags of peas with vet wrap. That doesn’t work so well. The gel wraps worked great though. Ice pack fits inside them, you wrap it around the hoof, and it velcro’s to itself wherever you need it to go. I left those on her for over an hour today while I cleaned stalls and water buckets. I imagine if she were more active those wouldn’t work as well, but Ava’s pretty stationary as long as she has hay in front of her.