Until recently, myths about laminitis were many and varied because not a great deal was known about how this distressing condition could be prevented. In the last 10 years however, there has been truly an explosion in our knowledge. The role of diet, exercise and hormonal conditions (Equine Metabolic syndrome, Cushings disease) are now well understood.
Recuperation from a bout of laminitis is centred mainly on dietary control to achieve weight loss linked to controlled exercise after a period of box rest. This will diminish the likelihood of chronic damage caused by the laminitis and also lessen the chances of a subsequent episode. At Woodpecker Stables we are particularly interested in the correct dietary management of horses. Our aim is to reach a body state in a laminitic patient that if maintained, another episode of laminitis would be extremely unlikely.
Tying up (Azoturia)
In most affected horses, tying up is a unique event in some horses. In a minority of horses that have a genetic predisposition to tying up, it is a constant danger and if incorrectly managed episodes will recur frequently. Most isolated cases of “Tying up” (Sporadic) are linked to excessive quantities of starch intake with little work, followed by severe exercise. It is a very painful condition. The muscles become very hard, inflamed and sore and dietary management is important with all hard feeds being removed.
Pain relief and box rest with a gradually ascending walking out programme generally leads to a return to normal work within 2 to 3 weeks. For those horses which suffer recurrent bouts of “Tying up”, due most likely to a predisposition, attention to diet is vital. Hard feed should be minimal and oil based rather than carbohydrate based. Feed should be high in fibre content and any increase in feed must always be preceded by increase in work. In all but the most severely afflicted horses, “Tying up” is a manageable condition with which horses are still able to enjoy active working lives.
Upward fixation of the patella (locking stifle)
Locking stifle is actually a normal phenomenon but occurring at an abnormal time! The ability of the horse’s stifle to lock means it is able to sleep while standing up. Locking stifle becomes a problem when the stifle simply refuses to release or when it occurs momentarily (“catches”) when the horse is walking. Because the patella is connected to the rectus femoris muscle (part of the Quadriceps), then conservative management revolves around building up the bulk of this muscle and tightening up the muscle/patella/ligament complex. Building up the muscle is best achieved by a regular routine of hill work and sometimes supplementation with a muscle stimulating nutritional supplement. If this is unsuccessful, a relatively minor operation carried out in the sedated standing horse is very effective.
This operation involves making a few fine incisions into the patellar ligament causing it to thicken and become less flexible, thus preventing locking up. The operation is followed by a regimented walking out programme from the box and the horse should be back to normal work within one month.