Nature--and horsepeople--abhor a vacuum. Because so little is known about laminitis, our natural inclination is to fill the treatment void with made-up remedies. But recent research has shown that these courses of action can actually hinder your horse's recovery. Here are the four most common laminitis and founder old wives' tales--and the veterinary reality behind each one.
Myth:"Walk him out of it."
The reality: This remedy offered by some old-time horsemen may be fine for a pulled muscle, but today we know that for a horse with laminitis, forced exercise is one of the worst things you could do, because it increases the risk of permanent damage to the foot's supportive structures.
Myth:"Dunk his feet in ice water, and leave 'em there till the ice melts."
The reality: Although this may draw the heat out, it also may kill tissues already damaged from lack of blood supply, and it could cause spasming blood vessels to spasm longer.
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Myth:"If the coffin bone isn't rotated in his X-rays, it's not laminitis."
The reality: There's no rotation of the coffin bone in the first two stages of laminitis--it's only in the third and final stage that rotation occurs. Its presence confirms the diagnosis, but its absence doesn't negate it.
Myth:"Pour turpentine into a saucer, and hold it against the horse's navel. It'll suck it right up, and the founder'll be gone."
The reality: As outlandish as this treatment seems, people do still try it. Obviously, it doesn't work.
Karen Hayes is a equine practitioner based in Idaho.
This article first appeared in the April 2000 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.