Okay, before we get started, stop what you’re doing and knock on wood.
At the risk of sending Anastasia into a spiral of pain and me into a frenzy of panic and desperation, I’ve been asked to share what we’re doing to keep our little angel’s chronic laminitis at bay. Let’s hope this doesn’t jinx her.
I can’t tell you which of our remedies is working. I can only tell you that something is working, so we’re going to continue on our current path until it stops working.
Remission is not a foreign concept for Ani. We’ve been here before, believing all our efforts were magically keeping her comfortable and advancing her toward complete healing. Then, about three months in to her treatment plan with wooden clogs and strict diet, the bottom fell out and Ani was lame and hobbling again. I have her relapse down to two possible causes, but it’s just as likely the third:
- I shouldn’t have added soaked beet pulp to her strict diet but she convinced me she was starving to death.
- A 30+-degree drop in temperature may have triggered laminitis.
- It happens, and there’s nothing you can do but respond immediately.
Rapid response to acute laminitis episode
To avoid permanent damage from a laminitis flare-up, it’s essential to act immediately. The farrier came within hours of our call.
We first assumed Ani’s pain was due to an abscess. The conditions were right, and the farrier said her pulses weren’t strong enough to indicate laminitis. Thankfully, the treatment was about the same.
We gave her Bute for pain relief and removed her wood clogs (it was time anyway), then started the soaking and wrapping process.
Removing the clogs and placing Ani in wraps took the pressure off her hoof walls. The therapeutic inserts I designed also shift the pressure from Ani’s coffin bone and sole to her cushioned heels.
Our vet prescribed nitroglycerin cream – a vasodilator we rubbed on her ankle arteries – and an injectable vasodilator we administered twice a day. The redistribution of weight and medications got the blood flowing through her feet to encourage healing.
The acute response was not a cure. It was designed to end the inflammation while we addressed the core cause of Ani’s condition: Her diet. Without resolving her metabolic issues, we’ll be in a constant cycle of pain and remission and guessing and wondering.
Addressing the core cause of chronic laminitis
Anastasia will always be susceptible to painful episodes of laminitis because of a metabolic disorder that affects her body’s ability to use sugar and starch.
So, every time I put Ani out in the pasture, I give her the same lecture.
“Ani,” I say, “You have to slow down. You can’t eat grass like other horses. You’re a grown woman. This is up to you.”
Of course I’m being ridiculous. Horses are smart, but they’re not smart enough to understand dietary constraints or to self regulate to save their lives. Metabolic horses like Ani can’t graze freely, or eat grain, or treats or any other of the goodies horses love.
As much as it broke my heart at first, after a couple of episodes of Ani limping around in agony, I got used to the idea of keeping her on a dry lot where she can’t engorge herself on sweet grass like a normal horse. Alive and comfortable in an ugly paddock is better than laying down in a lush green pasture because she’s in too much pain to get up. Think of it as Tough Love.
Feeding our metabolic horse
Metabolic horses require the lowest possible sugar and starch in their diets. Here’s what we’re currently feeding Ani:
- Mixture of Timothy and prairie hay (low in non-structured carbohydrates)
- Soaked Timothy pellets
- Soaked Purina hydration hay
- Cup of ground flax seed
- Cup of black sunflower seeds
We stuff nets and a ball full of hay and hang them around Ani’s pen. The free-swinging nets and ball slow her eating and make her work for her food. Placing the hay nets around her pen encourages her to move around and keep her blood circulating.
Magic potions to address laminitis
I’m learning that the key to treating laminitis in metabolic horses is circulation and inflammation.
In addition to Ani’s very controlled diet, she takes Thyrol-L to stimulate her thyroid. We also feed several natural remedies for metabolism, blood flow and inflammation.
The black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) we add to Ani’s feed provide Omega-6 fat and proteins the other horses get from grazing. We offset the overload of Omega 6 from the BOSS with a cup of ground flax seed – rich in Omega 3 fats. It may seem counter-intuitive to feed an easy keeper fat, but Ani’s fat pockets on her neck, tail head and shoulders are actually shrinking with the changes we’ve made.
When horses are allowed to graze, the fresh grasses provide the perfect balance of Omegas 6 and 3. While BOSS’s high O6 can act as an inflammatory, the addition of flax’s O3 creates a balance like that of grass, which acts as an anti-inflammatory. You can also add chia seeds to balance the BOSS, but it’s important to provide balance.
Ani gets a biotin supplement to strengthen her hooves. If she’s in pain, we give her a dose of MSM in her feed.
All horses are different. I’m just telling you what’s working for Ani right now.
Turmeric mixture for insulin resistance and laminitis - and me
I’ve also developed an herbal mix we add to Ani’s (and other horses’) feed once a day. After tons of research into natural remedies for my own inflammation and aging, I came up with a concoction I feed to Ani and other horses (and myself). Since we started adding the mixture, we’ve seen improvement in hoof and sole thickness and quality, skin condition, healing and energy.
Personally, I can definitely feel if I miss a daily dose. Foggy brain, aches and pains and overall sluggishness take over my life until I mix up a new batch and get back on track. Every time I feed, I pop a spoonful of the magic mix in my mouth. Fair warning, it tastes NASTY, so have a cup of warm water ready to wash it down.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
- Reduce heat and stir in 4 cups organic turmeric
- 1 cup grapeseed extract powder
- 1/2 cup Boswellia
- 1/2 cup yucca powder
- 1/4 cup ginger powder
- 1/4 cup cinnamon powder
- Stir over low heat until you get a thick paste (approximately 6 to 10 minutes)
- Once you get the consistency right, add 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1 cup rice oil (or ghee, cold pressed olive, or un-refined coconut oil)
- I’ve added honey for taste, but Ani can’t have sugars.
I put the paste in a cookie sheet and store it in the refrigerator for a good 2-week supply.
To serve, put a couple of teaspoons in warm water until it dissolves into a liquid. Pour the liquid over grain or grass pellets and mix well.
Once you know your horse can tolerate the mix, work your way up to at least a tablespoon per feeding.
Ancient healing properties
How the heck did I come up with that mixture? Tons of research – and Amazon.com.
Turmeric (yes, the cooking herb) is well known for its almost miraculous healing and preventative powers. I’ve come to believe everyone should be taking it – for basically everything.
For metabolic horses especially, studies indicate a bioactive agent of turmeric – curcumin – may reverse damage from metabolic syndrome, including obesity and insulin resistance.
Curcumin has been medically proven to remove heavy metals from the blood, and contains “antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-purulent, immunomodulating, anticatabolic, genoprotective, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has anticarcinogenic, antiproliferative, antiviral, insulin-sensitizing, androgenic, antifibrotic, renoprotective, anticoagulant, antiseptic, and antioxidant agents,” according to a November 2019 article on newswire.net.
More powerful than NSAIDs like Bute and Bantamine, curcumin has natural anti-inflammatory properties that help manage pain while preserving and protecting the stomach and internal organs.
A 2008 study by the National Institutes of Health found curcumin has an insulin-sensitizing effect, which aids in the treatment of insulin resistance (which leads to laminitis). Curcumin had a significant effect on glucose and glucose tolerance, as well as insulin resistance.
We also used the mixture to aid in the final stages of Ralphie’s healing, after more than a year fighting infections in his broken tail. In addition to being a powerful antibiotic and antimicrobial, a recent study proved curcumin also aids in nerve regeneration, so we continue to feed it to Ralphie in hopes he’ll regain his ability to swish.
Alright, so that’s turmeric. What about the other ingredients?
Grapeseed extract (GSE) powder, also rich in antioxidants, is a proven anti-inflammatory that aids in blood circulation and healing. Studies show it also inhibits the oxidation of fat in the blood and significantly lowers blood glucose concentrations.
GSE is also believed to improve collagen levels and bone (hoof) strength.
Boswellia and Yucca
Boswellia and Yucca are ingredients in several over-the-counter anti-inflammatory treatments for horses. That’s because both have been used for centuries to support joint health. Boswellia is a botanical medicine recognized for its fast acting natural anti-inflammatory properties, while Yucca is showing promise in not only treating, but preventing arthritis.
Ginger root is a natural vasodilator, which opens the blood vessels and encourages circulation – essential to hoof health and healing. Ginger is also a natural analgesic pain reliever and stress reducer. The ancient healing root has the added benefit of inhibiting the production of cortisol.
The jury is still out on cinnamon for horses, but those who believe in it say it helps with glucose clearance. How you know something is helping with glucose clearance is over my head. Some studies suggest cinnamon helps cells respond to insulin, which moves sugar through the blood, then deposits it into cells. I had it in my kitchen, and I couldn’t find any articles suggesting cinnamon is harmful, so I added it.
The pepper and rice oil (or ghee or other organic, pure oil) aid in absorption of turmeric. I’ve been using rice oil because it’s high in healthy fats, which Ani still needs, even though she’s a Fatty McFatterson.
Filtered water for horses with laminitis
I read an article by a woman who swore she saw immediate improvement in her insulin resistant horses when she started filtering their water.
Complete with photos, charts and documents, she presented a case that water filters (made for recreational vehicles) ended decades of death and hardship brought on by laminitis – within two weeks.
“The horses looked as if someone popped them with a pin,” she marveled. “They shrank and looked like different horses.”
The author said her two surviving geldings (out of six horses affected by laminitis), Robin and Kurt (pictured), went from barn-bound hay eaters to normal horses that can eat as much spring pasture as their little hungry hearts desire, all because she attached RV water filters to the hose she uses to fill their troughs.
So guess what? Our horses now get filtered water.