Founder and Laminitis – Effect of Hoof Form

 Founder & Laminitis (Under Construction)

The following diagram comes from the May ’99 issue of Practical Horseman:


This is a good depiction showing the progression from a healthy foot to a rotated one.  However, the heels which give us most of the information about the possibility of rotation, have been obscured.

The important information with respect to rotation, laminitis, and founder can be found in the thickness of the sensitive laminae, as well as the orientation of the coffin bone relative to them.  

laminitis3a.jpg                 sunny3.jpg

1.  Healthy Foot.  The sensitive laminae (pink) are close, tight, and parallel to the insensitive laminae (white line).  The actual foot resembles the shape of the healthy, diagrammed one.  With its low heel, the coffin bone is parallel to the toe wall which is the surest way to ensure a healthy white line and healthy, tight, laminae that can solidly suspend the coffin bone and prevent founder espisode.

laminitis4a.jpg                   logan2.JPG

2.  Mildly Pathological Foot.  The wall of the coffin bone is no longer parallel to the hoof wall which causes the laminae to stretch at the bottom and begin to adopt a ‘wedge-shape’: narrower at the top at wider at the bottom. This puts constant stress on the overstretched laminae towards the bottom.

laminitis5a.jpg                   crimmy2.JPG

3.  Severe Pathology. Founder – Rotation with Separation.  The ‘wedge’ is extreme now, with the laminae much longer at the bottom than the top.  The bone is far out of parallel with the hoof wall.  The constant downward stress and pull on the lower part of the laminae has caused them to fail, allowing the suspension of the bone to the inside of the hoof wall to be lost and the bone to rotate. 

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  1. OK, I’m trying to understand this. If the laminae have failed can you see it by looking at the foot from the bottom?

  2. No, usually you cannot. When you are looking at the white line on the bottom of the sole, you are seeing that narrow grey strip that is below the pink wedge on the diagram. Those are the insensitive laminae. Sometimes the white line does become wider and separated as a result of incorrect hoof form, and that gives you an indication that something is not right, but not necessarily that the laminae have failed, at least not yet. It could also just be a stretched white line from a too-long toe, with no effect on the laminae. The best way to see failing/failed laminae is on an xray, but if the damage is very slight, it can be hard to detect even then. The best defense is to ensure a low enough heel that the bone and the toe wall are parallel.

    You can however see the bulge in the sole when the bone has rotated, in some cases. This is what you’re seeing in the third diagram – founder. The bone is very close to the surface because the sole is so thin there and it can look like the sole is convex. The next step after this is actual penetration of the bone through the sole.

    I hope that helps clear it up somewhat. Please ask any more questions you might still have.

  3. Hi,
    did You ever have the case of recurrent acute laminitis only in hind hooves?
    My horse was suddenly very sore in both hinds, probably hooves are the reason – couldn’t really check with hoof testers, because she couldn’t stand with one leg up. Vet decided to treat for laminitis, gave a shot of nsaid and wanted to take x-rays a few days after, if it won’t improve. It improved much, so no x-rays, after about 2 weeks she was sound in walk, there was a 2cm long bruise in one hoof in front of the frog. nearly two months later – the same situation. again very sore in hinds only.
    She is obese for very long time (we’ll do the testing for ir once she’s better), eating grass/ hay and some beet pulp with vitamins.
    Hooves are now without stretched white line, growth pattern normal, a bit of a ring is visible on the hoof wall now, about 1 cm below the coronary band, rather equal in height, maybe a bit higher towards heels (but I’m not sure if I don’t seek it to be like this rather than it being really higher).

    • Hi Visenna,

      No, I personally have never had a case of recurrent laminitis in the hind hooves. It is rare compared to laminitis in front hooves but not unheard of. Hoof testers are not really the diagnostic for laminitis, they are more for locating the source of a focal type pain like an abscess. When laminitis is suspected you should check for digital pulses to confirm. And not wanting to lift the hind feet can mean the horse is unwilling to put more weight onto the front feet, so that the laminitis could actually be in the front feet.

      I’m glad to hear you are addressing her diet and weight issues. Not too much grass though (if any). And the acute nature suggested by the ring in the hoof wall suggests some sort of fever/toxic reaction to something, which is in fact the more likely scenario that shows up in the hinds.

  4. Please help ! I have 17yr old TB gelding I have had his entire life (ok about 10min old his mommy helped till he was 4months ) and has had the radio graphs he is so close to coming throughout his sole and the ppl I am having to work with I do not trust as they seem to think I just don’t need to know and don’t invite me to a very speedy and informational apt w farrier I don’t know and then get huffy when I ask what is going on and why wasn’t I told about the apt changes I had previously made.I have gone to the foam padding method as result of my own research and many many many hours so far in the last month and a half since graphs were taken. It seems to be the most successfully at least for the 1. st coupe months. I’m now going it alone and for outside help as non of them have given me a straight story and all stories are different HELP!!

    • Hi Suzi, I’m sorry to hear of your difficult situation with your gelding. You need to take charge of this situation and tell the people who are leaving you out of the loop to take a hike. Please contact me with pictures and your location so I can start helping you. Please email pictures to and call me at 917 940 9327 as soon as possible so we can start working on a plan to get your hourse right. The pads are a good first step.

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