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Founder question - can high heels cause founder?

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  • Founder question - can high heels cause founder?

    Hi All,

    Just a quick disclaimer before I post to say that my vet is coming out in a couple days to do a full exam, including x-rays, but I just wanted to hear your opinions and experiences. Always like to build some extra horse knowledge with people who have been in similar situations.

    So, my trimmer noticed that my young (18 months old) draft is not bearing weight on her right hind correctly. At first glance she looks fine but get in close and you can see a small gap (few mils) between her right hind heel and the ground. The heel on that side is also higher than the heel on the hind left, also indicating that she is not bearing weight on that heel.

    She has been growing extremely fast and, during one particularly fast growth spurt, developed high heels (in spite of regular trimming), on both sides (but the right is worse). The trimmer has suggested that the higher than normal heels could have led to founder.

    Sounds sensible to me and obviously the x-rays and exam will show for sure but was just wondering whether anyone has or has had a horse that foundered due to high heels and, if so, how did you treat the problem?

    Just to complete the picture, this mare is a very good weight, does not eat any grain at all, doesn't graze on fresh grass (we're high desert) and is fed a mixture of bermuda and alfalfa, the majority of which is bermuda (about 80%). Oh yeah, and at 18 months old she stands 16hh!!.

  • #2
    Maybe you have a calcium/phosphorus imbalance and she is not growing properly from it?

    Without grain and with alfalfa, so rich in calcium, alfalfa is great for youngsters because of the extra protein, protein being one of the limiting growth nutrients, you may also not be getting enough phosphorus, a common possible problem in growing young horses in the SW.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks Bluey, I'll mention that to the vet.

      Feeding young Clydesdales (or any Clydesdale, actually) is a bit of a challenge because their metabolism is pretty different to other breeds plus they tend to be prone to panosteitis. In general it's best to steer away from grain or, if they need some extra get up and go, feed a little plain oats. Either way, I'll def let the vet know what she's eating and ask about calcium to phosphorous ratio.

      Other than the non-weight bearing heel she's in very good shape. Bright eyes, great shine to her coat, plenty of muscle.


      • #4
        Originally posted by 4THEHORSES View Post

        The trimmer has suggested that the higher than normal heels could have led to founder.
        No. But founder, among other things, can cause faster growth in the heels. Conjecture might make a person erroneously mix up cause and affect.
        In a fast growing youngster on your excellent diet, I would not suspect a metabolic induced laminitis/founder. Maybe starting to develop a slightly clubby foot? Does the horse spread its legs to eat? If so, get the food higher until her neck length catches up to her leg length.
        Are you feeding your horse like a cow? www.safergrass.org


        • Original Poster

          Katy Watts, thank you for your reply. I haven't really noticed whether she spreads her legs when she eats but I'll look out for it over the next few days.

          Her legs are def very long compared with her neck at the moment and her back end has just come up again.

          Club foot has also crossed my mind.

          I can easily bring her food up higher so I'll do that tonight. I have also noticed that her gait is a little off. I can quite describe it but the right hind is not moving as it should.

          Wondering whether I should ask to vet to x-ray further up while she's out. Just incase it isn't a foot issue? Most of her turnout is supervised but it's still possible that one of the other two has kicked her or she's done something stupid and I didn't notice at the time.


          • #6
            Originally posted by 4THEHORSES View Post
            Thanks Bluey, I'll mention that to the vet.

            Feeding young Clydesdales (or any Clydesdale, actually) is a bit of a challenge because their metabolism is pretty different to other breeds plus they tend to be prone to panosteitis. In general it's best to steer away from grain or, if they need some extra get up and go, feed a little plain oats. Either way, I'll def let the vet know what she's eating and ask about calcium to phosphorous ratio.

            Other than the non-weight bearing heel she's in very good shape. Bright eyes, great shine to her coat, plenty of muscle.
            Straight oats is what has traditionally been used in the SW to compensate, as those are higher in phosphorus.
            If your horse is already showing some signs of that problem, supplementation for a bit may be necessary.

            Your vet should be the one to help you there, as it probably has had other breeders with such problems here and there, it is a common problem in the SW.


            • #7
              so I've never heard of a horse putting more weight onto it's toe during a founder episode. Generally they're rocking onto their heels to relieve weight on their toes where their laminae are inflamed or pulling away from the hoof wall.

              If my horse was having a lot of quick growth spurts I'd be a little worried she was getting clubby or having some sort of weird minor hind contracted tendons issue. Also, by "a very good weight" do you mean fat and sassy, or slightly ribby and gangly? I like my yearlings to look a little on the lean side, and maybe "normal" if they are about to sprout up.

              I'd definitely have a vet investigate.

              I don't know much about phosphorous deficiencies so I cannot comment there, although calculating your horses needs based on age, height, and weight might give you a better idea of whether she is deficient in anything.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for all the replies and suggestions.

                yourcolorfuladdiction: by "a very good weight" i mean she's right where i'd expect her to be for her height/age/breed. Normal during non-growth periods and a bit on the ribby side for a while when she shoots up. My idea of normal is no visible ribs when standing square but press a little and you can feel them. Bend her to either side and a couple of ribs will show. No hip bones, spine, etc visible. And by ribby I mean visible ribs but no hip bones, spine etc showing.

                Anyway, vet is due out tomorrow morning so I'll update on her findings but thanks again for the replies. Keeping fingers crossed.


                • Original Poster

                  Well, the X-Ray shows a club foot. So glad it was picked up early on!


                  • #10
                    Yeah but what's causing it? Did she damage the DDFT in that foot/leg? Seems odd to me that an 18 month old would suddenly develop a rear club foot without some type of injury.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 4THEHORSES View Post
                      Well, the X-Ray shows a club foot. So glad it was picked up early on!
                      What makes the vet say the foot is a club?

                      The OP makes it sound like something is uncomfortable in that foot/leg, therefore not fully weighting the foot, which often leads to a more worn toe and a not worn heel, which makes the foot go upright. That doesn't mean it's a club foot though
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                      • Original Poster

                        Hi both, I'm at work so only spoke very briefly with the vet but I'll chat with her in detail tonight or tomorrow. She just said that the X-Ray showed a significant abnormality in that foot and that taking into account all other factors including her age and stage of development that she is developing a club foot.

                        As to the underlying cause of the problem, I don't know as yet but will be asking for whatever diagnostics are necessary to figure it out. I know that club foot can be genetic and present right form day 1 however I'd be really surprised if this is the case. The vet mention that this is appears to be a developmental issue, plus she's extremely well bred. It could be due to the fact that she had one particular growth spurt that was extremely fast. That could have led to something along the lines of a contracted tendon. The vet did say she was sound on the initial lameness exam although I'm still convinced I can see a subtle abnormality in her gait. Either way I'll make sure we figure out what's going on.


                        • #13
                          Here is an interestin article from UC Davis. I would suspect developmental problems in your case.

                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                          • Original Poster

                            merrygoround: I thin so too, it makes most sense. However, will see what else the vet has to say.