Chapter 11 – Does a horse’s environment play a factor in treatment?

Treatment for full-blown founder will absolutely vary with each horse. Each case must be evaluated thoroughly before a treatment plan is identified. As stated above, every founder case is different and each one requires it’s own tailored treatment plan. Why? Well, let’s take twin foals as examples. They were born, nursed and started off with exactly the same nutrition and environment. Let’s say they were weaned and separated from the mare at the same time and all was well and let’s say they weren’t sold until they were 6 years of age, one to, say, Southern California and the other moves to Florida. For the sake of the argument, we’ll say they are Morgan’s and they were born in New Hampshire. They were each brought up in a Northeastern climate, with soil and rocks and rolling pasture. They grazed on indigenous grasses and hays, once they were able to. They are right at the point of maturity and they are very accustomed to their environment. They each received the customary visits by the vet (shots, teeth, wormings) and regular visits by the farrier. The farrier always performed adequate trims; never shoes, and the vet always gave the twins clean bills of health. So, on the same day, they each head to their new homes. Both areas are hot. One is very humid and the other is not. One has rocks and dirt and lots of hills, the other is flat and sandy and grassy. The one in Florida has pasture and the other is confined to 12’x 24’ stalls, because pastureland is not readily available in much of Southern California. And to continue the ‘what if’, we’ll say that they continue to both get the type of feed they received in New Hampshire, but not the hay. These horses now are forced to adapt to new climates, new soil types, new grass (or no grass), new water, new insects, new hours of light, new types of weather, new levels of activity, new means of handling, new levels of stress and new levels of chemical compounds in their bodies. Virtually everything surrounding these horses has changed even though they were virtually identical for the first 6 years of their lives.

Now, for the sake of the argument, let’s say both horses foundered. They are of the same breed and blood. They are twins with no prior issues; ever. However, they both foundered, but for different reasons. The Florida twin was stressed by heat, humidity, different relenting insects and the new owners lack of conditioning before starting this horse’s training for Eventing. Heat stress, combined with the other elements, taxed this horses’ system until it broke down. Twin #2 in Southern California, was fully shod upon arrival, was stalled 24×7 for weeks before beginning training, began picking up bad habits such as cribbing, became difficult to handle, was ridden hard over rough terrain, received infrequent shoeings, was fed high protein hay and feed, and became heavier with infrequent, but hard use.

Conditions for this horse’s founder has been set in place. It takes a while, but the horse finally founders. Degradation of the feet, low activity, overly high quality feed, changes in the personality and behavior causing changes in the body chemistry, and desert weather extremes all combine together to finally push this horse over the edge. Because of the differences in all elements surrounding each horse, the care for each horse will be almost completely different. The very basics of their trim should be the same (heels down, toes back and round off the edges), but everything else surrounding their care and rehabilitation will have to be different. The reason is, one is in Florida with all which that entails, weather, pasture and mobility, etc., and the other is in Southern California where there is virtually no turnout, many rocks, very hard ground, different weather, different everything. The recovery of each horse must be tailored to match each horse in each environment and each circumstance. Cookie cutter approaches to founder fail unless the horse is already in the situation in which that treatment was designed for. This, to me, is not logical thinking and it’s not the way I work.