Chapter 3 – What can trigger founder?

The metabolic imbalance referred to above doesn’t usually start in the feet, but the feet are where the problem settles. The settling of these toxins and excess fluids in the feet become the catalyst that sets in motion the problems the feet are about to encounter. Triggers of founder are wide and varied, but some of the more common causes are gorging out on sweet feed, obesity, adverse reaction to vaccinations, poisoning, or harsh and abrupt changes to diet. Other causes can be from bringing in a new horse to the herd or removing a herd-bound pasture buddy, moving from one barn to another, moving from one extreme climate or environment to another without adequate adaptation time to the new extremes, or it can be from simply feeding your horse food that’s way too rich for his level of use or exercise, i.e., feeding your pasture-pet the same type rations as a Kentucky Derby race horse. It can very well be a formula for disaster.

Founder can be a secondary issue brought on by colic, trauma to the body, retained placenta, or sometimes even surgeries that go awry. None of these are certain to cause founder, but founder can certainly be a side affect of each.

Notice I have not mentioned grass as a cause of founder. I have a reason for that. Remember I mentioned that founder is typically brought on by a combination of things? Well, grass can be one of these things, but it’s usually the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’; not the true cause of the founder in the first place. A common example might be the horse is given one of it’s scheduled wormers, all of it’s vaccines, there’s plenty of rain and then sunshine and the grass comes on strong, combined with the fact that the horse never burned off it’s remaining fat coming out of winter. Now you have a recipe for founder. The grass isn’t what cases the founder, but it’s only part of the recipe for it. Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but I personally believe true grass founders are few and far between. In my opinion, when a horse ‘grass founders’, it is because the horse has already been set up for founder in the first place. The possible causes I mentioned above, combined with chemically changing grasses, can, and do, push these horses over the edge. Horses are designed to eat grass, hay and other roughage types of vegetation. They were designed to be able to forage on many varied grasses, leaves and barks. They receive a balanced diet picking and choosing sources of minerals and nutrients that their body needs. Free-range natural sources are ideal. They weren’t designed to be fed gourmet meals with all the trimmings according to what we, man, feel they need. What we manufacture to be fed to our horses is NOT what they get by free grazing and foraging. To further validate my beliefs about grass and founder, please refer to an article written by Dr. Dan Moore of the Natural Horse Vet. The article can be found at and the article is entitled Perfect Pastures. This article states much of what I have long believed to be true. So, high potency diets, complete with all the treats, little or no exercise, little or no chance to burn fat and calories, all help to set the horse up for problems. The question is when, not if, something will happen. That is, providing you don’t change how and what he’s fed and how and when he’s exercised.