This study looked at rather the number of horses with laminitis, but the effectiveness of a treatment primarily based on trimming, diet and environmental conditions.  The purpose of the study was to “evaluate the outcome of laminitic horses subject to a specific managemtn program that emphasised a mineral balanced, low non-structural carbohydrate diet; daily excersize; hoof trimming that minimized hoof wall loading and re-established a lower palmar angle; and sole protection in the form of rubber hoof boots and / or hoof casts when needed for horse comfort and safety”

The study included a short term study and long term follow up of 14 obese horses (average body condition score of 8.5) with acute laminitis.  The management protocol used for this study is the same strategy in which I have learned through Kate.  It is exciting to read scientist papers evaluating the methods that I have seen in the field.

The first strategy of the care is to reduce hoof wall loading, encouraging the horse to bear weight on their sole, bars and heel buttress.  This was done by lowering the wall to sole level, then adding an extreme bevel to the hoof.  The heels were also brought down to 0.25 inches above sole level, if the horse was experiencing tender footedness due to the trimming method, hoof boots were used on the horse. Hoof casts were used for 1 horse whose owner was able to visit the horse every day to remove and clean the boots.

Weight loss through a diet of primarily hay, eliminating concentrates or sweet or starchy treats.  The average body score before the study was 8.5 and the average body score after was 5.0.  Turnout was encouraged on a dirt paddock, if this was not possible the horses were walked 30 – 45 minutes 2 – 3 times per day.  It was noticed that the horses pain seemed to decrease with exercise, it is hypothesised that this is due to the increased blood flow during movement.

The results of this study found that on the obel lameness scale horses in the study began at a 3.5 before treatment and after treatment were a 0.  In all horses there was a statistically significant decrease in the rotation of the distal phalanx.  This is particularly exciting, because there is a common myth that once rotation of the distal phalanx occurs, there is no chance of reducing the angle or healing the hoof.

I really liked that this study also provided a long term (range of 2 – 6 years) follow up of all 14 horses.  2 horses were euthanized on non-related problems, 1 acquired non – laminitic related chronic neurologic problems, 1 horse continued to experience chronic laminitis; however the remaining eight horses as reported by the owners returned to their pre – laminitic conditions and have remained sound and ridable.

It is very exciting to read the science behind the type of treatment that Kate administers for her clients.  This study agreed that this methodology was effective and that further study was needed to further the understanding of why it is effective.  However, the paper speculates that exercise, diet and barefoot treatment reduce pressures on the laminae allowing them to heal.  Treatment methods that include extreme forms of shoeing may actually put further strain on the laminae having the opposite of the intended effect.

Taylor, et al. (2014). “Clinical Outcome of 14 obese, laminitic horses managed with the same rehabilitation protocol”. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 34 (556 – 564).