Some of you asked what "founder" means.
For a really technical article about founder in horses, with some pictures of what it does to their hooves, click here.
My previous horse, Pleasure Boy (that's him in the picture), was a big Tennessee Walking horse. When people saw me riding him, they'd say, "Wow, that's a big horse!"
I allowed him to roam loose in the pasture alone (we have 42 acres) and he got fatter and fatter. Riding him was almost like being on a draft horse, he was so big. I liked the feeling of being on such a large animal.
One day I went out to get him, and he had a very noticable limp.
"Oh, he'll get over it," Cliff said. "He probably just stepped in a hole and sprained his leg."
After a couple of days, he wasn't any better, so I called the vet. He informed me that my horse had laminitis, also known as founder.
It's caused, very simply, by the animal eating too much. The vet told me Pleasure Boy could never again be put out on pasture all the time, and shouldn't have any grain the rest of his life. But if I'd keep him on dry lot and feed him grass hay, he'd be fine, and I could ride again before long. Founder is sort of a chronic problem, the way diabetes is in humans: Managed properly, Boy could live a long, healthy life
The vet pointed out the big layer of fat on Boy's neck and said, "Always watch the neck; when you see a big fat neck like that, it's time to get them off grass before they founder."
After I got a job, I wasn't riding enough to justify the expense of a horse, and I sold Pleasure Boy. Not many people besides me could ride him, anyhow. He was somewhat temperamental.
Less than two years ago, I read the book "Seabiscuit", which led to my buying my present horse, Blue. He had the biggest, fattest neck I'd ever seen on a horse, and although I was getting a good buy on him, I had a feeling he'd been foundered. Oh well, I had gotten used to keeping a horse on dry lot.
While I was at work, a veterinary came and gave my newly acquired horse his shots. Cliff asked him if Blue had been foundered (you can tell by looking at the hoof walls). The vet said no.
But when the farrier came, he said that Blue had indeed been foundered.
I never understood why the vet and my former farrier didn't agree, but Blue did have that big, fat neck. So he's been kept on dry lot since I got him, and simply turned out to grass twice a day.
This week, I finally remembered to ask my current farrier if Blue had been foundered. The answer was a resounding "no".
Because of my horse's tendency to get fat, I probably will continue to keep him on dry lot; he's used to the routine anyway. I won't worry so much about how long he's been on grass each day, though. I might set the timer for a little longer than I have in the past.
I don't know what caused his current problem, with his hooves not growing well, and being brittle and breaking. Possibly the drought had something to do with it. We're getting rain every day now, so that's probably helping. And I have that supplement ($75 for a bucket of it) which I mix in with a little grain, along with a couple of packets of Knox unflavored geletin. Anyway, my farrier, Randy, says there is noticable improvement after only three weeks.
And that, my friends, is likely more than you ever wanted to know about horses' feet.