A year ago, I was asked by an old client to help her get her Arabian show horse sound as he was suffering from a mystery bout of laminitis in all four hooves. One front hoof showed mild rotation. Her vet wanted to cut the deep flexor tendon above the check ligament but she decided instead to use herbal medicine to heal him, as I had helped her with several horses with other ailments in the past.

It is always important to ascertain causes with any illness, as classical herbalists always treat causes, not just symptoms.

Although it was not possible to find out for sure, in the case of this 6 year old gelding, who had always been looked after very well, the only conclusion I could come to was a toxicity from an unknown source. Arabians are not a breed susceptible to laminitis, but the client’s vet was insisting he was too fat, and was put on an extreme weight loss diet of dry hay and a small amount of chaff to add supplements, and confined to the stable. Not surprisingly he did not like his feed and didn’t eat much of the hay, his water intake had dropped, his manure was dry, he had lost all muscle tone and was continually pacing the stable, so not only did he look like a hat rack, he could not cope with the confinement.


Meadowsweet blossoms

On the plus side he was shod by the client’s farrier in consultation with the vets utilising x-rays, all the way through and this proved very effective.   He also received regular photonic therapy treatments, which work extremely well in conjunction with herbal medicine.

My initial herbal prescriptions were designed to stimulate the circulation to the hoof, provide liver detoxification, prevent and treat gut ulceration, reduce inflammation and reduce his extreme anxiety.

The course of herbal prescriptions lasted from April to November and were revised whenever his responses indicated this was necessary.

The VF Natural Diet I recommended for this 15.2 hand medium framed gelding, included both Lucerne and oaten chaff, black sunflower seeds, rice and linseed porridge, as well as cold pressed linseed oil, plus our Equi-Vital all natural feed supplement. This features rosehips, raw wheat germ, French white millet, brewer’s yeast and seaweed meal.


He is maintained on this diet with some small alterations and after a long 9 months finally regained his show condition and was able to start on a return to work program.

Next weekend marks his return to championship showing, after a couple of months of getting him back into form at smaller shows.

His owner is very happy with the outcome, as I am, and much tribute goes to her for her total dedication to providing him with the best care possible.

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Laminitis, also known as founder, is a potentially life threatening illness. Laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the hoof resulting in extreme pain and reluctance to move, and frequently accompanied by rocking backwards away from the front feet in an effort to relieve the weight on them. There is usually, but not always, heat in the feet. The pulse in the digital arteries will definitely be present.

Ponies, especially overweight ponies, are particularly susceptible.

The great risk with this condition is that the pedal bone can rotate or sink and penetrate the sole of the foot, which will usually necessitate putting the horse or pony down.

Major causes are spring or un-seasonal flushes of green grass, over consumption of grain, travel stress, viruses, toxicity, excessive work on hard ground, excessive weight bearing on one leg, Cushing’s disease and retained foetal membranes after foaling.

Immediate treatment for the reduction of pain and inflammation is essential. Owners should keep on hand the herbal alternative to bute, which doesn’t have the same contra-indications.


© Victoria Ferguson 22 April 2019