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What Causes Founder in Horses



Founder in Horses

As horse owners, one of our biggest fears is the possibility of our horses developing founder. This painful condition can result in permanent damage to the hooves, leading to lameness and even euthanasia in severe cases.

But what is founder, and what are the causes of this condition in horses?

What is Founder?

First, let’s define founder. Also known as laminitis, founder is a condition that affects the laminae, which are the sensitive tissues that connect the hoof to the rest of the leg. When the laminae become inflamed or diseased, they can separate from the hoof wall, leading to severe pain, lameness, and even rotation of the coffin bone within the hoof. But what causes this debilitating condition in horses?

Causes of Founder

One of the most common causes of founder in horses is overfeeding or feeding inappropriate types of feed. Horses that consume high levels of carbohydrates, such as those found in lush pastures or grain-heavy diets, are at a particularly high risk of developing founder.

This is because the excess carbohydrates can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut, leading to an overgrowth of harmful microbes that produce toxins. These toxins can then cause inflammation throughout the body, including within the hoof tissues.

Another common cause of founder is metabolic disorders such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and Cushing’s disease. These conditions disrupt the horse’s hormonal balance, altering the way the body processes and utilizes carbohydrates. Horses with EMS or Cushing’s are often overweight or obese, have abnormal fat distribution, and may suffer from recurrent bouts of laminitis. Treatment for these conditions usually involves medication, dietary management, and close monitoring of the horse’s overall health.

Unfortunately, founder can also be caused by other factors such as stress, trauma, and infections. For example, horses that are subjected to prolonged periods of stress or exercise may experience inflammation throughout their bodies, including within the laminae. Similarly, horses that suffer from infections such as sepsis or colitis may be at risk of developing founder due to the inflammatory response generated by the body.


Founder is a devastating condition that can cause lifelong damage to a horse’s hooves and overall health. As responsible horse owners, it’s our duty to understand the causes of this condition and take steps to prevent it from occurring. Avoiding overfeeding, monitoring weight and metabolic function, minimizing stress, and promptly treating infections are all important strategies for reducing the risk of founder in horses.

By educating ourselves and implementing these preventative measures, we can help keep our equine partners healthy and happy for years to come.

I am Tommy, an avid equestrian who is passionate about the lifestyle. Writing for an equestrian blog has been a lifelong dream of mine, as I have been around horses my whole life. My mission is to share all the knowledge and experiences I have gathered throughout the years in order to help others reach their goals in this amazing sport. My dedication and enthusiasm towards horses and all things related to them never cease to amaze me!

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