Avrils experience of dealing with Serenity’s very serious and what became a chronic laminitis situation highlights the physical and emotional stress that both horse and owner experience during this terrible situation.   Avrils story demonstrates how getting a great team around you to support yourself and your horse can pay dividends.   Being part of this story I can remember how difficult it was for Avril and Serenity through all the hard weather.  Her video where she is moving freely after six months of being highly compromised was a joy to see.  Its important to realise that while some horses improve rapidly others like Serenity can take a lot longer.

This is Avrils account of what happened: 

A horse lover all my life, I have owned my own horses for about 25 years. While I lived in the South of France my horses were on my own land, the dry mixed terrain with stones, tree copses and poor grass meant I was never afraid of them succumbing to Laminitis. However for over 5 years now I have lived in Devon with it’s over rich grass. In the earlier years I managed by restricting access to grass and making hay from the remaining part of the 5 acres I rent for my two horses, Serenity and her mum Oshe.

Then in 2017 Serenity started having breathing problems, she was always over weight and I watched her closely. The vet diagnosed COPD and gave me Ventipulmin and told me not to feed her hay but hayledge. That year I did not make meadow hay from my fields which are weed killer / fertilizer free and the horses were fed brought in hayledge. The winter was evil with lots of snow and then rain, followed by a hot spring and then the  grass just exploded. Unknown to me a build up of and mineral imbalances had been brewing in Serenity for quite some time, so the resulting Lamintis seems to erupt out of the blue.  

May 2018:  One evening I find Serenity lame and walking reluctantly and obviously in   pain, I call my friend Sarah Sidoli. Worried about laminitis we put a grazing muzzle on. The next day she is just as bad so we build a small arena around her field shelter and remove all greenery.  I feed her Charcoal and call the vet who confirms that Serenity has  Laminitis. The vet recommends we provide frog support’s, administer bute and feed 6kg of hay per day soaked for 12 hours. The frog supports are difficult to put on but with help from friends I manage. The Vet returns after a week Serenity is in less pain so we blood to test for Cushings, however the results confirm no Cushings, so EMS is identified.

June 2018 – Serenity is still on 6kg of soaked hay in the dry lot with access to her shelter. We are still administering bute. After her trim she did seem to be doing better. I am at this time following a Facebook contact Liane Rhodes, The Horse Code at Three Ravens Natural Boarding.  She is sharing her experience of dealing with laminitis.  Her horse Indiana who is kept on a Paddock Paradise Track has laminitis,  she seemed to be getting better but then got much worse. I’m following Liane’s posts as it gives me so much motivation to keep going for Serenity. Liane has shares that she has been working with Calm Healthy Horses and feeding salt and Alleviate C which is making a remarkable difference to her horse.  So I find the Calm Healthy Horses web site and start reading with interest.

With the CalmHealthyHorses information I can work out that the reason for Serenity’s condition, both her  initial breathing problems and the subsequent laminitis is most likely related to mineral imbalances. Put simply, these imbalances are caused by too much nitrogen and potassium as a result of consuming too much inappropriate grass and hayledge

July 2018 Serentiy has been trimmed again, she is still in the dry lot with access to her shelter but she has got much, much worse, she is clearly suffering and I am desperate to help her.  She is no longer on Bute so I am giving her cut dried nettles, cleavers and willow branches instead. The vet advises some type of shoes are needed, I flatly refuse my horses have always been barefoot and I don’t believe that shoes will help so I stop calling the vet. I am feeling very alone as I cannot use the support of my Vet.  I admit that I would have suffered from total despair had it not been for the support from Liane Rhodes and Sue Dawson around that time.

To help me keep going I join Treating Laminitis the Natural Way Facebook FB page.  I get advice from Nick Hill and decide to have another trimmer look at Serenity’s hooves and Rachel Briffa Gemini Natrual Horse and Hoof Care takes over trimming Serenity.

Rachel gives me some more support, having an experience proffesional who can see and check over your horse with you was really important at that time.  Rachel did a brilliant job on Serenity’s feet.  I get more support from Sue at Calm Healthy Horses who knows Rachel and I can explain what Rachel has seen.  Then I start Serenity on salt and Alleviate C in a bucket with plain chaff. I also feed Turmeric with Ultimate oil as Serenity has lost so much weight. I up the hay and slowly increase the size of the dry lot; Nick, Sue, Liane and Rachel are all telling me that free access to movement that she is comfortable with is also key to her recovery.  Still Serenity is abscessing badly and is in great pain, watching her walk is terrible; she has a large straw bed. Mucking out, soaking and carrying hay and carting 4 buckets of water to her every day, at the end of a day’s work is exhausting. The summer in 2018 was scorching and I had to dig very deep to keep going, but the look in her eyes of love, trust and gratitude made me continue. Her mother Oshe keeping vigil just outside the dry lot and that also was a great comfort to us both.

August 2018 Sometimes Serenity was just lying down outside the shelter which was very distressing but made examining and cleaning out her feet easier. Support and help from my friends was invaluable at this time. Serenity did not want to give up and neither did I. Now I was determined to heal her and see her gallop the fields again. Liane Rhodes was always encouraging and her posts about her own horse were up lifting, Sarah Damant my friend and yard owner was a marvelous support, her help was invaluable feeding soaked hay to Serenity every morning. Later when we were poulticing and padding for month’s Sarah also did a huge amount of the work through all weathers mud and rain etc in a very efficient and uncomplaining way.

For all of you going through this there is no easy way out, but you cannot give in. Many times I was asked if what I was doing was right and I know several people thought I should have her put down, although I often felt close to despair I never once wanted to let her go. Sarah Sidoli was a great mentor and helped with moral support, hugs and advice. Kitty Hardman and Giles Hardman were incredibly generous with their time mucking out, weeding, grooming Serenity and supplying me with medications and lovely rugs for Oshe who had to over winter without the shelter.

September 2018  Slowly I make the dry lot bigger and when Serenity starts to feel a bit better take her out for tiny walks on the soft grass surface outside her dry lot. She is now on about 12 kilos of soaked hay a day and a handful of Thunderbrooks healthy herbal chaff in a bucket with Turmeric, salt, ultimate oil and Alleviate C. I cut a lot of nettles to dry and feed willow branches nearly every day as pain killers as I was worried that feeding bute long term can be very bad for their gut. 

As the oppressive heat of summer gave way to cooler Autumn weather and rain Serenity was still in the small area with the shelter, so I put a rug on Oshe, she was 16 and had never worn a rug in her life so it took a little while until she accepted it. The abscesses in Serenity’s front hooves finally and painfully burst. Rachel warned me I must keep them clean and dirt free to avoid infection as the bones which have rotated are exposed and at risk of infection.  This scares and worries me; while the actuality of covering her hooves and keeping them clean in the mud and waning light of the winter nearly overwhelms me.

Rachel is brilliant, at this point she is trimming Serenity every 3 weeks and she uncomplainingly dresses Serenity’s feet with clean baby’s nappies cloths and plastic sheets cut to size, then black bale tape is used to hold it all on. In between her visits Sarah helps me to re do the protection every couple of days. I hold Serenity and she does the dressings as she is much more experienced. Later Serenity is so used to the procedure that often Sarah can re-tape or completely re do the dressings on her own. I will be eternally grateful to Sarah for this immeasurable help; I try to repay her by poo picking her pony fields but still feel a huge depth of gratitude.

January 2019  Finally, after months of toiling in the wet and mud Serenity’s protective padding can come off for the last time. Suddenly it seemed she was walking completely sound and trotting around when I let her out into the restricted field for a few hours, then later and finally I could let her out of the dry lot completely. Oshe could now access the shelter and they could interact properly. It was a long haul but so worth it to see her flying free in the field.

July 2019 Both horses are on the Calm Healthy Horses products, Serenity remains on  Grazezey and Alleviate C and Oshe has a small amount of Alleviate C, Both have Premium MVA. They both are calm and healthy.  Even Oshe who is also much less spooky than before.  She had suffered for years from Ovarian Cysts and I could not ride her when she was in season, but now I ride her every week. They are on some soaked hay and some non soaked. Serenity’s breathing is so much better,  in fact nearly normal.

I know the ideal situation would be a track system but as I do not own the land I have to do as so many others do and cope with what I have. I manage the grass as best as I can, I feed plenty of good hay with a simple bucket where I can add their important vitamins and minerals. I have learned a lot though this terrible experience but now I am in a good position to manage my horses so that this doesn’t happen again.   I hope this article can be of help and encouragement to all the other owners out there with horses that are struggling with Laminitis. Do not feel guilt, do not despair ,just hang on in there.  Get a good support team around you and then focus on taking away as much as possible the things that create the problem while you add things that help to keep them thriving.