Duncan – Welsh Section B Gelding

Duncan is 12.2 hands high and 18 years old. He has been with the same owner for 15 years. He’d had no previous health issues and had been regularly ridden either hacking out or taking part in pony club activities. The five months leading up to his laminitis, he was unridden due to lack of a rider but instead, was lightly worked from the ground on longlines.  Duncan has always had very good quality hooves and been barefoot for the majority of his life, receiving regular trims from the farrier. 

Duncan horses head and face. Dun Welsh section B pony
Duncan, looking handsome

Presenting health problem

Severe laminitis in all four feet, including rotation of the pedal bones and frequent foot abscesses. 

Possible triggers

Two weeks leading up to the first signs of the disease, he unexpectedly had to move yards, which unsettled him. The new yard also insisted on a flu vaccine and chemical worming before he could be turned out to pasture.  He experienced a particularly unpleasant reaction to the flu vaccine on the 25th  June 2019. This left him with a stiff, painful neck, which he was unable to drop lower than his knees. He had discharge from his nose and eyes and he was very off colour for approximately five days.

The Sorry Tale Unfolds

Duncan presented with the first signs of laminitis in early July 2019. They weren’t the classic signs we all look for such as becoming footy in front, extending front limbs forward to transfer more weight onto the heels but instead it was concentrated in the hind feet, which had an increased digital artery pulse. He constantly shifted from foot to foot and was in a lot of discomfort. He started to show signs of colic and refused to eat or drink.

The pain didn’t allow him to position himself in order to urinate and the only sample I did manage to collect was very dark brown in colour and of a syrupy consistency. 

The pulses in all four limbs had now increased and he showed other signs of being in pain, such as sweating and rapid breathing. The vet prescribed pain relief (Danalon), a sedative paste, rehydration with fluids, ice packs on his hooves and a very deep shavings bed to support the soles of his feet. 

X rays followed, showing a moderate rotation in all four pedal bones. 

The crest of his neck rapidly became very hard and he developed fat pads around the girth area and the lumbar region. He was very tender in his pectoral muscles and stifles, from the constant shifting of weight.

Duncan’s heels were growing rapidly, giving them an upright appearance, so the farrier trimmed them and fitted “Imprint” equine foot care system shoes. These are thermoplastic which enable the shoe to be moulded onto the hoof without the trauma of the nailing on process. (They can be seen in the feature picture.)  These initially provided immediate relief and Duncan walked comfortably back to his stable. 

After two months of the Imprint shoes being in place, they started to impede the healing and Duncan suffered from foot abscesses either erupting through the sole in the location of the pedal bone or from the coronary bands. It was decided that the glue on shoes would be removed permanently. 

Another two months passed and there were good days followed by another rapid decline, further abscesses and a large crescent-shaped hole appeared in the sole under the pedal bone.  

The inevitable euthanasia talk took place with the vet, and she stated that he had a very poor prognosis and little chance of living a normal life again. We were given the weekend to comes to terms with the situation and make a decision on the following Monday.

I immediately purchased a set of four soft boots for him called Easy Boot Cloud which were put on over clean dressings. They had a dense foam inner sole for cushioning and at least meant he could comfortably walk out of the stable to the sand school and pick at a few weeds, have a roll and stretch his legs.

Cloud boot for laminitis in horses
Easy Boot Cloud

I also remembered the success we had many years ago with horses that had abscesses and the use of the homeopathic remedy Silica.

Duncan had been given Arnica a number of times as there was severe bruising to all four feet, which was very noticeable on his white hind feet. Silica was started with immediate effect as well as twice daily treatments of all four feet with the Photizo Vetcare unit.  

Photizo Vetcare

The Photizo Vetcare handset is a simple to use, rechargeable treatment tool to accelerate natural healing and provide pain relief. It has pre-programmed doses of red and infrared light. I find it extremely useful in my sports therapy business when treating horses or dogs as once it is charged it can be used as a cordless handset.

Duncan was given two treatments a day with the Photizo. I treated each hoof for five minutes, twice a day. This involved concentrating on the bulbs of the heels, the front aspect of the coronary band and on the inner and outer quarters of the coronary band. After two weeks I decreased the treatments to once a day, then every other day on week three, followed by two or three treatments a week for a further month.

Photizo treatments on the bulbs of the heel

I also concentrated on the sore areas of his pectorals, sacrum and stifles where he had been shifting weight and compensating for discomfort elsewhere in his body. He also had regular gentle massage, incorporating acupressure into the routine as he couldn’t tolerate the pressure of a normal sports massage treatment. 

At this time he was comfortable enough to be walked twice a day in the sand school whilst wearing the Cloud Boots.

Being able to get him out of the stable, picking at some grass and actually moving helped his circulation, muscle tone, mental health as well as his overall wellbeing. 


The blood tests for Cushings and Equine Metabolic Disease didn’t return anything of much value at that time, but it was felt that he possibly had Cushings due to the other symptoms. He was put on Prascend (pergolide mesylate) for a couple of months but he developed diarrhoea when taking them. He was also given pre and probiotics as he was given a large amount of antibiotics and pain relief which also added to the gut issues he was having. I started him on a herbal blend specifically for Cushings or metabolic issues which contains herbs such as Vitex agnus-castus, goats rue, artichoke leaves and milk thistle. He appears to be doing really well on it.

In November 2019Duncan was allowed approximately two hours of turnout in a small paddock with the protective Cloud Boots on, which he adapted to wearing very quickly. The soft ground and limited nutritional value in the grass at this time was a blessing in aiding his recovery.   

In March 2020 he had built up to three hours in the paddock. His soles have become hard enough to allow him to go out barefoot. As the summer approaches and the ground becomes harder, this situation will have to be reassessed with the possibility of the supportive boots being used for daily turn out as additional protection. 

He is sound at walk, trot and canter and is lightly worked three times a week in the sand school on long lines to keep him active and his weight under control. He receives a short treatment with the Photizo twice a week, concentrating on the hoof area as before, in order to prevent any setbacks. 

As of July 2020, which is a year on from the first bout of laminitis, he is turned out every day, barefoot in a small paddock for approximately six hours. He has soaked hay and a tiny feed of organic nuts and chaff from Thunderbrook and his herbal blend for metabolic problems.

He is not routinely wormed with chemicals, but regular faecal worm counts are taken and as this is the second severe reaction he has had to vaccines, he will not be vaccinated in the future. 

Duncan. Welsh Section B Dun Pony
Duncan looking well and happy late Spring 2020

Photizo Vetcare Handset special offer

Photizo have very generously given CAM4animals supporters a special offer of £25 off their Vetcare handset. Please use CAM4animals25 as your special discount code. When you do, they will also make a donation to CAM4animals for each handset sold using this code. You can see the sort of things this donation will be spent on here, and find out how to support us in other ways.

We’d like to thank Photizo for this special offer.

Caroline Hearn, MICHT, Dip. ICAT

Caroline is a Member of IAAT, the International Association of Animal Therapists. She is a sports, remedial and holistic massage therapist qualified to treat canine, equine, and human patients. Caroline has a lifelong obsession with dogs, a passion for holistic healthcare and natural nutrition, and a love for foraging in the countryside; all of which lead her to form the company Hedgerow Hounds which makes veterinary-approved nutritive herbal blends for dogs and other natural healthcare products. She has recently developed Hedgerow Horse.

Caroline also writes regularly for the holistic magazine Edition Dog and covers subjects such as raw feeding, canine therapies and the progress of the herbal sensory garden she created for her dogs.

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