Chronicling Laminitis: Horse Owner Records Steps Toward Recovery

For Jan Drinkwater of Sydney, Australia, nursing a horse through laminitis is all about taking things step by step.

And also about sharing those steps with the international horse community.

"I didn't know how I'd do it," Drinkwater said of her treatment of Lucy, a 6-year-old Arab-Appaloosa mare. "But I knew that I was resourceful and tenacious."


When managing laminitis in her mare Lucy, Jan Drinkwater of Sydney, Australia, recorded every step of the journey.
See Lucy's story in this video

Jan. 7
Jan. 7, 2007. The pedal bone penetrated the sole.

Lucy today
Sept. 16, 2007. Lucy has now been barefoot for about a month.


Tenacious indeed. Over the course of Lucy's illness, now nearly 11 months, Drinkwater kept a photographic record of Lucy's progress and posted her photos online. Her photo journal chronicles the tedious, anxious work of rehabilitating a horse with a foundered hoof.

Lucy developed laminitis in her left hind foot in October 2006 following treatment for a deep muscle abscess in the right hind leg. X rays showed 18° rotation of the pedal bone, and within weeks the sole started to crack. Lucy's veterinarian recommended euthanasia.

But, for Drinkwater, this was definitely not what seemed relevant at the time. So she started researching and, as an avid photography hobbyist, taking photos. She also started driving 99 miles (160 km) round-trip every day between her home in Sydney and Lucy's home in Douglas Park.

Within a few days, the pedal bone penetrated the sole. Drinkwater built Lucy a sand yard for improved sole support and bandaged the hoof daily in a disposable diaper bound with elastic tape. To keep up Lucy's morale, she put Lucy's 2-year-old sister Amy in an adjacent paddock.

Throughout the process, Drinkwater was constantly clicking photos, however uncertain she was of the current treatment plan. She maintained the things--like Lucy's diet--which seemed to be working, and changed the things--like the farrier care, which weren't. When Drinkwater's regular farrier seemed at a loss about what to do with such a distorted hoof, Drinkwater turned to the internet and found a barefoot trimmer with a solid reputation with laminitic horses.

Farrier John Gorman said Lucy's "was the worst foot I had seen" in his experience with foundered horses. "But she looked bright and alert," he said, "and as if she was trying to heal her foot and survive."

Together, they made the decision to keep her walking freely in the sand yard to encourage circulation in the hoof and laminae to prevent the onset of laminitis in the other feet. Lucy was also given an hour turnout a day in a grass paddock where she could graze and feel like a horse, according to Drinkwater.

In April, they also chose to remove the hoof wall to "avoid damage to the coronary band and blood supply so as to maintain healthy hoof regrowth," according to Gorman. This procedure relieved Lucy's pain so significantly that Jan and Gorman chose to stop the daily regimen of Bute established by Lucy's veterinarian when the laminitis was diagnosed.

Since then, Lucy's been trotting and cantering about and, of course, still regularly posing for Drinkwater's cameras. Once Lucy started making a turn for the better, Drinkwater started uploading the photos to her website  in hopes of sharing Lucy's story with other horse owners.

"I had never seen photos that systematically documented progress," she said. "I realized that with the way Lucy's hoof looked, I had a contribution to make there."

A contribution, and one healthy step towards understanding the management of laminitic horses.

See Drinkwater's entire photo collection at

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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