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The signs of Sub-clinical Laminitis

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

There is an overwhelming amount of horse owners who aren’t aware of the signs for sub-clinical Laminitis, and yet if left untreated without a change of diet or management, can easily turn into a full blown Laminitic attack.

Many owners associate Laminitis with the classic slipper toe, a huge EMS crest and the typical Laminitis stance. In reality, there is a huge amount of horses showing subtle signs of inflammation that continues to go un-noticed. Each owner is responsible for their horse’s overall wellbeing, which should include the ability to recognise the signs of Laminitis, particularly in the early stages when an acute attack can be prevented.

Some signs to look out for:

  • Footiness or soreness over various terrain.

This is one of the biggest reasons owners continue to shoe their horses. Once the shoes are removed, any footiness caused by inappropriate diet and management shows (sub-clinical Laminitis) which is typically interpreted as the horse cannot cope without shoes.

It’s super important that if your unshod horse is footy over stones, roads or anything but grass, that you re-assess their diet or management and make the necessary changes. Please do not shoe your horse to ‘fix’ this issue – your horse will still have Laminitis and it will worsen regardless of applying shoes.

  • Event lines on the outer hoof wall.

Event lines are lines that form on the outer hoof wall that represent an event in a horse's life that caused an inflammatory response. In an uncompromised horse and hoof, a singular event line doesn’t always necessarily mean any issues will arise from whatever caused the line but it is important to take notice and reflect on why this happened.

If your horse has numerous, reoccurring event lines, then there is something off with their diet or management that is consistently causing ongoing inflammation. An event line is one of the more readily observable symptoms of sub-clinical Laminitis but they do become more prominent in the later stages of Laminitis too. It’s crucial to your horses health that if they do have multiple event lines, that the trigger is identified and removed as soon as possible.

  • Blood in the white line.

Catching signs of blood in the white line (they look like bruises) can be particular difficult to identify if you’re not very familiar with the hoof or have a horse with dark feet. It’s really important to be able to trust your horse’s Hoof Care Practitioner or Farrier so you know with confidence that should they find signs of blood or widening, that you’ll be informed straight away.

Blood in the white line

Every single horse owner needs to know the signs of sub-clinical Laminitis so should your horse become symptomatic, you can do something about it before their health is further compromised.

Below is our own diagram of the different stages of Laminitis inspired by Jaime Jackson’s ‘Laminitis’ book.


Please note that this is a generalisation of the most common symptoms at each stage and that different symptoms can appear for different horses at different stages.

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