Laminitis Risk Calculator

This is an especially exciting and important post for me. Last April, while in Warrenton, MO to do my Special Topics/Advanced Trimming workshop for Liberated Horsemanship, we all had the privilege of hearing Dr. Don Walsh of the Animal Health Foundation give a presentation on a very real and very serious threat to our horses – laminitis. In fact, I was surprised and dismayed to learn that complications due to laminitis make it the Number 2 killer of horses.

If you’ve never had the experience of seeing a laminitic or foundered horse, consider yourself fortunate. Seeing these beautiful creatures in constant pain, often recumbent and very discouraged, is the most heartbreaking type of situation I routinely encounter. The only “saving grace” for me is the very substantial difference in comfort and recovery proper hoof care (not, I hasten to say, the hoof care methods advocated by nearly every vet and farrier) can make in the lives of these horses, and watching them start to move with considerably less difficulty and pain is extremely rewarding. But, as Dr. Walsh pointed out, like so many other maladies affecting both humans and animals, the key to success lies in prevention. And prevention, in turn, requires education and awareness. To that end, Dr. Walsh has developed a risk assessment tool that uses five (5) lifestyle and management factors he and his researchers have identified as reliable indicators of the likelihood of a horse developing laminitis. And while the calorie calculations for the diet part of the assessment aren’t particularly difficult to perform, I felt the entire process could be greatly simplified by developing an MS Excel workbook that would enable every horse owner to get a better handle on these risk factors. The workbook is extremely easy to use, and incorporates calorie information from over 100 commercial feeds.  Answering just a few simple questions will allow the horse owner to not only assess the risk for laminitis, but also better understand the real dietary needs of his/her horse.

Follow the link below, and download the appropriate MS Excel file to your computer. There are two versions under the link – a 2007 version for the typical newer PC, and a 97-2003 version for the Mac and older versions of MS Excel. Rather than opening the file directly in MS Excel, I recommend you first Save the file to your computer or flash drive, and then Open it from the saved location. There are no macros in it, but I’ve protected it to ensure no corruption of the data or formulas, which is why it won’t open directly within the browser. Feel free to copy it and share it with every horse owner you know. Awareness starts with you. Spread the word. Save some horses. But, most importantly, use it yourself. Remember: it’s not about you – it’s about your horse.

I especially want to thank Dr. Walsh for providing the commercial feed data – it really helped make the workbook easier to use. And mostly I want to thank him for his seemingly tireless dedication to eradicating laminitis. Visit his site, and, if you agree, please consider making a donation…

Laminitis Risk Calculator

And I welcome any comments or suggestions you may have on how the workbook could be improved.


  1. Judy says:

    Love the site. I’m trying to use the risk calculator and can’t find where to enter the data to be calculated. I’ll keep trying because I believe this will be valuable to understanding “easy keeper”.

    • Steve says:

      You shouldn‘t have any trouble entering the information into the framed boxes. If you continue to have trouble, please let me know, because that means others will have trouble as well!

  2. Sue Steiner says:

    fantastic!! I will be sharing this for sure!! I remember hearing also that the months of Oct. and Nov. are prime laminitis months so it is good to get this information out!

    • Pam Martin says:

      Sue, any days (particularly spring and fall) that have warm days and cool nites (40ish) will cause the grass to be stressed and increase sugar production. Very bad for
      “at-risk” horses.

  3. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same information you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I’d love to provide some content for other websites. Although I’ve been in the hoof care field for quite some time now, this whole “blog” thing is very new for me, and I’m definitely feeling my way! But let me know what you might be interested in. And yes, let’s just say a much larger collection of information is in the works…

  4. I am curious to find out what blog system you have been using? I’m experiencing some minor security problems with my latest blog and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Steve says:

      This blog is done in WordPress, using one of their built-in styles modified to be (in my opinion!) more aesthetically pleasing. Since I’ve never worked in another system, I’m afraid I can’t be of much assistance in comparing it to others.

  5. Julie says:

    Hi Steve – wanted to know if when using the risk calculator – does pasture conditions come into play? Time of year? Would/could this be added to the table? Just curious if Dr. Walsh addressed these issues.

    • Steve says:

      That’s a great question, because pasture conditions – the type of plants, the time of day, and the time of year – absolutely DO play an important role in managing your horse’s diet. However, it’s also a fairly complicated set of factors to try to get a concrete handle on, which, I imagine, is why Dr. Walsh has not attempted to include a higher level of approximation in the grazing time caloric calculations. In his article, Dr. Walsh makes the following comments about pasture conditions and grazing –

      If the horse is allowed out on grass, the amount of time they are out is recorded. The pasture should be examined to judge the amount of grass that is available for consumption and the types of grasses that are in the pasture….Weight loss diets based on pasture (forage) and hay require vitamin and mineral supplementation to protect against deficiencies. If the horse or pony has laminitis it is removed from grass until insulin levels are normal. Then, limited exposure to grass using strip or cell grazing or a grazing muzzle can be attempted, but the animal is carefully observed and checked for any signs of foot soreness or elevated insulin levels. Grazing is not allowed during the spring and fall when stresses pasture may accumulate dangerously high levels of nonstructural carbohydrates…

      Dr. Walsh and I also advocate checking out the many resources available at with respect to diet. Kathryn Watts’ research has been, and continues to be, an important piece in the search to understand and control laminitis.

      Hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *