Founder and Allergy Connection

By Linsey McLean

Stress and Allergies

Allergies are stress diseases. Stress may take the form of growing (young children and animals are very susceptible to allergies), emotional problems, physical stress to the body as in performance athletes, sickness or nutritional deficiencies, problems from irritants and toxins, immune system derangements, and hormone imbalances or deficiencies - especially thyroid.

Whatever the source of the stress, the effects are the same to the body when allergy is concerned. The symptoms are universal - cough, wheeze, itch and swell. One added factor is that some bodies are more susceptible to symptoms and insults than are others. The difference in the degree of manifestation of the symptoms lies in the body's translation of the stress, as stress causes the release of glucocorticoids, or stress hormones, which tear the immune system to shreds. This is true for horses and for humans, and personality is involved. What appears to be an insurmountable mountain to some is perceived as only a molehill to another.

Healthy cells can prevent harmful substances from entering them, but a lack of nutrients increases cell permeability, allowing the cell less control over what goes in or out. Consequently, the body becomes more susceptible to the effects of foreign substances and toxins in the environment, which can now enter more easily.

Food that remains incompletely digested can act as a foreign irritant. Even many harmless by-products of digestion can be acted upon by putrefactive bacteria in the intestine to produce toxic and allergenic substances. So the major goal of controlling allergy nutritionally is to increase the digestive efficiency of the body, protect the integrity of cell membranes and control undesirable bacteria. The emphasis is placed on building health and resistance rather than on simply avoiding the offending substance, which can be difficult, particularly with horses.

Stress increases the need for practically all nutrients, and persons suffering from allergies have been found to be woefully deficient in every bodily requirement except carbohydrate. When missing nutrients are supplied, allergies often disappear. In 1957, Antibiotic Medical Clinical Therapist L.W. Smith documented a case of 32 allergenic children and their responses to nutritional therapy. All were suffering from bronchial asthma and allergic eczema. They were given generous amounts of protein, no refined carbohydrates, adequate essential fatty acids, and multiple vitamins and minerals. Most of the children recovered in a single month, and all within two months.

The Etiology of Founder

Founder begins with laminitis, or heating and swelling in the laminae of the hoof, a very vascular and sensitive area similar to lung tissue. Founder can be triggered by many things: trauma to the hoof, surgical trauma, dietary imbalances, overeating, vaccinations, or drug therapy, all translating to stress with its large production of stress hormones.

We also know that certain bacteria associated with high carbohydrate grains such as corn scavenge through the lower intestine to ferment undigested carbohydrates that the horse either could not digest or could not absorb after digestion. These troublemakers produce highly toxic and allergenic chemicals called "endotoxins" that are absorbed into the system and readily affect the sensitive laminae.

Mineral oil given by stomach tube prevents further absorption of the endotoxins. If the toxic condition is left for a period of time, the laminae die due to oxygen starvation from the lack of blood flow, and they can no longer hold attachment of the coffin bone to the hoof wall. Later, as the hoof grows out, a separation appears on the bottom of the hoof where the dead laminae appear. On x-ray, the coffin bone, lacking proper support, rotates downward, pointing toward the bottom of the foot.

Looking through a Different Pair of Glasses

What have we really described? Nothing more than allergy, even the fact that once a horse has foundered, he is more susceptible to a rerun of the episode. Once a body is sensitized to allergenic stimulus, attacks become more frequent and often more severe.

Applying nutritional principles to our foundered friends can therefore be very beneficial and is quite simple. It is important to reduce carbohydrates while keeping an adequate supply of protein required for proper metabolism. A foundered horse also needs amino acid-chelated minerals according to the soil deficiencies present where the horse lives. Soil deficiencies are everywhere now. These minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt and iron are necessary for adequate production of digestive enzymes and hormones, and the amino acid-chelated form is already predigested and fully absorbable by the body. Make sure, though, that they are amino acid chelates, as all chelates are not created equal.

In effect, we have now tuned up the horse's digestive system as you would tune up a car to get more miles per gallon (or in this case, better feed conversion efficiency). Less is left, then, for the bad bacteria to feed upon.

Also needed are vitamins with plenty of vitamin E to help with the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Bioflavanoids and hesperidins, part of the vitamin C complex that a horse doesn't produce, aid in strengthening the walls of veins and capillaries. These are beneficial to bleeders (epistaxis), and serve also to reduce inflammation and help to rebuild healthy laminae.

Natural desiccated thyroid supplementation is almost always needed, as with people who suffer allergy or asthma. Starting doses are very low and are gradually increased over a long period of time. The natural thyroid works much better than the synthetic.

Another very big help is the use of natural antihistamines and decongestants, particularly the decongestants. The most common is Ma Huang, or Chinese ephedra. Pseudephedra is the man made version and it works well with antihistamines, as in the horse product Trihist Granules®. Using this product at the recommended dose often negates the use of NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories), which causes ulcers. This product is an effective anti-inflammatory for founder cases.

Feed the Right 'Grain'

It is also wise to use a high-protein 'grain' mix, but a small amount, to keep up the horse's protein needs, which do not change, and to greatly reduce the carbohydrate intake. Since they can have no grain (corn, oats, barley, the common ones we call grains), but still need protein, use a protein 'grain alternative' that you can make yourself that supplies the necessary protein without the unnecessary carbs. Top dressing with a 50/50 mix of corn oil and canola oil (cold pressed is best), if the horse is on the thin side and does not have a cresty neck, will also give extra richness and calories without the carbohydrates that inflame the feet. Use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil several times per day. If the horse has a cresty neck or is on the heavy side, use 1/3 cup pure canola oil without the corn oil. No alfalfa hay, pellets or cubes should be fed as they interfere with the thyroid. The horse may be given grass hay or pasture only, but if pasture, acclimatize slowly.

The recipe for the Hi Pro non-grain feed mix is:

linseed (flax) meal or pellets --- 300 lbs

soybean meal --- 150 lbs

bran (preferably wheat) --- 75 lbs

calcium carbonate (feed grade only) --- 15 lbs

magnesium oxide (feed grade only) --- 12 lbs

high iodine trace mineral salt (commonly used for foot rot in cattle, not just regular TM salt; several brands available by special order from a mill) --- 6 lbs

dry molasses --- 30 lbs (you can add moisture at the time of feeding) Wet molasses may be used, but is not advised because the storage time is reduced and it is likely to contain preservatives.

This mix may be blended by you in smaller amounts if you cannot get a mill to make it for you. Order the ingredients separately.

This Hi Pro Recipe was developed by biochemist Linsey McLean and is specifically designed to be used as a base for the specialty supplements of the Vita Royal Products protocol. It is not recommended to be used alone or with any other brands of supplements that were not designed to be complementary for this base mix. It is NOT a fortified recipe, and feeding only this recipe without the Vita Royal supplements can result in harm to the horse. The foundered horse actively in pain and inflammation should be fed this Hi Pro Mix and supplemented with Vita Royal Untie and Vita Royal Nutrient Buffer. When the inflammation stabilizes, then the horse can be maintained on Vita Royal EPS (Environmental Protection System) alone, with the Hi Pro mix.

For the average 1000 lb horse, 2 to 3 lbs of this recipe daily will suffice. For a pony, use 2 lbs per day and for a larger horse, use 4 lbs per day. Remember, this is per DAY, not per feeding.

With this regimen, an underweight horse will not lose weight other than bloat. The foundered horse will not re-founder after beginning the diet, or fail to show significant improvement in hoof structure. This program works very well for Cushing's horses too. It takes a long time to rebuild a hoof completely, but it can be done under the right conditions. Correct and frequent trimming are necessary to restore proper hoof function to help grow new hoof inside and out. But remember, the horse's internal conditions must also be fixed to prevent the chances of founder recurrence.

Keeping your Horse Properly Trimmed

For trimming the feet, the best ideas are the techniques developed by Dr. Strasser, as they do work more effectively than any. More information on this technique of trimming can be found at these web sites:

With all this help and knowledge, the road back from founder is not nearly as rocky as it used to be.

This article is an excerpt from the web site at Please visit this site to read this article in its entirety and for many more interesting articles.

For more information on molasses and alfalfa, see Expert Exchange in this issue.

About the author:

Linsey McLean, biochemist, is the founder and CEO of Vita Royal Products, Inc. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan with specialties in Biology, Chemistry and Clinical Microbiology. Linsey has been granted seven U.S. Patents and has been honored with prestigious awards. In 1983 and 1984, Vita Royal was chosen as official supplier for the U.S. Equestrian team. Both custom and commercial supplements were formulated for the Olympic team which, incidentally, won a record number of gold and silver medals. She is also, of course, a horse owner.