At the end of last year it was decided to designate May 2001 as National Laminitis Awareness Month, which is particularly appropriate in view of the enforced lay-off for horses and ponies during the current Foot and Mouth Crisis.

Robert Eustace, the founder of the Laminitis Trust, says, "Whilst we recognise that laminitis can be brought on by other factors, including stress, as many as 80% of laminitis cases could be avoided by better management including lower calorie diet. There is probably no other equine illness which has been the subject of such old wives' tales and misinformation and this has prompted me to launch an initiative to aid understanding and prevent further unnecessary suffering". The Laminitis Trust was founded in 1998 to raise money to fund a research project.

Mr Eustace points out that if preventing laminitis was simply a question of keeping fat ponies away from rich grass there would be no need for research. But in 1996 four of the UK's top thoroughbred stallions were put down having contracted incurable laminitis Horses of all breeds and types contract this disease every year.

For more information about the disease and the Laminitis Trust, log on to their web-site,

Pony Pairs driver Sally Moreton writes from her own experience:

"Four years ago we moved house/farm and decided to have a year off from driving trials. Within two months 'Bruno' was dead. It was the first Spring that 'Bruno' had not started work in February - a routine of daily exercise and then a couple of hours in the paddock for the previous four years had kept him safe.

"His loss left us shocked and bereaved, it was like losing a member of the family. He died of toxic laminitis. He was not overweight, he was only 8 years old, he was just unaccustomed to not working in the Spring. He was in a paddock that had been grazed all winter, but his metabolism could not cope with grass and no work. Meanwhile his partner from the pair who was out in the same field was fine. 'Bruno' died a terrible death in a veterinary hospital, and the vets advised us that he had eaten nothing poisonous to trigger this dreadful disease, just grass.

"Please be warned - it is easy to turn your horses and ponies out in the field - it is impossible to replace them. Be vigilant, but in particular keep them trim, exercised and on a correct diet."