Bilbo, the Donkey Who Beat Laminitis

The Naturally Healthy Horse I’m honoring for February is actually not a horse at all–but rather a donkey! Bilbo is a rescue Shelly Black adopted from Peaceful Valley Donkeys.




After walking into the huge pasture at the rescue with over 700 donkeys, Shelly said one donkey approached her.

“He looked quite old, and his bottom lip was drooping open, exposing teeth that looked like they belonged in a shark’s mouth,” she said. “His front feet literally had holes in the front of the hooves from where his foundering had imploded his hooves.”

But he was sound and friendly, so Shelly decided to adopt him. She really hoped he’d make a good companion for her horse, Sampson, who had been left alone after the tragic loss of her other horse, Shane.

With his short stature, hairy coat, and propensity to eat anything in sight, Shelly thought the donkey resembled a Hobbit. Thus, he became Bilbo Baggins.

It took nearly nine months to grow out the holes in Bilbo’s front hooves, but when they did grow out, he appeared to be a relatively normal donkey. He loved to run and play with his horse companion, Sampson.

But in April of 2014, Bilbo suddenly became very lame on his right front hoof. Fearing the worst, Shelly had the vet out and he took x-rays of Bilbo’s hoof.

“The x-ray revealed that he was a “sinker” and that his pastern joint was basically within the walls of his hoof,” said Shelly. “Bilbo had severe laminitis/founder. The vet said that there was no chance of saving him and that I needed to put him down right then and there.”




After already having lost Shane to laminitis, Shelly dreaded having to watch Bilbo suffer the same fate, but she just couldn’t give up on him. Not yet. So she decided to try supporting him with nutritional therapy.

“Immediately I got Bilbo going on a supplement regimen that I felt would help to support his insulin resistance and possibly even help him to recover,” said Shelly.

She started Bilbo on three different supplements all made by Animed: Remission (for insulin resistance and blood sugar balance), Anigest (for proper digestion and gut function), and Aniflex GL (for ligament and supportive tissue restoration). She also ordered EDSS Styrofoam support pads for his feet.

“These are a miracle product and without them he could not have stood the pain. . . The relief they provide is so amazing!” said Shelly.

Within one week, she was able to take Bilbo off of bute, as he was starting to move more comfortably.

Bilbo completely recovered but then last fall, he suffered another laminitic attack. Again, Shelly started him on the same supplements, and once again, he made a quick recovery.

Today, Bilbo is happy and sound again, but Shelly has to keep a careful eye on him since it seems the slightest thing can set him off. His diet includes one handful of soaked timothy pellets with his supplements, twice per day, and mixed grass hay.

“I have had two vets and two farriers tell me that they can NOT believe that his little guy is SO healthy, happy and pain free. When they see him trot and run, it knocks their socks off! They burst out laughing and cheering!” said Shelly.

See for yourself! Here’s a recovered Bilbo, running and playing with his best pal, Samspon:



Since the loss of her horse Shane from laminitis, and then her success of helping Bilbo recover, Shelly has become passionate about teaching others about laminitis. She started the website, Our Healthy Horse, in order to do just that, as well as a way to give back to rescues like the one Bilbo came from. If you shop at, State Line Tack, or purchase Equiderm or Wysong supplements already, you can easily use the links on Shelly’s site and she will donate 10% of the proceeds to an equine rescue on your behalf (at no extra cost to you). ***The Animed products listed above can also be purchased through the link on Shelly’s site.***



Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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