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Preview: The Painful Journey-Equine Founder

The Painful Journey-Equine Founder

Updated: 2018-03-14T04:27:12.875-07:00


NEVER say Never


Looking back, becoming a professional trimmer wasn't even in my wildest dreams, let a lone a career upon which I'd ever thought to have embarked.  I never dreamed I'd one day be looking at foundered & laminitic horses with the eyes of a professional Barefoot Trimmer.  Then I lost my long-time, boring desk job.Fortunately I'd been trimming some of my own horses for almost 20 years.  When you have 20+ horses it's just a little hard to afford to pay someone to trim them all on a regular schedule.  I was so VERY lucky to meet a professional Barefoot Trimmer who was a great mentor & teacher, & who's now a great friend as well.  She trimmed my stallion, DreamCatcher Alshain, when he was being shown to his Region III Reserve Champion SHIH Stallion title.  She used my horses to teach others to trim, & in that process she also taught me to do more than just a flat, pasture trim.  About a year before I lost my job, she even told me she'd refer clients to me if I wanted.  Uh, no, I was working a 20+ year, 40 hour a week job that I'd never quit to strike out on my own.  Then came budget cuts.As the terror of being unemployed struck me, several friends, including my trimmer friend, reminded me that I could start trimming professionally.  Really?  Could I really?  It was then that I joined Pacific Hoof Care Practioners & began my journey into the professional hoof care world.  As one of my required mentorships, I spent a 14 hour day with a vet who's also a hoof care professional with PHCP.  Her specialty is foundered & laminitic horses.  After that long, eye opening day I vowed to NEVER trim a foundered or laminitic horse.  It was shortly after that, that I learned to NEVER say never.One of my first trims as a professional was a severely foundered gelding.  I'd been told he was a little lame, but when I got there I was in for a surprise.  He could barely walk & his feet were LONG & already "dishing".  The poor owner told me how the vet said he was only colicking & that was why he kept laying down.  When her shoer came out, he's the one who told her the gelding was foundering & that she needed to call someone else as he didn't work on foundered horses.  Lucky me!  Actually, it WAS lucky me because I learned so much with that gelding.  I recalled everything I could from my mentorship with the vet & slowly started working.  In the beginning I trimmed him every 2 weeks.  His owner was great in fixing his diet; feeding soaked hay in nets, muzzling him to keep him off the grass, & starting him on CA Trace, a wonderful, balanced mineral supplement.  She also kept him in boots.  It was amazing to watch that gelding improve.  At first it was just a slight improvement in the way he stood.  Then he started walking with a bounce in his step.  I'd been so focused on his trim that when I finally noticed his hooves were looking "normal", I was happily surprised.  It took a few months but the time came when that gelding was sound enough in boots to be lightly ridden. That gelding gave me the confidence to accept more & more foundered & laminitic horses as clients.  Today close to 1/2 my clientele is foundered or laminitic horses.  It was so horrifyingly surprising to learn there were that many horses in metabolic crisis.  I'm so fortunate in so many ways.  I'm actually thankful I lost my job because I LOVE my CAREER.  I'm so happy to be called for foundered & laminitc horses because I love helping them.  After the scary time of having my very own foundered horses, I've learned so much & come so far.  Today I welcome the foundered & laminitic horses who come into my life.  Each one teaches me something that can possibly help me help the next horse.  I'm so thankful I did a mentorship with such a wonderful vet & trimmer.  That day when I said NEVER, came back to haunt me.  Bu[...]

A Fantastic Maark Update


I've had a few wonderful emails recently from Maark's owner. She tells me that Maark is doing fantastic. It's so wonderful to hear that this very nice horse is being given the opportunity to be all he can be by a wonderful horseperson. The following are the emails updating me about Maark: We are a grooving down the trail!!!! Did a ride at Whiskeytown 15 miles very hilly and rocky/tough ride. He did fantastic only 2 things he didn't like out of that whole ride a bicycle and a dark mud sucky puddle. Not bad I thought. W rode with me on my other guy. C H thought I was nuts as she rode with me too but after wards thought he was a great horse for only going out on the trail the 3 time now. Having fun with him. Husband may start riding him after about 20 rides or so he is a great big boy! He is looking really good will get pictures when his hair is off so you can see what he really looks like. Had his teeth floated/sheath cleaned a couple days ago he did really good with that too. He is coming around to others too, he is fearful of new people at first, taking him to a class at Shasta college to get him used to going places in the trailer etc and doing very well. Anyway will quit talking your ear off. Will have to ride soon too at Oroville or Tevis trail. Really want to do the latter!!! Here are some pics of Maarks ride on Tues 3/16. He did so good! Very brave, most of the time. Easy to work through things though. White rocks are a little disturbing. Had a great day and got a little burnt. Hey CMK, We are off to our first ride at Cache Creek today and just wanted to send you a couple of cool training pics of him doing so good! He is such an awesome horse, brave and trusting what a gem! Who would have thought that morbidly obese gelding who got off the trailer last Sept would turn into this awesome trail horse? He's come such a long way thanks to the people in his life who were willing to give him a chance. There IS life after obesity! Ride on Maark & Mom.[...]

Maark's New Journey


I recently received an update on Maarks' progress. He & his new mom have started their journey as trail partners. She said he LOVES going on the trail & wants to keep moving forward. He's curious & excited about all the new things he's seeing. Of course they're only walking right now, but how great is it that a horse who was once in danger of losing his life to obesity is now enjoying all the new things life has to offer him? While getting a horse through the rough times of founder, laminitis, IR, cushings, or obesity can be daunting, it's not impossible. Better still is that with education, horses never had to suffer the consequences of these diseases. Maark is a poster child for how successful an outcome can be if given a chance.

Lady is also doing well. She's living on a drylot pasture with another senior lady. Every now & then they can been seeing flying across the pasture with tails flying. At those times you would never know that Lady is in her 20s & has suffered founder for years. What a gorgeous mover. You can definitely see where Maark gets his awesome trot, like mother like son.

A Sad End


I first saw Sugar almost 20 years ago as a 3-4 year old filly. Back then she was dark grey, sassy, & full of life. I can still see her running across the pasture that day. Of unknown heritage, she stood just under 14 hands but had the trot of a big horse. She belonged to a friend who would sell her & later buy her back. For a number of months about 5 years ago Sugar stayed with me while her owner moved & settled in. It was during this time that I came to appreciate the stoic, tough little mare.Her life hadn't always been easy & she had no use for people other than at feeding time, but who could blame her? Over the years Sugar was a horse of many trades, from trail riding; broodmare; working cattle; cowboy's horse; to lesson horse; forgotten horse, Sugar did it all. At some point in time she experienced an episode of founder. I was told it was post foaling but no other details were ever available to me. Over the next 10-15 years Sugar would have founder flare-ups, but she never missed many days of work. As long as her hooves were kept trimmed & shod, she would continue working with a minimum of pain. We all know that horses can be very stoic creatures, but I think Sugar was more stoic than most. I'm sure she was in a lot more pain than she ever showed. Under saddle she was a fireball who never missed a step, but watch her casually roaming the pasture & it was evident her feet hurt. As time went on she became more sore & could be seen in the classical "saw-horse" stance of founder.It'd been a couple years since I'd seen Sugar, but her owner would occasionally tell me that she was slowly getting worse. Why she was allowed to worsen without treatment was always upsetting & many times I suggested euthanasia. Her owner just wasn't ready. A very selfish sentiment! Sugar had gone from an obese, obviously IR, horse to a thin horse with the haircoat of a cushing horse. Her owner would never spend the money to test for IR & cushings, but the symptoms were hard to miss. Every now & then Sugar's owner would say she really needed to be euthanized but there just wasn't the money for the vet. Finally the day came when Sugar was taken to a low-cost/free euthanasia clinic. I was glad to hear that the stoic little mare's years of pain were over. But even more than being glad, I was so saddened to see what Sugar had been allowed to become. The pictures of her last hours show a horse emaciated by pain, trying to stand & walk on feet that had obviously been long neglected. There's no excuse for allowing a horse's feet to get in this condition. Just because a horse is being fed (I know for a fact that Sugar never missed a meal these last 15 years, she was often overfed) doesn't mean they aren't being neglected. Allowing a foundered horse to suffer is a horrible form of neglect, one that doesn't have to happen. This x-ray shows Sugar's deformed & deteriorating coffin bone that's on it's way to dropping through the sole. I'll never understand how anyone can let a horse get in this condition. How can someone stand by & watch the daily pain & suffering without trying to do something to correct it? Ignorance to the care of a foundered horse is what sent Sugar into her downward spiral of repeated founder episodes. Ignorance & lack of proper hoof care caused a nice mare to suffer years of pain. I tried to talk to her owner many times but old "cowboy" ways are hard to overcome. I hope sharing Sugar's story here will open at least one pair of eyes to the terrible outcome of founder untreated. Founder isn't something hopeless, it isn't something to accept & "learn to live with it". It can be treated &, more importantly, IT CAN BE PREVENTED! Rest in peace & run free Sugar.[...]

Disappointment & Smiles-An Update


Last month Maark went to his new home. His new owner is an endurance rider who was looking for a new horse. She was looking for a project who was kind, calm, & wanting to bond with the human partner. She found what she was looking for in Maark. She picked him up on a rainy night & he was so good getting in the strange trailer in the dark. I did get an email the next day that said after the first few miles he travelled like a pro. She was very pleased with her new horse.

A week later I got an email that Maark was dead lame. His new owner & I were both devastated because her vet said he was not only foundering, but had a blown suspensorary ligament. To say his owner & I were shocked at the diagnosis is an understatement. We were both skeptical but since we aren't vets... I offered to take Maark back but she said she loved him & wanted to work him through whatever was wrong. Her farrier looked at Maark & pronounced that he was not only NOT foundered, but never had foundered. He thought maybe the trouble was an abscess. You can imagine my relief when I got a phone call a few days later saying an abscess had blown out at the coronet band. With that, Maark came sound & the leg swelling disappeared. Obviously the swelling was from the abscess & infection, NOT from a damaged suspensorary. Smiles all around.

Last week I received a holiday email with the awesome news that Maark's new mom had not only started saddling him, but she'd actually been sitting on him & letting him wander around the roundpen. I could hear the grin in her words. It made my day. What a great year end it's been for the fattest horse I've ever known.

Botox For Laminitis & Founder?


I read an interesting article in Equus magazine this morning & thought I'd share. The article was about using Botox to aid in the prevention & treatment of laminitis & founder. Botox is the trade name for a botulinum toxin. The toxin blocks muscle contractions & causes localized muscular paralysis. It's this property that makes Botox popular for reducing facial wrinkles.

A pediatric neurologist & a vet teamed up on a study of Botox use for laminitic & foundered horses. They also studied it's use as a preventative to these 2 devastating diseases. Their study consisted of 7 horses, 6 with varying degrees of laminitis & founder plus 1 horse who had a serious injury to a front leg. The premise for their study was to see if Botox injections would relax the deep digital flexor tendon so it didn't contract & pull the coffin bone into the classic, founder rotation. This would be equivalent to cutting the tendon, which has been the traditional method of treatment for rotation, barring euthanasia. The study horses were injected with Botox above the knees of each affected leg. After 2 weeks, x-rays showed that rotation in the affected hooves had stabilized. The horse who was given Botox as a preventative because of the severe injury never developed laminitis. The effects of Botox begin in a few days & peaks at 2 weeks, with about 3 months being the lasting length of 1 injection.

Botox treatments aren't cheap & depending on the severity of the laminitis & founder, multiple treatments might be needed. The article stated the cost between $1500-$2000 per leg. But when faced with laminitis & founder, there is now one more option that gives our horses a chance at life.

CRM Xpression


I got a call from a friend the other day about a horse who had just been returned to her. She'd free leased her older gelding to a friend. My friend was so upset over the condition of her gelding. She told me he was morbidly obese & having trouble walking on his sore feet. I could hear the pain, anger & fright in her voice. She was afraid he was foundering & that she'd have to euthanize him.When I started this blog to follow my own story of dealing with foundered & obese horses, I had hopes that my horses would help someone else going through the same painful journey. I did hours of research on founder, laminitis, IR & cushings. I was fortunate to have someone as mentor & to hold my hand as I went through the ups & downs of saving a horse I thought was unsavable. It was now my turn to "pay it forward". As I was speaking with my friend, she sent me this photo. No it's not a pregnant mare, it's her gelding. It's obvious that he wants to rock onto his backfeet to relieve his sore fronts. She told me he kept pawing the air with one front foot, not wanting to stand on it. I couldn't see his expression in this photo, but she said his eyes were dull & wrinkled in worry & pain. Such a shame because this used to be a vibrant, bright horse who carried more than one person down the endurance trail. I was so glad I could tell my friend that her horse was very savable. I told her to look at my blog & read about Maark & Lady. We knew her gelding had been on irrigated pasture & I explained that he could not be allowed any more grass. He needed to be on dry lot pasture. I told her how I spread hay out all over the pasture to keep my horses not only moving, but to prevent them from gorging their meal. Boy did I feel smart explaining about sugar & starch content in hay, & that she needed to find hay low in both. I told her how I rinse the beet pulp until the water runs clear to insure it's as low in sugar as possible. But I think the most important thing I learned on my journey was that these obese horses can NOT be put on a shorter ration diet. I've learned that like people with rapid weight loss, there can be internal organ damage associated with rapid weight loss in horses as well. My friend said she was so glad she'd called because she'd barely fed her gelding that morning. She was going to go feed him a normal ration of hay, spread around his pasture, as soon as we got off the phone. I asked if she'd gotten his weight & it was estimated (taped) at just over 1100lbs. This for a horse who's normal weight was barely over 900lbs. A few days later my friend called to say her gelding was moving better & his eyes were brightening. We talked some more about what had happened to him & how to prevent it from happening again. Fortunately my friend knows the importance of good hoof care & she's already addressed what she feels was a very bad trim. I was glad to hear he was doing better & offered to loan her some Easyboots with pads if she thought her horse needed them. She said he was walking really well in his sand paddock. It will be a long, slow process, but my friend & her gelding will be just fine. I can't stress enough that allowing your horse to get morbidly obese is life threatening. If you have an easy keeper, please monitor the weight & health so you don't have to go through the pain of trying to save your horse. Founder is extremely painful & no horse should have to go through the agony. With good management, you can prevent founder. [...]

The Biggest Loser


(image) Maark is doing & looking good. He's starting to get some muscle tone & he's enjoying running & playing. It's amazing to see him run & then check his pulse & respiration. When he arrived he was puffing just walking across the pasture. Today he can run with the rest of the herd with his pulse & respiration recoveries are almost as fast as my endurance mare. He's doing so fabulously well that I find it hard to remember that day in Sept when he stepped off the trailer. I've almost forgotten how I tossed handfuls of hay around an entire acre to keep him & Lady not only moving, but to keep them from gorging while trying to feed them appropriately. Maark's no longer that obese horse heading for a metabolic crash. He's gone from 1467 lbs to 1170 lbs. It's been tough feeding the calories he needs without contributing to his obesity. But I have succeeded. He's becoming the dynamic horse he was meant to be & one day soon he'll become an athlete. It's been suggested that I open a Biggest Loser Ranch for horses. I might just do that.

Maark-Hooves Uncast


(image) After Maark had has his Equicasts on for 4 weeks, they started to come off. This was helped along by the rain & Maark moving around the pasture with the other horses. His best friend is a 2 year old filly who keeps him hustling. On 10/25 Sally, James, & a student trimmer came out to work on Lady & Maark. Maark was quite the pest as Lady was getting her hoof makeover. He wanted to see what everyone was doing, probably just to be sure Lady wasn't getting any treats.

For the two weeks that Maark's casts had been off he'd been running around sound so didn't need casts back on his feet. His hooves had grown a lot & needed a trim. It's amazing how fast his hooves are growing & I'm sure some of that can be attributed to the minerals my horses get. CA Trace has increased the hoof growth in all my horses, as well as giving them shiny & dappled coats. Although on second thought the hoof growth might not be such a good thing because they need trimming more often. I might have to reconsider giving the minerals. NOT! They really have helped grow Maark a healthy hoof faster than I could have expected. I hadn't thought of it as Maark was being trimmed, but I'm sure the CA Trace had a part in making Maark feel good enough to misbehave. He was quite wiggly & stubborn, not wanting to stand still. A behavior he hadn't exhibited before Sun. While this is a down side to a horse feeling well, I'll take the fractious horse over the "not quite right" horse any day.

Maark did settle down & it was decided that he would get new casts so the student could practice. It's nice having horses that behave well enough for students to work on them. Not only does it benefit my horses, it benefits all the other horses the student will one day trim & possibly cast. Maark sure does look spiffy in his pretty purple & black hoof casts. I wonder if they're the reason he now runs like the wind?(image)

Lady-Hooves Unveiled


On Sept 7th I began my education in equine founder when Lady arrived from Minnesota. This is a picture of her hoof that day. I had called my trimmer on the Labor Day holiday because it was obvious to my inexperienced eyes that Lady was in crisis. Sally came out & did an emergency trim in the hopes of elevating the pain & pressure Lady was experiencing. We scheduled an appointment for the following weekend & I got on the phone to the vet for x-rays. Sally wanted x-rays before she started trimming to rehabilitate Lady's hooves. X-rays are a crucial tool in rehabbing foundered horses. Without x-rays the trimmer has no idea what can be trimmed away & what must be left. There's no way to know the condition, location, or degree of rotation of the coffin bone without x-rays.On Sept 13th Sally came out with James, another natural hoof care practitioner. It was amazing & scary watching them cut away layers & layers of Lady's hoof. There was so much dead tissue & without the x-rays to guide their way, it would have been impossible to do as beneficial a trim as Lady got that day. Once Sally was satisfied that they'd trimmed as much as they could without causing harm, Equicasts were applied to Lady's front feet. There was an instant improvement in her quality of movement. Within a couple weeks she was trotting sound across the pasture. It was uplifting to watch her emerge as a spunky, loving life mare. I really couldn't wait to see what her hooves would be like when the casts were removed.Oct 25th was the day of revealing. Sally came with a student who was hoping to learn not only about founder, but how to use Equicasts to help foundered horses. James also came to see the changes. He had spent a lot of time "fixing" Lady 6 weeks earlier & it was going to be fun to see the results of his handiwork. When everyone had arrived, I was asked if someone else could be called to come to see the success of the Equicasts. This person had a foundered horse & the student was trying to convince her that the casts would help her horse. Of course I would let someone else come. I hope Lady, & her son Maark, can be used as models for people wanting to help & save their foundered & laminitic horses.It was fun to see the casts taken off so that Lady's hooves were exposed. There was close to an inch of wonderful, healthy, tight growth from the coronet band. Her hooves had grown a lot & there was a lot of dead tissue to be removed. You can see in the above picture that there's quite a bit of toe that needs to be removed. In the next picture you can see where Sally has lowered the heels & taken back the toe on one of Lady's hooves. The thickness of dead tissue is visible at the toe. This was such an amazing transformation to watch. Once this hoof was trimmed, note the really nice angle that is finally being reached, the student put on a new Equicast. It was then on to the other hoof.In between trimming hooves, Sally discussed the anatomical effects of founder & explained how the coffin bones rotates. While she was talking Lady was walking around uncast, just as sound as she could be. I'm sure my grin was quite wide. It's been such an amazing journey in such a short time. Less than 2 months ago I never would have believed Lady could survive her condition, let alone progress to soundness. I'm so glad I've had this chance to learn that founder is NOT a death sentence. I hope that other people & their horses are as fortunate as I've been in having a great trimmer to support me through what can sometimes seem like insurmountable odds. Lady is proof that life can be good.[...]

Founders I Have Known


As I'm dealing with a foundered & a laminitic horse, I've been reflecting on the horses in my past. Looking back it's pretty amazing that I never saw a foundered horse as the stable of my youth. In fact, I'd had horses for 20 years before I saw my first founder. Knowing what I know today, I find that unbelievably amazing. Our horses were kept in stalls & fed high quality, dairy alfalfa with large quantities of grain. Maybe part of the reason for no founders was that a number of the horses had young girls who rode them constantly. But what of the idle horses standing around in stalls with bins of feed? Why did these horses not founder?Rick was the first horse I knew who foundered. He was an early teen, chestnut gelding of unknown heritage. i occasionally rod Rick when his owner was out of town. He was a nice horse, one that I enjoyed riding. One day his owner noticed he was slightly lame. Thinking it probably a stone bruise, he let Rick have a couple days stall rest. Rick didn't get better, in fact he got worse. Finally, after about a week, the vet was called. The horrifying diagnosis was road founder. Rick's founder wasn't caused by feed, it was caused by being over ridden (his owner liked to run for miles in the deep riverbed sand & it took it's toll) into exhaustion. Back then it was common practice to euthanize horses when diagnosed with founder. Rick's owner wanted to save his horse so he did as the vet prescribed. Rick was put on anti-inflammatories & the shoer was called. Eggbar shoes were put on to keep the sole off the ground. When Rick continued to worsen, he was reshod with shoes put on backwards. This was to relieve any pressure at the toes & to give him a better breakover. Still he worsened. Finally the day came when his coffin bones pushed through his soles. The decision was finally made to lay Rick to rest. I personally would have opted for euthanasia sooner. Rick was in a lot of pain, he refused to move, he had lost massive amounts of weight from the pain (causing lack of eating), & he battled numerous hoof abscesses. It was a relief to finally see he didn't have to suffer any longer.VM April Dawn was a gorgeous bay, arabian mare. She belonged to an elderly friend who loved her horses to death. Each spring Dawn & her companions were allowed free access to the lush grass during the day. At night they were brought into the barn & fed alfalfa. Each received a scoop of grain (or sometimes chicken scratch) as a treat. Dawn & her companions were obese. Every spring the four horses would become foot sore. I don't know when Misty Foundered but it's evident today by the structure of her hooves that she did founder at some point. While she's sound today, Dawn wasn't so lucky. A couple of years ago Dawn foundered. The original x-rays showed 26 & 28% rotation in her front feet. She was given Bute & put on stall rest (12 x 12 box stall). She stopped eating because she couldn't move. By the time I was called, Dawn was emaciated & dehydrated. Her coffin bones were through her soles. I had her owner start feeding her beet pulp & rice bran, we moved her water trough closer to her, & we put her in a roundpen instead of the box stall. When I called a few days later, i was told Dawn was doing better & the farrier was upbeat on her outcome. It was a couple more months before I got a phone call that Dawn was worse again. It took some doing but I convinced her owner to let me take them to UCDavis. New x-rays showed that Dawn had no coffin bones left. The bones had de-mineralized to nothing. It was a sad trip. Dawn did not come home.Cougars' Charmer was a palomino, quarab mare who belonged to one of my best friends. While she didn't belong to me, I lov[...]

Joining The Herd


Six weeks ago I doubted I'd ever see my beautiful Minnesota horses trot, let alone trot sound. I know that Sally, my trimmer, said they'd heal & be okay, but I was so very skeptical. It just seemed they both were fighting losing odds, combining morbid obesity with founder & laminitis.
As their lifestyle & diet changed, so did the problems facing Maark & Lady. Slowly they began loosing weight & moving more sound. Maark was the first to trot freely across their pasture, with Lady following a few days later. It's been great watching them improve & seeing the changes that will give them new futures.

Finally Lady & Maark were healed enough to join other horses. Lady was put in with the older, quite mares. It was fun watching her interact with new horses. For so long it was just her & Maark. Now she has a chance to make new friends & to hang out with other quiet, sedate horses. At first she was unsure of her herd status but she quickly found her place in the middle.

It was an exciting day when I moved Maark into the pasture with my working horses. He's become a "working boy". 4 to 5 days a week the members of the "working herd" are free lunged through the 4-5 acre pasture for about 10 minutes. They gallop, trot, snort, & challenge each other to be in the lead. Often Maark leads the way. It's breath taking to watch him as he does a booming trot across the field. I really must get photos of this trot because it's quite spectacular to watch. He's toning & gaining some muscles. As his weight drops his energy level increases & he often does an easy trot to wherever he's going. In the recent rain his Equicasts came off & I was happily surprised to see that his feet are no longer sore. Even trotting across the hard, rocky ground he's sound. As he looses more weight & gain some conditioning, it will soon be time to start ponying him on trails. What a wonderful day that will be!

We Are Not Alone


MissThunderStruck(Ibn Kontiki x Katsie Kitten)Registered, bay, arab mare, born 2-9-95In May 2008, I was given an arabian stallion & mare. Both were very well bred & I was excited to get them. I made arrangements to meet the hauler 1/2 way to pick them up. While we were unloading from the hauler's trailer & reloading into mine, she told me about some of the other arabs needing homes. They were all from the same couple who was looking for good homes for their horses. The hauler had taken some pictures with her phone & she showed me some really nice horses. One mare was big, bay & very nice looking. I could see that she was rolly polly fat in the picture, but I could also see that she was nice. If she'd been on the trailer instead of still in NV, I would have brought her home.Fast forward to 2009. I was again thinking about that big, bay mare. I kept debating whether I should see if she was still available & whether I should bring her home. Then a friend mentioned that she'd like to find a mare of Kontiki breeding to breed to her stallion. I told her about "my" mare & arranged for her to get the mare. I was excited for my friend & glad she was getting the mare because at least now I'd get to see the mare who'd never left my thoughts. Two weeks ago my friend brought MissThunderStruck, aka "T", home. She told me "T's" feet were in horrible shape so we checked to see if my trimmer, Sally, would be willing to trim "T". As luck would have it, Sally was due at my place on Sunday the 4th.My friend arrived with "T" & she wasn't exaggerating when she said "T's" feet were horrible. I was skeptical as to what Sally could do to help those feet. She looked, making faces & noises that just added to my skepticism. Then she went to work with nippers, knife & rasp. It was amazing to watch the layers of dead & diseased hoof fall away. It was very apparent that "T" was an old, chronic founder case. Her bars were huge & laying over; her toes were long with a significant lamellar wedge; her heels were high; flares sprawled in all directions; & it was no wonder poor "T" had trouble walking around her own feet. With every step she had to lift & swing her feet so she wouldn't bang her own legs. She moved somewhat like a wooden puppet with exaggerated movement. Sally uncovered a diseased track of what might have been an old abscess or gravel track or...?? It took a while to get "T's" front feet trimmed. She needed rests in between & Sally switched back & forth often between feet. It was obvious that "T" was uncomfortable on her feet. But what a really nice mare. Even in her discomfort, she was a doll to handle. She tried hard to behave & do what was asked of her. Finally Sally determined that she'd trimmed as much as she could in a first trim. What an amazing difference. It was funny at first to see "T" try to walk on her new feet. She lifted them really high until she found that she could walk normal. She was so much more comfortable on her feet. Sally didn't trim her hind feet because she thought "T" had endured enough for one day. On the gravel drive "T" was fairly ouchy, but in the sandy roundpen she was fine. Each day she improves & fortunately she'll soon be sound.MissThunderStruck is another example of what happens when a horse is allowed to become obese. While she's thinner than in the pictures I first saw, she still has the classic cresty neck & fat pads of a horse with IR. A good part of her life has been spent on rich, irrigated pasture. This past year she'd been moved into a stall but still fed the baled alfalfa from the irrigated pasture. It's probably a miracle that her founder didn't send her coffin bones through her soles consider[...]

Looking Good


Lady & Maark are doing wonderful on the big pasture. Both are moving completely sound & Lady has been seen galloping with her head & tail held high. They share the pasture with 5 other horses, one of which is a 2 year old filly. The filly has become the third member of their little herd. It's cute to see Maark following the filly, although at times she gets tired of his shadowing her every step & she'll pin her ears to warn him off. But let Maark & Lady move to another area of the pasture & their new little friend hurries to join them. Maark also has an affinity for the 2009 fillies in the next pasture over. Anytime they're by the fence he can be found standing next to them. He's so huge next them but they don't seem to notice. On Saturday, Sally & one of her student trimmers were out to trim a few horses. The student had seen pictures of Lady & Maark taken a few days after they arrived because their pictures & story had been posted on a barefoot practitioner's' list. The student could hardly believe that the horses standing in front of her were the same horses in those pictures. Maark is no longer bloated & has lost some weight. While he hasn't lost much, every pound lost smooths out his bulges. The abnormal fat pads on Lady's rump are receding & smoothing away. She's actually gained weight over her ribcage while redistributing the abnormal fat. Both have come so far that it's hard to believe they're the same horses. And most amazing is that they're sound.Quite a few people told me there was no saving Maark & Lady. They all thought that Lady's founder was her death sentence. Even I had thoughts of losing her in that first week. The same people thought that Maark was also foundered but his x-rays proved otherwise. I had people tell me to put shoes on both horses (how can you nail something on to already excruciatingly painful feet?); Lady needed her heels elevated so her toes would be forced down (I still have no idea at the logic of this); both needed egg-bar shoes & pads; cut the sole away to force concavity; some said don't trim the toe & others advised cutting the toe back to live tissue; some said feed only alfalfa & others said no alfalfa; never feed grain hays; never feed grass hay; alfalfa cubes are safe because they're not hay (this one still confuses me); lock them in 12 x 12 stalls filled with shavings; turn them out on hard ground to keep the bones aligned (huh?); force them to move; limit their movement. There was all manner of advise coming from all directions. Common sense told me they needed movement to improve their compromised circulation. This same common sense told me their feet needed support & padding to ease the pain so they'd want to move about. I had read about people taping foam to their horses' feet & others who kept their horses in boots. I tried to get boots on Maark & Lady but their feet were considerably too big for the boots I had. If it hadn't have been for Sally I would have given up on these beautiful horses. The best advise that I can give to anyone going through this same painful journey is to get a very good trimmer who KNOWS feet; someone who has been successful in helping foundered horses; someone who understands that founder is so much more than just a hoof disease. Do your own research to find all available options. There's so much more to this condition than I had ever heard. Without the support & help from someone who understands how the entire body is effected by founder & its causes, I would not have been able to save Maark & Lady. Most importantly, recognize the early signs so you can begin treatment before severe & irreparable damage is do[...]

Mondays Are Big Days


(image) Lady & Maark arrived on the first Monday of Sept. It's now the last Monday of Sept & they're doing wonderfully. Today was a very big day for them. They were turned out on the 5 acre pasture with 4 other horses. It was fun watching them explore their new surroundings. They wandered among the trees, checked out the neighbor's horse-eating llamas, smelled fallen pine cones, & met the horses in another pasture over. A few times they trotted to a new destination like they couldn't wait to check all the new things out.

Maark has an unbelievable trot & is breath taking to watch. He was so full of energy today that he was strutting around with his tail flying over his back. For a big horse he moves incredibly light on his feet. He'll one day be an awesome saddle horse, no matter the discipline.
(image) Lady is the sweetest mare. She's just a big lovebug who wants attention, petting & hugs. Her quiet temperament has gone a long way to help Maark settle in with little spooking or drama. She's been such a wonderful teacher for him. She is amazingly sound at the walk AND the jog. Woohoooooo! Today she opened up a little more & floated part way across the bigger pasture. She's extremely laid back so that nothing seems to get her fired up, spooked or snorty. What a wonderful mare.

I'm so glad I've been given the chance to share Maark & Lady's lives. They're such nice horses who deserve whatever chance I can give them. While I was completely overwhelmed upon their arrival, given their problems, I've had a wonderful support system of people who've made the beginning of this journey successful. I can't wait for the day to come when the equicasts come off Lady & Maark. I can't wait to see their progress & the positive changes to their feet. Already their bodies are adjusting & changing for the better. They still have a long road ahead of them, but I'm confident the road won't be nearly so rocky as it has been. Thank you to everyone who has supported us. And thank you to Lady & Maark's former owner for sending these wonderful horses my way.

Laminitis & Founder Defined


Every day horse owners are faced with the debilitating effects of laminitis & founder. Veterinarians see hundreds of cases each year. While the exact mechanism of founder & laminitis are unknown, what is known that these diseases are, in most cases, preventable & treatable. Laminitis & founder are disorders that effect the entire body. Most often they are metabolic in nature, therefore systemic. Laminitis & founder are emergency conditions & a vet should be immediately called when either is suspected. Most people use the terms laminitis & founder to mean the same disease. This is not quite accurate. Laminitis occurs when the blood flow to the laminae of the hoof is disrupted. Laminitis is an acute condition, meaning it's usually short-term & sudden. The laminae becomes inflamed & the horse is in pain. If the laminitis attack isn't arrested, the inflammation will weaken the laminae & the coffin bone to wall bond. If the laminitis is severe enough, the coffin bone will separate from the hoof wall & rotate within the hoof. As the coffin bone rotates downward, it will eventually sink & puncture the sole. Once this rotation of the coffin bone has occurred, the horse is said to have foundered. Founder is the chronic condition associated with the rotation of the coffin bone. Laminitis & founder usually occur in the front feet but can occur in the rears as well, with 1 or all hooves involved.There are many causes of laminitis/founder, with overfeeding being one of the most common. Here are a few of the many causes:1) Grazing lush, rich pastures in probably the number 1 cause of laminitis/founder. Grass founder is a risk when grass growth is greatest in early spring, or anytime after rain, sun & temperatures are sufficient to cause rapid plant growth. The sugar & starch content are highest at these times & the equine digestive process is unable to handle the sugar & starch over load. Changes in the gut flora cause toxins to be released into the bloodstream & these toxins are believed to disrupt the normal blood flow to the hooves.2) Road founder is caused by a horse being overworked, usually on hard terrain. The constant concussion of the hooves on the hard ground causes stress to the hooves. It can also be associated with the metabolic stress of being overworked; including fatigue, dehydration, & exhausted horse syndrome. 3) Various ailments can cause founder, usually because the high fevers disrupt blood flow.4) Bouts of severe colic.5) Using black walnut shavings &/or eating parts of the tree; Black walnuts are toxic to horses.6) Ingesting toxic plants or plants coated in toxic chemicals.7) Over feeding of grain; carbohydrate overload.8) Stress related to shipping, showing, competitions, & loss of sleep.9) Reactions to drugs.10) Poor farrier work; unbalanced hooves, nail pricks, shoes too hot, etc.11) Equine cushings and/insulin resistance/Obesity!12) Retained placentaOne of the most important signs to watch for if you suspect laminitis/founder is the digital pulse. Feel for a pulse above the heel bulbs at the back of the pastern. A horse who is having a problem will have a pulse here because the blood flow is disrupted. Another indicator can be heat in the hooves. Horses will be reluctant to move & may lay down & not want to get up because their feet are very painful. Some symptoms can be subtle, with the horse slightly stiff. Many will stand in the classical "founder stance", as they rock onto the backs of their heels to relieve the pain. Some think of this as the "sawhorse stance", with fron[...]

An Amazing Day


(image) As I was free lunging the horses in the big pasture this morning, I noticed Maark & Lady snorting & trotting. Luckily I had my camera in my pocket. It was so amazing to see them trotting free & easy after such a rough start in CA. Maark was so full of himself he even galloped, although I didn't get a picture of that. Poor Lady was having a hard time keeping up with the flying gelding. Maark has a big, powerful, ground covering stride. Lady has unbelievable hock action. Both are gorgeous to watch. I really can't describe the feeling as I watched them move. Just a week ago I was unsure they had a future. Today I saw that they do indeed have a long future ahead of them. To celebrate I cheated on their low starch, low sugar diet & gave them each an apple. Boy did they savor the taste, chewing with eyes closed.

Because I have a few of my homebred horses who are overweight, I've started almost all my horses on exercise programs. I've learned so much from Maark & Lady. I think the most important lesson though is that it's so hard not to "kill them with kindness" & I never want to do that. Hindsight indicates that I've been very lucky over the years because I've always been generous with feed. Of course I've also always kept most of my horses working, but there are a few who haven't been worked & on the scale they sure show it. No more! Now that I have new knowledge I'm going to use it to keep my horses safe & healthy.

As I reflect on the last 2 weeks it's amazing at how far Lady & Maark have come. While I attribute their success to 2 wonderful trimmers, I do feel some satisfaction in knowing that I had a hoof in getting them on the trail to good health. (image)



Maark & Lady are doing well. They are no longer getting any anti-inflammatories & they continue to move better & better. Both have spring to their steps & no longer dread moving. Lady bounces as she walks & has a swing to her gait that lets me know she's no longer in pain. Maark is becoming the bright eyed young horse he's meant to be, occasionally trotting to where he wants to go. They no longer huddle together at the bottom of the pasture in shared pain. More often than not I see them investigating their surroundings with longing looks toward the herd in the next pasture. While they're not ready to join the herd, it's wonderful to see them wanting to be normal horses. My concern over dehydration in no longer needed because they now travel the pasture to the water trough. Both are very vocal at feeding time & I'm sure they think I'm starving them with their monitored diet. The Equicasts with Super Fast are working wonderfully. I would personally recommend casting to anyone who has a foundering horse. I know they can be expensive, but they're well worth the expense as they might just save the horse. I still can't thank Sally & James enough for spending the day to make my new horses better. It's really because of them that Lady & Maark are getting a second chance at life.

Monday 9/14


It was dark this morning when I went out to give Lady & Maark their morning Bute. I knew I needed to take halters because after their makeover yesterday, they were comfortable enough to evade me for last nights Bute. I can no longer medicate without catching them. As I stumble after them in the dark, they were actually trotting away from me, I couldn't help but think they didn't deserve any more Bute. I did finally manage to catch them when they stopped in their favorite corner of the pasture. By then I wasn't happy because it was now 5am & I was already sweating. Why is it that Monday mornings always start out difficult? Ok, I will admit that I was actually happy they were able to trot away from me, just not happy that I was having to chase them in the dark through sticky weeds.

When I got home from work Lady & Maark were both at the top of the pasture. A good sign as until now they've stayed pretty much at the bottom under the trees, not moving around much. When I started feeding they both got very vocal for their dinner. Another good sign as this was the first time they've done any talking, or even showing much interest in feed time. While they both are very food oriented, as is obvious by their obesity, they hadn't been pain free enough to show a lot of enthusiasm. As I drove the hay wagon into their pasture I had to cluck to get them to move out of the way. You should have seen my face when they both took off at a trot, Maark with his tail flying. It was wonderful seeing them feeling so good. This morning's chase has been forgiven.

More Than I Ever Wanted To Know


There is a body score rating for horses called the Henneke Body Score. It's basically a scale from 1 to 9 with 1 being emaciated & 9 being obese. On the Henneke scale Maark is definitely a TEN! He has fat pads on top of fat pads. The shadowed areas in the photo are rolls of fat bulging through very tight skin. Poor Maark is so uncomfortable in his own skin that he's not only super itchy, he's sensative to the touch & his skin ripples under your hand. It has to be awful to be this morbidly obese.Just about every horse person knows about equine abuse. It's acts of cruelty, neglect & starvation. What most are not aware of is that another form of abuse is "killing them with kindness" or "loving them to death". Lady & Maark's former owner is a wonderful woman who loved her horses. She did everything she could to take care of them. They had stalls to shelter them from the elements, & they were stalled every night to keep them safe from the dangerous in the dark. When turned out they were able to eat lush grasses. Their hay was the best, timothy & brome, & they got their daily scoop of grain. They even got tasty horse cookies. Unfortunately all this wonderful care just continued to put weight on them until they reached an unhealthy status. In 2007 Lady foundered from over feeding while in the care of someone else. Luckily she recovered from the founder but her metabolic system was compromised. She & Maark are both obviously IR, or Insulin Resistant.This picture of Lady's croup shows the classic IR fat pad. Her ribs are showing but she has odd fatty desposits on her croup; her neck is crested; her throatlatch is fat; & she has fat deposits above her eyes. The average horse person would think her thin by virtue of her ribs. She is NOT thin. She's in metabolic distress from obesity & her weight is distributed in odd fashion.IR is similar to early Type II Diabetes in people. It's a condition in horses where the body cells are unable to absorb glucose due to an inability to respond to the hormone Insulin. The function of insulin is to activate cells to take in glucose. When the insulin fails to activate cells to take in glucose, the pancreas produces more insulin than normal in an attempt to get the glucose into the cells. While there may be a genetic predisposition to develop IR, there are a number of factors that can act as triggers. A few are high carbohydrate diets; high fat diets; mineral deficiencies or imbalances; lack of exercise; obesity; & stress.Some of the symptoms of IR are: easy weight gain; abnormal fat deposits; lethargy; increase in water consumption & urination; puffiness (fat) in the eye hollows; muscle soreness; muscle wasting & loss of body condition; & the worst is laminitis. Laminitis is inflammation of the laminae of the hoof. It's a condition that can become fatal if not treated quickly & properly. If you have a horse that gets sore feet when the spring grass is lush, please don't hesitate to call your vet. It could save your horse's life. One of the effects of long term, untreated IR is liver damage. The condition is called Fatty Liver Syndrome because the liver swells from trying to store excess glucose. If your horse is obese, please alter his diet & implement an exercise program. Please consult with your vet to improve your horse's health & to possibly save his/her life.Because IR is a metabolic disorder & not technically a disease, it's not controlled by drugs. The treatment for IR is management of diet & exercise. Idea[...]

Extreme Makeover


As Sunday morning arrived I was a bit anxious as to what the day would bring. Lady & Maark were scheduled to be trimmed according to their x-rays. I was up early so I worked in the yard to stay busy. Sally arrived at 9:30, full of optimism. To take a step back, I have to say that the day a few years ago when she responded to my request for a good trimmer was one of the luckiest days ever. For me that is, not necessarily for Sally. Ha! Anyway, when Sally arrived Sunday morning she was ready to help my newest "rescues".Shortly after Sally's arrival, James arrived. James is also a trimmer & together they were going to tag team the extensive work necessary on Lady & Maark. I was a little excited for them to See Lady & Maark Sunday morning because both were walking better. They were actually wandering most of their acre instead of standing stationery under the trees. We brought them into the barn to begin their extreme hoof makeover.Lady was first because she needed the most work. Her heels were high & her toes were long with the typical founder dish & rings. Her right front was the worst foot so that's where James started. As James began trimming back her toe he cut through a lot of dead laminae. Lady had a significant lamellar wedge that looked like a bruise or blood line. A lamellar wedge is a grove where the white line should be. The grove fills in with keratin cells to fill the space between the dermal & epidermal laminae, creating the lamellar wedge. I could tell that James was a bit uncomfortable trimming through this, but Sally pushed him on. She assured James & I both that this was dead tissue that needed to be removed before Lady could improve. Slowly, sometimes chunk by chunk, sometimes rasp stroke after rasp stroke, Lady's hoof began to transform. It was incredible to see the change. Once as much as could be safely trimmed away was done, Lady's hooves were wrapped in Equicasts with Super Fast. To do this the hoof wall is lightly rasped to clean it & give it a better gluing surface. VetTech Adhere glue is applied to the hoof, then the Equicast tape (4" tape was used) is tightly wrapped around the hoof, including the bottom. Water is then applied to activate the chemicals in the tape. As the water is applied the wrinkles & folds in the tape are flattened & smoothed. The cast hoof is then placed on a foam or towel surface to finish curing & to form fit the sole. There were a few high spots on the soles so a small grinder was used to smooth the surface. Once this was done, Super Fast was applied to the bottom of cast in the shape of an eggbar shoe. It was applied only to the outer edge of the hoof & not on the sole. This elevates the sole from the ground to give relief while the hoof heals. It was amazing to see the before & after photos. While Lady was getting her makeover, Maark was tangling himself in his tied lead rope. He'd get it wrapped over his ears & then he's look for one of us to save him. He's such a goof. Finally I gave up & just turned him loose in the stall so he could watch Lady getting done. Next it was his turn. His feet are not in the horrible shape Lady's are. Maark hasn't foundered, he just has a case of laminitis. Laminitis is inflammation of the laminae & there is no bone changes or rotation. His prognosis is a complete return to normal with proper care. Sally & James got his hooves on the right tract to achieve proper healing. Maark had long toes so those were trimmed back. Once his fe[...]

A Painful Beginning


On Monday Sept 7, 2009, two registered arabians came into my life. FA Ovaature, aka Lady, is a 22 year old, dark bay mare of outstanding quality. Maarked Crescendo, aka Maark, is an 8 year old, dark bay gelding. They are mother & son, both with wonderful bone, substance, & stunning heads. Lady & Maark had traveled from MN to N CA, never stepping off the trailer in route. This decision proved to be a serious mistake. I had spoke with the shipper a number of times prior to their arrival. He had warned me that Maark was overweight. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine HOW overweight. The gelding that jumped off the trailer into my drive is the fattest horse I have ever seen. If you can believe it, he even has fat on his nose. There are rolls along his sides & back that pull his skin taut, making for a very creepy feel as you pet him. While Lady is carrying some odd fatty pads throughout her body, she isn't technically overweight & her ribs are slightly showing. She came off the trailer ever so slightly sore footed across my rocky drive. Neither appeared to be in stress & I was thrilled with my beautiful new horses. Fast forward three hours & it was apparent that Lady was foundering. She was beginning to stand in that classical, sawhorse stance. My trimmer, Sally, graciously gave up her Labor Day ride to come see what she could do to help. By the time she arrived, it was apparent that Maark was also starting to crash. He was getting foot sore & not wanting to move much. It was unbelievable & I was devastated. Lady's heels were extremely high & her toes overly long. Sally did what she could to get Lady's feet a little more balanced. By the structure of her hooves, it was evident that she had previously foundered. Maark also got a little work done but with not knowing what was going on inside the hooves, it was like trimming blind. I gave each a dose of Bute (an anti-inflammatory) & soaked Maark's feet in ice. He was so good, standing perfectly still with both front feet in a feed pan full of ice & water. I could only hope that he was suffering from laminitis & not foundering.On Sally's recommendation I had both horses x-rayed. We needed to see what was going on inside those feet. When a horse founders the coffin bone rotates out of position & it can drop through the sole. The coffin bone can also demineralize. If the damage is bad enough humane euthanasia is the only option. While I wanted to know what was happening, I was also afraid to know. Both horses were so well mannered for the vet. They had to stand one foot on a board for each x-ray. Their behavior was a testament to their wonderful dispositions. I knew they were in pain but yet they were trying to do everything asked of them. Lady & Maark started getting a dose of Bute morning & night while I waited for the x-ray results. I was also spreading their hay out in handfuls throughout their one acre pasture. I didn't want them to stand & gorge on their meals, I wanted them to "graze". Not only would they eat more naturally, they would also have to move around which aids in circulation to those ailing feet. It's so heart wrenching to watch a horse in pain from founder. Even standing still causes pain.When I got home Friday night I had a phone message from the vet. Maark had laminitis but he was NOT yet foundering. Icing those hooves had just become a priority to keep the heat & inflammation out. I'm going to do whatever I can to keep h[...]