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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label feet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feet. Show all posts

March 14, 2020

Update On Disaster Horse

Maybe that should be his new name...

Echo's shoulder has improved some this week.  I'm leaning heavily towards it being a kick & have absolutely no doubt that he was asking for it (he basically always is).  Reason being, he has shown no protest to me extending the leg & he did a big "downward dog" stretch himself this morning, which I don't think he'd be that in to if he had pulled those muscles.

He still has a lump there, although it's reduced a bit, which I'll continue to SoreNoMore, but plan on tapering back the bute & seeing what happens.  He's moving much better, I don't see any more tightness in his walk & he trotted up for his late-night snack last night.

I briefly got on him bareback this morning, just to walk him around & get a feel for things, as that can often give me a lot of information.  I didn't feel anything from that bruised foot (granted, he was still on bute, but that doesn't hide everything), which is good, & got no real resistance from the shoulder.

On Thursday, farrier removed the glue-on boots & put him back in the flip flop pads.  So far, he's looking pretty comfortable in them, which confirms that his initial discomfort with them last time was in fact that it was a suddenly firm surface under that bruise.  He's made enough healing progress now that it no longer bothers him.  We did use race nails (thinner/lighter) in the shoes this time, just for cautious bet-hedging. 
They're back (altho this weird-angle pic is from the first round)
Thanks to the commenter on that post who gave us a perfectly timed tip:  the EasyCare flip flop boots CAN be reused!  We pried them off intact with a screwdriver (by the way, the Adhere glue worked perfectly for 5 weeks).  The adhesive stayed stuck to the hoof, so the boots came off clean & ready to go if I ever want to use them again.  If adhesive does stick to the boot, it can be easily dremel-ed off.  This at least made the price slightly less painful -- if you get two cycles out of them, that's $30 a cycle, which is still a bit high, but much closer with other plastic/rubber/polyurethane footwear.

I am happy with the boots' performance overall:  they stayed on (always critical), tread still looks good, horse moved normally (you know, for a creature with 3 functional legs).  I would definitely add the pour-in material in the toe in the future, as there is just no way to get gunk out of there & there was some moisture trapped in there when we pulled them (we've been in a rainy period).  Echo's feet were healthy when they went on, so no harm done, but pad material would help prevent that buildup.  Alternatively, you could probably cut out some sole "windows," the way we've done with the pads, because the material is pretty sturdy (caveat, I haven't tried this, but I bet someone has).  

Please, Echo, can we just be boring for a while?
Discovering spring grass a couple weeks ago

February 29, 2020

My Horse Is Wearing Flip-Flops In Winter

We've yet to nail down the exact footwear type that optimizes Echo the Baby Monster, but I feel like I'm getting closer.  I've been trying some "new" technology & there is a lot to like -- this post covers two alternatives.  As I've mentioned before, Echo dislikes anything that he feels pinches his heels; this can include a plain horseshoe, so I devoted some focused brain effort towards exploring options that still allowed me to protect the bottom of his foot while he heals.

Behind Door #1:  Flip Flop Boots
 
Right now, he is still wearing the EasyCare flip flop boots I brought up in the last post.  They are still working pretty well:  the epoxy is holding firm in the rain/mud/frozen/unfrozen roller coaster of conditions that is a Carolina February.  Traction remains good.  He seems to be moving comfortably in them (i.e. definitely doesn't prevent him from cantering & bucking across the field for dinner) & I've seen no signs of over-reaching (I am using bell boots with them because, well, it's a horse owned by me, therefore bad luck is probable, heh).  And the rubber is very sturdy -- vet commented on the radiographs that the sole of the boot was nearly the same density as the coffin bone. 
Solar view, complete with mud for "natural" look
As far as application, they truly ARE easy.  If your horse already had a good trim, you could definitely glue these on yourself.  I didn't get any pictures of farrier putting them on because it was dark & I was busy holding extra lights, but it went like this:
  1. Trim foot & rasp wall to roughen for maximum epoxy bonding.
  2. Set foot in boot (without epoxy) & mark (sharpie works) where you want to trim excess length off the back (if needed).  Trim with hoof nippers.
  3. Smear entire inside of boot cuff liberally with expoxy of choice (we used the black Adhere this time since that's what EasyCare recommended, but farrier commented that wasn't his favourite).
  4. Place boot on hoof, making sure it's snugged up against toe.  Hold long enough for intial setting, then place foot carefully on ground for the rest of the set time.
Left front (bruised foot) with boot
EasyCare has an excellent video with detailed instructions here, which is what I sent to my farrier since he had not used these before.  You can also squirt some pour-in pad material into the toe to help keep dirt out -- I would have liked to have done this, but we were worried about creating too much pressure on a sore foot & at the time of application, I still thought it was a bruise more towards the toe.  So we skipped it. 

Since nothing is perfect, the things I don't like:
  • These are rather stupidly expensive, at $32 for EACH ONE.  So a pair is $64 & they are not designed to be reusable -- according to the instructions, you have to cut the boot to get them off.  As a result, I will not be using these again barring emergency, because that is way too pricey for a single cycle (since total price with farrier labour is obviously more than that).  
  •  They do get junk in them.  However, not as much as I expected & I think it would be even less if we weren't in the middle of rainy, muddy paddock time.  When it has been drier & Echo has been in the upper field, he doesn't get anything in there.  
    • It's not too hard to pick out the back of the collateral grooves around the heels, but you can't reach the toe at all.  You could flush it out with a hose pretty easily though.
    • I got the flip flop model because I didn't have time to do a bunch of size exchanges & I figured they had the most flexiblity in terms of fit.  The trade-off is this:  a boot that glues around the whole foot will probably keep more junk out but then you also lose air circulation to the bottom of the foot.  Pick your poison.
Behind Door #2:  Flip Flop Pads

A couple of weeks from now, when the boots come off, we'll switch Echo to something I think is even more promising:  true flip flop pads.  I'd been wanting to try these for him ever since I read about them in this article.  My farrier had never used these either, but was willing to give it a shot. 

We actually tried a set about a month ago & they looked great.  However, Echo was pretty sore in them & again, I wasn't sure what the problem was yet.  We thought that one of the nails might be putting pressure on the hypothesized bruise, so we pulled the shoes/pads after a week.  I know now that he was sore because these pads are VERY firm, they are made to be reset & that sudden change from barefoot was too much for him at that phase of his healing.
Solar view of flip flop pads & half shoe
As a result, I don't yet know exactly how they will work out long term.  But my initial impression, on the foot that wasn't sore, was that these could be good for him.  The concept was designed by farriers & they've been in use for a long time in Standardbred racing (we used the Grand Circuit pads to match the thickness of an eventer shoe).  The pad itself covers the whole foot, providing even support across the entire width of the heels without any restriction on heel motion.  It's then held in place by a regular horseshoe which is cut in half. 
Shoe & pad thickness must match to create level surface for foot
The niche these pads particularly address are horses that need more/better heel growth, whether they are underrun or low or just weak.  The pads work by distributing pressure across the entire back of the foot, spreading out the forces that would otherwise be focused on the heels by a regular metal shoe.   

I like that this provides protection for toe wear, the area where Echo tends to get separation on his right front (in above pic).  It checks the box of "no heel squeezing," as per his majesty, Pony Princess Feet.  The pads come with pre-stamped holes in the toe, but we cut out bigger openings so I could keep things clean more easily (this worked great).  Farrier was a little hesitant at first that cutting might compromise pad integrity, but he stopped worrying about that as soon as he tried to actually cut them -- all his normal tools (pad cutter, hoof nippers) wouldn't do it, it took a lot of muscle & hacking with a very sharp hoof knife & that barely cut it.
You do need a chop saw to cut the shoes
I'll definitely share more info when I've had a chance to collect more data.  I've seen good reports from other users online.  They are much more reasonably priced than the boots, with the pads themselves around $16 a pair & can be reused.  The concept seems solid -- we'll see what the princess has to say about it. 

February 18, 2020

It's Not An Abscess

Echo decides to prove yet again that my paranoia is not unfounded.

We finally made it to the vet today for spring shots & the planned radiograph I mentioned previously.  It was supposed to be last week, but the rain prevented the machine from coming out to play & it was so wet, I couldn't get the trailer hooked up & out without tearing up half my property.

Turns out, Echo's prolonged on again/off again soreness on his left front is in fact due to some bone bruising on the medial wing of that coffin bone.  Which Dr. Bob also referred to as "crushing" & "micro-fractures."  Which I did not really appreciate because I don't care what the vet-land rules are, but these words do not all mean the same thing to me & shave several years off my life!  I am just going to call it bone smooshing because that is descriptive without being quite so terrifying-sounding.
Smooshing is right where the #4 is on this coffin bone
This type of injury happens when a horse's heel impacts something hard, such as a rock or a hard piece of ground, with too much force or just the right angle or it's Tuesday.  Fortunately for Echo & I, his smooshing is right at the tip of the bone.  Which means it will heal, is already healing, & he should be fine.  If you get smooshing farther forward on the bone (like by 3 or 5) or extending up into the joint, that is when it becomes a Really Bad Thing.  I am hopeful I never have to learn any further detail about that.

Since this has been going on since early December, Echo is already a "fur piece" down the healing road.  Having had a gnarly bone bruise, I am familiar with their slowness; Dr. Bob said this type of thing can range from 6-8 weeks for a mild one (like Echo's) up to 6 months for something more severe.  So we should be on the "improving" side of the curve & we should see continued gradual progress over the next month or so.

Also fortunately, my gut management instincts (& repetitive haunting of Dr. Bob's phone line) guided the correct course of action over the winter, even though I wasn't certain of the cause.  He's done very little work, which consisted entirely of walking & an occasional short trot for feels on soft ground.  He's been able to move freely in the pasture, which is what needed to happen for circulation which then fuels healing. 

And for the last month or so, as he's moving more & when we get more frozen ground cycles, both front feet have been protected with full support across the heels & frogs.  The exact devices will get their own post, because farrier & I have been learning about new technology, but right now, he's wearing a pair of EasyCare's flip flop boots & they are working pretty well.
One of his expensive slippers
These allow his heels full lateral freedom (which is his particular Princess Pony Foot demand), but provide a thick, sturdy pad under his entire foot while still providing good traction in mud or frosty grass.  All the details will come in the next post.

Until then, he has been cleared commanded to go back into more consistent work under saddle on the flat (with bute as needed) to use that 5-yr-old energy most constructively (although I am sure he will still engage in many spring frolics) & help the rebuilding process.  I am sure I will be ultra paranoid conservative about it, but I suspect I shall receive no arguments from Echo other than "SO WHYYYY IS ALL-CANTERZ A BAD IDEA????"

Definitely not as "benign" as the abscess I was voting for, but on the upside, it involves no wrapping & will be far less messy.  Another plus:  this was the only foot I didn't have radiographs of yet, so now I have images of all four (yes, horse owners celebrate weird things).  Joint spaces were clean & lovely, navicular bone was fine, soft tissue had no issues, & all the other pieces were where they were supposed to be.  And while it's been frustrating to watch his muscling disappear, I'm just glad that it's not permanent (at least not this time).

Answers bring a great deal of peace of mind, even more so when they are not catastrophic.  We'll see how the next 30 days go, but I'll be thrilled if they are completely uneventful...  
I know he's just hatching his next plot...but at least he will do it shini-ly

February 13, 2020

Winning The Thrush War

Solo's feet hate moisture & they've definitely gotten more finicky with age.  I've never had a case of full-blown thrush in the past, it's mostly just been a "things are looking mushy & threatening" kind of vibe.  I was usually able to clear things up with a short course of Thrushbuster.  In the past year or so, however, I've been losing the battle.

His front feet are the problem children & he developed some pretty deep sulcus splits in both frogs, out of which I started getting some smelly not-goodness.  The Thrushbuster was having little to no effect & Dr. Bob told me that all those thrushy micro-organisms can & do develop a resistance to iodine.  It was time to set out on a quest for something new.
Solo's big crack.  Yeah, I crack myself up.  TWO CRACK JOKES!
I proceeded to read the ingredient list & reviews of every thrush product ever formulated, searching for something non-iodine, but demonstrating real effectiveness without requiring long soaking or specialized boots.  Funny side story & spoiler alert:  I ended up at one of the same conclusions as L. Williams, who wrote up a great account of her experience recently!

The Winner

After extensive reading, I decided to try Pure Sole Hoof Mud.  I'm always a little hesitant about things that scream "ALL NATURAL FROOFY" or whatnot, that sound like someone just concocts it in their basement & then sells their placebo for a bunch of money.  However, one of the primary ingredients is apple cider vinegar, which is an acid with well-documented effectiveness against thrush, along with zinc oxide, which is a good moisture barrier.
It's extremely easy to use.  I love that I don't need gloves & it doesn't make me all sticky or dye me purple.  It has a perfect, dry clay consistency so you can pack it in to cracks & crevices easily.  I kneaded it deep into those sulci, where it generally stayed for about 24 hours or so.  I've been using it in nasty mud & wetness with no issues.  When the horse puts his foot down, the clay just gets shoved deeper in there.
Just brushes off my fingers when I'm done
Even better, IT WORKED.  I applied it daily for a few weeks, although that may have been overkill with the acid, because I did see a little frog degradation.  But no more stinky funk.  I backed off to using it once every few days, more often if it's rainy, just in the crevices as a preventative.
After packing
I bought the smaller tub & have used probably 95% of it in 1.5 months, but it will take a little while to use up the last 5% now that I'm using less of it less often.  I did already get a new big tub, so now I'm prepared for the microbial apocalypse.  The clay itself seems very stable, the consistency has been the same whether it's warm or cold & it's definitely been out in the shed when it's 20F.

The only thing it didn't succeed at was sticking to the outside of the hoof wall or white line.  I wanted to see if it would help Echo's toe that is prone to separation, but the clay won't stick to that by itself, it falls off or gets rubbed off in about 4 seconds.  But for areas in & around the frog, worked great.

Two hooves up from us (technically eight, because I did put it on some other spots on Echo's feet too).  

February 2, 2020

Bruise Purgatory

This is where I've been with Echo for the last too-many-weeks.  A lurking bruise in a front foot that just won't commit to action.  At least I hope it's a bruise, because a worse alternative is...much worse.

He bruised something inside that foot in November, taking a bad step in a field (I saw it, fortunately, he was essentially standing still, so not a ton of force, he just vastly over-reacted to moving out of Solo's way).  Vet checked it out with a basic exam, wasn't overly concerned, we rested.

It lingered.  In early December, Echo was still sore at times & I had worked myself up into an over-anxious state by drawing many parallels with Solo's DDFT injury.  So we went back to vet & he said still just a bruise & after watching the exam, I returned to normal baseline paranoia.

It still lingers, as bruises can sometimes do as they shift around & laugh at me, which Encore expertly taught me.  I am getting twitchy again, because my brain loves to gnaw on things & also does not know how to process time, so I often struggle with temporal perspective.  We have spring shots scheduled in 10 days, so if it's not better by then, we'll shoot a radiograph to see if there's anything bizarre we missed (surely not in a horse that I own *sarcasm*).

Like all things horse, it's complicated.  We did put some super-cool fancy pads on his front feet, which will get their own post, as I thought that would help him bridge the last gap of healing (he's been barefoot for over a year).  Unfortunately, it appeared that one nail, while not a "hot" nail, did put pressure next to the bruise, so we had to pull the shoes after a week & will try some glue-on boots instead.
Thank goodness for Gorilla Tape, my booties now last 3 days
He was much better within an hour of pulling the shoes, but is still a bit sore a week later, so that nail may have aggravated it a little.  Not horrible, just enough that I can see it on harder ground, definitely in his foot, around the medial side of his toe.  Not sore enough that he won't frolic around in his paddock, so I did sit on him today (almost all walking & it just rained so the ground is soft).  I didn't give him any bute beforehand because I wanted an honest feel & while I could still feel the lingerer, I think he did seem a bit better?

Sigh, these subtle things are so confusing & frustrating.  Especially when you don't own imaging devices.  I'm trying to shame Echo by reminding him that his almost-24-yr-old "brother" with arthritis is currently sounder than him.  I'm fairly certain, though, that Echo was standing behind the door when they handed out guilt.
Shame not installed

December 14, 2019

Boots Are Never 100% Easy: Review Of The New EasyBoot Fury

Echo remains barefoot for the time being (since last December) - because his feet are small, I think this is his best chance to develop the best foot he can grow while he is still young, before his workload gets to where he will require shoes.  Because I'm pretty certain he will, at least up front. 

To increase his comfort while he works towards the goal of a heel-first landing, I put boots on his front feet for most of our rides.  Which meant embarking on the (absolutely not) joyous task of finding which boot worked best for him.  I've learned in the past that different brands suit different foot shapes & different models suit different riding styles.

Solo's Cavallo Sports & his old EasyBoot Epics were both too big for Echo, so time to explore some new options.

I tried Scoot Boots after reading all the interwebz love for them.  Long story short, so far they have not worked for his feet.  Even with shims, they twist.  I'm going to give them one more try, since his feet have spread some, but if they still don't work, I will be selling some basically-new Scoot Boots soon.  I like a lot about them in concept.
Scoot Boots:  cool, but so far haven't worked for us
Making it trickier, Echo's fronts don't quite match:  he's got one foot that spends all its time trying to be upright & boxy, while the other prefers to languish on the lower side.  They're gradually getting closer, but hooves are always a slow torturous process.  Because they've already changed & will continue to do so, EasyCare's new Fury design caught my eye because it's adjustable.  I got the basic Sling version, I did not like the big metal buckle on the front of the Heart version, I envisioned it catching many things & introducing an extra hazard over jumps.  And uh, it's a heart & I am not 9 years old & I hate things with hearts on them.
Echo's EasyBoot Fury Slings
There are three points you can adjust:
  1. Length from front to back, via two screws in a sliding rubber plate,
  2. Heel height, via two screws on the back,
  3. Heel angle, which is just another hole to change the angle of the heel strap.
Points of adjustment; boots presented in natural condition, heh
I'm going to ignore the 3rd one because I didn't use it.  Length & height both have a decent amount of adjustability, so you can tweak fit through a trim cycle or if your horse doesn't have magical feet that fit stock sizes (like mine).  I measured a bunch of times, very carefully, but still ended up buying two sizes & sending back the one that didn't work.  I definitely recommend this approach.  EasyCare has a "fit kit" too, but if you buy from somewhere with free returns, that saves poor people like me a few dollars. 

The initial adjusting is somewhat fiddly.  You could do the length adjustment on the fly as long as you had a phillips head screwdriver with you.  The height rivets though, require both a screwdriver & a ridiculous little tool that comes with the boot.

You know those horrible "tools" that come with assemble-your-own furniture, that are tiny & awful to use & make you want to stab forks in your eyes?  Yep, it's that kind of tool, apparently made for tiny leprechaun hands that need no grip.  I'm hopeful in the future EasyCare will change this design so you can just use a flat head screwdriver or some normal human tool.  Or at least put a human-sized grip on it.
Said tool in my giant, decidedly non-leprechaun hand
After watching the videos, I spent an afternoon adjusting the boots to Echo's feet.  It was really nice to be able to accommodate the slightly different foot shapes.  Once you decide where you want to set them, you add a drop of LocTite (thoughtfully included with each boot) so your screws don't decide to go walkabout mid-ride.  All of mine have remained tight so far.

I've been using these off & on (I go barefoot when the ground is soft or we just do walk work) for about five months now.  Overall impression:  favourable.  I would buy these boots again.

Baby Monster in boots on a November trail
Pros
  • Even before adjusting, the boot itself fit Echo's foot shape perfectly & he has seemed comfortable in them.  When I first put them on, he stepped out better than I have ever felt him either barefoot, in boots, or in shoes.
  • Adjustability is awesome & exactly what I needed.  You can also put pads in them if you want.
  • Once I got the adjustments right, they've been very secure through W/T/C/small jumps.  I've learned that the length adjuster seems to be what prevents twisting, so you need that snugged up.  It won't put pressure on the back of the heel because that part cleverly moves with the horse.  No rubs so far.
  • Aggressive tread has had good traction everywhere I've used it (I'm mostly riding on grass)
    • I've gone through mud puddles, boggy ditches, streams with no issues.  I did not buy the special "mud strap," but haven't needed it so far.
  • Insanely easy on/off:  two steps include slipping on boot, then snapping pastern strap in place.
    Rear flips down for easy on/off
  • Boot itself feels heavy duty & durable, pastern straps are heavier duty than Scoots, I've not had any breaks there.
    • I used the extra pastern strap locks that came with the Scoots since I already had them, but I only put them on inside of each boot, since Echo is base narrow & more likely to interfere there.  I haven't put any on the outside since those straps fit very firmly over the metal knobs & nothing has come apart.  
      Just 1 strap lock on inside of each also helps me ID which I fit to its unique foot
    • I really like that they don't come with any of the weird warnings that the Scoots did about not using hoof stuff on, uh, hooves.  Apparently Scoots' material cannot deal with any type of chemical (they even warn against vetwrap, which raised my eyebrow).  EasyBoots are cool with you treating your hooves like hooves.
  • Fairly "clean" design means they're quick to hose off/clean.  They don't come with drain holes, but if that is important to you, you can drill holes in them.  They also dry quickly.
    • Once thing I like about EasyCare is they are practical &  understand horse needs -- one of their videos shows you how to take a saw to the boots to trim off unneeded heel material so it doesn't catch an over-reach.  I suspect this may effect returnability though, LOL.
No problem levitating in them
 Cons
  • My biggest dislike is probably that the adjustment for heel height does take a special tool, which is currently awful & that it's not super fast.  But it's not the worst & if you don't have enormous hands & aren't the clumsiest person ever (like me), your experience will probably be better than mine.
    • Height rivets notched on the inside for special "tool"
    • There are also two holes to choose from on the heel height adjustment, which means if you want to move it from one hole to the other, you have to take the rivets completely apart.  And then drop one piece, then curse loudly while retrieving it, then drop it again while trying to screw it back in with tiny leprechaun tool.  On the plus side, you shouldn't have to do this very often, because you can make minor adjustments via sliding, by just slightly loosening those rivets.
  • The heel capture strap, while padded (but could use more/softer padding), does put pressure on the top of the heel bulbs.  It's not constant, just when the foot is lifting.  It's something to watch, especially on sensitive guys like Echo -- I've not had problems with it in 60-90 minutes of riding, but the vast majority of our rides are 20-40 minutes & longer rides are all walking.  I broke them in slowly so he could callous if he needed to, & I watched his heels like a hawk, checking them after.
    • You DO want to be SURE this strap isn't too tight -- I made that mistake at first & it did make a bruise.          
    • I don't know what would happen on, say, a six-hr mountain ride.  I have noticed some pinkness under that strap after a vigorous ride, but it wasn't sore.
    • It's possible that I need to tweak the height adjustment more to help with this.
    • I have ridden in them in arena footing (said arena has small rocks in it occasionally, which Pony Princess Feet doesn't need to be stepping on) -- I was a little concerned that grit might get under this strap & rub, but that concern was unfounded & after an hour lesson, everything was still fine. 
    • My paranoia about this strap would be lower on Solo, who does not have any Princess Parts & whose skin has very few opinions.
  • One strap did break in the first month, there's a thin part around one screw.  Echo was just trotting slowly, nothing weird happened.  However, Riding Warehouse's great service took care of it, they have a year guarantee, so I exchanged it for a new one at no charge (thanks, people who understand customer service!).  I haven't had any problems since then & no other signs of wear so far.
    Arrow showing point where previous boot tore around screw
So I've been fairly happy with them.  I have noticed that he may be outgrowing them as his heels spread, which simultaneously makes me sad because they weren't free but happy because heels spreading!  It means the boots are doing their job of helping us move towards that consistent heel-landing goal!  We'll see how it goes - even if I do end up having to sell them, they've still been cheaper than 5-6 months of shoes while allowing me to live the joy of never worrying about pulled shoes, so worth it.

Those are the highlights.  I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments.  If you want to try them, DO watch the videos & DO get a couple sizes to try, it will make your life easier.
Has no interest in making my life easier

February 2, 2019

Little Shop Of Hoof Horrors

A big part of transitioning a horse to a new career is rebuilding his body.  Often it entails changing shape & developing different muscle groups.  How much change takes place is related to how different his new life is in comparison to his old one.

Sometimes this process includes a measure of falling apart before you can get to the re-assembly.  Sometimes you just have to let that happen.  If you have control issues (which I totally, uh, don't, erm...), this can be exceedingly difficult.

As Echo & I worked through Operation Farm-Breaking, the (much bigger) parallel process was his large-yet-small body.  Aside from the several hundred pounds of mass he needed to gain & the leg that needed to heal, his feet, while having ok structure, were too upright & boxy in racing plates that were keeping them too small (his hind shoes had already been pulled when I got him, so better back there).

Unfortunately, I didn't take any foot photos as the very beginning, but I do have a few photos of what happened next.  A couple weeks in, I pulled his front shoes to try to let his feet spread out to a more appropriate size & shape.  They proceeded to disintegrate in ways that I have never before seen a hoof disintegrate.

RF begins its fail, late Feb 2018
RH - I didn't know hooves could peel
His walls were so weak & flaky, they seemed to just fall apart.  You can see the layers just peeling away from each other.  Amazingly, he didn't seem terribly sore on them, but as much as I tried to keep the edges cleaned up with a rasp to slow things down, it mostly just failed.

RF in its most brain-exploding stage, early May.  I can't even...
I'm pretty sure farrier got tired of my barely-contained panic as I texted him ludicrious things like, "I'm worried my horse's sole is detaching & falling off?"  He was nice enough to roll with it.

I suspect that Echo was definitely missing some important trace minerals in his diet.  He was living in Florida, where there is a lot of nutrient-poor, sandy soil which doesn't produce very rich hay.  Either way, I immediately introduced him to my biotin-rich friend, SmartHoof pellets, along with a balanced diet based on Triple Crown Complete & a ton of grass, & tried my best to look at other parts of his body.

To little avail.  Along with thin, structurally-incompetent walls, he had similarly thin soles.  So we got this added to the fun:

One very impressive abscess, April
It often felt like one step forward, two steps back.  As the disintegration worsened, it became clear that his feet were not ready to be barefoot on hard-packed, rock-strewn Carolina summer ground while stomping at flies.  He had to have shoes back on.  That included several of its own debacles, including one instance of stepping on a hind clip:
You can see where it went in on right side
I texted the photo to farrier & told him, "Well, you can definitely see where his white line is now."  We got lucky & he didn't abscess or end up lame on that, he drove the clip into the white line instead of the sole.

We did a stint in glue-ons due to another debacle.  The hind shoes came off as soon as fly season tapered off, as additional bruising from excessive stomping & more wall disintegration had to grow out.  I was buying duct tape & generic vet-wrap in bulk.

If I had to treat one more foot, I was ready to throw up..
We're slowly accumulating more positive progress now, though.  His front feet have already gone up two sizes & I'm sure there's at least one more to go.  His hind feet are currently looking 1000% stronger - remember that peeling apart right hind foot from above?

RH yesterday (sorry, Keratex just applied)
He's actually completely barefoot at the moment.  I know we won't be able to stay this way - when the flies come back & the ground turns back to rock, he will need front shoes at the least.  But I pulled his front shoes at the end of December - I figured this was my last chance to let his heels spread out, while the ground has been VERY soft from the zillion feet of rain.  That right front, the brain-exploder, is much more solid looking (just ignore the dirt packed in the growing-out nail holes & the leftover epoxy from the glue-ons):
RF yesterday, also ignore my sloppy edge smoothing at the toe
We still have a ways to go, but now we have a little more to work with.  His walls actually didn't chip at all through most of January 2019, even when the ground was frozen.  I don't have any hoof boots that fit him at the moment, but he's doing fairly well riding in the field.  There's no rushing any of this - it takes a horse about a year to grow a new foot.  In Echo's case, I fully expect another year on his front feet before we are really stable.

The in-between stages of hoof (or anything) rehab often contain a whole lot of ugly.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do is wait, despite all your urges to Just Do Something.  And even though Echo's feet sometimes looked terrible, he assured me that he felt just fine:
Looking fancy in Aug (ok, maybe I just wanted to see something green, sigh)
If anyone knows where I can get a discount on Durasole by the case, just let me know.

December 5, 2015

In Which Solo Can Fly No More

*edited to add - Solo is still warm & huggable, my apology for any over-scare, but we did discover an injury effectively ending his ridden days beyond the occasional amble*

I tried to type last night, but..couldn't.  But before I continue (warning: it's going to be long), let me say that Beka Burke, of The Owls Approve, is just completely awesome.  For example, when random people send her crazed text paragraphs. 

Solo did achieve some improvement with his newly invented shoes, but over this fall, some soreness returned in both his shoulders & in the past month, his right front foot.  I made him rest (which earned me plenty of dirty Solo-glares) & began my own differential analysis.

Combine a stoic horse with a subtle "NQR" & the result can be a diagnostic rabbit hole.  I knew I needed to consult Batman Dr. Bob further, but to get the best actionable information, I also needed to know what questions to ask & where to point.

I can stare too, mom. (sry, old pic)
Step 1:  Patient Scrutiny

An extensive Solo interview (they do tell you, so long as you listen), a whole lot of staring, & last week, a very helpful meeting with Wonder Farrier's hooftesters narrowed things down to some sobering options.  

The resurfacing of muscle soreness coincided with my observation that both front frogs were fairly pathetic-looking.  This told me Solo was not placing his heels on the ground first as his feet landed, reducing circulatory flow to the frogs, which steals away their fat, healthy cushion.

He was also reluctant to pivot smoothly on that RF & tested sore across the width of his heels.  Pulling up my mental image of hoof anatomy, this all pointed to sidebone, navicular pain, or bruising/calcification along the back of his coffin bone.  He didn't stand with toes pointed like a true "navicular horse," & he's had good hoof care, so I hoped for the "best," a.k.a. least limiting.   

Now that I could circle general region of the problem, it was time to take him in.  

Step 2:  Look On The Inside

I was pretty close.  How I wish I wasn't.     

Dr. Bob deployed his magic hands, his kind practicality, & all the experience we rely on.  After a jog & flexions of fetlocks, knees, & elbows, a single palmar digital (rear of the foot) nerve block confirmed where we'd take pictures.

A lateral & dorsal (front-on) view of the RF told us all we needed to know.  A flexed radiograph of the same knee, taken just in case, was thankfully clean.

From triplebarhoofcare.com
Step 3:  Decipher, Plan, Cry

In short, Solo tore his DDFT (Deep Digital Flexor Tendon) where it cradles his navicular bone. Essentially a low bow, only much lower than horses normally have, on the rear of his pastern, nestled between heel bulbs, because it's Solo, & conventional is nowhere in his playbook.

There is some scar tissue in the 2" tear, some still healing, but the navicular bone itself is also degraded in the process, or to quote Dr. Bob, "falling apart."  The coffin joint is still clean, although P2 (the short pastern bone) is slightly pushed up by some fill in the navicular fluid capsule.

So much happy. By Pics of You
Which Means...?
He can never jump even a tiny thing again.  Because if he trips or lands a little heavy on that foot, he could fall & kill us both.  The thing that makes him glow, the lights him up with joy such that he still hunts anything jumpable every time I sit on him, is off limits.  

All flights officially, permanently grounded.  Which is excruciatingly difficult to explain to a horse who believes retirement is a synonym for punishment.  Even when his owner is sobbing like a dying animal.

Not even his hated dressage; he has to move however he needs to in order to be comfortable.  Which means crooked, lopsided if he needs it, whatever is necessary for his muscles to adapt & let his legs travel wherever they want.

There Are Bits Of Good

He can do light hacks if he wants.  The injury itself would have stemmed from a "simple" bad step in the pasture.  So being ridden is still ok & even important to maintain range of motion & muscle tone, as well as circulation.  

And our invented shoes were right; Dr. Bob said they were "the most a farrier can do for him at this point."  And my instinct to rest him was correct.  I couldn't have prevented anything, although it's impossible not to wonder if I could have "done something" (what, magic bone re-grower??) sooner.  

There are many more details & some fantastic sources of information, but they'll have to wait until I can emotionally catch up.

Whatever he needs - for he gave me the world

November 7, 2015

Fairy-er Magic: What Makes Good Hoofcare Great

Stud-ifying!
See what I did there??  Admit  it, you snickered.

We all learn within roughly 17 minutes of owning or managing a horse that a farrier can make or break you.  Without a good one, abandon all hope, ye who attempt to enter at A…

But what makes a Good Farrier?  In the US, becoming a farrier requires extensive effort – to write the word after your name, with no mandates regarding skill or experience.  It’s up to us to clamber up the painful learning curve of figuring out who knows what they’re doing.  Because, ya know, we’d hate to make some aspect of equine-keeping easy (I think that might actually be illegal?).

My top criteria (compiled mostly the hard way, of course), embodied by The Amazing Wonder Farrier:
  • Eyes.  He’s watching my horses move even before he gets out of the truck.
  • Ears.  He (no offense to Lady Farriers, I’m just sticking with mine for simplicity) LISTENS.  If this was a numbered list, it’d be #1!  No one knows your horse better than you do & a Good Farrier knows & respects that.
  • Curiosity.  He asks how my horses responded if we changed something.  He seeks out continuing education & is not afraid to try new products & techniques.
  • Experience.  My farrier is actually younger than I am, but has been handling hooves for nearly 20 years.  Experience also means he knows what he DOESN’T know & never lets pride stop him from consulting with other farriers & my vet (see next bullet).
  • Communication.  Ok, he may not agree with me that MY horses are the most important (duh!), but if there’s an injury or special need, I get a response, even if it’s a text at 9 pm (I’m not the only one with an over-committment problem). 
  • Attention.  It takes him two hours to do Encore’s shoes – because he is meticulous.  If he doesn’t like the way Encore blinked when he drove a nail, it gets pulled.  Each hoof gets tested multiple times.  Even before he pulls the old shoes (or trims the bare feet), he walks around the horse & stares at everything thoughtfully. 
Solo: always waiting for me to get with the program
Magic:  Exhibit A

Let’s see this combination in action.  Last winter, Solo became very sore in his right shoulder.  It was perplexing, as he’d suffered no injury I was aware of, had no previous issues there, & was not under any taxing workloads.

During the same time, there was a persistent whisper in the back of my head every time I looked at that front foot.  It just…looked funny, in that way you can’t quite put your finger on.  But that’s his white front ankle & with furry winter fetlocks, there’re plenty of optical illusions.

Dr. Bob (vet) & Wonder Farrier were both consulted, we found some saddle wool that needed to be re-fluffed, but it didn’t quite go away.  Finally, I dug into my extensive collection of “obsessive photos of my horses’ feet through time.
 
You should totally make one of those, if you haven’t already.  Bingo.

When I pulled up a photo from the spring of 2011, when Solo was competing at Training Level, the light bulb practically exploded.  His front feet had just crept out in front of him incrementally.  Enough that his angles were NQR but still so slight if you hadn’t looked at him every day for 9 years, you wouldn’t see it.

Creativity Win!

I’m not sure who was more excited when I dragged the laptop out at our next appointment, me or Farrier.  ANSWERZ!!1!  Now:  a plan.  This is where the awesome happened.

Along with backing up his feet, he needed a slight wedge (which he’s worn before) & a square, rolling toe for easier breakover.  However, the shoe we’d used for that previously was aluminum.  I have come to hate plain aluminum, primarily because it transfers significantly more concussion to the foot.  I won’t sidetrack into the materials science, but a steel shoe, however counterintuitive it may seem, absorbs more shock.

Ready to roll
As I thought about things the Sunday before we met, I sent a message:  “Ok, we know what biomechanics we need & what shape we need.  But how do we do that with steel?”

Farrier:  “Hmmm, I shall ponder while at kids’ horse show…I have an idea…”

And then he invented exactly what we needed.  (Although I told him it would have been much more impressive if he didn’t say, ‘wow, I didn’t think that would actually work,” LOL!)
 
He took a set of steel hind shoes which are made with a tiny wedge & simply widened the heels.  Because there were rounder & squarer (it’s a word now) than a typical hind shoe (sorry, I can’t remember the brand), they gave us both the shape & angle we needed.

Solo couldn’t stop licking his lips as he set his restored feet down.  The next time I got on, I could practically hear him giggling, “Yeah!!!  So much better!!  Let’s go!!”

Not only that, but they worked so well, we gave Encore a set too!  I think I’ll call them The Johnathan Special. 

And that is why it pays to be picky. 

Can we have some more of this?

April 18, 2015

Stagger-By Update Ramble -- At Least It Has Photos!

Even the jump panels are perfect...
Horses offer many gifts; chief among them -- you will NEVER be bored.  In fact, you may come to beg for boredom...

As some of you know, I have a serious problem with overcommittment been working for the past year as the Sponsorship Coordinator for the 2015 Southern Eighths Farm Heart of the Carolinas (HOTC) 3DE.  Oh, and I'm making an amazing program.  And updating promotional materials (view epic new brochure here).  Because, you know, just showing up & doing 10 volunteer jobs over the event weekend was too easy.  Heh.

Combine the fact that OMG THE EVENT IS TWO WEEKS AWAY with the mad rush of Teh Inconvenient Real Job to prepare for field season, which starts in one week...and there you have my posting lapse.  I am open to applicants for Personal Assistants.  Position includes free entertainment, watching me run around like a blind, rabid squirrel, unable to complete sentences!

CD Tremaine Cooper offers steeplechase tips
The event itself is shaping up to be another spectacular experience.  Carla Lake, a fantastic new acquaintance & correspondent for adult ammy central, aka Horse Junkies United, was brave enough to chat with me.  And talented enough to turn my ramblings into a great article introducing HOTC to the interwebz!

Even more special:  our suite of awesome sponsors & supporters this year includes some of our very own from HorseBlog world!  I thought, what better partners for an event by & for the adult amateur than some of the incredibly talented entrepreneurs who are part of the same community??  More brags on them to come, I bet you'll recognize some names, but you can see the current list here.

I suppose not EVERYone in pinned to their seats for my desperate attempts, after very long worksdays, to share the beauty of "So8ths" and the unique & vital long format events I have dedicated myself to.  However, I will give you a sneak peak at my draft "clearinghouse" page:  your go-to lauchpad for event information, updates, & coverage.  It shall continue to grow!

The Orange Monsters

Yeah, that lack of boredom?  Well, Solo is in great need of revamped shoeing, his front feet have changed & he's developed a sore shoulder...except when throwing pasture galloping fits.

Encore, despite my immediate initiation of Operation Hydroxyzine as the spring tree sperm explosion commenced, alongside the return of the myriad of Carolina Bitey Things, has proceeded to rub the skin off his throatlatch.  No sooner did I calm that with the Majykal Butacort Creme, did he come in this morning having rubbed the hair off two large swollen bites on the side of his neck, surrounded by hives.

That could be a start; orderable from premierequine.co.uk
He was obviously depressed, as allergic reactions are no fun.  I was a bit concerned, as his face was quite sad & he stood for some time in a corner after breakfast (at least he did eat). 

Majykal Creme seemed to do the trick though.  The cortisone relieved the burning itch & his hives & swelling went down.  He took a big drink about an hour ago & resumed grazing.

So in a moment, I'll be shopping for some form of insect body armour that is cool, yet somehow indestructible in the face of Solo teeth, along with ground flax seed to add to his already-six-ingredient dinners.  Oh, he has fly boots & a fly sheet already.  But the latter is held together by two jury-rigged broken snaps & is too heavy for our humidity. 

Did I mention he's getting shoe additions too?  Outside hind trailers to help with his stifle rehab.  I'm trying to see if I can buy everything on my farrier's truck at once.

The Farm

Because buying food is tedious, and really, who wants to spend money to do...fun things, I need to make sure there are no hints of positive financial balances anywhere near me!

Worth. It. And it matches runin!
Due to expiration of temporary hayshed (it was only meant to stand in for a year, two winters was a valiant term of duty), emergency order of permanent hayshed was finally completed (roofs are sort of non-optional).  Happy, because we all know hay is THE most valuable equine asset & must be guarded at all costs.  Sad, because I lied, I really would like to go somewhere fun someday, sigh.

And because the universe has impeccable timing, My Precious pony puller was due for its tranny fluid service (not cheap, but waaaay cheaper than a new tranny & the stress toll of ending up on the side of the highway!).  I adore my diesel guy & certainly want him to stay in business.  But was it really neccessary for the water pump to die at the same time?  Yes, it's a wear part, no big deal, but I appear to be missing the door that leads to NOT ALL THE THINGZ IN LIFE AT ONCE.

7.3L Precious gets everything she needs!
Tip learned from several previous vehicles (which thankfully saved my engine; had I not known immediately what the problem was, Very Bad Things would have resulted):  when your heater stops blowing heat, it means you have no coolant.  Bad.

Most often means radiator failure (I bought two of those, learning the expensive lesson that an appropriate pony puller is about WAY more than tow ratings), such as crack through which coolant escapes.  A rattle in a belt pulley led me to my water pump & the observation that it was covered in coolant residue.  That's not supposed to be on the outside...

Conclusion

I think I'll just start eating the horses' grain in milk.  In smells good, can't be that different from granola, right?  Hmmm, do you think I'd have any luck with a tip jar taped to the mailbox?

Gonna need more pennies than that!