03 June 2015

What a difference a good farrier can make

     Raven has had 'bad feet' for many years. I've written about them before on this blog, so I'm merely going to condense things down a bit.

    When Raven was being shod by the "old" farrier, that man...well, he didn't help the feet at all. A case could be made that he exacerbated what was already a bad hoof. Raven had picked up white line disease somewhere that had steadily eaten away the hind feet. The 'old" farrier, rather than take measures to treat the white line, merely packed the holes in the hoof with some sort of epoxy. 
   I'm not slamming the old farrier. He meant well, but he was in above his head with Raven's feet. He just didn't know how to 'fix' them. The epoxy was meant to hold the shoe on the hoof, nothing more. I do believe that the old farrier knew how to shoe horses with good feet, but problem feet were beyond his capacity to rectify. 
   
   The epoxy kept the hoof in one piece for about a month, then would start crumbling away. In addition, the epoxy sealed the white line IN, making it even worse. 
To add to the problems, the old farrier had trimmed the hooves so that the heels weren't contacting the ground, meaning: contracted heels. 

   By the time we moved Raven to the New Barn, his feet were a dreadful mess. 

   Sue, by this time, had conquered her feelings of guilt regarding 'firing' the old farrier. She didn't want to hurt his feelings and had continued on with him,more, I suspect, out of a feeling of sympathy for him and accepting that he wasn't fixing the hooves.  He was the only farrier she'd ever had. She had nothing to base it on.

   So it was fortuitous that we moved Raven to the New barn about the same time as the old farrier hurt his back and shoulders so badly that he was forced into (perhaps permanent) retirement. This was Sue's out. I told her, farriers lose and gain customers all the time. It won't hurt his feelings. 

   We also found Matt, the 'new' farrier, at the new barn.

   The differences were amazing. Matt, being a professional, didn't say anything about the work of the old farrier, but he probably silently whistled in amazement. And joy...this was going to take some time. And cost money.
   How this horse managed to function with his feet in such bad shape was, in his words, 'amazing.' And a testament to the horse...Raven's a trooper. 

   He was upfront with us. It was going to take a year of frequent trimmings, and a change in feed to get Raven's feet back to something resembling 'good' hoof.

    We put him on Trifecta, a supplement that costs a lot. 

   And so it has proved. At first Matt put a different sort of epoxy in the hoof. This was to hold a shoe on and hopefully, provide some sort of support. He taught us the formula for killing the white line: 60/40 blend of Iodine/venice turpentine. Put it on the hoofs OFTEN, not on the coronary band, and keep the feet dry. 

   The first several trimmings consisted of cutting out as much rotten (there's no other word for it) hoof as possible, and replacing the shoes.

    But the shoes weren't holding. And the hooves were too badly deteriorated to benefit from any support the epoxy may have provided.
    
    So...let's go bold and remove the shoes altogether. The old farrier had warned Sue, never ever let this horse go barefoot. That, to me, had been an alarm bell.  But I said nothing. I'm not a farrier, and Raven's only mine by Sue's kindness. I was glad when Matt said, let's  take the shoes off. It would give the hooves a chance to grow out without the nails putting torque on the new growth.  

    By this time it was January and cold, and the white line didn't like being  poisoned or frozen. 

    The epoxy didn't, either. It kept falling out, taking hunks of hoof with it. Those hunks were dead hoof. Yes, hoof is already dead, but this was just shitty hoof to begin with.

   So in March, we made the decision to cease using the epoxy all together, continued applying the goop, and put Raven in Easy Boots.

    April's trimming showed a lot of improvement. We kept him barefoot. The white line was almost gone.

   In May, the Easy Boots weren't working so well anymore. One can only clean them so often, then the Velcro stays gritty. The grit started wearing sores on his heel bulbs. That hurts. 
   With clean Easy Boots (we had two pair) I could see he felt better by just watching him move. For the first time, when Sue trotted past me, I could see the soles of his hind feet. That had never happened before. He'd always dragged the hind feet. 

    Here's a picture of Sue on Raven taken in May. He's in Easy Boots.
 
Picking up his hind feet at last!


  He told us his feet felt better by acting like a fit horse. Lots of running and bucking in his paddock with his new paddock mate, Zeke, put a lot of wear and tear on the Easy Boots. He wore them out!


   So we took him out of Easy Boots and Sue began putting cast tape on the feet. This stuff looks like vet wrap but is what 'they' use to set broken arms and legs these days. You apply it wet and it dries into a stiffened 'cast'. That stuff went on the hoof well and could be kept off any skin or tissue. It worked well but his toes wore through and then he'd lose the cast. I'd find it in his paddock, the inside a perfect match for his frog. But when it came time to remove it for trimming, Matt had to literally rasp it away. Which is why the last photo I'm posting on this blog shows blue dust below the hoof.

   2 June 15's trimming was a revelation. I am posting four pictures of the left outside hind, from January to June. (mostly because I have about sixty pictures, taken over the months, and just don't want to post the whole series). The left hind outside was always the worst of the hooves. The new growth and improvement in the foot his amazing. The white line disease is GONE in all his feet. We are letting him go barefoot for a week, because the tape...while it protected his growing hooves, was also making the frog a bit 'soft'. So right now he's barefoot on the hind and shod on the front feet.  If going barefoot shows signs of buggering up the edges of the hoof, we'll put him back in tape. 

   But look at the improvements!! The outside hind is looking almost normal. I'm posting pictures of the right hind sole. One is of the sole taken Nov 14. The last was taken on 2 June. The white line is gone. Oh my gosh.
Left hind outside January 15

 
Left Hind outside after trimming March 2015

   
Left Hind outside before trimming 29 April 15

Left Hind outside after trimming (note blue fibers from cast) 2 Jun 15


 
Right Hind sole showing white line all through sole November 2014




Right Hind sole after trimming 2 Jun 15


    It's so encouraging when someone can make a horse's feet RIGHT. Matt's our MAN.

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