Friday, January 14, 2011

Walking on Sunshine

Well, we're back in pads - fronts only.

My farrier came out yesterday afternoon, took off Guinness' front shoes and gasped in horror. Basically, his sole is gone. His feet have wall, a little sole that was under the shoe and then are scooped out completely. It looked like his cannon bone could come plunging through his sole at any point. Terrifying. Farrier looked at me and said "Pads?". For once, I completely agreed.

So, full padding was applied, including some cushioning material to help absorb all the shock and keep anything from applying constant pressure to the inside of the hoof. We discussed reasons for the total wearing away of the sole on GP's front feet for a long time. Obviously "being chestnut" or "having white feet" has nothing to do with these issues. Farrier also doesn't believe that simply being front feet is the issue either. Instead, he wondered if maybe a buildup of materials - like the balling up the indoor sand in his feet - could be causing the sole to be worn away and the constant pressure to bruise the sole and prevent growth.

This sort of makes sense to me. But for the amount that I picked out that horse's feet (2 to 3 times a day! Almost every time he was in turnout and when leaving his stall!), it just doesn't make sense. Sure, he might have a ball of indoor dirt left in there after a round of turnout while I was at work - but that was what? for a couple of hours? I don't know.

My concern is the possibility of slight amount of previous founder. With some forms of founder, especially a more minor type, the coffin bone can rotate some, allowing it to put pressure on the corium, cutting off blood supply to the sole, and inhibiting growth (source: here).
If this is happening, it's ultra scary due to the possibility of the sharp coffin bone possibly puncturing through the now softened sole. This is all hypothetical, but with the sluggish growth rate and constant foot pain, I can't help but wonder.

For now, the pads seem to be helping. During turn out time, Guinness is MUCH more active than usual, running around like a total fool. This might be due to his cabin fever and lack of riding, but I think it's also partially related to being pain free. The limping is GONE, though last night I did notice some soreness on him after some arena dirt packed in his hooves a little. Apparently that might be a problem even with the pads. Just something to keep my eyes on.

Riding is finally is on the horizon. Right now it's lots of walking, and walking, and walking. We are going to take things slow and condition up to optimum fitness. For now, 45 minutes of walking with 5 minutes of trotting at 30 minutes. We'll do this for a week (as boring as it is!) and revaluate. Then increase the trotting bit by bit till that's boring, then canter work! The hope is to be able to show at Majestic Farms at their February show.

Today is my last day at work. Until I find something new, I'll be volunteering at the art museum and pestering my horse. Hopefully that means you'll hear more from me!

I'll keep you posted!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Poor Little Sore Foot

Our lameness issues aren't getting better. In fact, they are getting worse. Way worse. The "worsest" if you will ...

Everything started the beginning of the winter season with a little extra stiffness in the early parts of our ride. I expect this every winter. My giant red teddy bear isn't young anymore, and his joints pop more than Orville Redenbacher. We modify our rides to include at least 20 minutes of walking, both on a long rein and with contact. Then a little slow trotting, before I ask for a really engaged trot and start asking for bend, contact and figures. This has actually been working out very well for us, and I have felt pretty okay with debuting at Training Level later this month (but those concerns are another post!).

Recently, the lamness has been getting worse. Instead of working out of his stiffness and soreness, his gaits develop into a three legged hop around corners and a regular limp. While very worrying, the symptoms aren't there all the time. We might have 3 or 4 great days where his joints just crack and then 1 or 2 horrifying days. On the bad days I think about applying for a horsy leg transplant. I've been begging my vet to come out and look at him, but with the holidays and the racetracks (my vet is the main vet for Ohio racetracks) closing it's been impossible to get him out there.

Monday, after a really bumpy 15 min ride, in which Guinness seriously HOPPED around a corner on THREE LEGS. I called my vet from the saddle, nearly sobbing. We were able to schedule a visit, and talked about some of the possibilties including debilitating arthritis, injections or some sort of soft tissue/tendon injury. Really everything was looking pretty down right then. After I left the barn that night, all I could do was mope around.

All day Tuesday I kept trying to stay positive. I kept hoping for a simple arthritis diagnosis. Something an injection and careful warm-ups, wrapping, poltice and rest could help. Anything but a tendon injury, really.

Tuesday night I rode Guinness around for the vet. He watched us trot and walk both directions, as the big red horse hopped around below me - clearly in pain. An extensive poking and proding session resulted in my vet reaching for the hoof testers - and coming up with a positive test on the front right toe. My vet then proceeded to tell me that it looks like my horse has soft soles, and that I should slap some pads on him or pack him with Magic Cushion for the next two weeks to see how that helps. Venice turpentine is another option, to help toughen the soles. Oookay...

I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, why are my horse's delicate soles suddenly destroyed by the same footing he's been on since mid November? I know that we've always had to be extra careful with Guinness' feet, but why, despite the softness, is he only tender in one spot? What other options are there besides full "tennis shoe" type pads? What about an abscess? Doesn't that seem a little more like the obvioius option?

I feel like this is going to be an ongoing issue, but I'm just not sure how to continue from here. For now, the plan is to soak and poultice Guinness's right front hoof to see if I can coax out what may be an abscess. I agree that there is definite heat where the hoof testers pointed out a problem spot, and from the outside of the hoof I can feel a bit of isolated flare. I am wondering if this was caused by a quicked nail, a possible infection hurting as it grows out and/or he tripped hard and bruised his toe.

What really bothers me is the constant problem of soft or tender soles, and the complete write off I am getting from those around me. My vet told me that this problem would never resolve because "red-heads" (read: chestnut horses) always have softer feet. And that "white feet are always weaker."

... okay. Seriously? No.

First of all, the foot in question isn't even GP's white hoof. His white hoof is his back left, and I've NEVER had a problem with it.
Secondly, I never HEARD the thing about chestnuts, it's the biggest load of hooey ever. I mean, what if I told you that the reason my neighbor can grow a beard is because he has brown hair. Or, the reason his wife's fingernails break all the time is because she is fat.
Mythology, it's an amazing thing. Studies have disproved the white feet thing several times, yet my VET is spouting it. I'm disgusted..

Needless to say, I'm pretty frustrated right now. I've been trolling all horse outlets I know of to try to find more information to try to help my horse. I feel pretty abandoned by the professionals around me, and that's rather disheartening.

I did call my farrier, and that man has been a godsend. He wants to come out to look at Guinness and re-evaluate his feet. He doesn't think this has to be something we have to "just live with", and thinks the mythology is pretty bunk. Thank god, finally. We're going to have a look on Monday. Here's to hoping ...