Laminitic Success Story
Megan Ė Welsh x thoroughbred mare, 9 years old 15.1hh. After helping a friend of mine Hayley to re back her horse, Megan, I found myself in the middle of a severe laminitic case. With the new knowledge I had been acquiring while working with Sarah Bell, it meant that I suddenly had the ability to put it into practice.
Hayley and I first noticed something was wrong with Megan when she went very stiff in front and was reluctant to have her feet picked out, even biting you if you kept trying. She was fairly overweight and on a lot of grass but this was apparently the field she was always in over the spring so we werenít too concerned.
In June 2008 Hayley had front shoes put on Megan as she was footy when riding on gravel. (Hayley was not a barefoot advocate) Suddenly, one week after this shoeing she went into the laminitic stance and could barely move.
After looking at the pasture she was in and seeing a lot of legumes (rich grasses), especially a large area of lush clover, I advised her to take Megan off the pasture and put her into a large barn which was available.
My advice was taken and although not ideal we were able to put two stables together and create a fairly large space for her to move about in with hay at either end and water in the middle to encourage movement, she was put on straw as this was available.
Hayley and her mother were obviously very concerned for Megan and seeing she was in pain and lying down a lot, they decided to call the vet. He advised:-
1.) a smaller stable(! )
2.) to change the straw bedding for shavings
3.) And prescribed two weeks of Bute to be fed morning and night.
N.B. The vet did not look at Meganís feet at all; bearing in mind she still had shoes on the fronts at this point. The one thing the vet did say that I agreed with was that Megan was clever for lying down as it will take the pressure off of her feet (completely understandable as her front feet were still bound in metal.)
Luckily the next day I had arranged for a friend, Tom Elms who was training with a traditional farrier then, to come and remove Meganís shoes, as I knew the healing process could not begin while these were still on. (This was with Hayleyís consent as she could see the shoes had definitely not helped towards the laminitis.)
Removing Meganís shoes proved quite difficult, as she had difficulty weight bearing on either fore. We had a lot of rearing and moving about and after about an hour Tom managed to remove them (I wonder how many traditional farriers would be this tolerant) My plan at the time was to give her a quick trim to aid healing but as it took so long to remove the shoes I put this on hold for a day or two.
Having previously read Jaime Jackson’s book Founder Prevention and Cure, (lent to me by Sarah ), I felt I needed to re-read it as it was now relevant to what was currently happening with Megan.
Jaime advises to walk the horse to encourage movement, however small, so to increase the circulation within the hooves. Showing this section of his book to Hayley we managed to get into a system of encouraging Megan to walk out of the stable and down the barn to get her feed (Bute mixed with a small amount of whole oats)
As she is very food orientated this was the easiest way to get her to move, but even this felt quite time consuming, although looking back Iím sure it helped immensely.
Everyday I tried to pick Meganís feet out, some days were fine and others were quite tricky, the feet looked horrendous with bulging soles, rough edges and a lot of flaring. When I could get the rasp on them I would just try to level them and remove the worst of the chippyness and put on a bit of a roll to prevent splitting and added strain and further stretching of the white line to the already flared walls.
After a while the Bute started to run out and Hayley had seen some ĎNo Buteí which is liquid devils claw and a lot cheaper then Bute. Megan was a lot better on this and I felt relieved that she was no longer on interfering chemicals.
After a few weeks as Megan improved, we opened up the one stable back to two, so she had more room to move, it was only about a week before she was trotting around and bucking when she heard you arrive to give her, her feed, an amazing sight after seeing her so lame and hardly able to stand!
At the end of August we felt she was sound enough to go out, but obviously scared of the grass, we put her in a paddock that had been severely overgrazed and fed her adlib hay and kept a watchful eye on any stiffness or signs of regression.
After two weeks deciding her feet were far to long we got a traditional farrier in to trim her feet. Overlooking, I asked if he could be a bit more careful bearing in mind she was currently sound and I didnít want her to get too sore.
He took off a more than I felt comfortable with and there was a great deal of old bloody horn coming off but luckily she didnít get too sore and being outside and moving around, I knew she would generate more growth. (If anything I was relieved as I would have been nervous to do this trim having not seen a lot of damaged laminitic hooves before.)
A couple of days later Megan went lame on her off fore, suspecting an abscess I suggested to Hayley to either soak it in apple cider vinegar and warm water or to just let it develop as I donít believe in cutting into the hooves to find the abscess as it will blow out on its own accord and heal a lot quicker then if you make incisions or cuts to the hoof.
If there is an obvious sign of heat or swelling in the foot then I would apply a poultice but in this case, Megan was showing no obvious signs of where it was going to blow. After a couple of days of Megan hopping about the abscess blew out of the coronet band. She was almost immediately sound again, so for two more daya we sprayed her with apple cider vinegar just to keep the area clean.
After keeping Megan in the paddock on just hay for a good month it was now the end of October. Unsure of the best decision to make regarding which fields to put her in, I also had my 16.2 hunter, Reg, to keep over the winter who is barefoot.
I decided to let Reg help me decide when it would be safe enough to turn Megan back out into the main field by assessing his weight and seeing when the grass was poor enough that I had to supplement their field with hay. This was when I knew it would be safe for Megan to be turned out again, it was about the end of November.
Regarding her hooves I called upon Tom again who was now training to trim barefoot, with the AANHCP. He had just come back from two weeks in America and we thought it would be good for him to have some hands on experience.
Although I could do the trim I wanted to use his muscles as I get very tired if Iím using a rasp rather than the power tools and Megan was not currently trained to accept the power tools unlike all the horses at the Bells.
The first thing that was obvious with Meganís feet was the huge amount of flaring, stretched white line and lamella wedge. We took the toe back to the white line on the first trim and on the second trim 5 weeks later, the new white line was so obvious we cut off the wedge completely; the angle of growth was so blatant it wasnít difficult to know where to rasp.
We have had no lameness since we started trimming, a good diet has been established, her weight is looking fantastic and she is on no hard feed at all. Hayley has just returned from her Australian trip and we are now ready to bring Megan back into work and hopefully never see laminitis on her like this again.
Iím sure if we had gone down the traditional route as I have seen before, with heart bar shoes or such like, a small stable and rich grain still being fed we may have lost Megan a long time ago. Hayley was previously using chemical wormers and having Megan vaccinated yearly but luckily she is open to new advice and having spoken to her frequently about the knowledge I was acquiring, Hayley has since swapped to homeopathic wormers and feels she no longer has the need to vaccinate.
Emotionally, at times I struggled to get my knowledge across diplomatically and be reassuring enough to have it listened to. I find many traditional horse owners only adhere to the advice of vets and perhaps feel shy or embarrassed to admit they need help at times with certain aspects of horsemanship from training to trimming feet.
I am extremely lucky as I have seen so many horses through working with them everyday, this has enabled me to expand my knowledge and so the Ďtools in my beltí grow daily. If now faced with a situation that I am stuck with, I would have no problem in researching it and getting as many opinions as possible before deciding on one solution.
What a wonderful success story this is, I am so pleased Laura offered to take the time to write up her experience, hopefully this story will help others out there who may have a similar situation.