Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hooves are SCARY!!

 My gorgeous Chrome, photo taken 9/21/19.

August 12 2019 was one of the scariest days of my entire life.  I walked out to the pasture after work to feed Chrome and he was dead lame.  I had never in my life seen him in so much pain.  He wouldn't walk at all unless I was pulling on the lead rope with all of my weight.  I only had him walk a couple of steps to get a video to send to the vet.  I have uploaded it so you can see it.  It still makes me sick to my stomach to see it.

If you can't watch a video here is a screenshot of how he was standing when I found him.  I immediately knew something was wrong from his stance, his expression, the fact that he wouldn't follow me with a feed bucket and the bloody spots where the horseflies had bitten him and he didn't try to remove them.

This picture makes me so sick.

To be honest when I saw him walk I thought his shoulder was broken (I realize now how dumb that was, but at the time....) because of the way he was swinging his leg out.  I sent the video to my emergency vet and he immediately said founder.  I thought I was going to die of shock and terror on the spot.  The vet said he could come out and treat him or we could give him pain meds and wait a day or two, but I asked him to come out (even though I had to max out my emergency credit card) because I was terrified that his coffin bones would rotate if I waited to treat him.  Please keep in mind through all of this that I had never had any experience with founder other than what I've read.  Reading can't prepare you for the hell of it in reality.

The vet came out and treated him.  I honestly can't recall what all he did except for taking x-rays (which showed no rotation) and running an IV.  He had to nerve block Chrome's left front hoof just to get him to stand on it long enough to wrap the other foot.  Three grown men were trying to prop him up and pick up his other hoof and he almost fell several times, which is why he decided to do the nerve block.  They wrapped both front feet with some gel and heavy cotton padding.  He also put him on various medications (thyroid meds and pain meds).

His wrapped feet the next day.  You can see he doesn't have as much weight on his left front.

When the vet left and I was sitting there with Chrome hooked up to his IV I was in tears.  I remember thinking, "I bought a horse trailer and I'm never going to get to take him anywhere on it."  I honestly thought I was going to have to put him to sleep.  It was one of the worst days of my life, maybe THE worst.

Running his IV medication the next day.
Doesn't he look miserable?

We gave him IV medication and fluids for two days before switching to paste and powdered medication.  We kept him in a stall (well it was corral panels under his barn since I don't have a stall).  This all happened on a Monday evening.  On Friday evening the vet had me take his wraps off.  To my amazement he walked off sound........

As I was taking off the wrap (excuse how nasty it was, we put down a TON of hay for him to stand on so it was soft) I immediately spotted the problem.... an abscess.  See the lighter gray part?  The hole in his hoof is a whole inch wide!! I've never seen an abscess that big!  I know that horses will sometimes act like they are dying with an abscess, but I honestly never believed it would make a horse walk like Chrome was in that video.  He had me convinced he was dying!  In hindsight I realize that part of the problem was his locking stifles which makes him look like he's moving weirder than a normal abscessed horse would.

A picture of the abscess after I cleaned his hoof up.

I'm still not 100% sure that he didn't have mild laminitis, but there was no rotation, no heat, no pounding digital pulse, so maybe not.  It's hard not to be bitter about the misdiagnoses since it wiped out my emergency credit card, but I'm trying not to be because I learned a LOT during all of this.  I would rather be safe than sorry and perhaps prompt treatment prevented things from being worst than they could have been.  It also prompted me to make a change in his hoof care, which I'll go into more below.

Five days after the above video he was pain free and happily helping us build temporary electric fences.  We blocked him off most of the grass (because we thought it a grass induced founder) and off of the pond (because him being in the pond all the time was causing hoof infections).

Before I found out it was an abscess I had reached out to professional barefoot trimmers trying to find someone close to me that is experienced in rehabbing foundered horses.  I was unable to find anyone who would come to my area, but I found a master trimmer who trained the Pete Ramey method and he is helping me learn to trim Chrome myself over the phone and email.  He has been absolutely amazing!

We are taking it slow and doing it in stages because he doesn't want to confuse or overwhelm me.  It is obviously working because he is back to trotting in his pasture and he's landing heel first on three out of four hooves.  The trimmer said the abscess was cause by seedy toe (an infection in the hoof wall which is why we fenced off the pond; some of you may remember he had white line a year ago from being in the pond too).  I had never experienced seedy toe, so I didn't realize that's what was going on.  I thought his hoof had just cracked from his walls being too long.  Seedy toe can also cause laminitis, so that's why I'm taking this all very seriously.  I feel really bad that his feet got in this condition.  I thought his hooves were fine because he was never lame, but you live and learn right?  Below are pictures of his hooves.

8-17-19 - These were taken the day I sent photos to the trimmer.  He was about five weeks out from a trim and I forgot my hoof pick so they are dirty.  My bad!  I just want you to have a baseline from where I started.

 Left Front (the one with seedy toe and the abscess).

Right Front (note the very stretched white line?)

 Right Hind (the other one with seedy toe)

Left Hind

9-3-2019 - It took me a while to do his first trim because I sprained my ankle, which caused back pain from compensation.  Once I was able to bend over again I trimmed him and sent pictures to the trimmer for an update.

Left Front Below

 Before Trim (see the hole where the seedy toe is?)

 After Trim

Right Front Below 

Before Trim

After Trim (almost looks like he wants to get seedy toe in this one too, but he didn't)

Left Hind Below

 Before Trim

 After Trim

Right Hind Below

 Before Trim (horrible seedy toe...)

After Trim

I forgot to mention during all of this time I've been soaking him in Oxine (off brand of white lightning), medicating the seedy toe and using durasole.

Below is his most recent trim which has him landing heel first in three out of four hooves.  The right front is being stubborn (trimmer said I need to back his toe up more to correct his breakover), but it does land heel first sometimes and flat the rest of the time, so we are well on our way.  Before all of this he was landing extremely toe first.

9-19-19 - I only did his fronts this day because my back was sore.  I will do his rear hooves again soon.  I also have to make some corrections on his fronts per my trimmer.  I forgot to get before pictures.

 Right Front

 Left Front

 Right Front (see the event lines? Makes me think he's had laminitis issues before)

He also had some coronet jamming that is looking much better and he's standing more square.  As soon as I can get him landing consistently heel first on all four feet I will be able to put him back into work (I've been hand walking him during all of this because the stall rest had his stifles locking again and exercise is very important for correcting hoof issues).

I'm feeling very optimistic at this point.  I went from thinking my horse was going to die to feeling very empowered taking his hoof care into my own hands.  I'm so happy that he is landing heel first because long time followers of this blog will know how much it's bothered me that he has chronically landed toe first most of his life.  I have learned so much and I'm happy that I get to keep learning.  I love this horse so much and I can't even imagine him not being in my life or not being happy or healthy.  I'm ecstatic to have my happy boy back.  Below are some pictures I took on Saturday.

 My handsome boy enjoying the small amount of grass I will allow him.

 Look at how flea-bitten he is getting!!!!  Just like his dam!

 He is so happy again, ears forward, stride long, forward, eager.  Love him!

 His stride in the front has gotten so much longer as I've slowly improved his breakover.

One last artistic shot of the turkey vulture feather my husband found and propped up.

Also I just want to say thank you to those of you who have stuck around during my absence.  I feel bad for not updating my blog and I'm going to start doing better because it's important that I can track the progress of his feet.  For those of you who are not hoof nerds I'm sorry if this is boring!  It's just a really good way for me to see our progress.  Thanks guys!!


  1. Ouch! Poor kid. And poor YOU! Abscesses can definitely present with lameness that makes you think your horse broke a leg for sure. This has been a particularly bad year for them. Glad that's all it was.

    1. Thank you! Me too! I was so relieved that's what it was.

  2. No one wants to feel that kind of fear. I'm glad you and Chrome are okay!

  3. Sorry you had to go through that. Since my aniimals live on 100% grass all Summer, I have to wonder how long our luck will hold out, hoof-wise. (One year both animals' hooves fell apart from akward weather changes.)

    1. Fingers crossed!! That's why I didn't doubt the vet because this was the first summer Chrome had been on only grass. I thought I had just pushed my luck too far. I'm just glad it turned out to be an abscess.

  4. What a happy ending! I have had way too much experience with hoof abscesses, so much that I knew just from looking at the photo that that is what it probably was. It all worked out for the best, and his feet look terrific!

    1. Thank you! I wish I had known. Chrome had only ever had one abscess and no other horse I've owned ever had one so I'm kind of inexperienced with them. To be honest when I first saw him I immediately thought abscess but then when he walked and was singing his leg wide I started thinking broken shoulder and panicked. I guess it was an expensive lesson learned.

  5. These events are very very scary. Abscesses can look like the horse is dying. I am sorry that you had to go through that.

    1. Thank you! Hopefully if it happens again I'll recognize it this time...

  6. I'm amazed by people who can work on hooves. It takes a strong back and a lot of strength. It's impossible to do without good quality, sharp knives and nippers. I often worry about not being able to find a farrier. When I simply apply a poultice, my back hurts for days, and I'm not even scraping sole. I have a friend who did what you are doing, learning from a Pete Ramey farrier through email and phone. Her horse's outcome was successful. It's better than having non-barefoot trimmers coming out and hacking away at it. I'm sure your wet weather has a lot to do with Chrome's hoof issues. All it takes is one wet storm to bring out the abscesses in my horses. One day recently I told my farrier that my horse had an abscess and he said, "I doubt it. It's not even hoof abscess season." He looked at the hoof and said, "You're right. It's an abscess... again." An inch is scary. I rarely can even see abscesses.

    1. That's funny that your farrier doubted you. When will they learn that we know our horses best??

      You're right about the rain being a huge part of the problem. Ugh mud! I wish I lived on a hill.

      It does hurt my back quite a lot to do his feet. I have to do his fronts one day and his rears another. I am fortunate though that I have trained him to put his feet on a hoof stand and I can actually sit on a stool next to him instead of bending over which is a huge help. It's only when he's being cranky because of horseflies and tries pulling away from me that I have to do them standing up. Most of the time he practically dozes while I work on them. I definitely need new tools though. Mine are getting dull and causing me a lot of extra work!

  7. SO glad it wasn't as horrible as everyone thought it was at first. Chrome is looking quite handsome nowadays!

    1. Thank you so much!! I have to agree, although I may be a bit biased. :D


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