Tag Archives: laminitis

Cloud’s hooves

I thought I had a difficult journey in Ben’s transition to barefoot.  I did not.  What made it difficult was the absence of expertise.  As Dermot and John lived far away, beyond their first few visits, we were on our own.  I read as much as I could, trimmed as I understood I was taught and trusted to nature.  Ben is a cob, with good hooves, and he is rock crunching right now.

Since June 2013 I have had the benefit of consultations from Maureen Tierney.  Currently I am having monthly consultations to guide my trimming of Cloud’s hooves and am learning how much I did not know.  I am also seeing big progress in Cloud’s hooves.

Cloud’s mild bout of laminitis in October forced me to pay great attention to his hooves. I was too sanguine about his recovery from this and allowed him turn-out too soon.  I had some days and nights where he was clearly in pain, hating me touching his hooves and confined to his stable.  He watched miserably as Ben had the happy task of chewing down a small section of the paddock.  Once most grass was gone, Cloud and Ben were turned out on it.  Cloud walked happily on the soft muddy ground and, seeing this, I made a firm resolve to stop worrying and trust in nature.

I had tried: vet’s visits – anti-inflammatories and suggestions to put shoes back on; hoof boots and pads – boots walked out of in no time at all; and every suggestion a helpful tackshop assistant could make.  (One suggestion is well worth passing on: put Staysound on the sole of the hoof overnight, packed into the sole with a cut out section of a feedbag put on top.  This tip from her time in a racing yard was very effective in bringing down heat and pulses in Cloud’s front hooves after I had turned him out on the track too soon.)

After a few weeks, Cloud’s energy started to increase, he started to become pushy with me and with Ben over his hay.  When I stood my ground he circled me with a most beautiful springy trot.   A few days later I decided he was ready for the track again.  As extra insurance I put on hoof boots and EVA foam pads and out he went.  He trotted around the track, out of these boots as well and I watched as he walked over stones and tackled the steep descent of the hill.  He stayed sound.  He looked happy again, energy up, in charge of his world and proving to me that the track works as a space for him and Ben and that time does heal.

Cloud and I opened up to each other through those few weeks of pain.  He hated me touching his hooves, and, even with pain gone, was clearly anticipating more as he would snatch a front hoof from me as soon as I picked it up.  I found no easy way through this.  Time, lots of patience and help from Ben all played their part.

Yes, Ben helped.  Clearly aware, one night he drew near me in the yard as I cleaned Cloud’s hooves.  Snatch, snatch, snatch.  It was wet and cold.  I became very aware of Ben’s presence.  I put down Cloud’s hoof, straightened up and looked at Ben.  “Ben could you ask Cloud to bear with me.  I need to do this.”  A pause; call me crazy but I had a strange sense that something passed between Ben and Cloud.  I bent down again and picked up Cloud’s hoof.  He rested his hoof in my hand, brought his head around over my shoulder and licked my cheek.  He stayed relaxed as I finished his hooves.

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Cloud’s left front hoof, 23rd June 2013.

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Cloud’s left front hoof, 18th December, 2013.

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Two different equines

One thing that became very clear to me last winter was that Ben and Cloud do not co-exist ideally on my track system. Cloud’s rate of eating impacts on Ben. Ben’s slower rate, punctuated by rests, does not fit with Cloud’s non-stop and rapid eating. The result has been that Cloud became overweight (far too overweight) and Ben became underweight and looked bad. His coat looked dull, his bones showed and for the first time he looked old.

Having the use of the field this summer reversed this for Ben. Ben’s coat gleamed, his top-line improved (I was also riding most days which I am sure helped) and he gained weight. Cloud’s weight held until the second half of August, when increased grass growth told its tale and he became very round again.

Since coming back, my ad lib experiment has not worked. I have abandoned it a couple of weeks ago. Cloud also got mild laminitis due to the flush of Autumn growth and I have had to face the obvious: they are two different animals and need to be treated as such.

I do not understand this insistence some proponents of track system/paddock paradise have for ad lib feeding. The most I have been able to stretch this for Cloud has been three weeks. I was told (on the facebook paddock paradise group) that it can take six months for a horse to self-regulate. How can this be right? How can this be the right thing to do to a pony like Cloud? I certainly have not been prepared to take this risk.

Feeding ad lib hay worked for Ben and Rosie. Ben set the pace of eating and resting. He may have looked a bit too well-covered but I was not worried for his health. Now Cloud sets the pace.

I do not know Cloud’s breeding, but that he is a native type is obvious, in both character and make-up. He responds so very differently to Ben, for instance, when it comes to loading. Ben, you could say, is more “trainable”. For Cloud, it was clear that he was prepared to resist in every possible manner and a different way to reach him had to be found. I have found Hempfling’s writing on “The Origin” very helpful in helping me understand Cloud. And as regards his make-up, well I wonder about insulin resistance, I wonder also whether he could be leptin resistant which (if I understand correctly) would make him unable to self-regulate. And even if neither of these apply (the test for IR resistance is very expensive so I am holding off for now) I cannot see how a native type, whose ancestors lived on sparse forage over rough ground, could thrive on ad lib forage 24/7.

This morning, I let Ben into grass and spread Cloud’s hay around the track so that he circled Ben moving from small pile to small pile again and again as he foraged for the last remaining wisps. I am still working it out. I have been reluctant to abandon my system which worked so well for Ben and Rosie, where both could share everything day and night. But my big realisation has been that they are two quite different equines and I have to treat them as such. “Keeping it natural” is not quite so easy for this pair.

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An indomitable pony

I look out the kitchen window and there is Rosie, ignoring the hay left for her and gazing at grass. She moves off along the track and my eyes follow her anxiously, watching her footfall, worrying about her soundness. Is she sore today on the off fore? Is she really moving better or is it my imagination? Should I have kept them off the grass last night?

It can become an obsession. An obsession as big as Rosie’s own obsession with grass. When the spring growth started she would stretch her neck under the second layer of tape and work her away around the track, eating a surprisingly wide strip inside the tape. That’s when I first noticed she was sore on hard ground once again. Not dead lame, sound on soft ground but, on hard ground, obviously sore on her off fore. She had come back home from winter grazing sound on all surfaces.

Then I worry that she is too thin and I add extra speedi-beet to her bucket in the mornings, shutting both Ben and Rosie into their stables so that she can take the time to finish her feed. Then it rains, it is cold and the rain comes down in sheets and Ben chooses a dry stable and Rosie stands outside in the yard shivering all over her small body; she looks fragile and wretched. I bring Rosie into the second stable, give her plenty of hay and leave her to dry off. But she is never happy in a stable and I let them out that night and wonder will she still be with us in the morning. Morning comes, I hurry out and her eye is bright, her coat is gleaming and once again she confounds me with her sheer survivability.

But how she can move when she needs to. Left with Cassie and little Arrow while we were on our clicker training weekend, she gave Arrow as good as she got and out-ran him, young pony that he is.

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They look remarkably alike – both Kerry Bog Ponies, one young, one old but with neat little heads, a body more like a small horse and plenty of hair.

She hates being left behind when Ben and I ride out.

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She loves her feed, she loves treats, she loves grass – and she loves the inside of the shed.

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We all love Rosie here.

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Helping Rosie

Rosie has never really been the same since last winter. Her energy has felt low, depressed even, and since her most recent laminitic bout, although she seems less sore since her trim, she is still obviously tender on her front feet. On the positive side, she is walking around, better on soft ground, she is eating all her feed, I do not think she is lying down any more frequently, her coat is gleaming and she looks in good condition.

Homeopathy:

Recently I asked a homeopathic vet to come and look at her. We are fortunate in having a qualified homeopathic vet nearby and I wanted a different eye cast on Rosie to my regular vet. It was an interesting session. She spent a long time asking me about Rosie which made me think through our relationship together, how she learned to trust me, and made me realise just how low in energy Rosie has become. It is hard to spot when it seems to creep up on you.

The vet said that Rosie looked better than she expected and did not think she was a typical laminitic. She thought that she might be in the early stages of Cushings, which is something I have periodically wondered about. She did not recommend doing what she called expensive blood tests which could lead to a treatment that is in itself toxic. She said she needed to think about Rosie and would post me a constitutional remedy. She also remarked on Rosie’s very contracted muscles running over her buttocks and suggested I massage these gently and also suggested a gentle treatment such as cranio-sacral therapy might be good for Rosie. She thought these muscles were so contracted because of Rosie’s sore front feet as well as the dipped back of an elderly pony.

The remedy prescribed was sepia, to be administered for three days and she asked me to contact her again in a few weeks. I will do so soon. It is hard to tell, but I have thought Rosie looked a bit brighter since having the remedy.

Cranio-sacral therapy:

I know a very good cranio-sacral therapist who has come out to Ben on two occasions. Last Thursday she came to Rosie. She said that her vitality was very low, that the cranio-sacral fluid felt sluggish. I am fascinated by cranio-sacral therapy, and as Rosie’s body was treated, she released with yawns and sighs at different stages, her ears clearly telling us how tuned in to the treatment she was. At the end, the therapist said that the cranio-sacral fluid was flowing well now (at least that is how I have translated what she said in my mind). She also said that she thought there were old toxins in her body. Ben stayed near Rosie during this treatment alternately being calm or releasing energy himself through yawns and, at times, displacement biting of the wooden gate.

Again, hard to tell, but Rosie seems more vocal now. She had become very quiet when separated from Ben which happens when I ride him. I thought this was because she was so used to this. But the other day she called loudly as we left and loudly again as she heard us return. It is good to hear.

Agnus Castus:

I have read interesting things about this herb in relation to Cushings, so, it being available in our local tack shop, I have purchased a large tub. I thought I would offer some to Rosie in my hand to see what she would make of it before putting it in her feed. She ate it all and snuffled around my hand, clearly looking for more. As I have also read that it is recommended for hormonal geldings I offered some to Ben as well. Ben being Ben, he took some instantly but then I could see the pepperyness having its impact. He crunched, threw his head up and blew out through his nostrils, “hmmm, hmmm, hmmm”. He crunched again. I offered him the last bit and he turned his head away sharply. “No thank you”, I think. I turned to Rosie, who licked it up, with no such reaction to its flavour.

I have just started to give this to Rosie so it is too soon to look for any effects yet.

I have also ordered her Whinny Warmers for the winter (thank you for the recommendation Billie).

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No foot no horse

Dermot and John came down and trimmed both Rosie and Ben. Rose is much more comfortable since; although still obviously sore in front, she no longer stands with her hind legs under her and is happier for me to pick out her hooves. Next week a homeopathic vet is coming to look at Rosie and both Ben and Rosie are now having grass in the hours of darkness only. For the rest of the time they are on the track, which recent rain has made soft in many places and there are ways around the hardest part which goes up the steep hill.

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For Ben, they said that I was doing a good job but being too conservative (as they said before). His feet are in excellent condition.

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No question, but that course on barefoot trimming last summer in Clare Island was the best thing I have done for my ponies. But learning takes time. During that course we observed many ponies being trimmed, got in some practice ourselves and heard all about the thinking behind it. A few weeks later, Dermot and John came down to take the shoes off the ponies and further explain what to do. Then, about six months later they came down again.

So this time was my fourth meeting with them, their third focussed on Ben and Rosie. And, this time, I seem to be getting it, the penny is dropping in a way it has not before. I had learned the basics, heard the theory, but it takes time, time cleaning, rasping, thinking and worrying about their hooves with questions building up all the time. I have to deal with a standard trim and a remedial trim, on my own. Expert help is half the country away. I have sent Dermot photos on a few occasions which is great, but nothing beats the on-site learning.

Ben is simple: I am fortunate in that he has good hooves. One year on, he is trotting along the rough roads here without hoof boots. After a horror story from my former farrier, I have a particular dread for him, which is concussion laminitis, and I often find myself tapping sharply at his toes. He never winces any more. He used not be able to stand that.

He was funny when Dermot and John arrived. He and Rosie came up to investigate the newcomers. John approached wearing that unmistakable farrier’s apron, and Ben was away, herding Rosie before him. I caught him easily and he stood for John, looking worried, until one hoof was finished when he visibly relaxed, lowering his head and blowing out; no banging, no nails.

As I say, something clicked for me with Ben’s hooves: I got the idea of the weight bearing points, the blunter toe with the breakover in a way I have not before. I feel much more confident now.

I also understood better the principle of Rosie’s trim. This is the third time I have been talked through this remedial trim and, after all, why should I be surprised that it should take me so long to understand? I hope Dermot and John can come out once again in the Spring, and I am sure I will learn more. But I think I can confidently maintain Rosie’s trim now.

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Laminitis

It has struck again. I should have been more careful. Before we went to Donegal, Rosie’s hooves looked ok, she was moving well on soft ground and gave my daughter a lesson in Sandra’s arena, on a surface of sand mixed with pea gravel. She was happy to step over poles at that time.

Last week, home with us again, my daughter wanted to ride her again. Rosie saw us coming with the tack and came towards us, seeming quite happy to give another lesson. But this time, after stepping over a pole, she refused to do it again and then stumbled on the grass.

I took a closer look at her hooves and was horrified. Her heels had done a spurt of growth and her pedal bone seemed to be bulging far more than before in her right hoof.

My daughter (aged 5) was in tears as she wanted to ride Rosie. So I gave her the task of scratching Rosie to distract her as I tried to trim her hooves. It was a struggle as poor Rosie did not want to take the weight on one front hoof. But I felt I had to lower the heels at the very least. Rasp, pull back, put down hoof. Lift it up (not willingly), rasp, pull back, put it down. And again. And again. To the accompaniment of my daughter’s chatter, and whines it has to be said. “My arm is getting tired.” “Use your other one.” “But that’s my clumsy arm.” But she kept at it, kept scratching Rosie and it genuinely helped. Rosie seemed to walk easier when I had finished.

Sandra came out yesterday to help me further. Rosie has quite bad thrush in those two hooves as well. Ben doesn’t and he was standing in the same wet field as Rosie.

As I say, I should have been more careful. I am aware of the dangers of the flush of growth in Autumn. This just came earlier than I expected.

An SOS to Dermot and he and John are coming down, fitting us in, which is very good of them.

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Ponies at home

Ben:

You’re back. I’m glad to see you. Yes you, not your pockets.

I’m sorry I was away. I’m sorry I have not had much time for you.

I don’t understand you. I only speak in positives.

Oh. That’s ok then. I will just take this moment to wait with you…..and this moment, and this and this.

I just need to yawn – lots. I can release some tension now that you are here.

How is Rosie?

I can mind Rosie. You need to mind me.

Rosie:

But I also need to mind Rosie. She had a flare up of laminitis recently. She, quite suddenly, started to walk with great caution and very slowly. I could feel no heat in her hooves and she was still eating well so I was not quite sure what the problem was. The vet said it was laminitis and pointed to her walk – flicking her legs forward with each step so that she could take the pressure off the toes. I have no idea how she got it. Was it some frozen grass? The vet did not think so. He said that she has a low level of laminitis at all times and therefore is vulnerable to flare ups.

I steeled myself to have a quite horrible conversation with him. Was Rosie all right? Did I have to consider the unthinkable? He said that I definitely would at some stage but that he did not consider that her time had yet come. He thought that, laminitis apart, she was looking well and in good condition.

She is on a course of anti-inflammatories and is getting some spark back in her eye and is moving better although not as well as I would like.

Rosie does not talk to me as Ben does. She communicates through a silence that seems as deep and as old as the limestone beneath us.

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