The first consultation was today with a gentleman named Don. I was slightly concerned when we first met because he's not what I would consider an overly "friendly" guy (more of an all business guy), but he spent nearly an hour and a half with Lilly today and by the time he left this afternoon I was feeling much better about the possibility of using him as my trimmer.
We shook hands and introduced ourselves outside the barn and I told him that Lilly was inside. He followed me in and asked me what her name was. Then asked me if she was in foal (oops...) and when I told him she was not, he stated matter of factly that she is fat... at least 75 pounds too heavy. Then he said we could talk about nutrition in a bit.
After standing still and looking at Lilly's hooves for a few minutes in complete silence, he finally said, "someone's been rasping off a lot of hoof wall..."
He got right to work without gathering any history or asking any questions. I could hear him whispering to the other gentleman he brought with him as he inspected her feet, picked them up, set them down and rubbed his hands down her legs. I was starting to get a little upset, especially when he took out his hoof knife and shaved off some of Lilly's sole. The other guy started taking pictures of her feet and Don continued to look very closely at her hooves. I started to see a routine emerge as he went from hoof to hoof and figured I'd just let him do his thing. He looked at each hoof several times, once stopping to go out to his truck to get a rasp, and then when he was done, he asked if he could use my notepad to make some drawings. We both sat down and I watched him draw, still in silence.
When he was done, he pointed to his drawing:
|His drawings... quite the artist, isn't he?|
What he told me after that wasn't good, and while I knew things weren't pretty, I didn't know just how bad they were. He said her underslung and crushed heels were pretty bad and stressed that fixing them would be quite the undertaking and would require a lot of time, a lot of work, and most likely a good deal of off time for Lilly. He said he would rather be presented with a foundered horse than a horse with heels like Lilly's.
He opened up his suitcase full of horse leg parts and showed me how all the different parts of a healthy hoof should look, and then we inspected Lilly's front feet. It was clear her feet look nothing like the healthy cadaver feet. We even compared certain areas of her front feet to her back feet because he wanted to show me what her feet could have looked like (in regards to her heels).
The point he stressed the most was how the tubules in Lilly's hooves aren't parallel like that of a healthy foot. Instead, hers run parallel until the heels start to fold under, at which point the tubules intersect each other. Despite my farrier's best rasping efforts, we could still see quite a few of the tubules. We talked about flares, angles, and all things hooves. He said she's loaded on the inside, which causes the flares on the outside, and while he thinks her toe angle looks pretty good, the angle of her coronary band (and heels) is terrible and on her right front, there's an area that pops up way above the line. He used a lot of tools to show me just how off everything is and the pictures made everything even more noticeable. Don covered probably what he thinks is basic hoof anatomy 101, but the more he explained, the worse I felt.
It was one of the most educational things I've been through in quite some time. Even with all of the reading I've done, tubules was something I hadn't run across. An interesting excerpt from TheHorse.com explains way better than I could:
As the toe grows forward, the heel lowers. As the heel lowers, the horn tubules at the heels bend. Eventually, they become parallel to the ground and lose all ability to support the horse's weight. The poor quality of hoof wall at the heels no longer allows the heels to transfer concussion to other soft tissue supporting structures above the heels, such as the frog, digital cushion, deep digital flexor tendon, navicular bursa, and suspensory ligaments. This can lead to bruising in the heels and associated soft tissues structures.
The hoof wall at the heels then begins to thin, separate, collapse, and roll under the horse's foot. This destroys the bars, which form the angle of the sole. Corns and quarter or heel cracks appear. With the heel out of commission, the frog, deep digital flexor tendon, and digital cushion take over more of the weight-bearing role than they are designed to handle.
The increased tension on the deep digital flexor tendon, caused by the underrun heel and broken-back hoof-pastern axis, increases pressure on the navicular bone and bursa, often leading to degeneration of those structures.
Don explained that her underrun heels could cause a lot of long-term issues including navicular syndrome. In fact, he said he didn't think Lilly could go much longer in her present condition without her starting to exhibit some symptoms of navicular. He went on to explain that horses who are shod early will end up with a hoof that's actually deformed, and even with proper trimming now, he isn't sure that Lilly will ever have a "healthy" foot.
When it was all said and done, he said his plan would be to let her wear her current set of shoes for at least 6 more weeks, maybe 8. That would give her a chance to grow some more foot and hopefully some heel because he felt if he took the shoes off today, she would be walking around on her heel bulbs and would be in awful pain. He wants to see her again in 6 weeks to evaluate how her feet look and to see how much hoof she has grown. Then he'll be able to determine more accurately a plan from there. Without knowing how quickly her hoof grows, he can't really give me specific details about trimming, but he's guessing once the shoes came off, he would come every 3 weeks to trim her heels for quite some time before moving her to a 5 week schedule.
The one positive thing is that Don didn't see thrush in any of her hooves. Yay...
A few other random tidbits we discussed included nutrition, hoof boots, and her ICL surgery.
Until today, Lilly was getting some Purina Ultium (a low starch but high calorie food), alfalfa pellets, hay, pasture, and a multi-vitamin. I spoke with my BO today and the Ultium is going away. It was mostly to make Lilly's pellets more palatable, but somehow it went from a handful to nearly 2 pounds per day. Don said the pellets were good because they contain a lot of protein and he wants her eating a lot of that for hoof growth, but the Ultium is too much. He didn't recommend any hoof supplements either.
If it turns out Lilly needs hoof boots, he thinks the EasyBoot Epic will be the best choice for her. He said the Old Mac boots would "rub the hell out of her heel bulbs".
Lastly, I thought Don was going to have a heart attack when I told him Lilly had ICL surgery. He looked up to the heavens and asked "why, why, why?!" He said he's amazed that a veterinarian would actually cut open a horse's leg and SEVER a ligament. I explained to him why we did it and that it was just another example of how I put my trust and faith in the professionals.
Poor Lilly. If I could do it all over again I'd change a lot of things... the next horse that comes along after her will be one lucky girl because I'll know better.
Consult number two comes tomorrow at 9am. I wonder if she'll paint as bleak a picture as Don?