Bright and early this morning I had a visit from consult #3. Her name is Cat, and while I haven't met her in person until today, we have chatted in the past about numerous different horse related topics, but never about hooves. Her personality won hands down and by the time she left this morning, she felt like an old friend.
After introducing her to Lilly, Cat wanted to watch Lilly move, so we took her out behind the barn where we had some nice ground, and some rocky ground. She wanted to see how sound Lilly was on the gravel with her shoes on. I admit, I do avoid gravel so Lilly was a bit tender footed on the rocks even with her shoes on. Cat took the lead and walked Lilly around a bit for me pointing out how she was pretty short strided on the left front (our problem leg).
After the initial evaluation, I received the now familiar "tubules" spiel and we got right down on the ground as she pointed out where Lilly's heels actually are. After moving on to the bottom of the foot, she smushed Lilly's heels together a bit more to show me how much more contracted they could become, but also how much they will probably decontract as soon as we take the shoes off. Poor Lilly jerked her foot away when Cat pressed her heels together, so it's pretty clear she has heel pain, even if she doesn't really show it to me. We talked a bit about the crease between the heel bulbs and how deep and long it is on Lilly's feet, which was the first time that has been mentioned, although it makes perfect sense. The crease will be deeper and longer the more the heels are contracted.
She also commented that she was not totally appalled at my farrier's shoe job. She could see where he had been bringing the toe back (or at least keeping it from growing out more) and found it nice that he only uses two to three nails on each side of the shoe. She sees a lot of farriers who put nails in the shoe all the way back and said that since he was only putting nails in the first few holes, he was allowing a little heel relief for Lilly. Whether that was intentional or not, I'm not sure. She thought the shoes were too close to the frog, commented about his rasping, and made a joke about how he likes to shape Lilly's frogs. Cat was once a farrier before becoming a barefoot trimmer, so I think that also gives her a unique perspective on things.
Cat discussed the white line at length, along with the sensitive and insensitive laminae, commenting that Lilly probably has a good deal of hoof wall separation in her hoof because of how much flare she has going on.
I talked to her quite a bit about the possibility of Lilly's hooves being related to my saddle issues and she agreed 100% that there's a good chance of her hooves being the cause. It made her think of an article she read not too long ago and she said she was going to look it up and send it my way. It discussed the correlation of hoof issues and back pain in horses and said it would probably sound familiar to me.
When I asked her if she would like me to get x-rays of Lilly's feet, she declined as all the other trimmers did. She said if she saw something more serious she might recommend it, but said she had a pretty good idea of what was going on in Lilly's feet without them. Then she added, "unless you've got money to burn..." HA! I told her how I've burned plenty of money on Lilly already.
What Cat recommends for Lilly is to pull the shoes and do a very conservative trim. She said she would only shape things up the first time and see what kind of reaction we get from Lilly. She thinks she'll probably be fine the first day, and maybe even the second day, but expects to see some soreness around day two and three. If Lilly is really uncomfortable, then she would want to come out and put Equicasts on her front feet and leave those on for 2 weeks. At the two week mark, she'll come out, take the casts off and actually do some trimming of Lilly's feet. The trim that she described to me was very similar to what I've seen online in relation to the traditional type of barefoot trim, with the mustang roll in the front to keep her feet from chipping and also to help in the areas where she sees the white line stretched.
She doesn't recommend hoof boots just yet because she thinks that Lilly's feet will change too much during this transition. Again, unless I have money to burn.
She would want to come out every 2 weeks for a few months and really take her time with the trims, and said she thinks in about 3 months we'll see a completely different horse. As long as Lilly is okay with it, she recommends that I ride her and take her for walks on the concrete driveway and also around on the gravel outside the barn, even if it's just for a few minutes. After enough progress has been made, we can switch her over to a 5 week rotation.
The fourth and final trimmer will be out on the 13th of August and once I get her opinion I'll be able to figure out the best course of action for Lilly. I'm actually getting excited about pulling these shoes off! I can't wait to see how much change we see in her feet.