Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not What I Expected

Yesterday Lilly was visited by our new (although not really new because she's seen Lilly three other times) trimmer. I was ready to go. I had pictures of hooves, old radiographs, spreadsheets, Word documents, ingredient labels, and a brain full of information ready to answer any and all questions she had for me. This was our "think outside of the box" session, and I was looking forward to hearing what new ideas she might have.

She arrived a little early and we got right to work. Lilly waited patiently in the cross ties while we both sat on the floor poking, prodding, and messing with her hooves. I told her what's been going on since she saw her last, and what's been happening with her hooves recently at our new place. When she picked up Lilly's left front (the "good hoof") to look at it, I mentioned to her that Lilly has a short window of time where she'll let you have that hoof. After 5-10 seconds, she starts walking her hind legs up underneath herself and very kindly, but clearly, asking for her hoof back. I wanted her to know Lilly wasn't just being a brat.

Usually when I'm trimming that hoof, I just give her a lot of breaks. I've tried standing her on towels, in boots, and on squishy pads to try and make her more comfortable, but it doesn't make a difference. C, my trimmer, wanted to try a folded up towel, so we did. It didn't help. She found this to be extremely telling.

Once we were done evaluating from down below, she wanted me to longe her. So we went into the arena and I longed her first to the left. She took a few short steps but looked pretty good. When I turned her around and longed Lilly to the right, though, she was taking short steps nearly every stride. This was both good and bad... good because usually when you're trying to show someone what you're talking about when it comes to your horse, they're quick to make a liar out of you, so at least C was able to see what I was referring to. It's bad, of course, because I don't like her to be uncomfortable and I thought we had been making progress since daytime turnout started.

She found this to be extremely telling as well.

We put Lilly back in the cross ties and C started doing some body evaluating. She noted how Lilly's knees aren't even, her right hoof is higher than her left hoof, and when we looked at Lilly from behind, there was clearly a difference in her shoulders. The right one appears to be a bit 'jammed up'. I remember when I first had Lilly's shoes removed, my trimmer (not C) also noted the differences in her knees, shoulders, and hoof height, so those things aren't new to me.

This is an old picture from this past November, but it shows the height difference in her hooves.
This one is from yesterday, showing the height difference in her knees.
This one is also from yesterday, just to kind of show how differently shaped her hooves are.
So after hearing all the stories, watching her on the longe line, looking at her body, and reading none of the literature I brought except for the radiographs, C sighed and said she thinks Lilly's hoof is fine, and what we're actually dealing with here is an issue somewhere between the knee and the shoulder.


In perfect tunnel vision fashion, I have been focused on nothing but hooves for the past three weeks, never once considering something else might be going on.

So here are the reasons she thinks it's not a problem with Lilly's hoof:
1. While the issue started shortly after moving her to the new barn, and got worse about three weeks ago, if it was metabolic and a reaction to the new grass, she should be showing symptoms in both front hooves and not just one.
2. If the issue was because she just has super thin soles (which she does), why is she only showing lameness on the right hoof? Both hooves have 5-6mm soles, so wouldn't she be also be gimpy on her left front?
3. Why is she fine with holding up her right front hoof for hours at a time, but a mere 5-10 seconds after lifting her left front, she's begging to put it down?
4. If it's just thin soles or some other hoof related issue, why is it that folding a towel until it's four inches thick and placing it underneath her hoof gives her absolutely no comfort when her left hoof is up in the air?
5. If it's just thin soles or some other hoof related issue, why is she more uncomfortable when being longed to the right?

Her thinking is that shoes can mask a lot of problems, and prior to having her shoes pulled, I was having a crazy time with saddle fit. I spent a small fortune buying and selling saddles, trying to find something that fit her. Once the shoes came off, the saddle fit issues magically went away, but this problem with her right front hoof showed up shortly thereafter and has remained an issue ever since.

She's been adjusted and massaged, and no one ever mentioned an issue with her shoulders, just her pelvis and her TMJ. That doesn't mean she couldn't have had an old injury that showed up differently with the shoes (or was masked by the shoes), or perhaps she injured herself once her shoes came off. The puzzling thing for me has been trying to figure out why she was doing so well prior to the move, but maybe she has irritated the injury because she's in a new place, with new horses, lots of grass, and a lot more room to run around and act silly... or slip in the wet grass.

So we didn't do anything new and exciting with her hooves, because she didn't think we needed to. We're making no changes to her diet or anything along nutritional lines either. We discussed having my vet come out to nerve block the hoof just to once and for all determine if we're dealing with a hoof issue or something a bit farther up. Then I can discuss with her what the issue might be, and figure out a treatment plan. It will probably include a visit from the chiropractor and perhaps some massage therapy.

She also mentioned a farrier/trimmer clinic that happens every second Tuesday of the month about three hours from me. A very well respected lameness veterinarian works with trimmers and farriers on horses with lameness issues. It would essentially be free for me because it's for the benefit of the participants and I'm providing the lame horse. I say "essentially free" because it's a three hour drive, so I'd have a nice gas bill, along with my time, and I'd have to take the day off work. I'm not really sure how I feel about doing something like that.

C was going to contact my regular trimmer and discuss her thoughts with her and see if the clinic would be beneficial or not. I might also call a vet I haven't used before to get a fresh set of eyes instead of using my regular vet.

In the meantime, C just trimmed up the hinds for me, and then pretty much left the right front alone, minus a bit of shaping and she also dug out a little bit more of the seedy toe. She's thinking that if the right shoulder is pushed up, she would want to leave as much hoof on that right side as possible, while taking as much hoof as possible off the left hoof. It sounds counter-intuitive and it took some explaining on her part for me to understand what she was trying to say, but it's less about the height of the hoof and more about the angles.

So here are the hooves after she was done trimming yesterday:

Right front.
Left front.

And what post would be complete without a self-portrait of the super sweet, super patient, and most wonderful pony in the whole world (and her momma)?

Awww... so cute!
C warned me that Lilly might be a little sore today, but she was actually moving quite well. Much better than yesterday and I was surprised when I longed her in the arena. Here are a couple videos I took, although I wish I had taken video yesterday before the trim to compare. I didn't think about it while we were longing her because C was there watching, so why bother taking video? Duh, because then I could look at it today! Oh well... too late now.

I hope I remembered to write everything down. An issue not relating to her hoof wasn't what I was expecting, but I'm curious as to any opinions y'all might have about a possible shoulder issue, or any other thoughts about what could possibly be going on.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hurry Up, Wednesday!

Thank you for all the emails and comments on my last post. I enabled comment moderation just to be safe, but know that I read them all and it's comforting to know you all understand what I'm going through. I knew you would, which is why I just needed to vent to people who are like minded. Makes me feel less crazy.

I think I had a moment with the BO yesterday. He told me a story about something Lilly did when he was visiting her in the barn. Her stall door is a half door, but she's not quite tall enough to get her head over it completely, although she tries really hard. He said she's the only one in the barn that comes right over to see him, no matter what's going on in her stall. He said he was standing there with her, petting her gently, and she put her chin on his shoulder. He said they stood like that for a few moments before she moved her head down to see what he had in his shirt pocket. He said she's just so sweet, and he's never known a horse quite like her. He said he would do anything for her, and although he is still harassing me about the shoes, he said he just wants what's best for her. He even said he's going to strip her stall, have some screenings delivered, and build up the stall floor a bit so she can easily get her head over the door.

As frustrating as this place is, I know they're not being annoying just because. I know they just want what's best for the horses in their care, but they're going about it the wrong way. Perhaps they're not used to quite so much push back from horse owners, so they're frustrated with me too... I don't know. I think I turned a page with the BM, and now I'm hoping I turned a page with the BO. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm counting the days until my trimmer comes out. Lilly has been outside only during the day for most of this week, and while it's helped a little bit, she's still tender on the driveway. Hopefully I get some ideas from the trimmer, and perhaps we can cast her hooves again or something in the meantime so she can be more comfortable when she's moving around on harder surfaces.

I could sit here all day...
Until then, I visit Lilly every day to paint on some sole hardener, brush her, feed her cookies, and turn her back out. When she sees me pull in the driveway, she runs over to the gate nickering, and it makes my day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Really Needed To Vent

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Mmmm... grass.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Getting Creative

It's time to get creative with Lilly's hooves.

Brief summary of the past two years, for those of you playing the home game:

*I can't remember the exact age she was when we first put shoes on her front hooves, but she was at least three. I think we were more into her four year old year, but once her front shoes went on, they never came off. My farriers (and I had many) all told me she couldn't be without front shoes, so she never was. In fairness to those farriers, I didn't decide to put shoes on her willy nilly. She'd had crappy feet since she was a foal and I was still having issues with her hooves chipping and they looked horrible. So the shoes went on.

*In 2011, I decided the shoes needed to come off and wanted to try her barefoot for a number of reasons. Mainly, I couldn't seem to keep shoes on her (she'd rip them off at least every other week), and her hooves looked terrible. The farrier had to put on shoes that were too small if they were going to stand any kind of chance of stayin on. She was also experiencing a lot of shoulder and back pain, and I was having saddle fitting issues like crazy. I was hoping she could go barefoot, but at the very least we needed to get her hooves back into proper shape without complicating things with steel shoes that kept coming off.

*August 13th was the day the shoes came off. Progress making the transition was slow, but with boots she was sound to ride in the sandy arena and I saw big changes in her hooves as they adjusted to life without shoes. We were seeing some soreness in her right front hoof, though, and ended up getting x-rays. They showed that she had super thin soles, so we casted her hooves to help her make the transition. She did really well in them, but they only lasted about 3 weeks and we decided not to put them back on for numerous reasons.

*Over the past two years of being barefoot, I've tried a number of supplements, I've changed her feed, her hay, her turnout, her trimmers, the number of hours she's out in wet grass, took her on walks on hard concrete, rode her as much as I could without boots, rode her a lot in the boots, tried different pads in her boots, used different sole hardeners, soaked her in all kinds of stuff, sprayed her hooves with vinegar, prayed to the hoof gods, did a rain dance in my underware, etc, etc, etc... anything that might help her along in this very extended transition period, and yet we're still here. Transitioning to life without shoes.

Life since shoes has been so-so. It hasn't been great, but it hasn't been awful either. We've definitely had our share of issues along the way, and she's still tender on a lot of surfaces. It depends on the terrain, but for the most part, if she's anywhere other than a sandy arena, and we're doing more than walking, she needs her boots. We've graduated to a pair of Renegades with poured in gel pads, which I love, but we still need them. My new barn has a fairly packed indoor arena and a grass outdoor arena. Anytime I'm working her, she needs her Renegades. Anytime we show, she needs her Renegades.

Soaking patiently...
That being said, I'm not ready to give up yet. She takes tender steps, and she's occasionally sore, but I've noticed a huge difference in her attitude since her shoes came off. She's happier, she enjoys being ridden much more, and she is no longer having shoulder and back pain. The shoes were hurting her hooves and I'm not trying to go back to that.

It just means that it's time to get creative. What is left that I haven't tried?

We have an appointment on the 28th with a new trimmer. She's one of the trimmers I had come out to give me her opinion before I took Lilly's shoes off, and she is approved by my current trimmer. She's closer to me and can come out every four weeks if I need her, or every five if that's all we need. I spoke with her at length today about the things I'm unhappy with, and she threw out some suggestions that we'll look into more closely when she comes out. She's a big believer in fixing issues from the inside out, so we're going to talk about nutrition options, possibly looking into some different herbs, diatomaceous earth, and maybe even trying some essential oils. She gave me quite a bit of homework to have ready for her when she comes out, and I'm looking forward to hearing a different opinion, with different ideas.

It's possible that we're doomed to suffer through this forever. She's suffered with crap hooves since she was a foal, so I could very possibly be fighting genetics. I could also be fighting my own stupidity for putting shoes on when she was four and never giving her hooves a break for the next seven years. Maybe someday I'll find that magic potion that just seems to work for her and one day all this will be a distant memory. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

If one day I have to put shoes back on her, I will. If I can get by with boots, I will. If we need to use rubber shoes, or some other kind of fancy hoof device that might come along in the meantime, then we will. Whatever it takes to make sure Lilly is happy. That's what it's all about.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I'm so frustrated I can't even see straight. Things have been rocky at the barn (for a couple of reasons) this past week, but I don't like to speak ill of people in a public forum, so I don't want to go into too much detail. Let's just say that the barn manager has done some things without asking that I disapprove of on an extremely high level, and neglected to do some very important things that I think are no brainers. What has me beyond frustrated is that it could have all been avoided by doing one very basic thing...


For the love of god, dial my number and call me!! I don't know why I can't seem to find a barn with people who know how to use the damn telephone! Or even text me... hit me up on Facebook... send me an email... something... PLEASE!!

If that wasn't enough, Lilly was lame on Sunday and I really have no idea why. I could find nothing that jumped out at me other than her being foot sore, and even though she had been trimmed, it was days prior, so I have no idea what was going on with her. I soaked her hoof in case we had the beginnings of an abscess, gave her some bute, and thankfully by Monday she was 90% better. Today she was back to her happy self, so I'm thrilled we're not going to have to deal with an abscess.

I emailed my trimmer some pictures of my work and explained to her what was going on in case there was something I was missing. We're brainstorming other ideas, like adding Keratex and continuing to soak her with Oxine (which I've been doing already). I think all the wet weather we've been having is really working against me.

"Working hard to stess out my mom..."
So, needless to say, I haven't been riding or having much fun since returning from vacation. Stress, stress, stress. Boo hoo. Woe is me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Update (Finally)!

We're here! We're alive! We're doing well! July was a super busy month for me with vacations and play dates and parties, but things have officially settled down and it's time to get back into my normal, routine existence.

Since I've been on vacation, it stands to reason that Lilly has also been on vacation. She's been loving life at her new barn and enjoying an awful lot of downtime. I think it's been good for her and I'm seeing a calm about her that I find adorable. Usually when I arrive at the barn, she's sound asleep in her stall. All the horses are napping in front of their fans and I call to her as I'm making my way through the indoor arena. I see her pop her head up, she whinnies, and then she manages to get her head over her door (it's a little too tall for her) to greet me when I get there. She always seems really happy to see me and I love that.

The face of a happy, content pony.
Nine times out of ten, she still has hay in her hay bag, which makes me happy, and the barn manager reports that she no longer "eats like a lawn mower" but is now grazing like a normal horse, taking breaks during her turnout time. When she first arrived, you couldn't pull her head up out of that grass for anything. She hasn't put on any weight like I thought might happen, and she looks really good. I'm dealing with some scratches on her pasterns because of the wetness we're still having, but I shaved her up to her ankles on Monday so her pasterns can dry faster and not stay as wet. That, along with the Banixx, and I'm already seeing improvement.

I trimmed her hooves on Monday as well, and she seemed a bit tender today when I walked her through the arena. Nothing has changed in her diet, so I think I might have trimmed her a bit shorter than I should have. Now that things are back to normal, though, I can go back to touching up her hooves once a week and not have to do a full trim all in one day. Since being gone on vacation for a week and a half, her seedy toe has made a roaring comeback, so I'm back to working on that as well.

For the most part, though, things are going great. We went for our first ride in the indoor today and she did amazing. I rode her in the Renegades, but she's really out of shape, so I didn't make her work too hard. She broke a sweat, but that's not hard to do around here this time of year.

Keeping an eye on the cows behind her instead of posing for me!
Hopefully we'll be back to more regular updates as we both try to get back into shape. I'm trying to get caught up on all of your blogs as well!