Friday, April 11, 2014

NEVER say Never

Looking back, becoming a professional trimmer wasn't even in my wildest dreams, let a lone a career upon which I'd ever thought to have embarked.  I never dreamed I'd one day be looking at foundered & laminitic horses with the eyes of a professional Barefoot Trimmer.  Then I lost my long-time, boring desk job.

Fortunately I'd been trimming some of my own horses for almost 20 years.  When you have 20+ horses it's just a little hard to afford to pay someone to trim them all on a regular schedule.  I was so VERY lucky to meet a professional Barefoot Trimmer who was a great mentor & teacher, & who's now a great friend as well.  She trimmed my stallion, DreamCatcher Alshain, when he was being shown to his Region III Reserve Champion SHIH Stallion title.  She used my horses to teach others to trim, & in that process she also taught me to do more than just a flat, pasture trim.  About a year before I lost my job, she even told me she'd refer clients to me if I wanted.  Uh, no, I was working a 20+ year, 40 hour a week job that I'd never quit to strike out on my own.  Then came budget cuts.

As the terror of being unemployed struck me, several friends, including my trimmer friend, reminded me that I could start trimming professionally.  Really?  Could I really?  It was then that I joined Pacific Hoof Care Practioners & began my journey into the professional hoof care world.  As one of my required mentorships, I spent a 14 hour day with a vet who's also a hoof care professional with PHCP.  Her specialty is foundered & laminitic horses.  After that long, eye opening day I vowed to NEVER trim a foundered or laminitic horse.  It was shortly after that, that I learned to NEVER say never.

One of my first trims as a professional was a severely foundered gelding.  I'd been told he was a little lame, but when I got there I was in for a surprise.  He could barely walk & his feet were LONG & already "dishing".  The poor owner told me how the vet said he was only colicking & that was why he kept laying down.  When her shoer came out, he's the one who told her the gelding was foundering & that she needed to call someone else as he didn't work on foundered horses.  Lucky me!  Actually, it WAS lucky me because I learned so much with that gelding.  I recalled everything I could from my mentorship with the vet & slowly started working.  In the beginning I trimmed him every 2 weeks.  His owner was great in fixing his diet; feeding soaked hay in nets, muzzling him to keep him off the grass, & starting him on CA Trace, a wonderful, balanced mineral supplement.  She also kept him in boots.  It was amazing to watch that gelding improve.  At first it was just a slight improvement in the way he stood.  Then he started walking with a bounce in his step.  I'd been so focused on his trim that when I finally noticed his hooves were looking "normal", I was happily surprised.  It took a few months but the time came when that gelding was sound enough in boots to be lightly ridden.

That gelding gave me the confidence to accept more & more foundered & laminitic horses as clients.  Today close to 1/2 my clientele is foundered or laminitic horses.  It was so horrifyingly surprising to learn there were that many horses in metabolic crisis.  I'm so fortunate in so many ways.  I'm actually thankful I lost my job because I LOVE my CAREER.  I'm so happy to be called for foundered & laminitc horses because I love helping them.  After the scary time of having my very own foundered horses, I've learned so much & come so far.  Today I welcome the foundered & laminitic horses who come into my life.  Each one teaches me something that can possibly help me help the next horse.  I'm so thankful I did a mentorship with such a wonderful vet & trimmer.  That day when I said NEVER, came back to haunt me.  But I overcame & today the word is I WILL.

My journey down the founder & laminitis road has been rough & rocky.  But it's been so worth it.  Yes, today I WILL.      


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Fantastic Maark Update

I've had a few wonderful emails recently from Maark's owner. She tells me that Maark is doing fantastic. It's so wonderful to hear that this very nice horse is being given the opportunity to be all he can be by a wonderful horseperson. The following are the emails updating me about Maark:

We are a grooving down the trail!!!! Did a ride at Whiskeytown 15 miles very hilly and rocky/tough ride. He did fantastic only 2 things he didn't like out of that whole ride a bicycle and a dark mud sucky puddle. Not bad I thought. W rode with me on my other guy. C H thought I was nuts as she rode with me too but after wards thought he was a great horse for only going out on the trail the 3 time now. Having fun with him. Husband may start riding him after about 20 rides or so he is a great big boy! He is looking really good will get pictures when his hair is off so you can see what he really looks like. Had his teeth floated/sheath cleaned a couple days ago he did really good with that too. He is coming around to others too, he is fearful of new people at first, taking him to a class at Shasta college to get him used to going places in the trailer etc and doing very well. Anyway will quit talking your ear off. Will have to ride soon too at Oroville or Tevis trail. Really want to do the latter!!!

Here are some pics of Maarks ride on Tues 3/16. He did so good! Very brave, most of the time. Easy to work through things though. White rocks are a little disturbing. Had a great day and got a little burnt.

Hey CMK, We are off to our first ride at Cache Creek today and just wanted to send you a couple of cool training pics of him doing so good! He is such an awesome horse, brave and trusting what a gem!
Who would have thought that morbidly obese gelding who got off the trailer last Sept would turn into this awesome trail horse? He's come such a long way thanks to the people in his life who were willing to give him a chance. There IS life after obesity! Ride on Maark & Mom.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Maark's New Journey

I recently received an update on Maarks' progress. He & his new mom have started their journey as trail partners. She said he LOVES going on the trail & wants to keep moving forward. He's curious & excited about all the new things he's seeing. Of course they're only walking right now, but how great is it that a horse who was once in danger of losing his life to obesity is now enjoying all the new things life has to offer him? While getting a horse through the rough times of founder, laminitis, IR, cushings, or obesity can be daunting, it's not impossible. Better still is that with education, horses never had to suffer the consequences of these diseases. Maark is a poster child for how successful an outcome can be if given a chance.

Lady is also doing well. She's living on a drylot pasture with another senior lady. Every now & then they can been seeing flying across the pasture with tails flying. At those times you would never know that Lady is in her 20s & has suffered founder for years. What a gorgeous mover. You can definitely see where Maark gets his awesome trot, like mother like son.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Sad End

I first saw Sugar almost 20 years ago as a 3-4 year old filly. Back then she was dark grey, sassy, & full of life. I can still see her running across the pasture that day. Of unknown heritage, she stood just under 14 hands but had the trot of a big horse. She belonged to a friend who would sell her & later buy her back. For a number of months about 5 years ago Sugar stayed with me while her owner moved & settled in. It was during this time that I came to appreciate the stoic, tough little mare.

Her life hadn't always been easy & she had no use for people other than at feeding time, but who could blame her? Over the years Sugar was a horse of many trades, from trail riding; broodmare; working cattle; cowboy's horse; to lesson horse; forgotten horse, Sugar did it all. At some point in time she experienced an episode of founder. I was told it was post foaling but no other details were ever available to me. Over the next 10-15 years Sugar would have founder flare-ups, but she never missed many days of work. As long as her hooves were kept trimmed & shod, she would continue working with a minimum of pain. We all know that horses can be very stoic creatures, but I think Sugar was more stoic than most. I'm sure she was in a lot more pain than she ever showed. Under saddle she was a fireball who never missed a step, but watch her casually roaming the pasture & it was evident her feet hurt. As time went on she became more sore & could be seen in the classical "saw-horse" stance of founder.

It'd been a couple years since I'd seen Sugar, but her owner would occasionally tell me that she was slowly getting worse. Why she was allowed to worsen without treatment was always upsetting & many times I suggested euthanasia. Her owner just wasn't ready. A very selfish sentiment! Sugar had gone from an obese, obviously IR, horse to a thin horse with the haircoat of a cushing horse. Her owner would never spend the money to test for IR & cushings, but the symptoms were hard to miss. Every now & then Sugar's owner would say she really needed to be euthanized but there just wasn't the money for the vet. Finally the day came when Sugar was taken to a low-cost/free euthanasia clinic. I was glad to hear that the stoic little mare's years of pain were over. But even more than being glad, I was so saddened to see what Sugar had been allowed to become. The pictures of her last hours show a horse emaciated by pain, trying to stand & walk on feet that had obviously been long neglected.
There's no excuse for allowing a horse's feet to get in this condition. Just because a horse is being fed (I know for a fact that Sugar never missed a meal these last 15 years, she was often overfed) doesn't mean they aren't being neglected. Allowing a foundered horse to suffer is a horrible form of neglect, one that doesn't have to happen. This x-ray shows Sugar's deformed & deteriorating coffin bone that's on it's way to dropping through the sole. I'll never understand how anyone can let a horse get in this condition. How can someone stand by & watch the daily pain & suffering without trying to do something to correct it? Ignorance to the care of a foundered horse is what sent Sugar into her downward spiral of repeated founder episodes. Ignorance & lack of proper hoof care caused a nice mare to suffer years of pain. I tried to talk to her owner many times but old "cowboy" ways are hard to overcome. I hope sharing Sugar's story here will open at least one pair of eyes to the terrible outcome of founder untreated. Founder isn't something hopeless, it isn't something to accept & "learn to live with it". It can be treated &, more importantly, IT CAN BE PREVENTED! Rest in peace & run free Sugar.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Disappointment & Smiles-An Update

Last month Maark went to his new home. His new owner is an endurance rider who was looking for a new horse. She was looking for a project who was kind, calm, & wanting to bond with the human partner. She found what she was looking for in Maark. She picked him up on a rainy night & he was so good getting in the strange trailer in the dark. I did get an email the next day that said after the first few miles he travelled like a pro. She was very pleased with her new horse.

A week later I got an email that Maark was dead lame. His new owner & I were both devastated because her vet said he was not only foundering, but had a blown suspensorary ligament. To say his owner & I were shocked at the diagnosis is an understatement. We were both skeptical but since we aren't vets... I offered to take Maark back but she said she loved him & wanted to work him through whatever was wrong. Her farrier looked at Maark & pronounced that he was not only NOT foundered, but never had foundered. He thought maybe the trouble was an abscess. You can imagine my relief when I got a phone call a few days later saying an abscess had blown out at the coronet band. With that, Maark came sound & the leg swelling disappeared. Obviously the swelling was from the abscess & infection, NOT from a damaged suspensorary. Smiles all around.

Last week I received a holiday email with the awesome news that Maark's new mom had not only started saddling him, but she'd actually been sitting on him & letting him wander around the roundpen. I could hear the grin in her words. It made my day. What a great year end it's been for the fattest horse I've ever known.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Botox For Laminitis & Founder?

I read an interesting article in Equus magazine this morning & thought I'd share. The article was about using Botox to aid in the prevention & treatment of laminitis & founder. Botox is the trade name for a botulinum toxin. The toxin blocks muscle contractions & causes localized muscular paralysis. It's this property that makes Botox popular for reducing facial wrinkles.

A pediatric neurologist & a vet teamed up on a study of Botox use for laminitic & foundered horses. They also studied it's use as a preventative to these 2 devastating diseases. Their study consisted of 7 horses, 6 with varying degrees of laminitis & founder plus 1 horse who had a serious injury to a front leg. The premise for their study was to see if Botox injections would relax the deep digital flexor tendon so it didn't contract & pull the coffin bone into the classic, founder rotation. This would be equivalent to cutting the tendon, which has been the traditional method of treatment for rotation, barring euthanasia. The study horses were injected with Botox above the knees of each affected leg. After 2 weeks, x-rays showed that rotation in the affected hooves had stabilized. The horse who was given Botox as a preventative because of the severe injury never developed laminitis. The effects of Botox begin in a few days & peaks at 2 weeks, with about 3 months being the lasting length of 1 injection.

Botox treatments aren't cheap & depending on the severity of the laminitis & founder, multiple treatments might be needed. The article stated the cost between $1500-$2000 per leg. But when faced with laminitis & founder, there is now one more option that gives our horses a chance at life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

CRM Xpression

I got a call from a friend the other day about a horse who had just been returned to her. She'd free leased her older gelding to a friend. My friend was so upset over the condition of her gelding. She told me he was morbidly obese & having trouble walking on his sore feet. I could hear the pain, anger & fright in her voice. She was afraid he was foundering & that she'd have to euthanize him.

When I started this blog to follow my own story of dealing with foundered & obese horses, I had hopes that my horses would help someone else going through the same painful journey. I did hours of research on founder, laminitis, IR & cushings. I was fortunate to have someone as mentor & to hold my hand as I went through the ups & downs of saving a horse I thought was unsavable. It was now my turn to "pay it forward".
As I was speaking with my friend, she sent me this photo. No it's not a pregnant mare, it's her gelding. It's obvious that he wants to rock onto his backfeet to relieve his sore fronts. She told me he kept pawing the air with one front foot, not wanting to stand on it. I couldn't see his expression in this photo, but she said his eyes were dull & wrinkled in worry & pain. Such a shame because this used to be a vibrant, bright horse who carried more than one person down the endurance trail.
I was so glad I could tell my friend that her horse was very savable. I told her to look at my blog & read about Maark & Lady. We knew her gelding had been on irrigated pasture & I explained that he could not be allowed any more grass. He needed to be on dry lot pasture. I told her how I spread hay out all over the pasture to keep my horses not only moving, but to prevent them from gorging their meal. Boy did I feel smart explaining about sugar & starch content in hay, & that she needed to find hay low in both. I told her how I rinse the beet pulp until the water runs clear to insure it's as low in sugar as possible. But I think the most important thing I learned on my journey was that these obese horses can NOT be put on a shorter ration diet. I've learned that like people with rapid weight loss, there can be internal organ damage associated with rapid weight loss in horses as well. My friend said she was so glad she'd called because she'd barely fed her gelding that morning. She was going to go feed him a normal ration of hay, spread around his pasture, as soon as we got off the phone. I asked if she'd gotten his weight & it was estimated (taped) at just over 1100lbs. This for a horse who's normal weight was barely over 900lbs.
A few days later my friend called to say her gelding was moving better & his eyes were brightening. We talked some more about what had happened to him & how to prevent it from happening again. Fortunately my friend knows the importance of good hoof care & she's already addressed what she feels was a very bad trim. I was glad to hear he was doing better & offered to loan her some Easyboots with pads if she thought her horse needed them. She said he was walking really well in his sand paddock. It will be a long, slow process, but my friend & her gelding will be just fine.
I can't stress enough that allowing your horse to get morbidly obese is life threatening. If you have an easy keeper, please monitor the weight & health so you don't have to go through the pain of trying to save your horse. Founder is extremely painful & no horse should have to go through the agony. With good management, you can prevent founder.