One of the most feared occurrences in a horse owner’s life. You look out the window and see your horse in “that stance”; the one that signifies the lame foot you noticed two days before is really laminitis.
Jesse, the horse known for stomping things, as in rearing up and stomping down in a mud hole to splash herself and other horses. Sometimes there are sharp objects and you end up with an abscess. Gone for three days to a farm show. Upon return, find lame horse on right front. Check for punctures, stone bruises, abscess. Nothing. Next day looks like maybe a strained shoulder muscle. Ok, a couple day’s rest. Then you look out and see the awkward stance. Yikes.
Call the vet, the wonderful man who always comes immediately when we call. She gets put on heavy doses of Bute and penned separately until we can figure things out. He says call the farrier. Your horse has foundered.
Jesse has always been a bit on the chunky side; even as a very young horse. She has also been very active. She was the horse who could go day after day without tiring, do heavy work and not care. Always wanted to be going. The last few years (5-6) we have fought the weight battle, going to a slow-feed hay system and purchasing special low-carb hay. This winter was the ‘killer’ so to speak. Instead of turning them loose for six months on many acres to roam, we kept them home so we could introduce a new horse. It was a particularly snowy, nasty winter, so not much in the way of good exercise. Starting in Feb., I put Jesse on a diet; 20 lbs. of hay in a slow feed hay bag and nothing else. She had weighed in at 1130 lbs. at 14.1 hands, but she has some draft in her which is very evident in her build.
Wonderful vet called back in a couple days to say he had been thinking about the circumstances and Jesse’s build, etc. and said he wanted to try some thyroid meds with her. He thought she had EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) or the same as type 2 diabetes in humans. Too much insulin her body just couldn’t use. Worked. She started dropping weight. In the meantime, our also very wonderful farrier put wooden clogs on her feet. As soon as the clogs went on, she was able to move again.
|Just finished being put on. Yes, those are deck screws holding them on. Her hoof walls were so hard, the farrier broke a drill bit making the pilot holes. Her foot looks small here, but it's a size 4.|
Both vet and farrier said she needed to be walked 15 minutes twice a day, and kept in a smaller pen.
She’s been in clogs 5 weeks now. We have walked in snow, sleet, rain, and finally, sun – missing only twice in that time. Once due to ice packing up too quickly on the clogs, and once because Jesse just didn’t feel like it. (The farrier had said let her make the decision on how far.) At first, we did well going around one city block. Improvements came fairly rapidly. Soon she was walking faster, so the faster you walk the farther you get in your 15 minutes.
|This is at the 5 week mark. See how she has self rounded the toe with the rocker motion?|
I started by taking another horse along with us for company in the mornings and so another one could get a bit of exercise. At night, it was just Jesse and me. What a struggle at first – she has never liked leaving the herd and even just one block was pushing it – but we prevailed and she now looks forward to the walks as much as I do.
Bill was gone for two and a half weeks of this time. Soon neighbors showed up to help until the mornings entailed all four horses going for the walk, with different neighbors leading them. Super way to welcome the spring weather in the mountains.
Jesse is now at an almost svelte 990 lbs. since her diet started exactly three months ago. Getting quite toned up and marching along faster than I can keep up. We vary the route every day, zig-zagging around blocks but getting in at least a half mile. We have developed a great habit. One more week of clogs, but they are an amazing improvement in laminitis treatment. Check out this website for information:http://www.thehorse.com/articles/26368/clogs-to-treat-laminitis
Next? Start ponying her for longer times. She seems to have stabilized at that weight. She still gets an anti-inflammatory med for her arthritis but she is looking good and her great attitude is back. She still has a way to go to get the feet healed, but we are headed in the right direction. She turned 16 this year and I am anxious to keep her around for many more.