How did my horse end up like this?
While there is always some important information to carry forward into a rehabilitation process, we find it most productive to move on from the past immediately, giving all past care providers the benefit of the doubt, with the understanding that we are all doing the best work we are capable of doing. If that work did not serve your horses long term soundness, they are now in a better place.
Moving out of a philosophical view and into a hands-in perspective, the most common issues we see are:
- short term fixes that do not contribute to long term soundness, such as short shoeing a horses foot to keep it from pulling a shoe off
- perimeter fit shoeing (fitting the wall, not the bony column)
- trimming that is not focused on keeping the hoof tight around the coffin bone and in alignment with the bony column of the leg
- lack of proper nutrition for our geographical location causing poor hoof quality
- improper day to day management of hoofs both barefoot and shod
- horses struggling to allow proper hoof care, due to lack of training or expectation of caregivers
While there are many more potential factors, these are the first five to be evaluated in all situations. No matter how your horse got to this place, this is where to begin.
What happens next?
What happens after we determine a path is – we start working!
As a generalization, we try to manage expectations to be reasonable for the condition the horse is in. Our tendency is to be conservative, with the hope that we will all be happily surprised as the horse recovers faster than we had planned. This leads to more joy and less disappointment, and an opportunity for everyone involved to be successful and satisfied.
A typical rehabilitation involves many people and different phases of intensity. Most begin with a rest/trim/pain and inflammation management situation. If a qualified dentist has not been maintaining your horses teeth this is the time to begin that process. At this point the horse may be sore and uncooperative to be worked on, and rightfully so. If this is the case, a plan for sedation and further pain management during our work sessions may be necessary for our safety and the horses long term mental health. It is to be noted here that we find many horses begin their rehabilitation with us defensive and difficult to work on. As their pain and stress resolve, so does their challenging behavior. If it does not, there may be even more underlying problems, such as neurological issues, upper body skeletal conditions, muscle issues such as PSSM 1 and/or 2, and training issues. All of these things can be explored if necessary but we do find that most horses settle for us as their pain resolves.
After the initial triage has taken place, we usually determine a trim cycle with or without casting and/or shoes. We evaluate how the plan is progressing each time and assess the need for further care at each juncture we come to.
Usually around the time the hoof has grown out about halfway and the bony column is supported by the new hoof, it is time to begin adjunctive therapies such as chiropractic and body work. This is particularly important in cases of negative palmer angles in hind feet, which will have affected the entire skeletal system.
If the horse has been in work during rehabilitation or is coming into work again at this point, focusing on correct basics such as straightening both laterally and longitudinally at the walk/trot are vital to success. We will work with trainers, riders and owners as to what type and how much work is appropriate at each stage of rehab. Saddle fit usually needs to be evaluated as well, as horses bodies can change dramatically at this time.
Once the horse is at the midpoint of rehabilitation, and steadily back into work, we find that joint issues often need to be assessed and addressed at this point. There may be known issues from past years or things that have become obvious because other problems that masked them are now gone. An assessment from a qualified veterinarian is recommended at this point, as the waters are no longer muddied by the other issues that have been resolved. This also offers the opportunity to set up a maintenance program for the foreseeable future.
At the end of rehabilitation your horse moves into a simple maintenance program of regular hoof work, body work and veterinarian care.
What happens if it doesn’t work?
If anywhere along the path we are concerned that your horse will not be able to perform at whatever level you were aiming towards, we will advise you immediately and discuss options along with your veterinarian and other caregivers. As with all things “horse”, there is an unpredictability factor that we cannot control. It’s our responsibility to be honest with you about what we are finding and what we think is going to happen.
Will you be there for me afterwards?
The simple answer is yes, we will remain on your team for as long as your horse needs us to be. However, we have found that once corrected and in a care program, most horses are not difficult to maintain and we can help to transition your horse into the care of other hoof professionals if necessary.