Sunday, June 24, 2012

Horses and Hooves

It has already been more than a week since the vet checked Starlight’s sore feet. 

The vet pressed hoof testers on all four feet and noticed no pain reaction on any.  She checked her digital pulse and found the rear slightly elevated, perhaps because I had put the Cavallo Simple Boots on Starlight’s fronts for a week or so, and that might have altered the pressure slightly on the rear. 

So, no real concerns there.

Pony, oh pony, why need you dem boots?
She walked Starlight in tight circles and noticed front hoof pain and general stiffness.  She asked about diet and supplementation, and suggested a blood draw to check selenium levels, as low selenium can cause serious muscle issues in a horse.  I’m waiting on those results, more than a week later. 

She looked closely at my hoof trim and noticed that Starlight’s soles are fairly flat, not as convex as is desirable.  She said the trim was pretty good and made some related recommendations.

In the end, she decided that Starlight was not laminitic and that she probably has sensitive soles and suggested shoes and pads.

I’m not a fan of metal shoes, and prefer boots, so we talked a while about boots versus shoes.  I asked her about Epona shoes, the ones made of a more pliable plastic material, and she suggested, if I wanted to try them, that I bring the pony to Cornell for a couple of shoeings with a farrier there who could teach me how to glue them on.

I asked about navicular, learned it’s now called “caudal heel pain,” and heard that it is a complicated syndrome that she ruled out during the hoof pain test.

So, for the next week, I left the boots on Starlight, checking them periodically for funk, since they cause a moist environment. A couple days ago, I took them off and she seemed OK, and I rode her yesterday with boots on all four.  She did well on the ride with the boots.  In fact, she was quite firey, leaping over obstacles and charging up hills like the event pony I hope she’ll become.

But today, she seems stiff again.  Well shoot, I would be stiff after two weeks off, then a romp on the hill, too.  But it is discouraging.  I’ll go out and put the boots back on her in a while and ponder possible options for hoof protection, the latest in boots and shoes.

What is frustrating, in the end, is that both my main riding horses have the same problem.  Their front feet get sore with increased activity.  In looking around the world of horses, it seems to be a common problem.  Over and over I see “needs front shoes.”

It leaves me pondering.  Why can’t so many horses can’t hold up to basic work without hoof protection?  Since we have created the modern horse through breeding, why haven’t we bred only those that can stay sound on their front feet?  And, what breed of horse is most likely to stay sound without shoes?  And, should I bite the bullet and shoe the pony?  Is that good for her or worse for her?   And what kind of work allows a horse to stay sound?  Are we asking too much from horses in work?

It’s tough when one’s questions only make more questions.

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