Monday, January 20, 2014

Barefoot Again For a While

After a really good autumn in (finally) the right shoes, Sherm is barefoot again.  That's the short version of the story.   The long version is a bit more complicated and fraught with emotion and drama-- like so many things equine, something that should be simple and rational becomes, for reasons I cannot fathom, something absolutely, ridiculously dramatic.  Here's a short version of the long version.

In April, per the vet's recommendations, I had shoes put on the BBW.  We were, remember, shoeing to provide mechanical support for the hind suspensory ligaments that were being taxed by some, ahem, less-than-perfect conformation.  And we saw improvement-- some of the effusion (swelling) in the fetlocks went down, but more than that, Sherm showed a dramatic improvement in willingness to weight his hinds.  Yay-- steps in the right direction.

Lovely eventer-style shoe!

Well, later in the summer the wheels went off the shoeing bus... for reasons I still can't quite fathom, it became impossible to communicate to the farrier exactly what I wanted in shoes, and why I wanted them.  The farrier, who has a great deal more experience than I do, was interested in putting a Morgan park horse package on the BBW, and was adamantly opposed to the eventer-style shoe prescribed by the vet.  With excellent breakover to allow the hoof to roll over naturally at whatever point the horse choses, this shoe, if set back from the toe and extended out behind the hind heels 1/4", would provide the most support with the least interference of any available.  But the farrier was not convinced, and wanted to work with a Morgan park horse package, so he put on a set of shoes in early August that more than undid all the good work the first set of shoes had done.  Sherm's fetlocks blew up huge, and he went completely unsound...  

Within 10 days, I had the vet come pull those shoes off and evaluate his condition.  Yup, messed up, but no permanent damage done.  She invited me to haul up to her barn to have her sporthorse farrier put on the right shoes and get Sherm back on the right track.  Two weeks later I did, and Germ slowly began the work of recovering from minor ligament strain.

At the same time, school started, and my fall-semester-from-hell began.  Though it wasn't good for his wasteline (gah, he put on weight again after we worked so hard to lose it!), it was probably good for Sherm's suspensories that I was so busy-- he was mostly left to his own devices to rest and heal those hind fetlock joints while I worked at my desk for the next two months and began the gut-wrenching process of finding a local farrier who would work with my horse and do what I wanted the way I wanted it done.

At the end of October, yet another regional farrier (my third of the season!) agreed to come to the farm to see the BBW, and put on his second set of Eventers.  The work was good, Sherm responded well, and continued to heal and get stronger as I sat at my desk and did school work.  I was about to call the vet and let her know that Sherm's suspensories looked fantastic-- nice tight fetlocks, no effusion at all-- Sherm came in with his infamous boo-boo, and I learned a lesson about getting over-confident with horses' legs.

Sooooo, anyway... fast forward to the middle of December, and Sherm is healed from both the strained suspensories and the kicked stifle, and life is looking good!  And then we get weather.

Snow. Frigid temperatures. Snow.  Ice.  Snow.  Ice.  Snow. Ice.

Now Sherm is packing ice balls in his hooves, walking around on sno-cone stilts created by snow packed hard into ice trapped by the shoes that were put on long before  snow pads were a consideration, long before we're accustomed to getting this kind of sustained wintery weather-- we aren't due for this stuff until late January!  Why now?  

So we skate (no pun intended) through some dicey weather, and Sherm is remarkably careful and patient, and we are, as we have long been, blessed with good fortune, and he manages not to wipe out on his steel skates.  Because Sherm's natural stride and conformational issues require his feet to be allowed to twist clockwise slightly (sometimes greatly) with each stride, the use of studs or other "gripper" technologies on the bottoms of the shoes would put him back in the strained suspensory category.  So he goes smooth, or he goes without.  So when it comes time to see the farrier again at the end of December, I can take it no more, and I decide to pull the shoes for safety's sake.    With the holidays and the polar vortex, the farrier doesn't make it out until the second week of January.  But on a sunny day, he pulls the shoes and trims the BBW up nicely for 8 weeks of barefoot treading.

We promptly have six days of brilliant, typical above-freezing weather with mud everywhere.  Oh yay, now I'm on abscess watch and second-guessing my blacksmithing cowardice.

But no, while out on vet calls last week, we see a horse who slipped on the ice and broke her pelvis.  On the way to this call, the vet tells me of two other broken pelvises in the last week and a half, neither of which had favorable outcomes.  Our patient managed to break her pelvis in the "best" way possible, and has a decent prognosis... after 4-6 months stall rest.  

So, yeah, I'm feeling better about pulling those shoes.

He's back to his pre-shoes standard slight effusion in the hind fetlocks, something he had for years before we shod him, and he's less inclined to rock back and sit on his hinds under saddle, but he'll manage for the next eight weeks, and then back into his working sneakers for the season!  

And really, if this winter only lasts until the next time the farrier comes, that'll be fine by me.

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