Tonight, the trimmer recommended by the vet at Austin Equine came out and trimmed the boys. The original plan was just to look at them and form a plan of attack, but by the time we were done talking about Saga, I was 100% convinced this guy not only knew what he was doing, but he understood exactly what was going on with each horse and had a long-term, non-invasive, workable plan to improve each of them - and it matched what I knew about what was going on.
First up was Saga. We looked at his feet, discussed history and diet. He watched Saga walk out and immediately pinpointed that the LF does not have as good of a landing as the RF and that he was a smidge shorter on the LF. Looking at the bottom of the foot the reason is obvious - Saga has no concavity whatsoever in the LF, and the caudal hoof is significantly weaker than the RF. Combine that with the fact that both front feet are still slightly dished on the hoof wall, indicating a weakened laminar connection, and... well, it's no surprise he sometimes takes sort steps and is sometimes unwilling to really move out.
So, what to do? I mentioned that trimming had repeatedly made Saga much, much worse - like dead lame on the road. We talked about why that would be the case - prior to a trim, he's loading more on the hoof wall, but after a trim he's loading more on the sole, which is has no concavity, so of course he's sore. The reality is that unless we can get that foot to load correctly, and get some concavity going, he will always be sore after a trim. So, where to start? [Note: this is the $64,000 question I was asking over at Rockley Farm yesterday!] We talked through several options for providing support and comfort after the trim while encouraging him to engage the hoof more correctly. We looked at the track and agreed that it provided enough surfaces for him to be comfortable, even if he proved to be uncomfortable on pavement. We talked through hoof boots, glue-on boots, and casts. I felt very, very well informed about how Saga would likely be immediately after the trim, and how we were going to handle things moving forward.
So we went ahead and did it. Saga's heels were high, and he was loading the wall too much all the way around. I'm not aggressive enough with my trimming, which I knew, but I feel like I can do more now having watched this trim. We did not touch the sole or the frog, except to remove a few bits that were sloughing off. It took quite a while to do the trim, and when we were done, I walked Saga out on the driveway. He was quite short on the LF, and it was even more obvious on the turn. However, we had discussed this was very likely to happen and already had a plan of action, so we got out his Easyboots and cut pads to fit inside them. The goal of the pads is to provide the maximum stimulation to the sole and frog while keeping him comfy, so that he can get lots of miles in to help encourage a correct landing. (My trimmer kept saying that - "get lots of miles on him". YAY!!!). We walked him back down the drive in the boots and pads and he was 100% better! Good heel-first landing on both fronts, stepping out nicely... it was fantastic!
My trimmer said to take him out on a ride so I could see if everything was good, and JD, who comes out to help me on Thursdays, was there, so she took him out for a short spin. She came back about 30 minutes later grinning from ear to ear, saying that he was "a different horse"!!! Apparently the boots and pads did the trick - we can keep him comfortable and moving and provide the stimulation he needs to get the caudal hoof properly involved. This in turn will help build concavity, which is the end goal. He can be turned out barefoot, but I'm to keep an eye on him to make sure he continues to be comfortable on dirt. If not, we'll boot and pad him for turnout for a little while, but the idea is to gradually wean him off the boots and pads over time. The trimmer warned me that it could take quite a while - a year or more - but even then we may not be able to get enough concavity on that foot for him to be truly comfortable over all surfaces. We'll just have to see how it goes, but we definitely have a plan of how to help him improve. FINALLY!!!
Next up was Cash. He also had long heels and hoof walls but not as badly as Saga. However, the hoof walls on both fronts are also not at the same angle all the way down, so he's got stretched laminae too, despite being out of shoes and on sand for 3 years (and he's been like that for as long as I can remember). He's also got underrun heels. The good news is that he's 100% sound despite this, and has fairly decent concavity too. We trimmed him to take as much load off the walls as possible to give him a chance to grow a proper hoof angle all the way down. The trimmer had a little bit of a hard time making friends with Cash, who is notoriously skeptical of men (since many vets are men, and vets are baaaad), but after finding a few itchy spots, Cash decided that he was an OK guy. :)
Reddums was last up. Same deal with the long heels and hoof walls, but once trimmed he had fantastic concavity and just has overall really good feet. The hoof is the same angle from coronet band to toe, which is fantastic. You can see that he loads his fronts more on the inside and the caudal hoof shows that - the inside heel bulb is much beefier than the outside, and his hoof wall angle is steeper on the inside than the outside. My trimmer noted that I need to be careful not to try to make those angles match since he loads differently, and if I were to trim them evenly I would mess up his balance. It totally blew me away that he would notice the difference AND caution me to leave it.
So, Nic, we didn't quite use a stick of celery to trim, but I think it was the next best thing given where the boys' feet were and the limited track I have at my disposal. I have specific instructions to do a weekly rasp of the toes for all the boys, following the angles that are there now. The trimmer was happy to instruct me on how to do it and really encouraged me to participate in their hoof care, saying that regular small trims would help correct things that much faster. For now he'll check the boys again in four weeks (and he insisted that I be there for that), and we'll figure out the next steps from there.
Yeah, I think Wow pretty much sums up that experience. I think I may actually have a trimmer!