It seems there's a new horse in my barn. His name is Saga.
He actually looks just like my other horse Saga, but he behaves completely differently.
He no longer stands in the corner of the barn and acts depressed. Instead, he hangs out and tells me how starved he is - even after he's been fed.
He trots and canters on the track with Red and Cash, and even play fights with Cash (who just tries to groom him in return).
I can actually ride this Saga (tackwalking only right now), and when I tack him up, he doesn't pin his ears and threaten to bite when I tighten the girth. Under saddle, he's SUPER forward, with a huge overstride, and steps out boldly. He's ready to go down any trail. He looks left and right, ears forward and attentive to his surroundings (Deer! OMG DEER!!!!), instead of just bending his neck constantly to the left and pinning his ears while plodding along.
There are a few downsides to the new Saga. He feels so good that he has a tendency to fling his head around and bounce in place on our walks. He also needs better ground manners, since the other day on one of our handwalks, he ripped the lead out of my hands and took off bucking and running for home (thank all the gods, he was fine after that little escapade). He also likes to do annoying things like grab grooming boxes and helmets and throw them around, just for fun. I seem to remember the old Saga doing that, but it was a long time ago.
In short, the shoes have helped tremendously. Saga's a completely different horse - well, he's actually back to his old mischievous self again. So from that perspective, and the fact that I get to ride my (really nice) horse, it's absolutely fantastic!
On the downside, I'm still not so happy about the shoes, because I know they're just covering up his discomfort. The dual problems of thin soles and laminitis (more on that in another post) are still there. Worse, I can see aspects of his feet deteriorate day by day. For example, the cracks in the central sulcus, which were almost nonexistent, are coming back despite daily treatment with iodine. He also slips on some pavement now, which he never did barefoot. I can see a slight change in his landing as well - the RF is now landing flat, and it used to be heel-first. On the other hand, the LF is also now landing flat (instead of toe-first) and there is no discernible difference in stride length between the LF and the RF, so that's an improvement. I can also see a very slight unevenness in the landing - the outside of the LF lands first and the rolls over to the inside. Definitely not ideal.
But for now, I'm enjoying my horse instead of worrying constantly about him. I'm not sure what I'll be doing with his feet long-term, but the shoes seem to be the right answer at this time. Maybe they will be forever, or maybe I'll be able to get a handle on his diet so that he can be comfortable without them. I can hope!