Saga has thin soles. Even after 5 months in shoes, which was supposed to help him grow sole (???), he’s got thin soles. Thin soles means that he bruises very easily – and thus, he’s been constantly lame-ish for… well, pretty much forever, it seems.
A little research on the Interwebs seems to indicate that thin soles caused by two things – genetics and/or diet. I can’t seem to find any research that shows there are specific lines where the horses have thin soles (diagnosed on x-ray), but genetics seems to be the most accepted reason for having thin soles. Whether or not genetics are playing a role in the ongoing lameness issue, I don’t know, but certainly improving a horse’s diet can’t hurt.
But the diet problem is extremely perplexing. I have three other horses that eat the same hay and get nearly the same diet (or used to get exactly the same diet), and they all have good soles and no ongoing lameness issues. So why is Saga having problems???
(I should note that last fall I figured out that changes in alfalfa every 2-3 weeks were causing growth rings in Saga’s feet, and that when the hay was changed every ~3 months there would be another event line. Since then I have stopped feeding alfalfa, switched to unmolassed beet pulp, and managed to secure about 450 bales of the same hay. The feed-related growth rings have all but disappeared, although he does have events lines where shoes were put on or he was trimmed.)
I recently decided to change feed, from his unmolassed beet pulp with a mineral supplement to a beet-pulp-based complete “senior” feed. The NSCs of the senior were only 2% higher than the beet pulp, and overall the feed provides a lot of extra stuff (probiotics, extra fat, and extra protein). Since Saga tends to a bit of a hard keeper, I figured it might help him keep weight on. Besides, Cash is on this feed and it somehow (mostly) cleared up his ongoing diarrhea. Still not clear on why, but it worked.
So I started transitioning Saga to the new senior feed over the course of last week. Since I’ve been turning the boys out for an hour or two each night/early morning on grass, I’ve been checking everyone’s digital pulse to make sure they’re not getting too much. Everything was fine… until I got up to about 3 lbs of the new feed. Saga’s digital pulse kept getting stronger with each feeding, despite being taken entirely off grass. Not surprisingly, he was lame for my jumping lesson.
The change in feed clearly caused the increase in digital pulse, which may have caused a minor laminitic episode and increased sole sensitivity (NOTE: he’s got no rotation anywhere, I had him x-rayed). It’s possible that he also bruised his soles out in the pasture stepping on a rock or whatever – without hoof testers, I don’t know if his soles are sore. But the feed change may be related to the soundness issue.
So, I took him off the new feed and went back to beet pulp and the mineral supplement, which is actually a “light” feed that is fed at a rate of about 2 lbs/day. I’ve had a few folks suggest an alternative supplement with more protein (an actual ration balancer, as opposed to what I use now) to see if that helped his feet at all. I picked some up today, so we’ll see if that makes any difference. I also put him on Farrier’s Formula (yeah, I know, I’m DESPERATE) about two weeks ago. No obvious difference yet, but hope springs eternal, right?
Frankly, I’m running out of feed options. It’s pretty clear that he’s very sensitive to changes in feed. If sugar/starch is causing the thin soles and therefore the lameness, the only way I can get his total NSCs lower is to soak his hay. But his hay is only 8.8% NSCs, so I’m not sure how much of a benefit it would really be. Besides, I feed free-choice hay, and soaking hay for everyone is not terribly practical.
Does anyone else have any suggestions? About the only thing I haven’t done is to send off the hay and beet pulp analysis tags to an equine nutrition place and have them mix up a custom supplement. Hell, maybe I should try it?