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By Meredith Hodges
Before most of us learn anything about horses, mules and donkeys, we tend to initially perceive them as large, strong and durable animals that can safely carry us anywhere we want to go and can participate in any number of equine events. This is essentially true. However, there can be a number of pitfalls along the way if you do not educate yourself and practice good maintenance, feeding and training practices.
Equines, like people, are comprised of living tissue, bones, muscles and tendons that can often experience improper growth and development, which can compromise their performance. This is why it is important to feed your equine’s living tissue, bones, muscles and tendons a healthy diet and exercise him in a way that builds these elements using natural and non-stressful techniques that will help your equine to strengthen properly in the right frame, or posture.
It is also important to make sure the tack you use fits well and is adjusted properly. An equine that is experiencing soreness from ill-fitting tack will be distracted from his best performance. Improve your own skills by taking care of your own body as you observe and condition your equine. The person who eats healthy food, exercises in good posture and improves his or her own general conditioning, coordination and Horsemanship skills will not be out of balance and will not compromise the equine’s ability to perform.
Let’s take this one step at a time. First, make sure that your equine is stabled in a place where he has adequate shelter from the elements, plenty of room to exercise himself when you are not there, clean water and a good feeding schedule. When an equine is nervous or high strung, it can usually be attributed to this very elemental beginning. Many show horses are kept in 12-foot by 12-foot stalls with limited turnout during the day, usually only an hour or two. Think about this for a minute. The equine is a grazing animal and his natural health is enhanced by what he eats and the fact that he is moving with his head down most of every day of his life. The only time his head is truly raised is when he is on alert.
The equine that is stabled in a stall isn’t urged to have his head down for any more time than it takes to eat up the loose hay after his feedings. His body is forced to remain in a very small range of movement and he can become stiff and sore when asked to do things that require more flexibility in his work. When fed high protein feeds in this situation, he is not able to expend the energy to burn this feed, and it can manifest itself in nervous and anxious behavior. Therefore, it is critical to your equine’s health that he is not only fed the right kinds of feeds and supplements, but that he is able to expend this energy in a healthy way for his body to grow and develop properly.
Muscles in the equine’s body, like our own, are structured in distinctive layers and are supported by ligaments and tendons. These muscles need to be strengthened in a specific order for optimum performance. Whether he is a foal or an older animal, his athletic conditioning needs this taken into consideration. The first exercises should be passive and easy to facilitate the strengthening of the core muscles closest to the bone. This is done with exercises on the lead line. It is not as important that he learns to negotiate obstacles on the lead line as it is how he negotiates the obstacles on the lead line.
On the approach to an obstacle, your equine needs to be relaxed and comfortable. It is your job as his trainer to show him how to do this. When you lead in good posture, walk straight lines and make smooth, gradual arcs and turns, you will encourage your equine to do the same. Using short pauses between changes of pace or direction will help your equine to stay calm and receptive to training.
For instance, when approaching a bridge, walk with your equine’s head at your shoulder as if you were in a showmanship class. Stop at the foot of the bridge and encourage your equine to stretch his nose down and investigate the bridge in order to allay any fears he might have. When your animal has indicated he is not afraid by once again raising his head level with his withers, you can proceed. Face the bridge straight on, looking straight ahead and, while keeping his head at your shoulder, take the first step straight forward and onto the bridge, making sure he follows and places one front foot on the bridge itself. Next, ask him to place the other front foot onto the bridge, stop, square up his four feet (as in Showmanship) and reward. Continue forward in a straight line. Once all four of his feet are on the bridge, stop, square up and give him a reward. Then continue across the bridge maintaining your own good posture, hesitate at the last step, and then step off carefully, in good balance and with a coordinated effort. Ask him to place his two front feet on the ground while leaving the back feet on the bridge, stop, square up and reward. Your equine will learn to follow your lead and execute the task in the same balanced and coordinated manner and will be able to halt on command at any location.
In the beginning, your equine may be fearful and nervous about going over the bridge or any other obstacle. It is enough at this time that he gets over his fear and just crosses it, whether it is done with finesse or not. Once he is over the fear of crossing the obstacle, you can begin working on his ability to cross with finesse, balance and coordination. The longer you work on perfecting the negotiation of an obstacle in a balanced and coordinated way, the stronger the participating muscle groups will become and the more comfortable and automatic the movement will become until it develops into a habit.
The part you play in all of this is very important. You will discover that if you are not in balance and coordinated in the way you move with your equine, the less balanced and coordinated he will be. If you don’t walk straight, then neither will he. If you are not confident in your approach, then he won’t be either. Even something as simple as the tack you use will play a big part in your equine’s performance. If the halter is too small or too large, it can cause irregular pressure on your animal, preventing him from complying with your wishes. How you move your equine’s head with the halter and lead line can affect his performance. Pay attention to how hard you need to pull to get even the smallest response and be ready to release pressure immediately upon compliance. But again, when releasing pressure, just give him enough slack to release the pressure and not so much that you have a lot to take back later. This will help him keep his attention on you and the task at hand. Keep this minimal degree of pressure-and-release throughout his work. Even if he backs away from an obstacle, just give little tugs followed by a release to allow him to back and then encourage him to re-approach the obstacle by coming from another angle or by coaxing him with the promise of a reward upon his attempt. Another approach is to go to the end of the lead rope, keep the rope taut and invite him to come forward by revealing the oats reward he will get when he complies. Take up the slack as he approaches. Avoid resistance at all costs!
Halters that are too loose allow too much lag time between the time you ask by giving a tug and the time the equine receives the message. This usually results in an over-reaction from your equine and then an over-reaction from you as you try to correct the mistake. A halter that is too tight can be a distraction because it can create sore spots—the equivalent to a headache and no one likes to perform with a headache! The lead line typically should be a length that you can easily handle and that will give your equine some room to move away, but that can be reorganized easily, usually about six to eight feet long.
No matter how careful you may be, there will always be times when your equine will experience some kind of soreness from playing too hard in the pasture or from kicking in a stall, to any number of daily hazards. How he is negotiating his obstacles and how he performs certain movements will give you clues to how he is feeling. Learn to watch every step your animal takes, how his feet are placed, how his body is moving and the look on his face as he performs a given task.
This is when it can be beneficial to know the basics of equine massage therapy. There is a lot that you, as your equine’s trainer, can do without a professional equine masseuse, but you should always consult with a professional for lessons on how you can do your part. Make sure that the equine masseuse you decide to use is a person who knows equines and has at least 500 hours experience with equine massage therapy. Once you learn some massage techniques, you can often alleviate minor soreness exhibited by your equine. When your equine senses that your goal is to make him comfortable as well as successful in his work, he will be much more willing and able to comply.
The specifics of training techniques covered in this article can be found in the Equus Revisited manual and DVD.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2004, 2011, 2016, 2017 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
After being off last week, Roll was more than happy to come with me today. The air was brisk with a bit of a breeze and Roll was even a little snorty walking up to the work station. We spent a good amount of time with the Goody hairbrush getting the undercoat loose and I then went over him with the shedding blade to get the excess on top. He was still shedding hair all over, so I decided to go ahead with the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner serves a dual purpose: it pulls the remaining loose hairs from his coat while stimulating the capillaries to come to the surface of the skin. This increased circulation makes for an extremely soft and healthy coat. He still has a lot left to shed, but his hair now feels silky to the touch. I then put Roll in his surcingle, Eggbutt Snaffle bridle and “Elbow Pull” for his core muscle, postural leading lessons.
Roll practically pulled me down the alleyway to the dressage arena, but was very well behaved when we stopped to give Augie and Spuds a treat of oats. Roll was okay with sharing as long as I gave him more oats, too!
Roll and I then walked to the gate and he went through beautifully as always.
We marched along the pens and gave treats to all the mules who would be his audience.
Roll launched into the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He squared up easily, but was still reluctant to put all the appropriate weight on his right hind foot.
He kept an upright balance through the turns and was markedly better in balance over the ground rails.
He even trotted a bit along side of the pens once I got out in front of him, but when I asked him to trot back to the gate, he was too tired! The chiropractor had come out to see him last week and said that he was locked up in his right hip, so it may be he needs another chiropractic visit this week as well.
At any rate, I was pleased with his progress and even though he missed his lesson last week, he still did better than in prior weeks. The hind feet were no longer twisting after his trim on May 19th.
It may very well be that he can graduate to the round pen soon for bulk muscle building. His core is solid now and after his workout, he was much tighter in the abs and filled in nicely over his topline.
Roll is carrying just a little more weight than I would like to see, but he did look less obese after his lesson and when we begin the bulk muscle building, it should disappear rapidly as the fat evolves into muscle. At twenty-six, Roll is doing so much better than I ever would have expected given his questionable history.
Roll missed his exercises last week, so we thought we had better get out there today. Both of us were a bit tired of the arena, so we opted for a walk down the hayfield road. It was a rainy day and Roll had rolled in the mud, so we just did the hairbrush and shedding blade routine without the vacuum cleaner this time. Then we were ready to go.
Although he missed his exercises last week, he was still a bit better on the right hind foot. He did not want to put full weight on it, but I was sure he would do better after his walk in his core muscle building gear: the snaffle bridle with the dropped noseband, his surcingle and the “Elbow Pull” to make sure that the topline and abs would be engaged during the workout.
In the spring, we only turn out in dirt areas while the grass is growing. The equines will get turned out on grass on June 1st. This helps to maintain a nice stand of grass in all the turnout areas that will last all summer and into the fall. We never graze the equines on the hayfield pastures.
Contrary to popular belief, horse manure (or any manure that is not processed) will contain weed seeds and will contaminate the weed-free hayfields that we have managed to grow on 112 of our 127 ½ acres. There is an obvious size difference between us, but Roll is a gentleman and though he REALLY wanted to eat the grass, he still stuck to the routine as best that he could.
He did try to drag me off the road and over to the grass, but I just planted my feet, pulled on the lead rope as his right foot was coming forward and redirected him back down the road.
He was so good that I decided to let him have a bite and we then continued on down the road. We walked about a half mile out and back.
On the way back, Roll was breathing a bit hard, so I know he put his heart and soul into his exercise yet again. What a great guy! When he got back, he was fully weighting the right hind.
Roll was a muddy mess when I went to get him today. He had been lying down and decided to roll in the wet dirt and pea gravel. Thank heavens it wasn’t all mud! I did my best to get most of it off of him, but clearly, the vacuum cleaner was not going to work for anything but getting the hair off the floor. I first went over his body with the hairbrush, then the shedding blade and afterwards, the dandy brush. Then I baby-oiled his mane and tail, put on his gear and we were good to go.
Roll seemed happier today than he had been last week. Roll was walking better and appeared to have gained some core strength back.
Instead of being really off behind, he was only slightly off and did not want to bear weight on the right hind in his squaring up…until the last one when he finally weighted the foot entirely.
Roll’s rein back was much better than last week. I had him checked by our resident farrier, LTR Ranch Manager Chad in case he was developing fungus in that foot (after his bout with White Line in his left hind). better to be safe than sorry, but he showed nothing but a packed-up foot, and that very well could have been the culprit since we just had a really good rain and everything was muddy in the arena where we were working.
It is truly amazing how slight, but visible his improvement has been from week to week. His whole body looked much more symmetrical this time. It is awesome to be able to celebrate each of Roll’s “little victories” along the way at 26 years old! However, Roll wasn’t too sure if he wanted to share his rewards with Sir Guy!!!
Roll decided that celebrating with a friend is probably okay and back to the work station we went to untack and then it was time for turnout!
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength, postural leading exercises and today, he got his tail washed after a long and dirty winter. he seemed to enjoy getting his tail cleaned before his exercises.
Roll’s attitude is always good and he lets me know when he doesn’t want to go back to his pen afterward his lessons. He would prefer to stay with me all day long if he could.
He is beginning to really shed out a lot after this warm, dry spring. He really enjoys the brushing with a regular hairbrush to remove the under-hair, then the shedding blade for loose hair and finally the vacuum cleaner to promote good circulation. This regimen really promotes maximum shedding and a healthy summer hair coat.
He led well to the arena and went through the gate just fine although he wasn’t as flexible through his rib cage as I would have liked to see.
He did square up nicely when I asked on the other side of the gate.
His leading exercises went well and although he is still weak behind and wants to unweight one foot or the other when squaring up like he did after coming through the gate. The weight shifting is more general that specific and I think as he is strengthened, his stance will improve.
I also noticed that he really “sunk” behind before going over the ground rails…
…and then was able to maintain his posture over the rails, but “sunk” again on the approach every time.
The rein back was difficult for him, but he did comply with the slightest of cues as well as he was able.
When I ask him to put weight down evenly on the hind feet, he does comply, so this could just be more from habit than from actual pain, although there is clearly atrophy of the bulk muscle and weakness in the core muscles. He should improve with time and exercise.
Roll knows that I have his best interest at heart, so he is always affectionate, loving and willing to do anything and everything that I ask, but then I always keep my expectations for him realistic and doable.
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength exercises. And after having to leave animals without their exercises for long periods of time, I cannot believe how quickly they can come back to good posture and overall strength. Roll had been off his exercises for over a year during his bout with White Line Disease.
When I led Roll up to the Tack Barn a week ago, he was dragging his toes in front, but I did not get it on video. So, this time, I wanted to get a “BEFORE” and an “AFTER” shot. We filmed him coming up to the Tack Barn work station, but after his core strength exercises last week, he still was not dragging his toes. His rhythm and cadence was regular.
My self-correcting device called the “Elbow Pull” puts the equine in their own individual good equine posture and keeps them there throughout the short (15-20 minute) leading lessons. The lessons take place in the hourglass pattern that we use to help them find optimum balance.
The fluid changes of direction in strategic places in the pattern challenge the equine to first arc one direction, then stop and square-up, then proceed on a new arc in the opposite direction.
Each time he stops and squares up, he is rewarded with crimped oats to keep his attention on the task at hand (and I change sides so I am always leading him from the inside of the arc to help maintain correct bend).
The serpentine actions through the pattern act like a “pendulum of balance,” bringing his balance back to center with every movement, so that when he does stop and settle, the internal balance comes to rest at his true “center,” or “core.”
The pattern is always done at the walk on the lead line and can be varied with trot down the long sides, and walk and trot over ground rails on the straight line after the equine’s balance is solid. The “Elbow Pull” cannot do this all by itself.
The combination of the handler’s posture, the equipment used (snaffle bridle and surcingle with the “Elbow Pull”), the action of the hourglass pattern, attention to smooth arcs, straight lines and square halts all contribute to the overall development of good equine posture and core muscle strength. Most conventional training techniques do not address core strength, only bulk muscle development over a weak core.
When true core strength is developed, it takes much less time for the equine to get back into shape after time off. The results of the top line and abdominal development over core muscle strength and balance with the use of the “Elbow Pull” never ceases to amaze me! After doing these exercises with all of my equines for so many years, it still doesn’t seem like it can be this easy…but it is!
Roll is feeling much better and has not exhibited any lameness in a couple of days. I have been concerned about the muscle atrophy that he has experienced since he had the White Line Disease and the lameness that has prevented him from exercising much at all for almost a year. When he walked up to the Tack Barn work station, I noticed that although he was not lame, he was dragging his toes in front. I groomed him with the vacuum cleaner (circulation therapy) and then put on his bridle, surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and started for the indoor arena.
The “Elbow Pull” influence never fails to astonish me! Immediately, Roll was picking up his front feet and walking correctly through the alleyway of the barn and into the arena.
The workout went well, walking as he did in the beginning in 2010 in the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with strategic squared stops at every change of direction (with a reward of oats, of course!).
We traveled over the 1-inch ground rails at the center cones gate. Roll did not miss a step! It doesn’t take much to tune them up when you have laid a foundation of core strength and good posture!
We were a little awkward and off balance in this first lesson after being off for so long, but a few more leading lessons and he will be able to advance to ground driving again…maybe even riding later if we can keep him sound at 26 years old.
I left on his wrap for the duration of the exercise, but took it off after his workout. When returning to his pen, he was no longer dragging his toes in front. When core strength and balance is present, good posture and bulk muscle can be revived relatively quickly.
Roll has had a tough time with his left hind foot first with the White Line Disease last year and now with an abscess in his foot between the bulb of the heel and the hoof wall. Although we have been keeping a poultice on his foot and he seems to be improving, we thought it would be important for him to have a massage with his equine masseuse, Joanne Lang after his chiropractic adjustment with Dave McClain.
We don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.
When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue.
Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use. Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue.
Massage is not intended to replace the care of a licensed massage therapist or veterinarian and if you are unsure as to the severity of an injury with your equine, consult your vet!
Massage has been an important element in the care and maintenance of all of our equines from the beginning and has increased the longevity of our herd.
Learning to “read” what the equine is telling you is an important part of the massage experience. As you can see, Roll REALLY enjoyed his massage today!
Roll was doing better and then all of a sudden he was very lame in his left hind foot again on February 10th. The only thing we could think of was that he must have twisted it and maybe even caught the boot on something in his pen when he was trying to get up.
He was very warm all over with sweat at his chest, underbelly, around his ears and between his legs. It was an unusually warm day and because it had been so cold and I had not clipped the mules’ bridle paths in a very long time. So, to help cool him off, I clipped his bridle path and sure enough, he began to get cooler and dry off.
We took his temperature and it was in the normal range.
We took x-rays to make sure there were no fractures and there was nothing but the rotation we had seen before.
After our veterinarian Greg Farrand dug around in the hoof, he did find a spot between the frog and the bulb of the heel that seemed to be sensitive and starting to weep.
He was uneven in his hips and seemed to be affected in both legs although the left was worse than the right. We decided to wrap the foot in a poultice again and left off the easy boot in case it was the culprit.
Then we decided to put him on a regimen of “Bute” and call in the equine chiropractor. All we could do was wrap the poultice onto his left hind foot and wait.
On February 13, Roll was exceptionally sore today when our equine chiropractor Dave McClain came out to check him.
There was no real problem in the hip joint, but his fetlock really cracked when he adjusted it, so he was definitely out in that joint.
Dave adjusted the rest of his body and said there probably was nothing other than the fetlock that was affected in the joint, just in the muscles. He said Roll would probably be sore because it was such a dramatic adjustment.
We checked him again the next day and he does seem to be experiencing some improvement although he is still pretty sore. There is not a lot to do but pray and wait. He is undoubtedly having problems that stem from the first 17 years of his life moving in poor posture and not utilizing his body correctly.
February 3, 2017
Roll came up lame in his left hind again today, so we called our veterinarian, Greg Farrand to come and check him. He had swelling in the fetlock joint and it appeared to have just begun. I supported his joint with a wrap so is would be easier for him to walk to the Tack Barn work station.
We checked for abscessing, but could not find anything. He did seem to be uncomfortable in the other hind foot as well, but not enough for real concern.
However, it is conceivable that it might not be an abscess, but problems arising from his inability to continue his core muscle strength and balance exercises during the time he was dealing with the White Line Disease.
Taking off a piece of the hoof wall where he tested sensitive seemed to relieve the pressure enough so he did have some improvement in his walk. We checked him all over and I even cut off his overgrown ergots while we were talking.
Greg though perhaps the abscess was just beginning, so we put a poultice on the left hind foot to draw out and escalate any inflammation in hopes of forcing it to weep so we could locate it if it was, in fact, an abscess.
We wrapped the hoof with the poultice and Vet Wrap.
And then put the whole foot in a custom-made easy boot that we had used when he had White Line Disease.
I led him around the room and he seemed to be experiencing some pain relief, so we opted to leave him like this for four days with a change of poultice every other day.
As you can see, our core muscle strengthening and balancing exercises really DO make a drastic difference in the overall shape and movement of the equine.
When dealing with an animal that spent so many years out of good posture, it is almost certain you will be faced with numerous issues from uneven wear and tear on the body over the years, especially as they age like Roll at 24 years. We just hope we can pull Roll through this so he can get back to having some fun with his healthy exercise program.
See our draft mules, Rock and Roll at work and play in the latest LTR Presents video!
December 2, 2016
Roll’s bout with White Line Disease began on December 31, 2015 and did not look very promising considering we were dealing with a 3000 lb. animal with two-thirds of his hoof wall detached and full of fungus.
Dean Geesen, our farrier dug out all the fungus from the compromised hoof and cut away the seriously detached hoof wall.
Roll has recovered in record time with our due diligence and willingness to change up the program as needed. There is no cure-all for White Line Disease. It does have some protocol, but if you look back at our postings about Roll’s battle on my Facebook pages and in “What’s New?” on our website, you will see that things can change abruptly in a day.
When dealing with something like this, one needs to think “outside the box” to keep up with the changes and keep the foot on the right track to grow back properly. It takes a whole team: the owner, the handlers, the vet and the farrier working together. We were constantly assessing the shape of the foot, tissue condition, pressure points and balance in the affected foot and hid overall mental and physical health.
We watched the way he moved carefully each and every day. We had to assess how much he was compromising with weight distribution to his healthy feet and trimmed and shod them so they did not become damaged in the healing process.
We did supplement his feed with Hoof Power and would recommend it above all other hoof supplements to help accelerate hoof growth. Dean Geesen, our farrier was certain that it would take better than a year to grow back the foot, if it could even be done. After the first three months, he wasn’t sure that Roll would actually make it.
After today’s trim and a sound diagnoses, Dean admitted that he really didn’t think back in the beginning that he would recover like this. Thankfully, with the conscientious and diligent help from his management team, Roll got full hoof growth back in exactly one year and is now sound with four healthy hooves!
When draft mule, Roll, arrived at Lucky Three Ranch, he needed some special attention and rehabilitation. Watch what happens when Meredith Hodges sets out to help the gentle giant.
Roll continues to improve after a bout with White Line Disease that began in January 2016. The White Line Disease in his left hind foot is almost completely grown out now!
He is maintaining conditioning pretty much on his own with turnout since I did not want to add any stress to his routine while the hoof was still badly compromised. I was pleased to see that all the lessons that Roll has had for the past six years are firmly engrained in his brain.
Over the past ten months, I have watched him doing his straight forward walking exercises in good equine posture and he continued to square up every time he stopped to rest.
It truly has become his natural way of moving and kept the weight evenly distributed over all four feet during his recovery with the help of shoes on the other three feet to keep the hooves on the healthy feet from wearing unevenly from added weight-bearing.
After the initial onset that lasted about four months, we did use product on the hoof (betadine solution, hoof supplement, etc.) as it was growing out, but once we got past the “critical” stages, we just kept it clean and trimmed properly to promote even growth.
Everything looks great now, Roll is happy and he should be able to begin his lessons again soon!
When Rock and Roll came to me in 2010, they were both in dire straits. We were able to keep both of them sound from December 2010 to December 2011 and although Rock had a shattered hip, with our core strength postural training exercises, he only needed Bute 3 times during that year for a five-day stretch. Roll was able to graduate from the postural leading training to lunging in the round pen and later ground driving. He met his final goal of being ridden around the hayfield, but had a set-back with White Line Disease in his left hind foot that began in January 2016. Roll is now 23 years old and the White Line Disease is practically all grown out now.
I could not be happier with his progress! Today Roll got the shoes replaced on three of his weight-bearing feet and a trim on the left hind.
We put shoes on the three feet so that the balance of the feet would not be compromised as he tried to keep the weight off the injured foot. Our concern was the other three feet could become unhealthy if the weight was unevenly distributed.
The affected foot is growing out nicely and we figure we only have two more trims until he is completely grown out.
By paying attention to the weight-bearing surfaces, we were able to control not only the way the feet were growing, but the musculature in his body as well. He could very well have developed uneven muscle conditioning over the past seven months. Because of his core strength leading exercises and the changes we made in his body before he got the White Line, he was able to sustain his strength and good posture. At twenty-three years old, he continues to improve with each new day!
Our farrier, Dean Geesen, came out again today to check on Roll assisted by Lucky Three Ranch Manager, Chad. We let Roll go a little longer between trims this time to help with the healing of the White Line Disease. He is making good progress and has a lot of new hoof growth on his left hind. He is having no trouble bearing weight on it.
The dead tissue is now only present on the lower half of his foot and the new growth is staying healthy so far.
We have been fortunate to be able to keep him in good balance over the foot to prevent any more abnormal hoof growth and to promote healthy hoof growth. We put shoes on the other three feet to keep them from wearing unevenly during the healing process.
What we have been doing has worked well. We opted to continue with shoes on three feet and to leave the White Line foot without shoes for one more stretch. We don’t want to compromise the foot with any nail holes quite yet.
Even with all his issues, Roll has yet to experience one lame day since he first arrived at the Lucky Three in 2010. The White Line Disease began in January, so we are making good progress in a relatively short time. Thank you all for your prayers for Roll!
It was a beautiful spring day today, so I took advantage of the warm weather and washed the dirt and baby oil out of Roll’s mane and tail before our farrier, Dean Geesen began to work on him.
Then I went over his body with a regular hairbrush that pulls most of the loose underneath hair out. The hairbrush works better than any other shedding tool because it does not cut or damage the hair. We only use the shedding blades when the equines have mud on them and to scrape off excess water. He seemed to enjoy getting his mane and tail cleaned and his coat “aerated!” He sure looked amazing when I was done!
Then Dean took off the boot on his left hind so we could see how the White Line Disease was doing. He has grown substantially more hoof and is staying balanced on it with our efforts on his behalf. Dean noticed that Roll is now putting pressure on his heel and a bit of pressure on the medial side of the hoof and on the toe.
The boot, although taken off twice a day and dried out, appeared to be holding in more moisture than it was before, so Dean suggested that we let him go without the boot and see how he does. We thought he might stay drier now that the weather has been sunnier and drier overall. We are still getting intermittent rainstorms, but Roll prefers to stand inside his stall in the sawdust, so it may be that he can go without his boot…at least for a while.
We did see a drop of blood on his sole and his sole was responsive to the hoof tester, so that confirmed for us that there is still circulation in the hoof…a really good thing! We were wondering about that.
We did have to put the boot on his left hind while Dean worked on his right hind because now that he was “feeling” the sole, it was too much for him to bear all his weight on that hoof alone. We took off the boot afterwards, before we put him away.
Dean had reset the right hind foot with the borium shoe to keep him from slipping and putting undue weight on his bad foot. That also seems to be working very well to keep his weight evenly distributed over all four feet.
Brandy and Jubilee were curious about what was going on with Roll and the farrier as they passed by on the way to their lessons.
All in all, staying flexible and attentive to his needs and all your prayers are helping Roll to get through all this quite nicely. I can only hope this good fortune continues for Roll’s sake!!
Roll had his shoes replaced on the two front feet and the right rear today. Dean was very pleased to discover that on the left hind that has White Line Disease, he is growing hoof back at a rate of about 1/8th of an inch a week! We are encouraged that even though we are looking at months of recovery, if we can keep him balanced, he might actually make it! I am convinced that the balancing of his body and core strengthening exercises he has been doing for the past six years has really been the primary reason for him doing as well as he is. He weighs 3000 lbs. and that is a lot of weight to put on a damaged foot. Without the balance, the dispersement of his weight could have been irregular and put undue pressure on the fragile and damaged pieces left of the hoof wall. This could have caused a complete collapse of his hoof. This is always a consideration, so we are checking him regularly and will be replacing the Styrofoam pads with neoprene support pads in his boot every other day going forward after we can get them. The Styrofoam pads are wearing out too quickly. The other three feet are holding up well with no real signs of additional stress. He has yet to have one day of lameness at all since we got him in 2010. He is happy and showing no signs of pain. We will just continue as planned and make adjustments to our approach as needed.
Roll hasn’t had a massage in quite some time, so we thought he was definitely overdue. I think he thought so, too! Roll is still happy and not showing any pain. This is encouraging.
He has had quite a struggle with White Line disease and we are being very pro-active in his treatment. Today we checked his foot and he has more new growth which is encouraging, but we have had severe and very wet weather lately which is causing the new growth to get a little soft.
We checked with the vet and short of keeping him penned in his stall (not an option), we are limited in what we can do. We opted to have the vet come down and take a look for himself and not just look at the pictures.
We agreed that it might be beneficial to clean his foot twice a day and then dry it off before putting it back into the boot. This could help some. The switch from Styrofoam to neoprene inside the boot is working much better.
Joanne, our equine masseuse, started by working on both of Roll’s hips since that is where he is having the most trouble with weight-bearing, but so far, he is staying balanced even with his severely damaged foot. The pressure remains centered on his damaged foot and is not listing one way or the other. This is a good thing!
Then she worked over the croup area where muscles can easily get strained in his back. Roll seemed to really enjoy his massage.
Joanne massaged the insides of his legs to relieve the gaskin muscles…and into the flank area. Since we do regular “imprint” touching with him all over his body, he was less touchy in these areas than he might have been otherwise and actually enjoyed the relief she provided for him in these areas.
Then it was on to the withers, shoulder and neck…
…but when she began massaging his face, he was in pure ecstasy!!! Roll continues to improve and we are hopeful for a reasonable recovery. Thank you all for your prayers and support!
On February 25, we discovered more White Line Disease on the medial side of the foot. We also discovered some strange growth that looked like new hoof growing out of the front of the coronet band and continuing around both sides of the hoof in a uniform fashion. It was pliable which caused some concern, so we opted to follow up with x-rays today.
We weren’t sure about what was really happening with this foot. So, we called veterinarian Greg Farrand to come to see this new development and get his input. I clipped the area around the coronet band so we could see the new growth clearly.
When Greg saw this, he thought he could be trying to slough the involved hoof wall and trying to grow a new foot. We thought more x-rays would be in order to determine if the old hoof wall was dead tissue and if the new hoof wall was healthy and not detached.
Greg prepped the area with Barium/Mineral Oil beads to identify the band between the new growth and the old hoof wall so it would show up on the x-rays.
Roll was so sweet and cooperative as we asked him to get back up on his blocks again. He stood like a trooper! But then after going through our sequential training program, he should and does. The x-rays showed that the new hoof growth was healthy and that there was still live tissue in the old hoof wall. This was very encouraging news!
Roll has yet to have one lame day since he came to us, so we all agreed that things looked good…at least for now…and that we should continue forward with his boot and Styrofoam protection.
We realize through this treatment process that we need to be alert, notice when things change and be flexible and willing to alter our plans at every turn. Roll is certainly appreciative as are we for all your support and prayers! And he is appreciative for a lot of extra oats as well!!!
Our farrier, Dean Geesen, came to check Roll on February 5th and took off the protective tape and cardboard that we had protecting the exposed inner hoof. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand suggested that we discontinue the Providone-Iodine treatment because he was afraid it might dry out the inner hoof wall too much and could cause deterioration and further damage. So we proceeded forward with just hosing the area every other day to keep it clean.Dean arrived today at 10 a.m. and took off the shoe that had stayed on very well for the full seven weeks.
He began trimming the foot and found that Roll had contracted White Line on the medial side of the same foot, only it was not nearly as advanced as the lateral side that had been pared with the hoof wall removed.
Roll did have over a half inch of growth in the foot which was a good thing. He pared away the part of the hoof wall and dug out the White Line fungus. Then he noticed that Roll was growing rather odd looking tissue along the coronet band.
Dean said he had not ever seen anything like this, so we called Greg and he said he would not be able to come to us until the end of the day, so we put a pad over everything and taped it to his foot for protection until the vet could arrive and help us to assess these strange new developments.
Greg showed up a little after 5 o’clock p.m. and we began our discussion. Dean thought the foot might be dead after no sensitivity reaction to the hammer.
We were all concerned after removing the Styrofoam and tape that the issue with the coronet band would be serious, but upon inspection, Greg thought it looked like he was just trying to grow a new hoof. We opted to set a date next Tuesday to do x-rays to make sure that the new hoof was not separating.
Then we looked at the imprint of his foot on the Styrofoam that had been taped on all afternoon to see where the pressure points were and it looked like the way he stood on the foot had adequately supported the coffin bone.
Rather than using the tape to adhere the Styrofoam support, we decided to try using Rock’s old custom-made easy boots and just put the Styrofoam pad into the bottom of the boot. The boot fit and we cut the Styrofoam to fit inside of the boot. We will routinely check to make sure it stays thick enough to do it’s job and maintain the correct pressure to the bottom of his foot and change it as needed.
We determined that perhaps there was only nerve damage in the foot that was causing the non-reaction to the hammer. We agreed that there could still be adequate circulation to the foot or he would be lame if the hoof was dying. And, he has not had one lame day since he come to us in December of 2010.
We ended this session and all agreed to meet for the x-rays on Tuesday of next week to obtain more information and determine our plans going forward. The very last test was to see how he walked with the Styrofoam lined boot. We would need to check to make sure the straps don’t rub and cause an issue. If they do, we plan to pad them with rolled cotton. This is quite a setback, but there is still HOPE!!! Keep the prayers coming… they’re working!