Unbalanced Hooves and Pain
Eleanor Richards 

         There she stood - with her head in the stall corner. She was fat, shod badly; the joints and pasterns on all four legs were swollen and she laid back her ears when approached.

         When we watched her being ridden, prior to the auction, she was nasty and sour.

         So we bought her.

         Babe also had a pretty head and under all that fat was a nicely balanced horse.

         The first step toward fixing her was to pull her shoes.

         Babe is 15.2 hands and a large mare.  She was wearing double ought shoes (00) - shoes meant for a smaller horse.  Her heels were contracted and the shoes provided no heel support.

         Because of a long history of wearing shoes too small Babe's hooves were twisting…rolling under.  Using a shoe too small for a horse does not allow the hoof to expand so it begins to twist - looking for the path of least resistance.  Soon the hoof becomes unbalanced.

         When looking at the bottom of Babe's hoof there was more growth to the outside. The frog was twisted - pointing to the inside.

Left rear

         The small shoes did not provide heel support either.

         Because of the unbalanced hoof her weight was not centered over the hoof.  Instead she was rocked back on her heels.  She was compressing her heels and accelerating the contracted heel problem. Previous horse shoers had been removing needed heel and allowing the toe to push forward.

        It would take a year or more to correct the problem and we hoped it was not too late.

        A size two shoe was used.  The shoe's heels extend under the bulbs of her feet, in order to support her weight.  Only three nails were used. The heel nail is skipped to allow expansion.

         Babe was also showing tremendous body pain.  Just brushing her made her lay back her ears and move away. She was especially sore in the stifle, hip and hamstring area. The unbalanced hooves were taking a toll on her body.

        During exercise she had trouble with her stifles.  She would buckle during the lope and lateral movement was restricted.

         I contacted Betty Lindquist, who teaches the online course Equine Massage for www.horsecoursesonline.com. I enrolled in the course and with Betty's advice I started massaging Babe. The course also gave me exercises to improve suppleness and muscle strength.

        I also used a product which contains arnica during the massage.  Arnica is a perennial plant that is used in homeopathic muscle ointments. 

        In the beginning Babe could barely tolerate being touched.  Each session showed improvement and her range of motion improved during light daily exercise.

        Babe was also put on a diet - much to her dismay. 

         Because I believe in keeping forage in front of horses at all times her fiber intake was not decreased.  Her forage was changed from alfalfa hay to coastal Bermuda grass hay.

        Babe was put on a low calorie, balanced vitamin/mineral supplement.
        It's been five months since the auction and Babe shows improvement daily.  We had two periods of intense soreness as we learned exercise limits.  Her body became strong with work.

        Along the way I was given some poor advice…especially in regards to the stifle problem.  I was told to work her in deep sand; and have the medial patellar ligament cut (which would not allow her to rest her hind leg while dozing any longer).

        Both of these methods are used by people wanting immediate results.  Neither addressed the improper hoof balance, the bad diet and the lack of exercise or general well-being of the horse.

        Veterinarians wanted to do radiographs, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - none of which would have cured the problem - just made me poorer. 

        I knew when considering Babe's purchase that she had problems, but I was also pretty sure they could be fixed - with persistence, patience and education.

       Babe has shown improvement quickly.  It was not overnight, but it has been surprisingly rapid. 

       There's a new horse in the barn and her future looks bright.

Eleanor and Babe  

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