abscess · farrier

When it rains, it pours: back in front shoes

So Tristan had chiropractic work on Friday, after much angsting on my part and carving room in the budget for it. He felt much more free through his neck on Sunday, so I was glad I did it.

Then on Monday afternoon, the barn manager called. The farrier was there, and wanted to talk through Tristan’s right front foot.

Yes, that right front. The problem child. It’s been over five years since it first started causing problems. If you’re new to that saga, start reading the abscess tag. Here’s the foot progression collage. Short version: he had a stress fracture of the coffin bone that separated, got infected, abscessed, and had surgery, and that foot has never been quite right since.

It’s always grown slightly wonky, thanks to the scar tissue from the original injury and the abscess insult to the coronet band. Well, the farrier was telling me over the phone that over the last few months it’s been resulting in a mechanical instability at the toe – not due to bad balance, but rather to the way the foot itself was growing. That had now resulted in some separation at the white line, a bacterial infection, and a growing crack.

I knew the crack was there, and had already planned on talking it through with him, but I also thought it could be dug out with a normal trim. Joke’s on me, nothing about that foot is normal.

Verdict: he needed to get it totally dug out back to healthy foot, stuffed with artimud, and then…back in front shoes for stability and protection.

Whooosh goes the money out the window. See, my budget is pretty tight, and it’s built around him being barefoot, which, 95% of the time, has been a realistic projection!

Alas, not for the next few months.

So here’s the foot all dug out.

It’s tough to really tell, but that’s a decently deep hole. The good news there is that the farrier really thought it was better than his worst fears.
Tris also got hot shod for the first time, this farrier’s preference. New farrier from the last farrier who did shoes on him – anyone remember when Tristan had to get sedated for shoeing? Yeah. Good times. Thankfully, I distracted him with peppermints and he did not put a foot wrong the entire time. GOOD PONY.
Next step, artimud and dental putty.
Farrier said “if you want bragging rights, your horse’s foot is so round that I have to use the draft horse pad.”
Then, the shoe. Sigh.
GOOD PONY. So well-behaved.
I was grumpy but resigned (also freezing cold, it was 40 degrees and I am not yet acclimated to winter) but then I got on…and we had our best ride in WEEKS. He was forward, he was cooperative, he was loose.
Fine, pony. Fine. Have all the money.

barefoot · farrier · shoes

Exciting news: Tristan is barefoot again!

I’ve been keeping a bit of a secret, horse blog world. Tristan’s odyssey with his feet is no secret, and for the past 2.75 years or so he has been wearing front shoes to help support that RF as it continues to try and grow normally.

Every few months, I’ve asked the farrier if he thought maybe, this time, Tris could go barefoot? The farrier is not a shoes-at-all-cost guy. He is an excellent farrier whom I have seen praised entirely independently on the COTH forums, and, you know, that NEVER happens.

The last time I asked was this past fall, and when we pulled his shoes as part of that vet visit, the toe still wasn’t right, which was discouraging. That was the same vet visit at which we pulled blood to test for Cushings, and that came back positive, and I started hoping that maybe the reason he (still!) wasn’t healing 100% was because of the Cushings. I figured I’d ask again in the spring.

Well, two weeks ago, I asked, expecting to get a sigh and a shrug again.

Instead: the farrier pulled off his shoes and was thrilled. My horse had foot again! Proper foot! There was no reason he couldn’t go barefoot. To say I was excited was the understatement of the century.


You can still see the abnormality at the toe, interfering with the white line, in the bottom of the foot, but it’s entirely possible that will never go away. 
Are they perfect? Gosh, no. We’ve got some work to do on shoring up the heel and rehabbing the sole. In particular, I’m pained by the white line – but I saw the same thing when we pulled his hind shoes, and I know how to fix it. We’ve already spent quality time with Durasole, and a nice long White Lightning soak is in our near future.
The best part? I gave him a few days off, with some handwalking and long grooming sessions, and he did not look even slightly hesitant when I walked him back and forth, even on the harder aisle. The barn staff confirmed that he wasn’t in the slightest bit tender on the pebbly, hard dirt road to get to turnout.
So four days later, I longed him, and he was raring to go, bucking and farting and giving big sweeping trot strides. I longed him again the next day, and when he still looked 100% sound, I got on him. And rode him. And I’ve been riding him consistently, at the walk and trot and a bit of canter, without a single problem. 
On Friday afternoon, I took him out on the dirt roads around the barn, which afforded a great test; they were waterlogged and soft, but not yet gravelly. Harder than the indoor footing for sure, but nowhere near the rock-hard summer roads. He was terrific, and even jigged around a bit.
Seriously, how did he wear shoes for 2.75 years, sustain a major injury + surgery, and then come out of that so beautifully sound? I have to go find some wood to knock on.
And so, the saga of Tristan’s shoes ends: August 18, 2012 – March 25, 2015.

farrier · shoes · winter

Winter Shoeing 2015

The farrier was out last week, and Tristan has his winter snow shoes on.

Two main changes to the shoes: first, the studs you can see at the heel, and second, the anti-ice rubber thingy. The idea is that the studs will help him grip on ice, and the rubber thingy will help prevent those awful ice snowballs from building up in his hooves.
I know people go back and forth on whether to do studs &/or borium for the winter. I can see both sides, but ultimately, I trust our farrier. I also tend to feel that non-studded shoes are the most slippery thing a horse can possibly wear – far worse than barefoot, booted, or studded shoes. If Tristan (still, sigh) can’t go barefoot in the front, then I’d rather he have the studs in.
Does the rubber thing work? Yeah, it helps. It’s not 100%. Sometimes snow still gets packed in, but it seems to do so much less often, and it’s easier to dig out when it does.

barefoot · farrier · shoes

Tristan and the Farrier

I am still catching up on blog-reading, and SprinklerBandit’s post about Courage’s problems with the farrier made me realize I hadn’t done an update on Tristan and his farrier behavior in a little while.

Short version? Problems solved!

If you haven’t been paying minute attention to every word, you may not realize that about two years ago, Tristan got shoes for the first time, four all around. My trainer and farrier at the time jointly convinced me that he would move much better and that he really needed it. I agreed to try it, after 7 years of barefoot going, as an experiment.

The day before he was to get his shoes for the first time, he blew his abscess. Farrier put four shoes on him anyway, assuming it would blow over quickly. That didn’t happen. See the “abscess” and “surgery” label for that whole sordid tale.

Essentially, it looks like Tristan associated getting shoes hammered on with the pain from the infected piece of broken bone that was now erupting through his entire foot. He started acting up for the farrier, becoming nearly impossible to touch to the point of being violently dangerous. I worked with him for hours and hours on end. Eventually, we simply sedated him for farrier visits.

That reached its height with an absurd visit in which he blew through a double dose of tranquilizer and laid down in the middle of a farrier visit in a fit of…something cranky. The quick-witted assistant trainer/barn manager, M., sat on his head while he was down and the farrier finished trimming. Then they let him up and he was good as gold for the rest of that shoeing.

Things continued to go up and down, though they were never again as bad as that day. About nine months ago, the barn switched farriers – for a lot of reasons. It just so happened through a series of mixups, I did not get tranquilizer from the vet in time. I had emailed the new farrier (new-ish; he’d been doing other horses in the barn with great success, it’s just that we added the whole barn to his list. It’s kind of complicated) with a complete background on everything that had been happening. I wanted him to make a very informed decision about dealing with Tristan.

He wasn’t worried, and you know what? Tristan behaved. Not perfectly, that first day; as the farrier explained, he had to take a lot of short breaks and read Tristan’s body really, really well. He backed off when Tristan got nervous or fussy, and discovered that if he held the foot in a different way and used a slightly different technique in hammering the nails, Tristan was much happier.

Moral of the story: new farrier ROCKS.

That being said, it looks like we’ll be doing shoes for a while yet. New farrier also thinks that it will be some time before Tristan’s front feet can handle barefoot again comfortably, and I haven’t yet been able to put together a coherent plan for the transition. Maybe once the nasty abscess hole (still!1!!1!) grows out, we will take a swing at it and see.

But in the meantime, so glad to have my well-behaved pony back!

abscess · adventures with the vet · farrier · surgery

What the Vet Found

You may remember that about three weeks ago, my farrier raised some concerns about the way Tristan’s RF was growing out and healing. Based on his experience, he felt very strongly that Tristan had a keratoma growing within his hoof.

Yesterday, I arranged for my vet to meet my farrier at the barn, and we did a full workup on Tristan. I also had a list of other concerns; I was worried that his topline wasn’t building the way it should, and wanted to ask about supplementing with alfalfa cubes, and had a few other miscellaneous questions. (The most important answer: yes, you can add bute while a horse is on Pentosan.)

Waiting for the vet.

We started by longeing him, and I explained that I felt he was actually moving pretty well: lazy, but evenly and without obvious hitch. Slightly stiff, and tracking ever so slightly behind on the RH, but nothing that would even rise to the level of concern. We walked, trotted, and cantered, and then tested the trot/canter transitions. Then the vet took him in hand and spun his hind end to watch how he crossed over.

We did not flex. I can practically guarantee that Tristan would not flex clean, and to be strictly honest? I don’t need him to. He is functionally sound and comfortable in the level of work he does. I’m still not sure if he’ll jump again, and he certainly won’t ever get to the level of dressage work that would require the carrying and thrust that would start to trouble him.

The vet agreed with me that he looked pretty darn good in his movement. Certainly he was just fine on that RF.

What’s the catch? Well, when I asked about his topline, and we brought him out into the sunlight, the vet was immediately concerned. Keep in mind she saw him in March for spring shots, and before that in the fall, and then the previous summer and spring every 2-3 weeks for surgery follow up. She knows him pretty darn well, and she’s a brilliant vet with an excellent diagnostic eye.

She didn’t even hesitate. “I’m pulling blood right now, and we’re going to test for Cushings. Even if he doesn’t test positive, I’d like to start him on Pergolide. He looks terrible.”

Keeping in mind that my vet is very blunt! Tris does not look like the picture of your typical Cushings horse, but he is 19 and he has a distinct lack of muscling on the topline. When we tossed the idea back and forth, other things fit with the picture. He’s been urinating much more than usual over the last 6 months. He’s been coughing more often in warmup over the last 2 months.

It’s very early days yet, and Cushings is a very manageable condition. We should have results back next week. If his levels come back totally normal, the vet wants to pull more blood for general CBC panel and make sure everything else is adding up for him.

PSA moment: yesterday was a perfect example of why you should have a vet take a look at your horse once or even twice a year. I had a vague, pit-of-my-stomach feeling that things were not trending well with Tristan, but it took the vet who hadn’t seen him in 4 months to immediately recognize the changes that had occurred in those 4 months. She had passed him with flying colors in March – even making a point of saying he looked terrific – and was able to clearly compare the horse in front of her with Tristan from March.

I admit, I was reeling a bit from her immediate diagnosis and all the research I was going to have to do to start managing him, and then we moved into part 2 of the day’s fun and games.

The farrier and vet first conferred about why the farrier suspected a keratoma: the bulge in Tristan’s hoof, and drainage holes at the toe. Farrier pulled the shoe, and we set down to work to take some x-rays.

Farrier had these super-nifty lifts rather than the vet’s blocks!
We spent a good 20-30 minutes taking shots, looking at them closely, and then taking more shots from different angles. Vet needs to take a good long look at the x-rays at home, but on initial examination, everything looks clean.
Here’s the neat thing: the farrier was 100% correct in what he detected. What he did not realize (or did not remember – since I had sent him the surgery x-rays before) was that Tristan’s coffin bone was already compromised, that it had been carved up quite a bit during the surgery. The farrier was absolutely spot on in recognizing the subtle changes that came in Tristan’s hoof once he was missing a piece of his coffin bone. I already knew I really liked the farrier, but I am HUGELY impressed.
What we’ll have to do is compare the x-rays the vet took with the immediate post-surgery x-rays to make sure there is no additional bone resorption or remodeling. Vet and farrier both agreed, however, that if a keratoma really had formed at the coronet band and traveled down to the dark spot on the x-ray, Tristan would be very lame, and he’s just not. 
VERY good pony getting his shoe back on.
The one remaining question mark is the drainage holes in Tristan’s toe. They definitely shouldn’t be there. They are tiny, but they are there. I offered to soak, and vet and farrier thought that wouldn’t do much good. The farrier ended up packing the toe with Magic Cushion and putting the shoe back on. Vet said that if Tristan does come back positive for Cushings, that would explain why the drainage holes aren’t closing – his immune system is compromised. 
So here’s the takeaway:
  • his foot is almost certainly fine, whew
  • he almost certainly has Cushings, in the very early stages
    • bloodwork will come back next week, and then we will start him on a low dose of pergolide
    • I’ll take an in-depth look at his diet and most likely switch his grain. Right now he’s on Blue Seal Sentinel Senior, which I mostly like – but which according to some internet sources is fairly high in NSC, which he’ll have to stay away from. Look for research posts about this in the future.
abscess · farrier

Foot Update

Tristan saw the farrier yesterday. Originally, our plan was for him to lose the front shoes back in April: from the front, it looks like the abscess hole was all the way grown out, and he’s always been a barefoot horse before. I wasn’t there for that farrier appointment, but the farrier put front shoes back on. I was confused but didn’t have time and energy to follow up.

I asked the barn manager to check in with the farrier specifically yesterday and ask what was up, and chatted with her this morning.

The upshot: believe it or not, he’s still growing out the abscess hole/hoof damage. Remember, this is the abscess that blew on August 16, 2012. Yes, that’s right: this abscess hole has been growing out for 22 months now!

It’s barely detectable, but it is still there, and there’s bruising in the toe area leftover from the destabilized hoof. He was missing massive quantities of hoof wall for so long it’s just taking a while to grow a completely healthy hoof, top to bottom. Because the abscess blew at the coronet band, there’s still a lump in the hoof starting from that scarred area.

So he’s still in front shoes. He probably will be in front shoes until the end of the summer at least. Farrier thinks he’ll need some serious time to adjust to going barefoot in the front again, so I have to think about what would make sense as a timeframe for that, and what combination of toughening work & time off would help him out.

(I swear, I thought I was done with the abscess tag…)

farrier · shoes · surgery

Feet Update – 1 year post-surgery

I missed an important milestone last week: one year since Tristan’s surgery. One year ago today, he was on stall rest in recovery, and now he is back in full work. I am amazed and indescribably grateful that everything worked out so well.

Here’s a front foot comparison, for the record.

1 week post-surgery. The chip out of the front separated during surgery;
there were additional abscess holes at the top of it and the hoof wall
was just that weak.

Yesterday! The bit of white is the absolute last remaining sign of the surgery/abscess.
You can still see/feel a sliiiiiight bulge but it is continuing to fade, ie far less
noticeable at the coronet than at the toe.

 Also! Remember last summer how worried I was about white line in his hind feet? I could carve out chunks of his quarters and his white line with the hoof pick, it was that mushy. Check out his hind feet today. Gorgeous.

In late April, the shoes come off the front feet and we are back to all-barefoot, all the time. FINALLY.

farrier · longeing


Late Monday, the barn owner checked in with me to ask if I’d talked to the vet about dropping off more ace for Tristan’s farrier appointment on Wednesday. CRAP. I hadn’t. So I called the vet, and she was completely unable to come out in the next few days – was actually indisposed and not working.

(If you’re new-ish to this saga: Tristan has been an utter shit for the farrier for the last 18 months, since the start of his foot drama, up to the point of flinging himself to the ground in the middle of a trim, and has been drugged for every single trim/shoeing since arriving in Vermont.)

Double crap. So I told the barn manager, with profuse apologies, and she said she’d make it work. They’d start on him first and go slowly if need be, and could always hold off for another week or two if necessary.

Yesterday, I sat on pins and needles all day waiting for a text; I didn’t want to bother them, but I wanted desperately to know if it had all gone well. It was a new farrier, too, who wasn’t used to Tristan’s assholery. When I left work, I texted the barn manager to say that I was heading to the barn, and hoping no news was good news. She texted back to give her a call when I got to the barn. I spent the rest of the drive to the barn with a sick pit in my stomach; that couldn’t be good, right?

Arrived at the barn, practically ran down the aisle, threw open the stall door, brought Tristan out…and all four feet were trimmed, with new shoes on the front! So the farrier had managed to get them on, at least. I called the barn manager who reported that he was PERFECT. Not a foot wrong! The barn manager didn’t even have to stand with him, he chilled out in cross ties. The farrier advised one more cycle of shoes and then barefoot again in the spring.

BEST PONY OF ALL TIME EVER. I hugged him and kissed him and very nearly started crying right there in the aisle. WHEW.

I groomed him and did his topline stretches and then we did about 35 minutes of longeing, wtc, setting up a circle of death and elevating them with blocks. He did beautifully at the trot, adjusting his stride to nail them perfectly and stretching out and down, lifting his back. He sort of started to get it at the canter, but never had a really successful circle with them. He did have a couple of nice poles that he took in a lifted stride, though.

Here’s some comparison photos.

Taken 12/16/13 for comparison.

Post-trim, taken 12/18/13. SO AWESOME.

adventures with the vet · farrier · winter

Winter is coming

First things first: I’ve often said that my barn, which is at a higher elevation than most of the other places in my life, has its own weather patterns. Last night that proved true: I left work and drove up and up and up…and at a certain point, the cold rain solidified and turned white, and I stared in disbelief for a few minutes before swearing.

Luckily, none of it stuck. But winter is well and truly on its way: all the trees are naked, it’s below freezing every night even in the valley, and this weekend we’re putting in storm windows and sealing everything off under plastic.

Tris is going well. We had a good intense ride on Wednesday, and when I got off he was sweaty through his fuzzy winter coat. Whoops. So, 45 minutes of cooling out and drying (walking, swapping coolers) for 35 minutes of riding. It’s been a very long time since he’s been sweaty like that through his winter coat. Hopefully he’ll go back to his usual self soon, because I really do not want to play the clipping and blanketing game.

His most exciting news now is that also on Wednesday the farrier did his feet – and he’s back in normal steel shoes! Hooray! The notch in his toe is small enough that it looks like a bad chip, and the farrier left the epoxy out entirely. By the end of the winter the foot will look practically normal – it’ll still have some of the bulge from growing out but that will only be visible on close inspection.

Next week, he’ll get his flu/rhino booster, and they’re vaccinating the whole barn for botulism – which I did not know you could do! It’s precautionary, since they’re going to put a lot of the horses on round bales in pasture this winter, and apparently it has a million boosters but round 1 is next week. He’ll get his Legend shot at the same time and we’ll see where we are.

Last but not least, he’s starting to add weight again. He dropped a fair bit in the summer to fall changeover, and he was looking downright ribby for a little while, so we upped his hay, switched him to senior grain, and upped his grain in general, all in slow stages. The idea was not to just fling calories at him but to do it in small increments and find a leveling off, since he’s usually such an easy keeper. It was worrying quite a lot for a while but we are definitely on the right track now.