Friday, July 15, 2011

Hooves. And Farriers.

I have had a rough time finding a good farrier in South Carolina. Or maybe its just that I have had some serious issues in the past two years.

In 2010, probably around March or so, the farrier I was using did not return my calls when Avalon ripped off his shoe and a chunk of his foot. Avalon was dead lame, and he needed a shoe put on in order to give him some relief - he always went lame when he lost a shoe. We've got granite chunks in the pasture that pop up like weeds after every rain.

After a few days of no return call no show I found another farrier. I'm not going to name names here - let's just call him Barefoot Guy. I call him Barefoot Guy because he was very into the natural shoeing trend that's going around. And you know what? In many places, for many horses, you can go without shoes and it's better for them. That did not end up being the case for Avalon.

When he came he took one look at Avalon's feet and said that he had some heel problems. He was right. A few years ago I had to switch farriers when one collapsed Avalon's heel (the same heel) through fitting the horse to the shoe instead of the other way around. He was lame for 3 months off of that. As a side note, total South Carolina farrier count so far is 4 with Barefoot Guy being the 4th. So Barefoot Guy put shoes on all 4 of Avalon's feet for a couple of months, then said that his back feet probably didn't need them. I was concerned about it, but I gave it a try, and you know what, it worked. Avalon is still barefoot in back, in fact.

We continue to put shoes on the front, until Barefoot Guy tells me that he cannot fix the problems we are having with Avalon's heel by putting shoes on. He tells me that he's just in a holding pattern, and shoes are preventing Avalon from getting the kind of growth he needs to grow out that collapsed heel. I decide to give it a shot, since it worked well in back, and we pull his shoes in August of 2010.

Avalon goes dead lame, but Barefoot Guy says this is normal, and horses generally need a couple of months for their feet to toughen up enough to prevent bruising, and once they do they get healthy feet. He tells me it's temporary, and about two months later (right before he's due for a trim) Avalon seems to be getting sounder.

It doesn't last. Avalon gets sounder when his feet are long, and lame after a trim. The Barefoot Guy keeps telling me it's temporary, but my horse is lame. I call the vet out in November, because Barefoot Guy has me half convinced that the problem isn't bruising now, but that heel problem we are trying to correct. We nerve block parts of Avalon's feet to see where the pain is coming from - and it is definitely his sole.

I ask Barefoot Guy in December to put shoes back on Avalon's feet. My horse has been lame for nearly 6 months with him continually telling me that his feet will toughen up any day now, but my gut is telling me 6 months is too long for this to be a temporary issue. I want my horse back. Barefoot guy refuses to put shoes on him, saying that it will undue all the work he's put into Avalon's feet and that eventually Avalon will be permanently lame if he has shoes put back on, ever.

I find a new farrier in January. Farrier Number 5.

Farrier Number 5 is my current farrier, but I am now so paranoid about crappy farriers I have serious concerns about Avalon's feet. Next month (aka when I have money), I am going to get a vet to come take xrays of his feet and make sure they are balanced. Avalon is sound. But the way his feet look, I don't think he will be for long.

I took these pictures on July 3rd, which was a couple of days before Farrier 5 was supposed to come out and trim him. These pictures really concerned me.

This is his funky foot. The one I have had past heel issues (twice!) with, and the one that looks different than the other 3. I don't think it's a true club foot, but it's definitely low compared to the rest of his feet. I do NOT like the way his heel looks. It looks completely underrun/collapsed to me.

I always doubt myself with hoof issues because I'm not a farrier and I'm not a vet, and what do I know. That self doubt is why I let Avalon be barefoot and lame for 6 months - my farrier convinced me that he knew better than I.

This is the other foot. Far more upright, heel looks maybe a little but underrun, but really not like the other foot. Toe is too long, I think, but he's due for trim.

This is a front view. I am 90% sure that the "dishing" you see, or the flares, are a bad thing. My understanding is that this shows that the white line is separating from the rest of the hoof, because the feet are out of balance or too long.

I really think I was directly behind the foot when I took this photo. Shouldn't his leg be straight, not kind of bent inward? Are the two sides of his heel growing at different speeds or lengths or is the farrier just not balancing him right?

His funky foot is even worse. I know his heel is collapsed here, and I am worried that this picture shoes a prolapsing frog.

The pictures I took after the trim show significant improvement. But...I cannot just trust the farrier. Too many bad experiences. I want xrays and vet consult, because my gut is telling me that if I don't get this done right then I'm going to have a lame horse again.

Maybe the vet will tell me I just wasted $500.00. But I'm pretty sure he's not going to say that.

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