Yesterday I had the pleasure of trimming a couple of new clients - two delightfully dignified older horses, Dandy and Bobby.
Dandy is a 25-year old QH/Saddelbred gelding. He has been in the same place, with the same owner, for the last 20 years. When first acquired, he had a severe case of laminitis, which recurred every spring for a few years, until his owner started keeping his front toes well trimmed back, rasping them himself in between farrier visits. Since then, there have been no laminitic episodes. When I arrived, I found Dandy's front toes squared off, with the toe wall well off the ground. There was a prominent toe callous, and the heels were quite high.
I took the heels right down and then thought I ought to lower the toe callous to better match the lowered heels. There was a lot of sole, most of which I left, as it seemed to be live sole, and if there's been descent of the coffin bone, I guess it needs some extra protection. The exception was the bars, which had folded over so much and flattened over the seat of corn that it looked like true sole. A layer of dirt, however, gave it away, and I dug until I uncovered all the dirt.
I wonder if taking the heels down will cause some of the sole depth to exfoliate? There's still a considerable flare in the last inch and a half of the toe wall, where the toe flattens out, and as it's been many complete growth cycles since the last (noticeable) episode of laminitis, I wonder if the flattening is due to heel height ... ? Could the heel height be sortof forcing the foot over in front and causing the toe to squoosh?
I was impressed at how supple Dandy was for a 25-year old; he had no complaints about lifting up any of his feet, and no creaking. After he was trimmed, I had the owner walk him out - he tracked up really well and landed heel-first. I wonder if his owner's conscientious program of keeping his toes backed up has contributed to his spryness?
Bobby is a 20-year old QH/Morgan gelding, who has lived with Dandy and his owner for the last 15 years. He recently had an abscess in the heel area in the LF. It erupted at the hairline, but the vet recommended digging it out from underneath, which the owner later regretted, as the problem was further in than they'd thought, and the hole at ground level meant that the hoof had to be kept clean.
I wondered why the horse had abscessed, as his feet looked good from the outside, and I didn't think the toes looked long. When I looked underneath, I found well-worn heels, a reasonable concavity, and healthy frogs. However .... the white line at the toe was stretched to almost an inch, and the leading edge of the toe sole was wiggly, as if it had been subject to pressure. I showed the owner, and interestingly he said that he'd had a hunch he should be keeping Bobby's toes shorter, but that because they already looked pretty short from the outside, he'd overridden his instinct. From now on he'll keep the toes rockered off so that the toe wall and white line are off the ground. You could see a sort of fold or bend in the toes (both fore and hind) about an inch from the ground where the foot was trying to break over the extra toe length. There was bruising visible along the fold line.
Bobby seemed to have difficulty some of the time in giving his hind legs. He wanted to raise them really high and stick them out to the side. (I think maybe something to do with his back - not to be racist or anything, but do Morgans sometimes tend toward a dip in the back?) When he walked out after trimming, he tracked up (just), but slightly to the outside. I wouldn't say he landed heel first - maybe flat. I'd be interested to see how his feet progress as the owner moves to his new shorter-toe regimen.
The owner was very nice, and retired - which meant that he appreciated the extra time I took, rather than being impatient! He gave me more money than I asked for, which made me happy. He called me in because his previous farrier went into roofing or something. (What? Why? Probably pays better.) The horses have been kept barefoot all the time they've lived with their owner, who has been hoping to find someone who could do a "barefoot", as opposed to a "farrier" trim. He said all his previous farriers liked to carve out a concavity willy-nilly, and although he'd tried to dissuade them, they would only partially comply. Of course, ideally there should be concavity in the sole, but if it's not there naturally, you can't go sculpting it. If the foot is flat and the sole is live, it means the sole is protecting something which needs to be protected.
I'm looking forward to seeing these two horses again.