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Fred's Blog - Page 4
9th November 2008
Well it's been quite a while since I last updated this blog - I've been rather busy setting up a new qualification for Equine Podiatrists. But I thought I really ought to add an update.
Fred's had a pretty good summer on the whole. He's been out at grass 24/7 all summer and, apart from a minor hiccup, has coped with that well. The minor hiccup focussed around Fred's new found abilities in the field of pulling up electric fence posts. We had all 5 horses fenced off down one side of the hay field. For a while, they were happy with this, but then Fred decided that this world was not big enough for him. He discovered that he could pull up the electric fence posts by grabbing the very top of them with his teeth. He'd quietly work his way down the fence pulling up post after post until the entire section of fence fell over - then he could just calmly stroll out into the entire hay field. We got up one morning to find 5 extremely smug horses all looking rather bloated. Remarkably, none of them had raised pulses but we were left with the problem of how to stop Fred doing this again (I now know it was Fred because I caught him at it a little later).
Our first plan of action was to wrap the fencing tape around the very top of each fence post. This worked perfectly... but not for long! Fred's next ploy was to grab the very bottom of the plastic fence post with his teeth and pull each one up that way... with predictably similar results to his first approach. It took us a while to work out his new tactic until we spotted the teeth marks on the posts. Not to be deterred, we spent a happy afternoon (not!) wrapping spirals of spare electric fencing tape around each post from top to bottom. That, we thought, would be the end of the matter, and it was... for another few weeks.
Emboldened by his previous successes, Fred finally worked out that the charge at the end of the fence furthest from the charger was not that high and that the few shocks acquired forcing his way under the tape were worth the ultimate reward. Of course, Fred being Fred, he wasn't content with simply slipping underneath himself - he had to get caught up in it and trash the entire thing on the way through (he doesn't really fit under the electric fence tape - he's a bit big for that). We thought the trauma of this experience would put him off - but no, he did it three days in a row. Sadly, by that point, his feet were starting to show raised pulses and Esme (who'd been totally sound for the entire summer - the first time we've managed that) came down with full blown laminitis (Clare was NOT pleased - Pedigree Chum was mentioned more than once).
We had to do something urgently, so we went out and bought the biggest mains powered fence charger we could buy. Some weeks later, we think we may have won the battle... at least for this year. There have been no more escapes since. The only downside is that the one time I accidentally touched the fence I seriously regretted it!
The incident with the electric fencing means that some of the wins we had achieved with Fred's feet over the summer slipped away but I'm still very pleased with the overall result. Here's a photo of how he now stands on concrete - this is not the stance of a laminitic horse any more.
He's now in our winter field (mostly mud) and the yard for the winter, keeping Esme company (the rest are still finishing off the hay field after it was cut). I've got him in front boots at the moment, but I'm hoping to be able to gradually wean him off them over the winter.
I took some photos this weekend, so here as usual is the left fore.
The soles are gradually getting thicker. I can no longer get the soles to give to thumb pressure, although they're still thinner than they should be for a warmblood of his size. He's had a very slight abscess in the sole by the white line on the left fore (you can just see the track down the edge of the sole in the photo on the right hand side) a few weeks ago, but that's nearly grown out now. I think I'll start giving him short periods on the concrete without the boots once the last of that damage has grown out.
He also seems to be holding his weight quite nicely now, and even very slowly putting some on. We've put him on a small quantity of sunflower oil (half a cup) in addition to his usual diet and I think that may have helped.
I trimmed Fred's hooves this morning. I've finally got enough horn in the quarters to be able to drop the heels a bit more and leave the toe higher. To do that, I've had to cut into the false sole a bit near the heels, but hopefully that will help to stimulate some exfoliation there. I've also been able to bring the toes back quite a bit.
As usual, here's the left fore just after the trim. It's finally possible to see something like a normal foot within the confines of the damaged hoof capsule:
You can just see the abscess exit track just below the periople on the heel in the side-on shot. He's also had a minor toe abscess on the right hind which looks like it dates from around about the time of his hay field expeditions. The hind feet both show signs of slight low grade laminitis from around the same time too - so he clearly didn't entirely get away with his piggery.
You may remember that back in June I was concerned about lack of toe height due to the thin sole at the toe. I am finally winning on this, his most serious problem. I've copied here the diagram I put up in June (on the left below) and put alongside it today's photo of the left fore with the same lines superimposed. You can clearly see how much more toe height there is and also how the toe wall is starting to come back inside the line of the ideal hoof shape. Along the way, the sole at the toe is much, much thicker and that ulimately is what is going to help the internal structures of the foot heal. As ever, there's still a way to go before I'd consider him fixed, but the wins to date are considerable.
I also thought it might be interesting to put todays side-on shot alongside the one from April 2007 (when his feet were perhaps at their worst) to see what progress has been made so far: Perhaps the biggest lesson I've learnt from Fred is that recovering feet as bad as this takes a long time and a lot of patience.
I do sometimes think Fred is jinxed. He started looking a tiny bit uncomfortable about a week ago and then on Friday he was extremely lame on the left fore with strong pulses. It looked like an abscess, but I was worried because the pulses were raised on the right fore as well. It could be this is because the right fore was taking all the weight, or it could be that the abscess was secondary to laminitis. I started the usual routine of tubbing in epsom salts and poulticing with hot animalintex.
Saturday morning I cleaned the sole up and found what looked like a puncture wound near the toe. By Sunday night he was extremely lame and was spending a lot of time lying down. But by Monday morning, the abscess had blown (through the puncture wound hole) and he was a lot more comfortable. He's still quite sore but is moving around the yard again so hopefully this is a small blip. My biggest concern is that 3 days of putting his whole weight on the right fore will have done some damage to that foot.
Here's the puncture wound:
25th January 2009
I've been very busy with the course for the last few weeks so I've only now had time to update the blog.
Firstly I guess I should tie up the abscess story that I left hanging... This abscess turned into a real pain in the nether regions. It blew through the puncture hole but because the hole was so small it didn't really manage to blow fully. He came nearly sound for a few days and then started going lame again. He blew it a second time through the same hole only to then start going lame a third time. At this point, I decided enough was enough and the abscess was drained. I always prefer to let nature take it's course with abscesses where possible, but sometimes you just have to do the evil deed and dig a small hole in the sole. It only took a tiny increase in the size of the hole to do the trick. I also then disinfected the foot with CleanTrax just to be on the safe side. He was immediately more comfortable and gradually became more and more sound over the following couple of weeks. The right fore showed a tiny bit of low grade laminitis as a result of having the extra weight on it (he was lame on and off for a good couple of weeks) but really didn't suffer half as badly as I'd feared.
One advantage of having to drain the abscess was that I got to see how thick the sole was without having to pay for an X-ray. I was very pleased to see a sole that was nearly a cm thick - a far cry from where he was even a few months ago. The abscess has been a bit of a set back, but despite that, I'm really, really pleased with the progress he's made.
Since then, the abscess damage has been growing out steadily. The sole is close to having completely replaced itself after the abscess with perhaps a couple of mm of the old sole left to grow out. I expect the remains of the old sole to peel off any day now. From what I can see there's a really nice new sole coming through underneath. There's still a little laminar wedge on both front feet and the walls are still moderately flared all around, but with good soles in place on both front feet, I can now start to focus on getting the flaring under control.
Yesterday, I took him down to the school and lunged him, first with his boots and pads on, and then without. He was almost 100% sound either way, just showing the tiniest bit of lameness on the left fore. The fact that the boots/pads made no difference to this has convinced me that the remaining lameness (which is so slight it's very hard to see) is not coming from the foot. On the way back from the school, he happily walked along the track which is surfaced with sharp slate waste and didn't bat an eyelid at that and he was happy to trot across the concrete yard too.
It's not uncommon to see soft tissue problems further up the leg where a horse has been lame long term and I fully expected some soft tissue stiffness once I got the feet sorted. I'm planning to get my osteopath out to see him just as soon as she's recovered from her broken collar bone (that's horses for you).
Meantime, I'm happy that he's ready to start some gentle work on the lunge. He's already looking more calm and sensible on the lunge, but I've got a lot of work to do to build his muscles back up and get his neck to look less giraffe-like. The only problem now is going to be finding enough time to work with him given my workload at the moment both with my clients and the new diploma course. And of course I now have to start saving up for a saddle for him!
I'll try and get some foot photos next time I trim him.
17th February 2010
It's been a very long time since I last managed to update this blog - so I guess I should start by apologising for that. I know there are a lot of people who have followed Fred's progress closely and I get a lot of emails asking for an update. My life has been extremely busy over the last 12 months. As well as some domestic dramas, the Diploma course has been a massive amount of work for me, although very rewarding with it. With the first intake of students nearing the end of the course and the second intake well under way, things are finally starting to settle down here and I'm beginning the long job of catching up with all the work that's piled up on my desk over the many months.
So I left this blog a year ago with Fred improving well but still very slightly lame on the left fore. In the following months he finally came fully sound. The feet were still not perfect cosmetically, but the sole and internal structures were healed enough not to bother him. He was storming around on the concrete without boots on and even walking along slate waste tracks without flinching. We started lunging him and Clare even sat on him a couple of times (mostly in walk). With the course, I had very little time to do much with him but decided that I'd bring him properly into work when I had a bit more spare time. Fred, as usual, had other ideas!
Over the Spring and Summer he managed to escape several times. His new nickname is Houdini! He can untie knots, open catches and bolts, bulldoze his way through what appears to be good fencing, etc. I really want to catch him on video doing his thing (apart from anything else it would be a surefire £250 from You've Been Framed), but while I've seen him doing it a few times, he never does it when I've got a camera in my hand. The problem with him escaping (apart from the embarassment factor when he gets into my neighbour's hay barn) is that he makes a beeline for any poisonous plants he can find. His favourite is privet. If he can get into our back garden he'll spent a happy hour or two munching away at the privet hedge. That's usually enough to cause a mild laminitis attack - often followed by a nice juicy abscess that takes a couple of weeks to blow.
His latest poison of choice is bull rushes. He managed to escape into the stream at the bottom of our land in the autumn. I wasn't too worried because I didn't think there was anything harmful there and he couldn't get any further than the stream. I just made a note to round him up later that day (I was already late for work) and fix the fence. The next day he was very sore again, so I went looking to see what he'd been eating in the stream. The bull rushes had been demolished. I can't find bull rushes on any of the UK-based lists of plants poisonous to horses, but I eventually found a report on an australian web site that bull rushes are poisonous to horses. It's just typical of Fred that he managed to even find a plant that I wasn't aware was poisonous (believe me, I know where every poisonous plant in the vicinity is now!).
We've got various measures in hand to try to solve the problem. The privet hedge is in the process of being chopped down (on the basis that no matter how hard I try, he's going to end up escaping into our back garden at some point). Better fencing along the stream side will be installed as soon as the ground is hard enough. And I've got very inventive with ways of fastening gates! The problem seems to be that once he's fully sound, he gets bored and starts to make mischief. What he really needs is some work to keep his mind off the latest escape plot.
The upshot of all this is that he's been fully sound several times over the last year, but never manages to stays sound for more than a few weeks. Right now he looks pretty sound (although I haven't lunged him recently) but while I think I've got every escape route covered, I'm not relaxing just yet!
Surprisingly, despite all this, Fred's feet are still improving. The biggest improvement is the soles. They are now a good healthy thickness with a reasonable amount of concavity. When he's not recovering from one of his little expeditions, he's pretty sound on all surfaces. The wall on the other hand still shows signs of damage from rotation with a small amount of laminar wedge at the toe. I'm going to have to keep him laminitis free for at least 6 months if I'm to stand any chance of getting the walls to look healthy (I always did like a challenge). I'm still using boots with him for some of the time when he's on the yard simply because with the wall less than perfect, he tends to over-wear the feet.
His general health is much improved too. He's finally holding a good weight on a sensible amount of feed. He's got a nice shiny coat, a gleam in his eye (sometimes enough to worry me) and he's starting to put a bit of muscle condition on. I'm still giving him periodic short courses of Gastri-X (once or twice a year) to keep his gut healthy (heaven knows what all those poisonous plants have done to his gut lining), but I'm increasingly thinking that that might just represent paranoia on my part.
What I've learnt from Fred over the years is that it is entirely possible to recover even a very serious laminitis case to the point of full soundness - but that it's not always easy (and keeping him sound given his little habits is another matter altogether). The knowledge and experience I've gained working with Fred has allowed me to help a number of other serious laminitis cases, including one even more serious than Fred who has now made a full and sustained recovery. I'm honing my approach and I know that if I came across another Fred, I'd get there very much faster now.
And in the meantime, I've rather fallen for Fred - he's a lovely character and has become very much part of the family. If I can keep his escapological tendencies under control, I have high hopes of actually getting to ride him this year. And I will try to keep this blog more up to date as things progress.
© 2007-2010 Richard Vialls