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hoof balance of a horse
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Destiny in January
Careful attention to changes in her hoof care
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X ray in December
This shows the coffin bone pointing down not out
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Destiny Sound Today
Destiny can be ridden now
How a mare named Destiny with a missing coffin bone was rehabilitated
At a local rescue farm in the fall of 2011, I noticed a little mare who was lame. The current owner wanted to find her a new home because she could not get the right resources to help the mare with her hoof issues. At the time I was unable to take her on as a rehab case. Little did I know that I was destined to meet up with this mare, whose name coincidently was Destiny. About 2 months later, a client of mine told me she had taken on another horse and wanted me to come and look at her to see what we could do about her hoof issues. The more we talked, the more familiar the horse sounded. I asked my client: “Would this mare’s name be Destiny?” and she said “Yes, how did you know?” And so our journey began …..
A SKETCHY PAST Destiny’s history is sketchy. We were never able to exactly piece together how long she has had hoof issues, but she had chronic laminitis and suffered from founder for at least 2-3 years. She’s also had some foals along the way while she was dealing with chronic laminitis. Because of this, part of the tip of her coffin bone had been eaten away by the chronic inflammation and it lost alignment with the bony column. Her x-ray shows the abscess break out in the sole at the toe and how the sole had thickened under the tip of the coffin bone to protect the internal structures from breaking through. This implies that she was also a sinker, meaning the bony column sank in between the hoof capsule, as the laminar connection weakened. Confirming this is the fact that the coffin joint (CJ) also sits below the coronet band. In normal hooves the CJ is about at the height of the coronet band. An old photo of her revealed that her right front looked rather normal. This suggested that the trouble with the right front was man-made due to incorrect diet that promoted the laminitis and improper trimming that created the founder (leaving heels too long). All we know for certain is that she suffered from horse care professional ignorance for some time. Hoof form and growth are influenced from load above. She is left-side dominant which means she loads her left front hoof more, making it wider and flatter. Since the right front is loaded less, it tends to grow more upright. This is often referred to as high/low syndrome and is unfortunately still too often incorrectly addressed through trimming. It is the primary reason why her right front hoof became this bad.
THE REHABILITATION Destiny’s rehabilitation started in December 2011. The x-ray of her right front looked pretty discouraging. The tip of the coffin bone was missing, most likely eaten away by the chronic, internal inflammation caused by her severe laminitis. She also had a big hole in the sole at the toe from an old abscess blowout. All we were hoping at the time was to try the best we could and make her as comfortable as possible. We first addressed her diet by removing concentrates/grains and fed her what nature intends equines to eat─ quality, low sugar forages, plus a supplement to complement the forage. I then started to re-establish correct hoof balance by trimming the heels down, addressing the toe as needed, and supporting the area around the altered coffin bone. As the hoof healed, a new hoof capsule around the coffin bone began to form with a stronger, healthier laminar connection that was previously damaged by the laminitis. Destiny was rehabbed barefoot. It helps to keep the hoof as natural as possible during the rehabilitation to aid the healing process. Normal ground stimulation helps forge a stronger and healthier hoof. She had a few more abscessing incidences until the hoof completely stabilized during which time we used pads to keep the hoof clean and Easyboot Glove hoof boots to provide protection without stifling her mobility. Slowly and steadily she began to improve, but remained slightly lame, stepping short with the right front leg, despite foreleg stretching to help her regain normal range of motion.
BREAKTHROUGH One day in late summer of 2012, the owner took her pasture mate away for a short trailer ride. Destiny got frantic and literally ran herself sound. The short stepping of the right front leg essentially developed from compensation for the hoof problem she had. At the same time it also created incorrect muscle memory showing up as reduced range of motion at the joints, which had altered her right front leg movement. She could not extend normally because her muscle’s had gotten used to stepping short from years of compensation. It looked like lameness, yet it was not. The lameness we saw was from muscle memory and not true hoof soreness. It took her frantic running to break through this and showed us how much bad muscle memory can influence rehabilitation. After that, we never looked back.
NEVER GIVE UP Destiny is now completely sound and under saddle since late spring 2013. She showed everyone what is possible, if only given half a chance. Most horse care professionals would have probably recommended to put her down. With the right approach and her owner’s strong dedication, this mare got all the support she needed to become well, including bodywork sessions as needed. Without this strong dedication it is unlikely she would have made it. One cannot say something is not possible until it has been thoroughly tried, as this story shows so well. Never give up as long as there’s hope. This lucky girl has an exceptional human taking care of her. Fate brought us together to help a mare named Destiny. It is what miracles are made of.
Ute Phillippi is a natural hoof care provider and licensed human and animal bodywork practitioner. She specializes in facial release techniques and barefoot hoof rehabilitation. For more info and case studies visit www.balanced-step.com