Friday, January 25, 2008

Hoof Anatomy 101

There's an understanding amongst the herd, the house and I that only one thing can go wrong at any given time; now that the satellite internet service is working again, it was inevitable that one of the animals would get sick or hurt. This time, it was Lyle's turn.

When I fed the horses and burros their dinner Wednesday night, everything was perfectly normal; when I went back out to toss them their bedtime snack, Lyle could barely walk. What the f***? Despite flashbacks to the spring of '05 – instant onset laminitis, Lyle in a sling, Lyle confined to his stall for 5 months, Lyle using up his allowance for the next 20 years on vet bills – I did my best not to cry and to remain calm. I got him into his stall, put on his hoof boots, and stayed up all night watching him out the window. And all he did was stand there watching me.

I opened his stall door at dawn. He walked right out and seemed pretty normal. What the f***? Then it began to snow and he and Hank started acting like total idiots, running around, bucking, farting, snorting, chasing each other. Was last night's lameness just my hallucination? Did I pull an all-nighter for naught? I left a message for the vet to call me about Lyle's "mystery lameness."

Around 9 o'clock, Lyle laid down and took a nap for 15 minutes, while I tried to work with one eye on the monitor and one eye out the window. (Is there a word for the opposite of crosseyed?) Then he got up, walked a few steps, took one bad step, and my mind was made up. I would haul him to the vet in Albuquerque. Something wasn't right.

By now, the snow was really coming down...of course. But I got the trailer hooked up, Lyle loaded, and off we went - "we" being me, Lyle and Smooch (for moral support ). I lost it several times on the way to Albuquerque...the long, winding road gave way to lots of bad thoughts about what could be wrong, what might happen, what decisions I would have to make. Then the traffic picked up and I had to focus on that or die, so at least I was able to unfocus on Lyle.

Dr. Brad Root had helped us through Lyle's previous bout of laminitis (the second-leading cause of death among horses, colic being the first, and we all know I lost Lyle's mom from that...enough!!). He examined Lyle, tranquilized him, explained to the new tech that "Lyle on drugs is a good thing" and made a few remarks about him "having a lot of personality." Ah, yes, the Lyle we all know and love - quite unforgettable.

Bottom line: Lyle's hooves are difficult to trim. The inside edge of Lyle's left hoof was getting a little long, causing some compression on that side of the pastern joint (see red arrow below), and likely causing Lyle's pain.

Even though Shorty, our farrier, has Lyle's hooves balanced well, there is not enough sole to protect what's inside. There needs to remain 20 millimeters of sole between the bottom of the coffin bone and the base of the sole (see red arrow below) after Lyle is trimmed. Since his last trim was 6 and a half weeks ago, Brad says Lyle was trimmed too short back then. So why hasn't he shown signs of lameness before now? I suspect that the cold weather and frozen ground over the past week may have something to do with that. Or he may have just been waiting for the satellite problem to go away first.

Brad rasped off the long inside edge, painted the soles with a formaldehyde solution to toughen them up, and advised me to keep Lyle's boots on for at least a week and treat the soles every day during that time with the formaldehyde. I will have Shorty call him directly for a refresher on Lyle's hoof-trimming needs, for fear something might get lost in the translation if I try to explain it.

Meanwhile, I will try to remember that nothing is ever as bad as it seems (sometimes it's worse...there we go with the spring '05 thing again) and spring '08 is only eight weeks away. And locoweed wouldn't dare spring up two springs in a row, would it?

1 comment:

  1. Do you have outside shots of his hoof (both fronts would help) taken at ground level from the side and from the heel. This would help to see if there are other imbalances (heel to toe) that would be/are affecting his soundness. The radiographs clearly show the left to right imbalance, but more interested in
    the torque on the deep digital flexor/length of toe vs heel height. Those would be great.