Splash didn’t give up either.
Rehabbing a Navicular Horse
Anyone out there in this situation? Do you have a horse that has been diagnosed with heel pain, navicular syndrome, navicular changes, or just plain ol’ navicular? If you do, I feel for you!!! I have been on quite a twisated, convoluted journey with my rescue horse. I welcome your comments and sharing of your story. This process is not for the faint of heart!
My intentions in writing this blog post is not to offer technical advise. If you are anywhere on this same journey you have likely already been offered plenty, often conflicting, technical advise. I am here to hopefully give you some tidbits of advise but more so offer support and encouragement. I want to tell you first about my horse.
I got this big, beautiful appaloosa gelding sight unseen from a ‘rescue’ that took in donations for horses in kill pens, thru facebook and then looked for people willing to provide homes. I know, I know– most definitely NOT the smartest way to get a horse but I was willing to take a chance. I did find out later (surprise, surprise) that this particular ‘rescue’ had quite the scam going on. Would I do it again, minus the scam part? Financially, it was not bright at all since this free horse has been anything but free. I would do it again though for this horse. I also was in the position of owning the barn and land so I did not have the added expense of board. He is one of those special, heart of gold horses and because of that I soldier on. I encourage you to hang in there with your horse and hope and pray it gets better for you too.
I won’t go thru all the boring details of what we tried over the last 2 1/2 years and all the conflicting information professionals, or auxiliary horse health care support people gave me as I tried to get this boy sound. All I can say is it was beyond frustrating. My horses live in my backyard. First thing I do every morning when I get up is look out in the pasture to check on them. I have owned and cared for horses on my property for 20+ years so I am not a ‘newbie’ to horses. I can tell, even from this distance if my appy was hurting or not that day just by his stance and that flavored the rest of the day. He had varying degrees of pain- sometimes he was almost sound and lived a pretty decent life. We even had several good months in which I could do light trail riding on him. But as time went on, and the under lying problem in the angle and shape of his hooves were not addressed, he got progressively more sore to the point I honestly wondered if it was fair to him to keep trying. I was seriously thinking maybe euthanasia was the kindest thing. Neither one of us could take this chronic pain. For a horse, and Splash is a stoic guy, to be in chronic pain, is not any kind of quality of life. The help I was getting with my farrier at the time had us heading in that direction. I have never professed to be any kind of an expert on hooves and put my faith in people who do that for a living. I don’t want to get too far into a farrier discussion because I liked all my farriers as people and think they were trying to do the right thing but why is the right thing SO difficult when it comes to these navicular issues?
One thing almost everyone agreed on who looked at Splash’s feet told was that his condition was a man made one. He came to me with long toes and under run heels. At that time he was slightly ‘off’ and pretty much beat up but he traveled who knows how much on his way to the kill pen. He continued to be slightly off and my farrier at the time worked (or so I thought) on correcting the long toes.
Splash and a friend- during the good days
Fast forward now 3 farriers later, all supposedly working on the long toes and under run heels my horse was in serious pain. I switched farriers again and had someone out who made some pretty significant changes with his now even longer toe and we saw immediate relief but Splash was still a long way from sound. At least now euthanasia was put on the back shelf. This farrier had an illness and death in family just as my my schedule changed so we missed each other for a trimming appt. and so I got off his schedule. I needed someone again in a hurry.
I had been in touch with Lauren Michelle of Red Horse Equine Center and she was willing to come out and help. Bless you Lauren Michelle!! She walked into a mess– Splash now at this point was not an easy horse to work on. His feet were sore enough he had trouble standing for a trim and what was and is a naturally calm, quiet and willing horse was a problem to trim. In my good conscience I could not see ‘correcting’ or punishing Splash for not standing due to pain but we needed to work on him. It was a challenge to say the least. It has been a pleasure seeing Splash improve not only physically but mentally as Lauren Michelle and her gentleness and persistence keeps us moving toward healing.
Lauren Michelle has been reshaping his hooves since the fall of 2012 and we have seen a consistent improvement. No more of this one step forward and two steps back stuff we dealt with for way too long!! Lauren also helped me get a pair of easyboots with pads to get Splash moving and restructuring his feet. In order for him to heal from the inside out he needs to walk heel first and the boots are helping that be possible. We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel and I am SO grateful!!!
What this experience has taught me is that
1. Navicular is an elusive, mysterious condition! I say that somewhat tongue in cheek because I am sure there are people out there that are knowledgeable about it but the knowledge as of yet has not filtered down to the general horse care population in any kind of consistent standard of care. Thank goodness most doctors don’t operate in the same way some of the professionals I dealt with did in Splash’s case. I hope for more than a hit and miss treatment when I get sick or hurt. And it goes without saying each direction takes time, money and energy to pursue. As you are pursuing one direction that ultimately does not work, you are also creating more damage which takes the new way longer and harder to figure out. In other words you keep digging your hole deeper.
2. The diagnosis process for any of the conditions that go along with heel pain or intermittent hoof lameness in horses is also pretty elusive and mysterious or was in this situation! I was spoiled a few years ago when I lived in another area and had a long time equine vet I really liked and trusted. I could go to him and know he would be honest and fair. I was not taken on rabbit trails or given conflicting information from vets out of the same office!
3. Even though this has been an exercise in frustration I am thankful I could do it for Splash. He makes it worth the effort. It has also made me think of all the people and horses in situations in which they may not have the time, money, energy or help with their horse with ‘man made’ hoof issues. This journey has also opened my eyes to how a naturally quiet, obedient, gentle horse can be virtually destroyed. In the wrong hands this messy journey could of been SO much worse- but then how much worse can it get for a horse that WAS in a kill pen? How many horses like Splash end up in kill pens not getting out because they are ‘off’?
4. I have a deeper understanding and sympathy for people who have pets and horses that suffer big life events and things change in their lives so they can not do what they may have always done. In the midst of re-habbing Splash, our family had a particularly difficult personal situation. To have a special needs horse in the middle of this was, to be perfectly honest, a huge added stress to an already very stressful time. To be dealing with this horse’s chronic pain and treatment issues in addition to trying to care for myself and family in a difficult period of our lives was at times more than I could handle. And the options for what to do with a horse like this if you can’t care for them are not pleasant. The only option I could see was either for me to do what I can and when I can’t it would have to be euthanasia. Who else would do what I am doing? I could not put Splash thru anymore pain, neglect or trauma. Seeing the horse in pain and not getting anywhere really dragged me down emotionally too.* That did not help with the pain and stress already there. Thank goodness he is not in pain any longer. I felt an immediate lift when I could look out my window into the pasture each morning and NOT see him in pain.
* For this reason I would think long and hard before I took on another re-hab horse. With all things being equal and not factoring the financial aspect, emotionally dealing with this is draining. I guess that is not encouraging- the purpose of this blog- but it is realistic. Again, if you are in this situation I feel for you and your horse. Lauren Michelle was a blessing to us also because she was non-judgmental but kept the hope alive.
We have a goal we are shooting for now with Splash. I have an out of state friend who is possibly interested in Splash. My husband and I will likely be downsizing into a smaller home in the next few years and I will need to rehome all but one horse, which I will board. My hope and prayer is that we can get Splash 100% sound by spring. I think it is within our reach because he is doing SO much better under Lauren’s care. She has helped me treat him holistically, helping with minerals and supplements and things are definitely looking up. Splash is a wonderful trail horse- obedient, calm and unflappable out alone or in a group. I would like nothing better than to know he is being loved and fussed over by my friend as they enjoy each other’s company and take leisurely, relaxing trail rides and camping trips.