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Little Bit: Foundered Pony

Lil Bit in 2009 fat and foundered
Lil Bit 6 months later, trim and sound

    Little Bit is a small pony that was suffering from chronic founder. She was not getting the right diet or trims for quite a while and was not only fat, but also her heels were left much too upright by the farrier. She was turned over to me in mid-February of 2010, with "elf shoe" hooves, and large, lumpy fat deposits over her body. Her owner was no longer able to take care of her and I took her on to fix her feet.
    Here is her history. She was always sound until a few years ago she was given some grain and she began putting on weight, without a single, specific "founder" she was developing the laminitic rings on her feet. Eventually came the abscessing as the farrier, who will remain unnamed,  tried to shorten the toe, and leave some heel to alleviate the pull of the flexor tendon, which is a very traditional method of trimming for founder, and on larger horses would usually be coupled with a shoe. With these trims she became so lame she wouldn't even go out of the barn to eat grass, but laid around in pain. The owner was trapped in a cycle of giving bute to alleviate pain/inflammation but feeding too much of the wrong thing in an effort to get her to eat the bute. Abscessing was a constant occurrence, as well.
   I brought her to my place in February 2010. She had curling toes, really steep heels, with foul smelling abscess discharge and thrush in her soles and frogs. She was miserable standing, much less trying to walk, and this was on bute! A vet exam and x-rays revealed that she had a lot of rotation, a sub-luxated coffin joint (the bones didn't meet correctly in the joint) and pedal osteitis (the bone was beginning to de-mineralize and erode away from the pressure on her sole from the upright heels that caused the coffin bone to crush the circumflex artery, and the constant infections).  It was presumed she had metabolic problems such as Cushings Disease or Insulin Resistance.

Lil Bit hoof before
same hoof 7 months later
 Please take a moment to look at all the pictures on this page. The very top of the page was taken in December of 2009.  It's hard to see, but her fat was deposited higher on her back, so that when viewed from behind, she looked wider at the top with a trim belly. The fat was hard and lumpy and to quote my husband, looked "canerous". Now she's taken a normal shape, with the belly being wider toward the bottom and no hard lumps. I also believe some of the lumpy-ness was from muscle strain in trying to "float" and avoid foot pain.  She continues to look better, even under her new winter coat this season, she's much healthier looking. Note the extreme angle of her first hoof close up, and compare to the second and third hoof pictures. She's improved more and when I get a little time I plan to get follow up x-rays. She had a few mild bouts of laminitis over the summer, while her body was adjusting to new changes. She is now sound enough to be ridden and doesn't have thrush problems like before. No more abscesses have cropped up, either.
Lil Bit hooves 9 months after the before pic

  Another intresting note about her pictures. You can see how her hoof seemed to cover her whole pastern, like the coronet was rubbing on her fetlock joint in her old pictures. This is because her coffin bone had "sunk" so deep within the hoof capsule. The next hoof picture shows a little healthier foot/leg, with some pastern visible, but still knuckling over. Then, finally, her last hoof pic shows a complete pastern, and it's in line with the hoof like it should be; no more knucking over, no more "sunk" coffin bone!


  First, I changed her diet. From her immobility she was getting too many grains/calories and not enough hay. Her feed was given to her in such a way as to not encourage movement. If she hurt, it was all in a big pile in front of her so she didn't have to take as many painful steps and she was on Bute. So, when she arrived, I did allow her a little bute for a couple of days, and in the mean time, cut out the feed full of NSC's and put many piles of prairie hay out.

 At first she did have a hard time getting from pile of hay to pile. She blew another abscess and the stress from a 7 hour trailer ride was hard on her. But getting her to start moving was the hard part. I trimmed her the morning after her arrival and soaked her in White Lightening. I taped foam pads to her feet since the ground was frozen. The first couple of weeks was hard to watch. She did not want to move! She laid down hours at a time. She was in with our other horses after a couple of weeks, and they helped make her move while they all settled the pecking order. This helped take her mind off her feet and made her competitive for the hay piles, which also kept her moving more.

Then I started hand walking her 10 mintues a day. Then we worked up to 15, then 20. I walked her every single day, snow or not, often in the dark. When I could, I would walk her twice a day. Then about the end of March, I saw her trot with the other horses. Then I was able to "longe" her at a walk, and I often ponied her off one of my other horses. I can now longer her 30-45 minutes straight, and she canters and trots freely. She has even snorted and bucked a couple of times.She keeps improving.

I trimmed her every 2-3 weeks initially. She had a total of 2 White Lightening treatments and I put Equi-Casts on her once when the ground was frozen solid. and used hoof boots and pads other times. She was barefoot between workouts. I even used some Magic Cushion hoof packing every other day when she was tender and flat soled. Now she's at a 4-5 week trimming interval and I don't even use boots on her. She is careful over the gravel road, but I don't push her. She isn't ready for rocky terrain yet. She has developed some solar concavity, but she may always need hoof boots over rocks since her coffin bone had degenerated some, which means her foot won't ever be as strong as it was with a complete coffin bone.

 She was started on a supplement called D-Carb Balance for insulin resistant horses when she arrived. Later I added an herbal supplement called Smart TLC available from Smart Paks to alleviate inflammation and she has done very well on these. She also gets a hoof supplement and a handful of alfalfa pellets to help "wash it down". Now that grass is green, she is turned out at night with a grazing muzzle on, and is in a dry lot during the day, with hay spread in many piles. She is in with several other horses so they play musical piles during the day and she is exercised 5-6 times a week. She is 16 years old, but acts young again. She also had her first "heat" in a long time in May. She is not on any special treatments other than the supplements and grazing muzzle and the fact that I make a point to exercise her. She eats all the time, but it's grass hay only and she's completely drug free.

Hooray for Little Bit, a success story already. She was being considered for euthanasia last winter,just 5 months ago,  but is now healthy and active and the very picture of health. Look at that shiny coat!  Your laminitic horse can recover, too. It takes diligence on the caretaker's part. The exercise is crucial, as is regular trimming and a PROPER diet. Don't give up if your horse has severe rotation, abscesses and some bone degeneration. There may still be hope for future soundness if you are willing and able to provide the diet and exercise and let the barefoot trim set them up for proper mechanics!

Lil Bit running sound
Lil Bit being ridden