Baby needs a new pair of shoes

The one certainty in my life seems to be that when it rains, it is damn sure gonna pour. That point was most recently hammered home when – after months of peace, quiet and comfort for Anastasia – the gorgeous Missouri Fox Trotter greeted me for breakfast with a painful hobble instead of her typical sprightly gait to the gate.

We successfully conquered a particularly nasty bout with laminitis with a magical mixture of several remedies: A strict diet of hydration hay; a thyroid prescription; a daily dose of my own concoction of turmeric, grapeseed extract and other organic goodies; wooden clogs; and a dry, soft place for our expressive little angel to stand.

Ever since we made dietary adjustments and put wooden clogs on Ani’s tattered feet, she was trotting around, light as a feather in the wind. For the first time since we rescued her from slaughter in March, I really felt like we had a handle on her chronic laminitis and were on a solid foundation we could eventually entrust to the right adopter. I could breathe a sigh of relief and, most importantly, Ani could move about like a real horse.

Then came the rain.

It began with a trickle. We had planned to stop the thyroid prescription so we could get a baseline blood count (that’s another story). A miscommunication between the farrier and vet left Ani’s clogs on for weeks longer than recommended. Our first hydration hay supplier had a shipping mix-up and didn’t get our order to us before we ran out (our second and third suppliers had none in stock). While we waited for the hay to arrive, we temporarily substituted Ani’s feeding with low-starch, low-sugar alternatives. At the same time, we depleted the magical turmeric mixture that helped with circulation, metabolism and inflammation at a time when I was unable to whip up another batch; and a 30+-degree drop in temperature was accompanied by a good ol’ Oklahoma downpour. It literally rained.

It’s pretty bad when you’re hoping your horse is lame because of a hoof abscess. Another of our clog-wearing horses was down with an abscess, so surely that was Ani’s problem as well, right? Wrong. Hoof testers yielded nary a flinch, but I soaked and wrapped her feet with drawing salve for days, just in case. Nada. Ani’s laminitis was back with a vengeance.

One of the worst parts (aside from Ani’s pain) was that I have no way of knowing which magical remedy was responsible for her remission because all of them went kaput at the same time. Perhaps it was all of them combined.

The one silver lining of Ani’s condition is that it’s taught me so much about hoof care. If it weren’t for Ani, I’d never have tried the turmeric concoction that I’m positive helped with healing and hoof growth in other horses. And talk about wrapping some feet! If there were ever a hoof-wrapping contest, I’m pretty sure I’d be in the money.

My latest invention has saved us a ton of money and helped tremendously with Ani’s pain. She immediately goes from limping and gingerly poking around on her front feet to walking almost normally when I apply these boot inserts, which I make out of yoga aids and foam insulation board. I bought the yoga cushions on sale on Amazon for about $10 apiece, and a sheet of insulation board is $12 to $20 for as much as you’ll ever need.

To purchase a similar product, I would have paid nearly $100 per pair, with no idea how long they’d last or whether they’d fit. You may have that kind of money. I don’t.

If you’re interested, here’s a video of how I make the inserts. Every horse is different, so adjust for your horse’s needs and comfort level. You can either duct tape the inserts to the horse’s foot or place them in the bottom of a boot (that’s what I do).

DISCLAIMER: Please take proper safety precautions. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Wear a protective mask, as the foam emits an odor when heated. Don’t touch the heated metal of the knife.

One brief seemingly benign deluge was enough to slam us all the way back to Square One. I hate Square One. Square One sucks.

We’ve rescued and rehabilitated a lot of horses, but Ani is the first we’ve ever saved with metabolic issues. You can read and YouTube and listen to the best advice, but nothing can prepare you for chronic laminitis. Like diabetes in humans, metabolic issues in horses are insidious and terminal. They can never be cured, never be ignored, never be disregarded and never be forgotten. Just like an insulin-dependent diabetic, a metabolic horse requires daily vigilance and treatment.

Lesson learned. Again.

If it were up to Ani, she’d spend her entire day eating (like most horses). I joke that she’s the hungriest little girl in the world; and when she frets and whines and paces up and down the fence line watching you do chores, she can almost coax you into believing she’s starving to death – right before your very eyes.

But it’s not up to Ani. It’s up to me, and then it’s up to whoever is blessed to adopt Ani.

My hat is off to owners who have the fortitude to stick to a strict diet for their metabolic horses. Our vet mentioned having to euthanize a horse whose owner just ran out of steam trying to keep her ever-foundering mare comfortable. Most people can’t begin to fathom the dedication and compassion it takes to keep these horses alive and sound, which is why kill pens are overflowing with lame horses that require too much time, money and effort.

All I can do is vow to do better for Ani; and to learn something new from every failure so her relapses are fewer, farther between, and less painful. For both of us.

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