Monday, November 12, 2012

Dream of a Forever Home - Horses with Sore Feet (new blog post at

Dream of a Forever Home - Horses with Sore Feet
By Lindsey Partridge (formerly Forkun)

This past summer has been long and busy and we have had a lot fun and successful events. However, we had some struggles and challenges too. One of our challenges was with our horse Dream - she was struggling with sore feet.

Dream is an 8yr old ex race Thoroughbred. She came to us in April and we started training her for long distance riding. She was absolutely amazing because she was so level headed and very quiet on the trails. She was very reliable and didn't get excited - she was a dream!

We were really enjoying Dream until she started to get very sore feet. In mid June she had both front feet that were really sore. She walked very cautiously, and she only trotted if she absolutely needed too - like to get away from another horse. After another week or so she developed her first abscess. We treated the abscess with a bran mash and epsom salt poultice.

An abscess is an infection in the hoof. The inflammation and white blood cells rushing to the area in the foot create a lot of pressure inside the hoof because the hoof doesn't swell very well (unlike when you get a sore throat for example your tonsils can swell quite easily). Because the hoof can't swell, there is a lot of pressure and the horse gets very sore - it can look like the horse has a broken leg because they don't put weight on their hoof at all.

We used a very traditional and old remedy of an epsom salt poultice. This is 2 parts bran to 1 part epsom salt, with water to make it mushy. At first we wrapped this with a diaper, plastic bag, and duct tape to keep it in place - but after a few times of fighting with the duct tape we bought a hoof soaking boot which is so much easier (you just put your remedy inside and place the boot on the horse).

Dream's abscess healed, but then her other hoof had an abscess. This kept occurring where one foot would heal and then the other would become sore. We even tried leaving a 'barrier boot' on her to make sure the hoof was keeping clean and protected the sole.

This was really unusual because Dream is barefoot and trimmed by an excellent natural barefoot trimmer - so there are no nail marks from shoes for an abscess to get in, and she didn't have an hoof abnormalities. Other than sore feet, she was actually getting even healthier and gaining weight and getting a nice shine to her coat.

In September the abscesses seemed to have stopped, but we decided to xray her hooves to see what was going on inside. From the xrays we could see she has pedal osteitis and her coffin bone appears damaged - probably from her many years racing causing a lot of concussion on her feet. If we had known she had damaged hooves (inside) then we could have kept her to light riding, but we didn't known because outside the hooves look normal, and she didn't move like she was sore.

The vet's prognosis was not good - Dream could likely never be a long distance riding horse, with no riding on roads, and she should be kept to light work in the future only after having many more months rest. The vet did say it was possible for Dream to go back to being as comfortable as she was when we first got her in April but no guarantees as to how much riding or work she can do.

This was bad news for us because our trails require riding on some road or gravel which wouldn't be good for Dream even if/when her feet get better, and she wouldn't be able to have a job in our natural horsemanship program. Horses enjoy having a purpose and a job - it keeps them healthy both mentally and physically, so I decided to look for someone special to give Dream a new home and purpose.

To my delight I found the perfect purpose and person. Someone with their own farm and a couple other horses that were older and with sore feet, so they have experience caring for horses with sore feet. Dream's new job is as a family companion with potential future riding at the walk only on their soft sandy trails just for pleasure.

Dream moved to her new home at the end of October and she now has her own paddock where she doesn't get bothered by other horses so her sore feet are getting more of a break - but when she is ready she will get to have pasture buddies.

I couldn't be happier for Dream, and I am so thankful that with a little patience I was able to find the perfect forever home for Dream. (posted is a picture of Dream at her new home)

Learning this week: A simple treatment for an abscess is a bran and epsom salt mash. If the horse is struggling with sore feet then xrays can help you see what is happening inside the hoof, and if your horse can no longer do their regular job - have faith and patience because their next loving home could be waiting for them!

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