So apparently our dear friend Copper has been paying attention this year and has heard about how wonderful Joey is and how I plan to attempt to duplicate him this coming year by breeding Paige back to his father. He may have also heard me whispering about the possibility of selling him to a show home in order to keep BOTH of the Paigey babies…because, I’ll be honest, I have thought it, and I may have even said it out loud. Ever the proactive lad, Copper chose this fall to transition from a summer of wild bucking soundness to a subtle not quite right. I chalked it up to needing to be reset, and continued on with life. Then, back in January, the subtle not quite right started to worsen and I started to pay more attention. Some days he’d be completely sound and others he’d be off.
While this might signal urgency in most horse owners, after a solid year of NQR and having the vet out to investigate every weirdness back in 2016, it solicited more of an eye roll from me and an audible groan from my wallet. So, while I’d considered getting blood pulled to check Copper’s Lyme numbers this spring, it got bumped to the top of my list for the next vet visit.
A couple of weeks ago I pulled him in to be reset and explained it all to my farrier. He dug around and thought he found an abscess in his heel and carved away at it, but stopped because he hadn’t found anything (remember this). We decided to leave him barefoot because it would enable the abscess to rupture easier, and the ground was soft where we hadn’t had a freeze in a while, so it wouldn’t be too hard on Copper’s feet. In the back of my head I was also remembering that K had mentioned that his hooves were textbook for a horse with navicular, and that if I wanted to do x-rays, he needed to be barefoot.
So this began several days of me waffling on what to do. Do I wait and see if an abscess ruptures, call the vet and do all the things and spend all the money, check his Lyme levels, resort to a corrective farrier? So K told me to do a bute trial to just see what happens and after a tab of bute a day for three days, he was magically sound, even on the hard ground in my barn. Huh. So we determined that it wasn’t an abscess. After going back off of the bute, he was sore again, maybe moreso than prior because I made him trot on the hard as crap ground inside the barn. Whoops.
So, after talking with A about what our vet will say, and remembering how the front end lameness exam in 2016 went, I scheduled the corrective farrier (this guy does normal farrier work as well, but I’m calling him corrective farrier to distinguish him from my regular farrier) to come and treat Copper like a navicular horse or to just get him off his heels so he’ll feel better. Since my vet recommended special shoes as a solution to the last time Copper was off in the left front (I didn’t realize it was specifically the same foot until I linked back to that post…), I decided to go that route again to see what would happen. I decided to try a different farrier because, after talking to my regular farrier, he just wanted to put bar shoes on Copper, and from what I’ve heard, that can make the situation worse.
So, the corrective farrier came on Friday evening, and even up til Thursday night I was going back and forth between corrective shoeing and x-rays, etc. I tried to call the farrier on Thursday night to cancel because I just couldn’t decide what the right path was, but he didn’t answer, so I talked to A again, and she talked me off the ledge (as she has been doing for a
bazillion 10 years now). She reaffirmed that what I was planning on doing is exactly what my vet would tell me to do after examining Copper. Her opinion is based off of over ten years of using that vet and nearly 15 of using the corrective farrier, so her opinion is based in experience. She also knows Copper very well. So I didn’t cancel.
So, I really liked the corrective farrier. He was quiet with Copper, and I’d warned him that Copper can be an idiot, so naturally Copper was a gentleman (farrier’s words, not mine haha) and stood for everything quietly despite the fact that I now have FOUR busted skylights making noises in the barn. So now Copper is wearing shoes backwards on his fronts and is barefoot on his hinds still. He did square off his hind toes so that he wouldn’t clip the front shoes as easily. He said that Copper’s angles were good, and he changed a couple things to make them as perfect as possible and put the shoes on.
The way the shoes are on, they give Copper’s heels relief while changing the breakover of his toe. The farrier did say that where my regular farrier dug at the abscessed area wasn’t helping the situation and that the spot was very tender (which I’d noted when Copper all but flipped me the bird when farrier was using hoof testers on the area). He’s hopeful that the shoeing will provide Copper some relief until I decide what to do on x-rays.
I left him on a 1/2 tab of bute a day for three days. Sunday was his last night with bute, but yesterday he was sound with no bute and in the barn on the hard ground. He’s been on stall rest so to speak since Friday, but moreso to keep him out of all the mud and allow the spot to heal in a dryer environment. CF also instructed me to buy Kopertox and coat the bottom of his feet in that to help harden the area and keep him from getting thrush on top of everything else he has going on. The backwards shoes hold onto a lot of stuff, even more than regular shoes.
My game plan now is to turn him (and Joey who has been chilling stalled with him) back out since it’s not as muddy. I’m going to watch him to see if the soundness maintains out on pasture. If it gets muddy again, I’ll pull them in the barn again. If he stays sound, I’m going to start doing some very light lunging and build that up to see how he handles work. Of course, all of this is contingent on the weather too, because I don’t want to work him on the hard ground in the barn or in mud. If he holds up to work sound on the lungeline, it may very well be back to under saddle work. We shall see.
- If at any point he becomes lame again without drugs, we’re back to x-rays.
- If he goes under saddle and stays sound, but acts a fool as he did in his youth, he’ll likely be for sale, and will have x-rays prior to being listed.
- He’s getting his Lyme values tested again this spring regardless.
- If he has x-rays and is diagnosed with navicular this is the exact same route we would go. I don’t think I would de-nerve him or anything revolutionary. I’d shoe him to get him as sound as possible and move on, even if it means he’s just pasture sound and becomes a very tall, red lawn ornament. At this point if he’s only pasture sound and doesn’t hold up to work, I’ll probably still x-ray him, just for peace of mind/further clarity.
So…does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on handling caudal heel pain that may or may not be navicular? I’m all ears…and just relieved that my horse is sound now, even if it may not be permanent. I’m trying to be realistic and prepare for anything…but also hoping his heels were just sore and this will solve things? Also, I have videos if anyone is interested…