by Keith Seeley [11/28/08]
Founder is reversible! Founder isn’t a problem with just the feet, there are many issues to consider and contend with surrounding the whole laminitis/founder issue, but founder IS reversible.
How can this be, when we have all been told for decades, if not centuries, that it can’t be fixed, cured or reversed? This is why many vets and farriers first response is to suggest putting the horse down. This is largely because vets and farriers (originally me included) are not taught enough sound pathology or hoof mechanics to understand how to reverse the affects of founder.
I was never satisfied being told ‘you can’t fix founder’. That statement never set well with me, nor did it ever make sense. So I never stopped learning or thinking about the problem and I strived to understand as much as possible so I would have the best chance possible to figure out how to reverse the damaging affects.
Thanks to Tommy Lee Osha and Dr. Robert Bowker, I learned a few additional things that filled in more pieces of the puzzle. Further work with Tommy Lee and Dr. Bowker and further testing on my own in the field helped me to zero in on how to start reversing founder and it’s affects, which helped me to start bringing back many of the affected horses.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly a walk in the park, there are so many variables to consider, among which are body condition, environment and nutrition, but very many foundered horses are capable of coming back. It has taken years to understand enough to start making a real difference and there is still so much more to learn. But we are making a difference and horses that were supposed to have never made it are out enjoying life that was once thought to have been hopeless.
Is this some kind of guarantee? Unfortunately not; after all, the horse has to have enough drive and desire to get better, among other factors. What can be assured is, as long as everyone does their part of the job to the best of their ability, the feet and the horse can get better.
What is the point to all this? Nothing, if there isn’t anything concrete to validate what we’re talking about. X-rays are not the best, or only, proof, but they are certainly hard to argue. This is one reason why x-rays are vital to work from in founder (or navicular) cases. We use them to determine where and what to trim, but we also use them as a ‘report card’ during the repair process. They tell us just how much more rotation there is to reverse yet.
What we look for is good bone alignment; NOT coffin bone to hoof wall alignment. The hoof wall is not a good structure to gauge against, because the direction and condition of the foot wall is dynamic, meaning the wall can, and does, grow excessively thick under the right (or wrong) conditions. It can grow forward, or it can grow horizontally forward out of the hairline. In short, it is able to grow in many directions over than perfectly ideal. This is why we gauge against an ideal bone alignment of P1, 2 and 3. This method has proven to be much more accurate for me.
It’s not very often I have the chance to work on a case where I have the luxury of seeing before and after x-rays, but when it happens, it’s a rare luxury indeed. So when we do have the chance, we are able to see the positive affects of the trim on the alignment of P3 (primarily) but all three bones as well.
Dr. Perry of the North Shore Equine Clinic on Long Island in New York was gracious enough to allow me to set the horse up so that she was perfectly squared up, standing on two blocks to keep the feet, legs and shoulders in alignment, and was kind enough to provide after x-rays in the exact same location and alignment in order to get these shots. I couldn’t have asked for, or received, better confirmation of the affects of the trim on the feet, bones and legs. This is why it’s vital to lower heels and back up the toes.
In the x-rays that follow, there is no trickery or smoke and mirrors; this is what happens to the bone alignment when the heels are lowered, the toe is “pulled back” and the feet and legs are as balanced as possible for that trim at that point in time.
These two x-rays are great examples of what we like to see. To help further illustrate the point, watch the two x-rays as they are morphed from before trim to after trim. It’s really amazing when you see it this way. Again, there is no trickery, no magic and no smoke and mirrors. It’s just the before and after trim x-rays, which were taken about an hour apart from one another.
I hope the x-rays have been a good visual for you and you get a sense of what the right trim can do for your horse. It can be a tough and daunting challenge, but if all goes well, if we factor in all the variables and if the horse is strong enough and willing, it’s possible to help these foundered horses get better.
I would like to offer my compliments and gratitude to Mrs. Claudia Domb, the owner of the horse in these x-rays, Maggie’s on-site farrier, Matthew Visser, whom has graciously stepped outside his normal comfort zone to try a new approach to founder, and to Dr. Perry for all playing a vital role in the recovery effort for Maggie. Every case and every horse requires that we all play our respective roles, work with one another and become one cohesive team in order to bring these compromised horses back. It’s never any one person who accomplishes success; it’s the entire team. So again, my thanks go out to the whole team who are helping to recover Maggie.
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to look over and discuss your case. Please feel free to contact me at 770-312-6909 or through my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.