It’s a typical spring Sunday, warm sunny and inviting; just any given Sunday right? Perhaps not. This Sunday is about to become anything but typical and without warning. (Well, it’s seemingly without warning. Most likely there were signs all along but they were overlooked or miss-read.) The day has started out nice and pleasant. There’s still a touch of cool in the air throughout the day. Thoughts of spring-cleaning, yard work or leisure trips through the country roads dance around in your head. What to do, what to do? Those thoughts quickly vanish as you gaze out at your favorite steed. Your heart rate immediately quickens. Your breathing quickens. You adrenaline level increases instantly and you run to your horse. He’s a magnificent horse, and a good, well-mannered easy keeper. You’ve always thought he was good and healthy because he was nicely round. Yea, I know. Your vet and farrier have called him fat, but what do they know, right? You’ve always had plump horses and they’ve always been just fine. But now, something is dreadfully wrong. He’s standing in an odd place, not his usual comfort spot. He’s rocked back on the heels of his front feet; his hind feet are pulled under his body to help take pressure off of his front feet. He has pain written all over his face. He’s breathing heavy. You check the digital pulse in his feet and there is a resounding pounding pulse. You’ve never had founder on your farm before, but you know the signs of it from discussions with your farrier and from the descriptions other horse owners have described. Yep, this is founder! Now what? Your first thought is to call the vet. He comes out, probably gives a shot or two of one thing or another and says to keep an eye on the situation. If it gets worse, call your farrier to have him come out and put either egg-bar or heart-bar shoes on, cause that’s what they were both taught to do when they were in school. So you wait a week. No improvement, in fact the problem is getting worse. You call the farrier and after a good struggle he applies heart-bar shoes. “This’ll fix ‘er up Ma’am. If it don’t, you might need to get the vet back out here,” he says. Well, the shoes seem to help, at least for about a week then the problem returns, only worse this time.
You’re about two weeks into the founder episode. Your horse is now lying down, probably sweating, probably not too interested in eating or drinking. You’re frantic. You don’t know what to do to help. Your thoughts turn from one direction to another. You have both the vet and the farrier back out. The farrier finds abscesses under the toes of the sole and the vet is likely the one who digs them out, if there’s anything left to dig. He most likely administers more pain medicine and the farrier tries a different type of shoe, a more complex shoe system because it’s a system the ‘experts’ have put a lot of faith in. There was a great struggle to get the old shoes off and the new ones on, but a few hours later and a good bit of pain, sweat and tears, the farrier has managed to do a beautiful job with this more expensive shoe system. Low and behold, it seems to work. The horse is standing, eating and drinking and all seems to be well. Both the vet and farrier are happy and patting themselves on the back, but are kind enough to tell you that if your horse re-founders within the next couple of weeks that you may have to consider the big “E”. But your brain can’t think about that right now. You’re happy that your horse is standing reasonably comfortably for the first time is three weeks.
Three or four days pass and your trusted steed is in even more pain that ever before. Most likely, both vet and farrier have said that nothing more can be done and you really should put your horse down. When the age-old treatments and the new products don’t work, there’s just not much more that can be done, at least not with any favorable results. That’s their take on the matter anyway.
If you’re the average horse owner, you certainly can’t stand to see your poor horse in such horrible pain. You’re mind isn’t thinking clearly and you’ve been worried sick over this for weeks. You are torn inside not knowing what to do. Often times, horse owners are lead down this path and they wind up terminating the life of their trusted friend. Luckily, you’re not the average horse owner. You’re a thinker, you’re a fighter and so is your horse. You just know it. The horses’ eyes tell you so much. He’s telling you he’s not ready to go, but he sure does need help and fast. For the past week, you’ve been researching all you can about founder on the Internet. You’re gaining some insight, but not enough to know just what to do yet. You are desperate, but not down and out. You have started learning that there are ways of working with foundered horses without shoes. You have joined a founder support group on the Internet and you have been offered so much support and advise. You still don’t know what to do. You’re at your wits end and your poor horse is still in terrible pain.
With some help from your supporters on the Internet, you come across someone who seems to be able to tell you every step you’ve taken and is able to tell you the result of just about every attempt. You’re surprised and impressed and starting to believe there might be someone out there who understands this debilitating ‘disease’. This person starts offering some information, some advise and some comforting support. All the information starts to make sense and sounds logical. The more information that’s passed to you the more it seems to make sense, and it’s going to require the help of you, your vet and your farrier and they are going to have to think beyond their training; think ‘outside the box’, as it were. But there’s a problem. Your vet and farrier have both told you the horse was done, he didn’t respond to the best known, most widely used founder treatments and you now have to try to work with these classically trained on-sight professionals based on this new information. Are they going to be open-minded? Are they going to be willing to perform the necessary work according to this new protocol? Let’s hope so, but often times they won’t. So what is this new protocol? What is it about this new information that seems to make so much sense? Why is it that this person is able to succeed where others have failed? So many questions, but your gut tells you to try this new method. After all, what do you have to loose but a dear and trusted friend?
The scenario you just read isn’t all that unusual, but there are many different variations of the same story. It’s very disheartening. The problem seemed to come from out of nowhere and all of a sudden. But did it? Founder usually doesn’t ‘just happen’ and it usually culminates over time. It is most often the result of any number of combined issues that, each by themselves, would not cause a horse to founder, but when combined, they create the perfect recipe for disaster. For instance, excess weight on the horse isn’t always a factor, but it rarely ever helps. Spring and spring grass isn’t always a factor even though it has been blamed for decades for causing founder. Shoes don’t always make the situation worse, but I’ve had much more success by performing carefully tailored trims and virtually never had full success with shoes. By doing some careful background investigating, many of the pieces of the puzzle that caused the founder can come together and can help start creating the ‘picture’, which helps you to see that there were signs of potential problems present for some time. Learning to read these signs can certainly help to prevent any future problems once the founder issue has been reversed and resolved. Band-aiding rarely ever cures the problem, nor can it offer any guarantee that this new founder situation won’t become a chronic founder case.,
I wrote the following article, not to give you specific data or treatments for your specific founder case, (there are too many variables to take into account and addressing all of them would fill an encyclopedia) but more from a generalized standpoint to provide you with information about founder, based on my experiences and the research I have been involved with. There truly are too many variables surrounding each founder case to list in this article. I have also written this article for the average horse owner, not learned vets or farriers. I didn’t use lots of big, confusing Latin words so that you can focus more on the logic and common sense, and less on the dictionary. The information within this article is meant to be thought provoking and hopefully will help you identify and / or treat your founder case with a clearer insight and a more open mind to the understanding that founder isn’t just an issue with the feet, but the whole body and everything impacting it. Founder no longer needs to be the life-long debilitating condition it once was. There IS hope for foundered horses today. Please continue reading to learn more.