Friday, February 24, 2017

Rowan's First Bath (and a little help in the soundness department!)

Yesterday it was a bizarre and balmy 70ºF here in SE Michigan. I couldn't have asked for a better day to bathe the lovely, leggy Rowan, especially as she has been meticulously combing the field for the nastiest, stickiest, thickest mud to roll in since having her blanket pulled in this weather.

She stood like a pro for her bath, only protesting when I worked on de-crusting her sensitive flank areas. It took three applications of shampoo and four rinses to get her hair to stop oozing mud when sprayed with the hose! Like I said, she's very thorough.

While she dried, she enjoyed a lunch of hay cubes and rice bran, and after a while we went for a hand walk around the property, including over the trail bridge a few times. She certainly doesn't trust her own balance or footing at this point, but I don't blame her!

Since arriving, Rowan's feet have been a constant worry. She shows signs of significant high-low heel syndrome, implying some major underlying asymmetries (which are also blatantly apparent in her posture) and because her feet were so flat she also sustained some pretty heavy bruising on the frozen ground a when she first arrived, leading to what we expect is abscessing in her front left hoof.

You can see the differences in angle in
Rowan's feet, here.
In addition to the bruising, she has been generally sore on her flat feet. When a horse's foot is "flat" it implies that there is little-to-no clearance between their sometimes more sensitive sole and the ground. In the case of Rowan, when she was trimmed, the farrier noted that she is essentially walking on her soles. This comes from years of being shod, which would have held her up off of her soles, but the problem with this is that years of shoeing have caused her to have contracted heels, which means that her heels have developed a pinched appearance, affecting the anatomy both externally and internally.

Having contracted heels significantly restricts the circulation to and from a horse's hooves, so it can slow healing or even make the horse prone to hoof abscesses, and it often makes the horse's feet especially small, leading to greater weight distributed over a smaller area - a recipe for discomfort.

Luckily, earlier this week I was able to have our farrier (or barefoot podiatrist, technically) come out and work on Rowan. She was able to put wraps on her feet that cushion her, without being as restricting as a shoe. In fact, the next time she comes out to work on Rowan's feet she may even try putting a pliable synthetic shoe on her, beneath the wraps, in an effort to further Rowan's comfort.

If there is one thing I've learned with the rehab horses I've worked with in the past, it's that horses whose feet are sore lose weight - fast. Rowan has luckily been holding steady in her current state of
"skinny" but it wasn't until today that I really began to see a softening of the muscles in her body, showing me that she has begun to relax in her own skin, now that she is more comfortable.

It's going to be a very long road, for this mare, but I can tell you she's truly worth it. She is educated, unflappable and very, very sweet. We'll just have to exercise patience as she continues to recover in her own time!

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