A Caution About Feed Induced Leg Deformities and Unscrupulous Trainers
Our filly, IM A TEE TOTALLER, the first foal out of one of our favorite mares OBESSIVE AFFAIR, was ruined by feeding a diet too rich in proteins and the over loading of the wrong kind of minerals while she was rapidly growing. The pictures below show the progress and the steps necessary to stabilize her, simply to save her life. We had sent her out in late January 05 to a trainer a three hour drive away we had not previously used to prepare for the 2005 World Show. We became suspicious when he kept complaining about her feet having a problem and because we were unable to travel there ourselves to inspect her due to commitments on our farm, we had her picked up at the end of May 05.
We were shocked to see she was barely able to walk off the van and covered in sores on her hips, points of her shoulders as well as her head. She could barely stand due to horribly contracted tendons which had caused her ankles to knuckle over and her feet to badly contract. In fact she spent 90% of her time laying down as evidenced by the pressure sores all over her body.
To us it is unconsciousable that someone who is supposed to be a respected professional would allow a horse to deteriorate into such a condition, or apparently not have the knowledge of proper feeding and care to prevent and/or manage such a problem in the first place. Additionally not communicating the severity of the problem to us and continuing to bill for training a horse that could barely stand, is just plain fraud.
The day after she arrived home, we took her the world renowned Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital where we were basically told that euthanasia would really be the best course of action. Her prognosis due to the degree of flexural deformity was considered very guarded. We chose instead to have the surgery performed that severs the deep layers of the flexor carpi ligaments, the proximal check ligaments and the inferior check ligaments so that her legs could straighten enough for her to stand comfortably to at least become a broodmare.
After the surgery, we used braces on her that were switched back and forth between her ankles and knees to force her legs to straighten and she was fitted with special shoes with wedges so she was not walking on her toes.
We are happy to report that our LILY (her barn name) is doing as well as can be expected as this is being written on September 7, 2005. She still has special shoes on and requires daily bandaging. We will be working on her for at least a year to try to grow normal hoofs. She does appear to have gotten through the worst of it at this time which can be mostly attributed to her kind disposition and unbelievable intelligence. The photos below were taken today and show drastic improvement over those taken on June 2. Her conformation is still obviously terribly upright, however at least she can now stand on all four legs and trot around a pasture like a normal horse. She may become less upright over time but will only be able to be used as a broodmare due to the number of ligaments that were severed just to save her life.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
1) Growth vs. what and how much feed a foal receives must be monitored very carefully. Feeds today are well researched and there are different formulas designed for each stage of a horse's life. Calcium/Phosphorus ratios are very important to balance in a growing horse. Alfalfa hay can be a the problem. Consult your veterinarian or a nutritionist who specialized in horses about your feeding program. There are also lots of reading materials and latest information on the Internet about nutrition in growing horses. Over feeding of our highly developed feeds can quickly cause a horse to spiral into growth related issues which will compromise its future usability as well as its life and well being.
2) Thoroughly investigate any new trainer you are considering using. The best thing is a recommendation from a friend you trust that has had luck with that particular trainer and has been happy with the condition of their horses when they were returned. If that is not possible, visit their property and check on the health and welfare of the horses boarded there BEFORE you send your horse. Ask to speak with some of their other clients. If they pass the first tests, while your horse is there, VISIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. Drop in unannounced a few times. Talk to the staff and make sure there is a good ratio of staff to the number of horses. A farm that only has two people taking care of 40 horses is not the place to send your horse. A happy well paid staff takes better care of your horses. Don't forget to tip the staff with money and/or by bringing out donuts and coffee or other food when you come to see your horse. They will remember you and which horse is yours.
LILY'S total vet and farrier bills are quickly approaching $10,000. Don't put yourself in this position.