Saving Theo: Happy Feet For the Holidays

Candace Wade’s gift guide this year is simple: an informative guide detailing the long process of restoring the damaged hooves of Theo, a rescued former “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse.

New to Theo’s story? Catch up by clicking the #SAVING THEO hashtag at the top of this page.

One of the most moving lessons I learned in the rehabilitation process of saving Theo is the empathy the horse community has for each other. They are eager to share a successful remedy. We learn from each other. The results are my small holiday gift to those who have a loved one with a hoof problem. $8,200 and you, too, may transform a hoof that looked like this…

Photo by Candace Wade.

Photo by Candace Wade.

… into one that looks like this.

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An upswell of comments from “Saving Theo” readers offered a plethora of suggestions. I forwarded those onto Ed, Theo’s rescuer/rehab guy. Find them below with explanations of why they did or would not work to address the damage done to this ex-big lick show horse.

Theo’s hoof drama may not translate to horses that haven’t been shod with the big lick tactics. Ed offered: “Theo had/has complications of multiple infections and total disintegration of the hoof wall as well as a paring down of the sole so that the sole on the worst foot is so thin that the coffin bone is always in danger of falling through the sole.” That said, the following are some of the reader suggestions and Ed’s comments.

Readers’ questions and suggestions:

Pine tar/hoof packing products that contain pine tar: “Yes, we do use pine tar as the basis for hoof dressing. It’s an oldie but a goodie.”

No bute: “We don’t give bute because if Theo got to feeling pain free, he is likely to become too active and break off even more of the foot that we were trying to grow. Some discomfort is better than having the pain response deadened and causing additional injury as a result.”

Styrofoam block fixed to the hoof: “The weight of a horse on Styrofoam blocks is not a practical. Closed cell memory foam pads do pretty well for short periods of time but all of these materials cause the hoof to become moist underneath and moisture is the enemy when you are fighting white line and thrush.”

Many forms of remedial shoeing to give the support: “Theo had/has no measurable hoof wall on the sides of his hoof. There was nothing to nail to. Plus, covering the white line disease with a shoe is harder to treat on a daily basis. The shoe also holds in poop and dampish shavings, etc. Being without a shoe in some ways is ideal for healing the thrush and the white line, but not having a shoe on the worst foot meant that Theo was walking on his thin sole, which causes pain. If he put too much pressure on one foot or another, trying to relieve discomfort, he abscessed. When he was hand walked or turned out briefly, he wore a boot system with memory foam to keep him from picking up a rock or any other sort of irritant.”

No shoes: see above

No stall time: “Theo freaked out during a pop-up rain shower. He ran, hit the fence and injured his leg. This further complicated his recovery. He was manageable for the time being in his large stall. Horses that have been confined in stalls for years don’t always fare well in the pasture.

“The thought is, ‘Hey, horses are horses, they should love the outdoors.’ Some former big lick horses actually become hyperactive or fret when turned out. They miss the security and the dependability of their stall-bound routine. It can take a lot of time for some horses to get used to seeing a world all around them. Some panic and harm themselves over things that never cause a horse raised in a normal fashion to flip an ear. It is important to remember that you are dealing not only with the physical ailment but also with emotional issues that may not be apparent until something totally unexpected reveals behavior that you would never have anticipated. Saving Theo is a holistic (whole horse) endeavor.”

Reiki or massage: Not per se, but Theo enjoys grooming and gentle handling.

Source Micronutrients/seaweed-based supplement: “Theo is on a supplement regime specifically targeted to help with his feet while maintaining his body condition. Seaweed supplements contain selenium. Some soils are selenium deficient and seaweed supplements are very effective. Adding selenium to the diet in selenium rich areas can be dangerous for horses.”

Weight supported at the P3 (Palmer Angle): “Variations of this and the frog support below were used. Theo stood for two months in a kind of walking cast with weight supported and a frog support pad to relieve pressure on the toe after his rain accident left him dead lame. However, we paid for that with an increase in black goo from the white line disease where we couldn’t get in to treat the problem multiple times a day. His bandage system was changed and the pad reset every 7-10 days by a veterinarian working closely with the farrier.”

Myron McLane Frog Support pad: see above.

Photo by Candace Wade.

Photo by Candace Wade.

No expense was/is being spared to help Theo. Ed tallied some of the costs as a point of reference. The treatments following the rain accident alone totaled $3,000 — including x-rays, vet calls, casting and bandaging, farrier visits, a special drug that helped increase blood flow to the foot, etc.

Ed has been caring for Theo for 15 months. A conservative estimate for Theo-care including food, bedding, vet care, dietary supplements, farrier care, specialized appliances and related hoof care products, boots, memory foam pads, Epsom salts, etc. is $8,200.00. Theo’s four man team includes veterinary and farrier care by professionals with thousands of hours of experience with a specific focus on horses like Theo whose problems are not directly related to simple bad feet or poor foot care.

Horse rehabilitation is the work of angels — if one commits to the considerable time, effort and money a horse can suck out of one’s life (and retirement account). I love that Theo’s poise seems to say, “Hey, I deserve my angels.”

Happy holidays to all of you angels and your healthy, happy horses.

Candace will continue to follow Theo’s recovery. All of Theo’s stories are tagged #SAVING THEO and can be accessed by clicking the hashtag at the top of this page.

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