OK, you asked for it so here goes...:)
Lakota is a 15 year old paint gelding who is some relation of Gabe's (Lakota's mother was Gabe's grandmother I think. Does anyone know what that relation is called?). He was born on RB's farm and has been with her ever since. He has had foot troubles pretty much from the start. His troubles probably started with either a genetic predisposition towards long toes or, much more likely, he had a low pastern angle when born as many foals do, they generally grow out of it within a few weeks. Since Lakota's feet are quite soft, they may have started to wear poorly right from birth. Proper trimming at a very early age would have corrected this, but left unchecked by his farrier, it set him up for a lifetime of trouble.
RB was fairly new to horses at the time of Lakota's birth and did what any extremely caring and conscientious horse owner would do, she trusted her vet and farrier to know and do the right thing. That is what we pay them for after all. What I have found is that many of the vets don't really know much about farrier work and that the farriers in this area are fairly competent as long as they are starting out with a healthy foot, but they don't know how to recognize early signs of trouble and can't deal with any sort of deviation or problem. All of the vets and all the farriers who have seen Lakota throughout his life (and there have been more than a few) have pretty much said the same thing, "it's just the way he is".
Looking at these feet I was not sure that they were wrong. These were taken 1/4/13.
These poor things look like they should be on a Platypus, not a horse.
Here is the worst part...His soles have nearly a 1/4 inch of convexity and absolutly no wall support. If you look close, you will notice a slight pink tinge to the entire bottom of the foot, that is from bruising.
Here is the foot with more of my line drawings. Again, the blue lines are where the foot is now. In particular, look at the blue line at his heel, that line is longer than his toe. It should be about a 1/4 the length of the toe. Also, look at where that line ends at "2", his heel is actually in front of his leg. The white lines show where a healthy foot would be. The lines at "1" and "3" should be parallel to each other and his heel should line up with the back of the leg, not the front.
Most farriers look at this foot and say, "the toe is too long and the heel is too low". They have, several times, "fixed" this foot by cutting the toe way back and putting shoes with wedge pads in the heel to raise the heel up and shorten the toe. Doing that makes Lakota immediately sound - for a little while. The problem is that the shoes and pads do nothing to treat the underlying problem and in fact, make it worse because the whole time they are on, the heels just keep growing farther and farther forward and getting more and more crushed. When the shoes finally come off, poor Lakota is so lame he can barely walk.
The misunderstanding between heel height and heel length is, in my opinion, the absolute, number one cause of trimming problems in horses. In the above picture, it looks like Lakota's heels are only about a 1/2 inch off the ground, but if you measure the actual hoof wall tubules, his heels are nearly 3 inches long. If his heels really were a 1/2 inch long, this would be a very different, very healthy foot. Correcting those heels is my main goal at this point.
Here is where we were at on 3/31/13. I didn't draw any lines here, but you can use the stripes on his feet instead, they will tell the story.
After I trimmed the feet above, I put on a set of equicasts to give Lakota some support, pain relief and to help stimulate growth.
We left the casts on for 3 weeks and I pulled them off on 4/20/13. We are going to wait a week and then, possibly, put a new set on. They are an amazing product that all horse owners should know about.
If you look very closely at the coronet band (where the hoof meets the hair line) you will see that from the hair to about a 1/2 inch down, the foot is growing in at a totally new, more upright angle. That is the foot we want and that 1/2 inch is incredibly encouraging to me. It is the very first sign I have ever seen on this horse of healthy hoof growth. The foot on 4/20/13...
...with more of my lines....this is very much a work-in-progress, but compare this to where we were on 1/4/13. Especially note that the blue heel line is now almost an inch behind his leg bone instead of in front of it.
I am trimming Lakota every 3 weeks for now as I did with Hawkeye for many months. We have extended Hawkey's trim interval to every 4 weeks, and if he gets to a healthy-hoof point, we may be able to extend that again to every 6-8 weeks. One of the really crucial things I have learned is that, extremely fast hoof growth in any one area is a sign of a serious problem. A healthy foot will grow evenly all the way around, will wear evenly and can go much longer between trims.
The last time Lakota had shoes put on, they desperately needed to be reset after only 2 weeks rather than the normal 6-8. Anything that gets trimmed and then seems to sprout back in just a week or two needs to be reevaluated. Nowadays, when I hear horse owners say to me, "my horse's feet grow super fast and need to be trimmed every few weeks", I see big red warning signs. There is something wrong there.
As I said, this is a work-in-progress. There is a long way to go and I am not certain that Lakota will ever have totally healthy hooves. At 15, I am not sure just how much his feet can really change. I am encouraged by what I see so far. It is going to be an interesting journey.
As there seems to be a lot of real interest in the subject and I find it helpful to me to write it all out, I will continue to post updates and some other thoughts on hoof trimming as we go, donkeys included. Their feet really are very different from a horse's feet and need to be treated differently. Stay tuned for more fun and excitement in the world of hooves. But don't worry, there will be lots of silly donkey stories, pictures and conversations as well.:) Diversity is a good thing after all.