Question: Hi David. I have a seven-year-old category B miniature horse that I rescued two years ago. He was 100kg overweight, had really over grown hooves, had already suffered laminitis twice and had the signs of it again when I first saw him. I had x-rays done of his feet when I got him and he had slight pedal bone rotation.
I am pleased to say now that he has lost the extra weight and is leading a happy life except when it comes to his feet. When my farrier trims his feet he trims them right back as he says this is what needs to be done, but this leaves him lame for a very long time and he will hardly move around the paddock. When his feet are left longer he is much happier and will canter and play around the paddock, will let my 3 ½ year old son ride him and will walk over stones and hard ground without any problems. Is it all right to leave his hooves a bit longer for his comfort? Will this cause any damage to his hooves?
Lisa, via email
Answer: Thanks for your question Lisa. 100kg is quite a lot to be overweight – particularly for a miniature! Great to hear you have him a little slimmer now.
When it comes to his feet and trimming, I expect your farrier is working with the information that the xrays have provided. Commonly with laminitic cases, xrays will help the vet and farrier to ascertain the angles of the hoof wall and pedal bone (along with the true position of the point of the frog) and an indication if the bones have rotated and/or dropped. Having this information will help the vet and farrier to decide between them the trimming that is most suitable for the long-term comfort and health of the horse.
When there has been some pedal bone rotation (as with your case), often the corrective trimming involves re-aligning the dorsal hoof wall (front of the hoof) sympathetically to reflect the position of the pedal bone and careful dressing of the heels as appropriate.
Ideally, the vet and farrier should agree on the best course of action taking into account making improvements to the angles (as discussed above) but also the comfort levels of the horse.
Often with chronic laminitics, a more regular trimming schedule is recommended and the initial trims might appear to be quite radical compared to other trims. Due to the serious nature of the condition, horses can sometimes be a little sore for a day or two after a trim. To have a horse sore for an extended period might not be in the best interests of the horse. If your horse is sore for long periods after each trim then I’d recommend discussing this with the farrier and also vet. It could be argued that having a horse sore for a long time might be increasing the risk of another episode and outweighing any potential benefits.
If after discussing your concerns with your vet and farrier (which I strongly recommend you do) you are convinced that the current trimming regime is appropriate then it might be also worth discussing with them some options for the comfort of the horse for immediately after trimming. This could include shoes, boots, pads or one of the other solutions that are available for this situation.
This question and answer was originally printed in NZ Horse & Pony Magazine, June 2010.