Radar was now sound on three legs and my hopes for a trail horse were beginning to break the surface again. I couldn’t wait for Radar’s next trimming appointment with Ben and Leslie so I could tell them that we only had one leg to go now.
By the time the day rolled around for that trim, I had been lunging Radar in the arena three times a week with lots of hand grazing on our long walks back to the barn each day. He continued to be rock solid on that left leg and would even warm up out of his lameness on the right leg at times. But that telltale head-bob when he travelled to the right and the slightly shortened stride of that right leg told me that we still had some work to do.
Ben and Leslie were amazed to hear that I no longer had any concerns about Radar’s left leg and the decision was then made to remove the glue-on shoe from this foot for good. He now had good toe and heel angles, lengths and, more importantly, the heels on this foot were directly beneath him where they belonged.
The guys were still stumped, however, as to what to do with Radar’s right foot. The toe angle was correct, and the hoof looked pretty good when viewed from the outside. Looking at it from the bottom we could see that there still wasn’t much concavity, but he was beginning to grow a toe callus. The inside heel on this foot seemed to be wanting to grow downward as it should, but the outside heel tubules were still growing horizontally with the pull of the toe wall, rather than vertically which would give him the support he needs.
After much careful thought and deliberation, they told me they wanted to make a drastic move and try something that they had never tried before: cutting a notch in Radar’s outside hoof wall, just in front of where the vertical heel should be in order to stop it from growing along with the toe wall.
I thought about what they were proposing for a few minutes. If it worked, this might just be the final piece we needed to bring soundness to my horse. If it failed, it would only set us back a few months, and we would continue to brainstorm from there. I said, “Yes, let’s do it,” and Ben got to work with his Dremel tool and hoof knife.
The final step once the cut was made was to fill the gap with the same adhesive that is used to glue on the shoe. Then they opted for the aluminum shoe, as this would give the foot more stability than the plastic one. Radar now had three beautiful, bare feet and one almost-there foot and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
I dropped back on the lunging sessions and chose instead to hand-walk Radar around the property when the weather allowed. It was now October and the rainy season was upon us here in Seattle, so this is downtime for us anyway. Because I wasn’t lunging Radar, there really weren’t any opportunities for me to gauge his level of soundness, but our walks around the property didn’t generate any additional levels of concern so I pretty much forgot about it.
Because horse hooves don’t grow very much during the winter months, we were able to leave that shoe on Radar’s right foot for 12 weeks before it was finally pulled and replaced. They weren’t sure, but my guys were hopeful that Radar’s heel would soon be growing in the proper direction. After his latest trim, they put on a fresh aluminum shoe and said goodbye for another six weeks.
Ben had to come back a couple of times in the next few weeks, because Radar kept managing to lose his one shoe somewhere in the paddock. What was interesting though was that each time he lost that shoe, and who knows how long it took me to realize that it was even missing from his foot—we have a lot of mud here during the rainy season—I never noticed him being at all sore or lame. He gave me no indication that the protection that he had needed so badly for this foot was missing, which is probably why I never looked. Maybe we were getting there after all.
Come back next week as Radar’s story is unveiled.