Tonight I sit at the computer, the savory smell of au gratin potatoes and ham wafting toward me. I can see from my vantage point Becky, riding the mare bareback in the luxuriant green field. All is right with the world.
But it wasn't always this way.
In April I noticed that Libby was lame in her back leg. I waited a few days but then called the vet. The next day I was extremely worried because she was now limping on all four feet! The vet came the day after that and immediately suspected founder, or laminitis. Libby went into the shed and onto a bland and skimpy diet of hay with a handful of minerals each day. I found on Dr. Google that grass founder happens when the hind gut doesn't digest carbs well, hence the inflammation in the hoof- think of gout in a human- so I added a probiotic and enzyme supplement.
Things looked up. Soon after she was penned up, Libby felt better again with no more heat or heartbeat in her hooves.
The farrier came. He trimmed her very short to help relieve pressure in her hooves, even though at that point she was feeling perfectly fine. After the trim she wasn't fine anymore. She was in excrutiating pain for exactly eight days. I had her on pain medicine and was massaging her to help with the stress. During that time we got the results of the radiographs (the first ones didn't develop correctly and we assumed they would show little to no damage anyway, as Libby had healed so quickly.) But the x-rays showed terrible damage to one front hoof and moderate damage to the other. So bad, in fact, that between the pain and the knowledge of what had happened in the bone of her hoof, I was close to putting her down.
Then on the eighth day after her trim, she felt perfectly fine again.
We decided to try one round of corrective shoeing and see what happened. It was a hard decision because there was a good chance the shoes would hurt at first, there was no guarantee that she would be sound ever again, even with the shoes, and they were expensive.
She loved the shoes and pads from the moment she got them. No more lameness whatsoever. Lots of galloping and jumping though. (Not with us on her, but still a good sign to see her want to use those hooves.)
And instead of being banned from the pleasure of grazing for ever and ever, which is what we expected her fate to be, she grazes all day and goes into the pen with her porky pony friends overnight.
I haven't been able to afford to have the vet come back. Libby threw a shoe a few weeks into wearing them, didn't seem to mind, and proceeded to throw two more. In the meantime, we rode the poor creature. She loved it. She wanted to go faster, but we held her back.
The icing on the cake for Libby's recovery was when our young friend came to trim all the equines today. She's an apprentice farrier so she was affordable, and the horses loved her. She liked the look of Libby's bare feet and agreed that since she isn't lame, we should feel free to ride and enjoy her.
Looking back I wish that I had not had the x-rays taken, and had had my own farrier trim her instead of the founder specialist farrier. But what's done is done, and my plan for our future is to keep an eye on Libby's weight and ride her as much as we can without causing lameness. I pretend that the x-rays are somehow wrong, since it's hard to believe that such a sound and fit mare has a fatal flaw inside her front hooves.