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Geriatric Horse - Trouble Picking Up Feet for Farrier - Sling??

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  • Geriatric Horse - Trouble Picking Up Feet for Farrier - Sling??

    I have a 30 y/o Morgan mare who has enough arthritis in her right fore that prevents her from picking up that foot for the farrier or balancing on that leg to pick up the other front foot. The back feet aren't a problem. Other than the arthritis, this mare is healthy and still fairly active. Vet can anesthetize and lay mare down for farrier work but because of her age and arthritis we'd rather not. She has had trouble on a couple occasions getting up after laying down. I am pondering the possibility of a sling or any other idea. Has anyone built a sling? What did you use to hoist the sling? Are there any resources for renting a sling?
    Susan B.

  • #2
    Sometimes with old creaky horses like that they do better if you put the leg forward up onto a hoof stand. I then use my rasp to "trim from the top" rather than use my nippers the standard way from the bottom. It really doesn't take any longer. The only thing is that it's nice to be able to dress the bottom of the hoof, bars, frog, etc... but if they can't hold it up that way, what can you do?

    One other suggestion is to bute her up the morning the farrier comes and see if that help her. You can talk to you vet also to see if something stronger might be possible for farrier days that can leave with you to give. Last case, you can have the vet show up and work with the farrier to get her done.

    I've never trimmed a horse in a sling but I have done them laying down. it's not easy to do.

    Other tricks are to put them alongside a wall and see if they will lean on a wall for support. Typically I see that as more effective in a hind end problem though.

    Last, I'd suggest taking a hard look at her quality of life. If she's that painful for farrier work, she may well be in a lot more discomfort than she lets on just for day to day life. :-(

    Good luck with her.


    • #3
      A possible alternative - Instead of knocking the horse out the vet could do a nerve block to the limb so the horse could be done standing.

      Agree with DB, a lot of geriatric horses are more easily done with the foot forward on a stand and trimmed upside down. Harder on the farrier to work on the bottom of the foot, but not impossible. IME the horses seem to cooperate once they figure out you are trying to keep them be comfortable while you do the job.

      A sling with a chain hoist would be an option if you had an overhead structure capable of supporting the horse's weight, but the sling presents other problems - besides being hard on a geriatric horse's skeleton. The rafters in your barn are probably not suitable for that so you may need to engineer something.

      Work with your farrier. You may find that offering additional compensation might encourage your farrier to be more creative in helping you find a solution.


      • #4
        Hi Sue,
        At 30 I don't think I would worry too much about trimming on a schedule. If he ever has to be sedated for some other work just ask the farrier if he could be there then. If the horse is still active he should be fine.
        Charlie Piccione
        Natural Performance Hoof Care


        • #5
          Assuming quality of life is otherwise good, the nerve block in the bad leg is probably the best way to go. Be sure to give NSAIDS ahead of time too because the bad leg may be quite sore after the block wears off.


          • #6
            Banamine and a tiny bit of detomidine (0.2cc) works well for my old foundered pony. With that he stands well enough for glue on shoes.
            Originally posted by EquineImagined
            My subconscious is a wretched insufferable beotch.


            • #7
              My farrier has a stand that has replaceable parts, including one that serves as a "sling" for the horse to rest its cannon for trimming. I think it's called a "hoof jack" and the part in question is called a cradle.

              When my old mare was in the throes of EPM and it was hard for her to be trimmed, we'd do her in the stall, leaning against the wall, and I gave her bute beforehand just to make it that little bit easier on her.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                I would NOT block the bad leg! EVER.
                Be VERY cautious about doing that as she is protecting herself from more injury by feeling the discomfort. Depending on the severity of the arthritis and its location, very serious consequenses (sometimes life ending) can result by making her bear more weight on it that she otherwise would not do on her own.
                I work on LOTS of geriatric horses, some extremely arthritic .
                You must find a way to get around the good hoof without masking the pain in the other leg, for safety's sake. Long ago I used to help another farrier trim a very arthritic TB mare who's old knee had become extremely bent outward (varus) . By letting her brace the outside of that knee against the leg of a human leaning into her , she could stand on it for brief periods.
                But once when I was the "brace" and the other farrier suggested I try stepping away and let her stand on her own , the arthritis in the knee *broke*. That cracking sound was gut wrenching when that bone broke and it was the end of the mare.
                Sometimes if they really can not pick the other foot at all I use 'cow nippers', standing the good foot on a bit of thick wood plank and just whack off vertically around the edges then use a rasp and smoothe it as best as I can. Obviously the frog and bars don't get trimmed but it is better than nothing.

                If the arthritis is not as bad as the mare I described giving them some bute or banamine before the farrier arrives can help a lot. '

                As to picking up the bad foot if it is a joint that does not bend anymore, the farrier can take it forward and do it working upside down, foot set on the post of a hoof stand (as if for finishing clinches on a shoeing) It is possible to get under it and clean the frog somewhat that way. Not easy, but possible.
                Last edited by Patty Stiller; Dec. 20, 2011, 08:06 PM. Reason: typos again....sigh
                Patty Stiller CNBBT,CNBF,CLS, CE
                Natural Balance Certified Lameness Specialist ,instructor.


                • #9
                  I vote for pain reliever and balancing her up against a wall.


                  • #10
                    We buted for a couple days before, so she was easy on her scheduled day of trimming. I found she had MORE relief with bute over the couple days, than just given the morning of the work. Mine was more tight muscled, with some age issues, not really arthritic.

                    The wall suggestion for leaning on, is also something I would consider using while she is weighting her bad leg.


                    • Original Poster

                      I agree that quality of life is an issue. So far the mare seems fine but I watch her every day and her owner is aware that a decision may be sooner rather than later. The mare is on daily bute. Have tried Previcoxx. I feel she gets more relief from the bute. Couple days before and after farrier work she gets increased amount of bute. Interesting that some of you mentioned banamine as I have found she gets better relief with banamine given an hour before being trimmed. We do park her against a wall. We do bring her foot forward or prop it on a piece of wood. She tends to be a bit upright on the right fore. I feel like taking the heel (I'm not a farrier so probably not getting terms quite right) down slightly will give her some relief. There are days this mare trots around the pasture and on occasion still canters. Yes, she's lame, but she's still very active and involved with the herd and humans.
                      Susan B.


                      • #12
                        Can you find a farrier that has portable shoeing stocks? That's what I do for my mare. She is bad for the farrier and seems to have a balance issue and won't stand on 3 legs. She just lays in the belly chains and happily lets him do whatever he wants. She doesn't have to worry about holding herself up and everyone is kept safe. Heck, you can sometimes find used stocks in the $250-300 range. It might be a good idea to invest in them instead of drugging up an older horse each time. Then, when old Dobbin crosses the rainbow bridge, you can sell them and recoup your money.


                        • #13
                          Personally, as harsh as it sounds, I would be considering the "best gift" of euthanasia. A horse in this condition has a poor quality of life, regardless of how interactive they may be.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Patty Stiller View Post
                            I would NOT block the bad leg! EVER.
                            Me either. That option and the decision for or against it is the vet's responsibility. Since this discussion is all predicated on third hand information from a third party there is a good chance that the attending veterinarian has already ruled it out anyway.

                            I work on LOTS of geriatric horses, some extremely arthritic .
                            So do I. Somebody's got to do it.

                            Thing is, when we do this we have a "history on the horse" and specific knowledge of where the arthritis is located and the the ability to interact with the horse to get feedback on what makes them comfortable.


                            Not all farriers are capable or even interested in dealing with geriatrics.

                            If the attending farrier doesn't have the horsemanship skills and ingenuity and the DESIRE to deal with this situation, you are not in a position to advise or instruct. Anything you say will be an insult to the attending farrier.

                            If the owner wants a referral to a specialist in NC, here is my recommendation:


                            Ask for Martin Kenny and tell him Tommy referred you.


                            • #15
                              In extreme cases you can stand the horse on dirt and dig around the hoof deep enough to get a rasp around the edges. At least you can keep the toes in check and possibly the heels.
                              I have one that has been maintained as such for 2 years with no problems. Once in awhile the vet comes and sedates so I can get under him....it all works out.
                              Charlie Piccione
                              Natural Performance Hoof Care


                              • #16
                                Our old farrier Gerald was able to trim a 34 yoa QH w/o drugs or a stand. He had to bend over much farther and not lift the old guy's hooves very high.

                                I'd suggest Bute or Banamine at least an hour before the farrier comes. Or if necessary xyzaline. Except xyzaline does make a horse unsteady on his feet.

                                And you can try, after consulting with your vet, pure yucca. It is good as a supplement given daily to help old horses. I used to get it from the DAC company 100% pure. But when I recently recommended it to a friend for her old mare, I saw where the website doesn't have pure yucca anymore. I don't know if purebulk.com carries pure yucca.

                                At one barn I had a friend whose 17 yoa eventer had really sore hooves. Gerald the farrier had to shoe one hoof at a time, taking off one shoe, trimming, and reshoeing because the horse could not stand barefoot. He sometimes borrowed a towel from me to put under each hoof while he was working on the horse.

                                And check out soft-ride hoof boots. I learned about there here from eventgroupie2, and those therapeutic hoof boots are wonderful. You can leave them on your horse 24/7 and they don't rub. They cushion the hooves and you'll see instant results. Worth the money. I loaned mine to my BO's horse when he sliced part of a hoof wall off on wire.


                                • #17
                                  In extreme cases you can stand the horse on dirt and dig around the hoof deep enough to get a rasp around the edges. At least you can keep the toes in check and possibly the heels.
                                  I have done that too . use an old rasp because the dirt will dull a good one fast.

                                  PS...a lot of farriers may relate to this story from years ago. I was just a rank beginner farrier in my first year. I was hungry and wouldn't say no to any job back then(I am smarter and fatter now) I got called to trim a very arthritic old stallion (an own son of Skipper W) He had been great old horse but now had a terrible fused knee. The owner said just "get the rasp around the edges of it as best you can and only take it foward, never under him".
                                  I was agreeable to that because she knows the horse. Now she had this horse in cross ties AND had a stud chain under his nose that she is holding the lead. I asked why the chain, she says the last farrier bent his leg too far after he had been warned not to and this horse picked him up in his teeth by the collar bone and broke it.
                                  You think I was sweating that job? You betcha. But the old stallion turned out to be really nice if he knew he wasn't going to be hurt.
                                  Nowadays I can get around a lot of old crippled hoses that other farriers won't or can't do.

                                  I also do a lot of them with the foot cradled on the arch of the top of my own boot. That keeps their foot only about three inches off the ground.
                                  Last edited by Patty Stiller; Dec. 20, 2011, 09:03 PM.
                                  Patty Stiller CNBBT,CNBF,CLS, CE
                                  Natural Balance Certified Lameness Specialist ,instructor.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Charlie Piccione View Post
                                    In extreme cases you can stand the horse on dirt and dig around the hoof deep enough to get a rasp around the edges. At least you can keep the toes in check and possibly the heels.
                                    I have one that has been maintained as such for 2 years with no problems. Once in awhile the vet comes and sedates so I can get under him....it all works out.
                                    This is basically what we did for an aging senior here for his last summer/fall. He had come thru the previous winter just fine but as spring turned to summer we knew he did not have another winter of quality life in him....he was going downhill fast. I rasped him round frequently nice and tidy. Never asked him to stand for too long and lead him back out into turnout where motion kept his stiffness at bay. Sedation was not needed to get under him for a proper trim. This was not a long term solution but it gave him one last season and before the weather turned severe we euth'ed him.


                                    • #19
                                      We used nerve blocks and detomidine and banamine at one time with our old guy who has navicular and arthritis and a bad suspensory. Currently, we just use detomidine. Backing him into a wall also helps. Sometimes a horse needs a lot of help to make it through a trim. Once the feet are better, the old guy can tolerate a trim without all of the support.


                                      • #20
                                        You may consider if teaching her to lay down may work, as we did with this lame mare:


                                        You need to do it in a sandy slope, so laying down is close and easy and getting up not so far and so easy, not where it is flat and harder to get down and up.

                                        Blocking the foot should not be a problem at all, any more than a dentist giving us something so we don't feel the drilling.
                                        Blocking is done regularly in examinations, why not for working on feet once every few months?