Treating Founder (Chronic Laminitis) without Horseshoes, Section 24

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Anne "Tree" Coley's Palomino Case



Changes in right fore between September 20, 2005 and March 25, 2006
(All photos except the last one in this section courtesy of Anne "Tree" Coley)

What I personally think this case illustrates:
1.  Very weak laminar suspension of the coffin bone CAN be corrected.
2.  Just because a hoof is stretched forward too much now does not mean it cannot have its breakover brought further back as a stronger, tighter laminar connection grows down.
3.  Weak, cracked hoof walls can grow out sound once the hoof form and balance are corrected.

The first photos were taken September 20, 2005 when he was still under the local farrier's care, and shod.  He had a toe clip on one fore and a side clip shoe on the other.  Tree was told that only one foot was reset because he gave the farrier so much trouble. 

By way of introduction, Tree wrote me: "It was the barn manager that asked me to start trimming this horse.  I had already been trimming a number of horses for the owner of the facility, and several boarders' horses as well.  I had earned a good reputation there by successfully rehabbing a very lame Appaloosa mare that was developing ringbone as a result of long-term improper hoof form.  (The Appaloosa mare had seemed like a hopeless case because the owner had exhausted a long list of options.  They were considering putting the mare down when the barn manager suggested that they give me a call and try one more approach.)"  Tree thinks the reason she wasn't asked to trim the Palomino's feet sooner was because he arrived with front shoes, so the most obvious thing to do was to maintain him in shoes.  She also thinks it was a combination of his hooves not looking any better, and the farrier no longer wanting to deal with such a bad-mannered horse.  The management felt something else had to be tried.

The first time Tree 'met' this horse, she was in his pasture to trim a few of his herd mates.  She was walking up towards him just to say 'hi,' and he pinned his ears back and scowled.  So he didn't seem to be a very pleasant horse.  He'd stand still, though, vs. turning to walk off or charge at you. The barn staff would comment on how difficult he was while having his feet worked on, and how he'd kicked the manager when she tried to swat a fly on his rump.  He would make faces at the other horses, but was somewhere close to the bottom of the pecking order.  Out of all of the horses in his herd, he was the skinniest, so it looked like he might be a hard keeper.

Tree trimmed him a total of 6 times.  He abscessed in the left fore sole before she started, and once out the hairline to the lateral side of the toe in the right fore.  At the time the x-rays were done, he was not wanting to weight his right fore, and this shows in the x-ray.  The vet had a hard time getting radiographs due to this, but still managed to.  When she talked with the vet, they were concerned about possible bone infection, but the abscess wasn't due to any infection of the coffin bone.  You will also notice the toe cracks.  Those were growing out as better connected wall grew down, as well as some other cracks where the lower toe walls had deformed so much.

Tree was amazed at how quickly the toe profiles improved, considering how bad they'd looked before.  The growth rate was impressive, and you'll not that the early trims were at rather sporadic re time events caused this to happen, but it appeared to work in favor of this horse's situation.  He was out in a herd on 40 acres with access to boggy areas (below a pond dam) and streams to drink from.  She thought he found that standing in the bog made his feet feel good.

His owners moved out of state, and took him with them, before he was fully rehabbed.  However, he was definitely much improved in just a few months of better trimming. 

The following photos grouped according to dates. 

September 20, 2005:


Left fore, and Right fore

Note prominent extensors while shod

His history was sketchy at best.  Tree saw him soon after he and his 2 buddies arrived at the farm.  He was the only one wearing any shoes (fronts only), and had by far the worst hoof issues.  The other horse had flat, platter-like hooves, and the medium-sized pony (a real cutie pie) was on stilts for feet with a crooked front leg making her appear slightly bow-legged, and the hoof tilted to the outside, but neither she nor the flat-footed horse were lame.  Tree was asked to trim these two because they weren't shod, while the local farrier (a decent one with 40 years' experience) worked on the palomino's feet.  He appeared to maintain them 'as is' because they seemed unchanged from the time the palomino arrived to when Tree started working on them.

During the first trim he was really bad about forcefully snatching his front feet away with little warning.  When working on his hinds, he was tight and quick to kick as soon as he'd snatch them away.  His whole body looked tight, and it was a wonder he moved around as well as he did with such deformed fronts.  His hinds looked great, but they had been barefoot.  He would also balk on the end of the lead line, and have to be pushed to start moving again.  In the week that followed the first trim, the barn staff was concerned that he wasn't moving.  Well, it turned out that when they wanted him to move he wouldn't, but left to his own, he was moving.  Although his feet were bothering him, now he wasn't bothered to the point of not keeping up with the herd, or spending an unusual amount of time lying down.  The pasture offered the ideal footing for his feet with sod and sod covered bogs near a pond dam and then the water source was a nice flowing stream with a coarse, sandy bottom.

When she began to pull the shoes, and was trimming, she found a sole abscess.  Since she wasn't expecting to trim him that day, she didn't have her camera with her, so there are no photos of the first trim, which was done on November 15, 2005.  The feet were in much the same condition because the farrier had quit trying to deal with him.  Tree trimmed the heels down, bars as thin as possible, and backed the toes up only vertically, so the toes looked distorted and blunt...similar to the December 1, 2005 medial-lateral views.  At that time, there were no x-rays to go by, she was trimming by past experiences.  (Tree has been trimming professionally over 15 years out of Etowah, NC.)  She wasn't sure of the condition of the coffin bones, or if they were in good enough shape to support a healthy hoof form.

Second trim--December 1, 2005


Left fore


Right fore

Third trim--January 24, 2006


Left fore, and Right fore


More normal-looking extensors, and full body views

Around the time of the 3rd trim, he was becoming more relaxed and cooperative.  He was even starting to be a little hard to catch...walking off when he saw the halter coming.  When he formed an abscess high up in his right fore, he would stand when approached and limp if asked to walk.  Once the abscess resolved and was no longer bothering him, he'd balk less while being led, but more time was required to catch him.  Towards the last couple of trims Tree  was having to "walk him down" from behind the wheel of her truck, because doing this on foot proved to be a ridiculous and time-consuming effort.  During these times he was walking, trotting, cantering and galloping--with some bucks thrown in--and mock races with his buddy all over the 40 acre field.  While it was a bit of a pain to catch him, Tree was thrilled to see him moving that well.  After about 20 minutes of the starts and faux stops, he'd finally find a real stopping point, and stand to be haltered.  She was always worried that someone might think she was chasing him and report a case of animal cruelty.  He would still put his ears back a little, but his expressions were becoming softer. 

X-rays taken right before the fourth trim--February 6, 2006


X-rays, right fore, and left, taken February 6, 2006

Fourth trim--February 8, 2006


Left fore, and Right fore;
there were toe abscesses and cracks.


Right fore (3 photos), and Left fore,
showing abscess exits and wall cracks growing out


Full body views

Fifth trim--March 1, 2006


Left fore (first 2 photos), and 2 photos of Right fore


Full body views

Sixth trim--March 25, 2006


Left fore, and toe crack and abscess exit growing out on right fore


Right fore, and toe crack and abscess exit growing out


Full body views

His owners moved out of state, and took him with them, before he was fully rehabbed.  However, he was definitely much improved in just a few months of better trimming. 


At a clinic at Risa Couch's in March, 2005--Tree is on right.
Marilyn Gilligan on left, and Nancy Filbert in the middle.
(Photo, Gretchen Fathauer)

Anne "Tree" Coley has been a professional trimmer for about 15 years, working out of Etowah, NC.  She is a frequent contributor to the naturalhorsetrim email list.  She has tried a number of different trimming techniques in the past, but settled on the Strasser's as the approach that was getting her the best results.  She can be reached at

While Tree is not a graduate of the Strasser hoofcare specialist course, and was not following the method in terms of doing very frequent trims, many of the techniques she used she got from Strasser clinics, introductory Strasser books, and the Strasser textbook.

Tree is well known for her interest in dissecting cadaver feet, and has an extensive, growing collection of specimens.  I have photographed some of her specimens to illustrate other sections of my site.

I asked her to comment on what trimming techniques she was using, and her experiences.  She wrote:

As far as my history goes, I'd had a horse since age 11, and it always had shoes on all four feet because that was what I'd been taught...riding horses 'had' to be shod to protect their hooves.  My earliest attempt to trim hooves took place when I was 13.  A boarder's pony had thrown a shoe, and the hoof was chipping and breaking a lot. The farrier wouldn't be out for days, so I tried my hand at nippering off the ragged bits, and then some, using what turned out to be a pair of shoe pullers my riding teacher/barn owner had.  When the farrier came out, I couldn't wait to tell him what I'd done.  He looked at the foot, and said, 'Never do that again!'   Apparently my trim job was not so good, LOL! 

Around the age of 29 or 30, my interest in trimming hooves returned, so I asked the farrier we were using then if he'd teach me how to trim using one of my ponies as a guinea pig.  It seemed fate was playing a part in this, because some months later my farrier moved to another county and was wanting to re-organize his list of clients.  By that time he felt I was doing well enough to take over the care of my herd's feet.  I was also starting to think about becoming a farrier, to the point of signing up for a year long course to become a professional horseshoer.  Before I got around to sending in my application, I started hearing about barefooters like Jaime Jackson, and bought what was the first release of 'The Horse Owners Guide.'  While reading through it, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser's name popped up a lot, so that led to me also purchase her 'Lifetime of Soundness' book, and finding out that she and Sabine Kells would be teaching a 3-Day Basic Hoof Trimming Seminar in a nearby state (May 2000, in  Chickamauga, GA).  I signed up and went.  All sorts of light bulbs were going off in my head as I sat through those 3 days, and I couldn't wait to come home and start trying what I thought I'd learned.  By this time I'd been doing a form of "pasture trim" for 10 years, starting with just doing the horses and ponies that I owned, and then branching out and trimming horses and ponies belonging to other people.  When people find out you're trimming your own, you sometimes get asked if you'd be willing to do theirs, too.  While I was gaining experience, I still knew very little about hoof form or function.  During the seminar I was struggling while using my hoof knife.  For one thing, I wasn't used to using it so much, and for another, it was a bad knife in many ways.

My earliest attempts at doing a basic Strasser trim were quite bad.  I still have the first cadavers I ever trimmed from that May 2000 basic seminar to prove it, in addition to countless photos, and the memories of my horses and ponies beginning to avoid being caught if I was wearing my apron or had my trim tools in sight.  I also made the mistake of asking for a second opinion from someone with no more understanding of the Strasser methods than I did.  I was running into so many sore feet that I thought Strasser's methods had to be to blame.   So I went back towards focusing on Jaime Jackson's ideas, and stuck Strasser on the back shelf for the time being.

Over the months that followed, I started having frustrations using the techniques shown in Jaime Jackson's books.  So I wandered back towards Strasser, but was limited to her books and web groups.  Then a client of mine (Risa Couch) decided to host a hoof trimming workshop to be taught by a Strasser-trained trimmer, and I attended.  Since attending the Strasser 3-day Seminar, this was the first opportunity to watch and learn from someone knowledgeable about the Strasser methods.  So I started trying again to put into practice what I thought I'd learned, but still ran into frustrations due to my many mistakes.  Again, Jackson's methods began to appeal to me, but this only created more frustrations, especially in dealing with contracted hooves and foundered horses.  They would do well following a trim, but within a few weeks suffer a relapse of discomfort.  I would later realize I'd been trimming with the right ideas in mind, but too conservatively, in addition to my previous trimming habits falling into the mix because they were familiar and easier.  What seemed to keep me coming back to the Strasser techniques was seeing better examples of them being performed, in addition to seeing some progress in some of the horses I was trimming.  The learning curve was long, at least 3 years before I began to grasp the Strasser principles.  Then it was a matter of leaving the easier and less involved trim techniques behind for good, and adopting the mindset that I needed to do what the hoof conditions required.  That usually meant long hours of hard work for just one horse, compared to 15 minutes.

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