I may well be fooling myself, desperately seeing what I want to see, but I did think that Commander looked a little bit – a very little bit – better on Thursday, especially in the evening (and why not, since it was only six hours since his midday two grams of bute?) in terms of moving with less stiffness in front. Don’t even think about asking him to turn tightly to his right; but he can walk in a large leftward circle without much difficulty. In fact, if I have him out in the barn aisle and need to turn him in the other direction, I lead him into whatever stall he’s facing (huge stalls; 12x12 at least) and make a loop to get him reoriented in maximum comfort.
Thursday evening, I had Commander out in the aisle for a good grooming session, with him tied facing a Smartcart to work on the hay in it while I worked on him. He indulged in his usual Smartcart feeding frenzy: burrowing into the hay down to the bottom of the cart, viciously flinging aside anything that was less than the best, scattering hay, even whole flakes all over the aisle; I was torn between "Gah, will you STOP that, you greedy monster?!?" and gladness to see him his usual attitudinal self. When I was done, instead of trying to make the tight turn in the aisle to get him back in his stall, I led him outside for a wide loop in the driveway.
Be darned if he didn't move out eagerly toward daylight. There's a six-inch step down to get out. Commander examined it, chose which foot to put down (his left), and stepped out without much difficulty, made the large turning loop (leftward) with no trouble, and hurled his head down to the stubby grass on the upslope back to the barn. I let him have a few mouthfuls, then twitched the leadrope, and he came back into captivity without fuss and with a surprisingly free (though still stiff) stride, having no trouble at all stepping back up into the barn.
In a conversation on Thursday, my vet recommended the Soft-Ride boots for Commander. They sound very promising, but holy guacamole, they’re expensive! It would be around $300 to fit Commander with them, including their founder orthotic pad.
A number of posters on horse forums had good things to say about Cavallo boots – about half the cost of the Soft-Ride, but would they be as effective?
Of course, if Commander is no better in a couple of weeks, this may all be academic anyway.
I'll update this post after I see Commander today.
Update, Friday evening:
Yesterday I thought Commander looked slightly (sliiiiiightly) better but worried that I was fooling myself. Today I do think he is a bit (just a bit) improved. When he chooses to (when there’s something in it for him), he can take large forward strides. Just don’t ask him to turn to the right, at least not in anything other than a great shallow arc, certainly no tight turns, please. Arcing left is far more comfortable for him, and that’s how I bend him whenever possible.
I’ve had a lot of supportive and helpful conversations, messages, emails from friends, and I am deeply grateful. Lots of advice, too, of course; and I absorb it all and apply what seems to be helpful for this particular horse in this particular place. Trouble is, of course, if you ask ten people what to do about founder, you’ll get back a baker’s dozen different answers. Which makes sense, when you think about it, since the disease itself is still so poorly understood, emerges from a complex brew of factors, and responds (or not) to a confusing and sometimes contradictory slew of treatments.
One point that’s been made is the need to get the blood circulating in those hooves, to help the growth of new hoof wall and sole. I do have Commander on isoxsuprine, but exercise is the best blood pump for a horse’s feet. On the other hand, too much activity when the laminitis is hot risks damaging the already tenuous connections in there; in any case, asking a horse to move when every step is painful is just plain cruel. The mighty Morgan’s stall is huge, fortunately; deeply bedded in twice-daily-picked shavings; and he does putter around in it. Since he went onto stall rest I’ve restricted his exercise to walking across the barn aisle into a spare stall, parking him there for cleaning (and yes, he does putter around then too), and bringing him back.
Yesterday's big adventure outside the barn encouraged me to consider a cautious expansion of his exercise, ever mindful of the fact that the ground outside the barn is unforgivingly dry and hard. I decided last night, if he looked no worse for wear today, I'd at least continue the loop-de-loop outings.
Today I was unavoidably late for the midday visit, so Commander’s last dose of bute had been at least 17 hours before I arrived. How’d he look? As good as last night, which is to say, cruddy but not entirely dire. He spent most of the next hour in Counterpoint’s two-windowed stall, noshing on hay or looking out the windows, but twice I took him out of the barn for the same sort of loop as last evening; and I did the same with him at today’s evening visit. Every time, he stepped right out, eager for the adventure, and today chose to step down onto his right foot – with a bit of a wince upon landing but not nearly the flinch he’d have shown a few days ago. And it was his decision, too; I paused at the step and let him pick which foot to use.
Commander was happy, especially on the grassy bits adjoining the driveway; he about yanked my arm off diving for mouthfuls. I actually led him in a double loop a time or two, just to expand the exercise. Going back inside, he took big strides. Clearly he enjoyed it, and I think it loosened him up a bit.
I don’t want to overdo things and set him back, so I will watch him fiercely and enlarge his out time gingerly. He’s scheduled for a vet visit to have his feet checked and pads rewrapped on Monday; if the signs are “GO” we will measure him for the Soft-Ride boots, get him into them, and see if that improves him enough to start putting him out for careful increments of turnout. That, of course, presents its own set of difficulties: The run-in structure is concrete-floored with partial mat covering; the apron in front of it is concrete; and the area to the side of the apron is hardpacked dirt and stone dust, almost as hard as the concrete. The paddock off the run-in would be ideal, still firm ground but not as tough on his feet, but he will go to his knees to reach under the fence to get grass, and we can’t have that. Heck, I’m not sure he should even have the grazed-to-nubbins grass inside the paddock; that alone might be too much for his fragile system. Then, too, we’re also in bug-stomping season, when the boys tend to huddle together inside the run-in, not moving other than to swish tails, stomp feet, and groom each other.
So it may come down to hand-walking. Lots and lots of hand-walking. Oh, well, maybe I’ll shed a few pounds.