Success in Oregon
by Sharon Williams

As a horsewoman of 50 + years and a small owner-breeder of Peruvian horses I have done much research into the causes and cures of lameness problems. Here are cases of three of my horses that were treated with conventional farrier and veterinary practices, and yet were not healing or improving in any way. In fact, in spite of the thousands of dollars spent trying to help them, they were declining at an alarming rate.

Horse number one is my 14 year old gelding diagnosed two years ago with a tear in the medial branch of the right rear suspensory ligament. The prescribed treatment was stall rest, three degree wedge egg bars shoes extending well out behind the rear of the cannon bone. Also support wraps were recommended on both rear legs, to be changed every day or so.

In the last two years he has gone from bad to worse, and several times this last year we had considered having him euthanized when we were unable to keep him out of pain, in spite of using "bute" above the recommended levels of dosage. When we turned to acupuncture for pain relief, it was helpful, but not very long lasting. This brave horse would rally, then start to decline again within a month or so. I was at my wits end, as this horse is a dear friend that has been with me for his entire adult life. Oh, I forgot to mention that he has also foundered in his front feet, probably from bearing most of his weight on them for such a long period of time. Also, his rear pasterns had become very dropped and enlarged, and his hocks and stifles were becoming extremely straight and rigid. The vets were telling me that he had DSLD and nothing more could be done to help him. Conventional medicine says that he would continue to decline until finally euthanization would be the end result.

This last January I stumbled upon Gretchen's web site ( and started reading it, plus related articles on the Strasser theory of soundness regarding the detrimental effects of shoes and confinement. The importance of correct trimming, lifestyle changes and movement to the healing or sound horse was stated over and over again, until it became very apparent to me that there were some things that I needed to change if my horse was to ever have a chance to heal or at least maintain some remnant of pasture soundness.

In early February I copied the hoof angle gauge off of the web, and my farrier and I pulled my horses egg bar shoes and did a modified version of the Strasser trim, but were not educated enough to go very far with it comfortably. Later that month, I attended a clinic given by Martha Olivo which really made a believer out of me. I had the good fortune of having Martha come by our ranch on her way to California and do some very exact trimming on several of my horses, including the above mentioned gelding.

His foundered front hooves were very tender, and Martha removed the bars and did some opening cuts, plus adding more hoof concavity than my farrier had dared. The rear hooves were horribly small, narrow and contracted from the years in egg bar shoes. She did some extreme modifications on them to help them to expand and get his poor wizened up frogs back down to ground level. Then she had me lead him around to see how he was moving. Within fifty steps I started to see the relief in this horses demeanor. He was much more balanced from front to rear, and was using his rear legs more comfortably. I was so enthused that I jumped on him bareback with a halter and we went on our first little ride in two years! It was only around the property, as this poor horse has much to overcome before he will be sound again, but it was so very uplifting that I cried like a baby. At last I had found true help for my dear friend. For several days after taking off his shoes and doing the Strasser trim, this horse would pick up his rear feet one at a time and hold them up for a minute, then shake them and nuzzle them with his nose. His hooves and legs were coming back to life! The increased circulation was causing the tingling sensation that we humans feel when a foot is waking up after being "asleep"!

Today, less then a month later, his fetlocks are losing the swelling and ossification and becoming much more normal looking. His pasterns are back up to almost their original angle, he is regaining the flexion in his hocks and stifles and traveling almost sound again. He is completely off any pain medication because he is pain free for the first time in several years! I ride or exercise him lightly for twenty minutes a day, plus he is out moving around and living a normal horse lifestyle. My farrier and friends can't believe the difference in this horse, and neither can I! I truly believe that this horse will, in time, become completely sound if he keeps healing like he is at the present time. It is truly a miracle to me.

Another gelding of mine tore a suspensory ligament during a bad windstorm a little over a year ago. The vets gave me the same diagnosis and treatment protocol. After six months of stall rest, egg bars, and wrapping with DMSO, etc., ultrasounds showed little if, any healing was taking place. After eight months, I started some hand walking, after which the horse would come up sore and lame again. He was acting strange when I took him out for his hand walking, and his first few steps after leaving the stall were un-coordinated. I was almost beginning to think that he had contracted EPM. (Now I know that it was because his legs and feet were numb from the shoes and confinement.)

Within one month of pulling his shoes, applying the Strasser trim and full 24/7 turnout, this horse is sound! He is racing around the pasture, slipping and sliding in the mud, with absolutely no swelling, or soreness in his injured leg. He was noticeably sore for the first week of turnout, and I had my doubts as to whether I was doing the right thing in the face of all the conflicting farrier and vet information to the contrary. Now I know that I was right to follow the Strasser approach to letting mother nature help this horse to become strong and sound again. After all, how was he to heal with confinement and shoes when there was little or no circulation to his legs?

Another mare of mine had a undiagnosed lameness problem that none of my three vets could define. Ultrasounds and x-rays showed nothing but a little fluid around the sesamoid area. Again, stall rest, wedge shoes and hand walking as the only exercise were recommended. This mare was not getting any better after about five months of this prescribed treatment. There was still heat and soreness every time she used that leg at all. After one month of pulling her shoes, applying the Strasser trim and 24/7 turnout with other horses, she too is sound and pain free! No heat or swelling in spite of the fact that she tears around the pasture snorting and bucking several times a day (in the mud)!

In the past, I have kept all of my saddle horses shod, plus kept them in during periods of excessive rain and mud. Now all fifteen are barefoot and turned out 24/7 with their pasture mates. They are moving better, playing more and their legs are tight and clean after exercise that used to cause edema or puffiness in the tendon/fetlock area the following day when they were kept shod. It is truly amazing to see the difference in their ability to negotiate the slippery trails and pastures that we have this time of year. They can once again FEEL their feet!

I have not had the time or circumstances to condition their feet for the rocky trails as yet, so will have to easy boot them for that type of riding this year. Next year we will have rocky areas in the pastures for optimal hoof conditioning, plus with the 24/7 turnout, they will have healthier, more natural feet, so hopefully will not have to have hoof protection of any kind. Never again will any of my horses wear a steel shoe or have nails driven into their walls. Never again will they have to stay confined in my "comfortable" 12/12 bedded stalls. We are planning some run in sheds for the different pastures as their only shelter from wind and rain. I will have to learn to adjust to filthy, muddy horses during the wet part of the year, instead of clean, glossy horses that need little grooming to be rideable But that's my problem, not my horses. They will be happier, healthier, and living the kind of life God meant them to live.

Thank you Dr. Strasser, Gretchen, Martha, Heike and all of the rest that have made me "see the light" so to speak and help my horses become Gods creatures once again. I am spreading the word....................people are starting to understand!

Sharon Williams
Rancho Casa Dulce
Sweet Home, Oregon

Note: Photos are provided for reference and educational purposes only, and are not meant to indicate guidelines for trimming. Every horse should be trimmed as an individual. Opinions vary as to what constitutes "correct" but keep in mind - there are NO PERFECT FEET, not even in the wild. Owners are cautioned to seek professional help for the trimming of their own horse's feet. Owner trimming of pathological feet is not advised. Photos may not be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way.

©2006 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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