I was not sure that this day would ever come as tracking down and interrupting the feed back loops between Domo’s old back injuries, his distorted feet from the appalling shoe jobs of his his early years, and his distress has been a long slow circuitous process. The first year was primarily focused on just getting enough hoof grown for him to be able to stand without pain, and it wasn’t until the second year we could really start on correcting the shape and balance. It was only about six months ago that we got close enough to the original back injury to really see how truly crippling it was.
He has the deep Thoroughbred drive to keep moving no matter what and I had to acknowledge that if he had not compensated for his injury and had actually let people know how badly he was hurt, he would have been horse meat in minutes flat. Some of that drive is simply horsey survival instincts, but Thoroughbreds from the track have seen all too many of their brethren sold to slaughter for faltering, so there is another layer of trauma and compulsion.
For most of this time as little as an eight of an inch has made the difference between a horse that was standing and grinding his teeth in pain and one who was happily skipping about, so I usually work on his feet with him loose in the round pen. That way I can rasp off any flares in the hoof wall, even up his heels, and then see how he moves. If he is off, uncomfortable, or his hooves are interfering and hitting each other when he moves then I can see if his muscles are spasming, something is out of whack in his neck or back, or I need to fine tune his hooves. And I can do a little bit every few days instead of having the farrier come every few weeks and do a lot. This is much easier on the horse and much quicker and more effective over the long term.
Once Domo’s body stabilized last fall, he decided that he was tired of having his feet messed with. He began walking away when I showed him the hoof rasp, but as long as he seemed comfortable and his feet weren’t chipping or cracking, I figured he could have as much of a break as he wanted. He was fine for few months, then just recently started interfering where one hind-foot was stepping on the front, as well as having a couple of cracks start in his front toes. So I picked up the hoof rasp and off he went.
I am sure we were a terribly entertaining sight as he was leaping about stomping his feet and shaking his head and I was waving my hoof rasp about and pointing at his toes and making loud emphatic and dire predictions of eternal hoofly torment if he didn’t let me have at them. He finally decided to come over and take the hoof rasp out of my hand, so we had another discussion about holding it by the handle so he would not cut his tongue or chip his teeth on it. Once he had waved the rasp around for a bit, he was satisfied to give it back, and decided I could pick up his front feet as long as he could see what I was doing. So I hooked his front knee over my front knee, showed him the cracks and began rasping away.
He watched closely for a bit, then decided this was a mutual grooming session. I was very glad my paddock boots have zippers not laces as he regards shoelaces as foul parasites that must be removed immediately at all costs. Once my boots passed inspection, he decided that the velcro tabs on my gloves needed to go. I was once again impressed with his precision, delicacy, strength, and purpose as he tore them completely and tidily off in seconds without interfering with my rasping his toes a bit.
Since we have had a dry winter and he has actually has very thick solid healthy hoof growth, mostly what he did for months was polish his feet until they were as smooth and hard as ivory. So I got minimal results for maximum effort this first go round. It was unfortunately quite clear I need to keep after his feet as they were transitioning into completely new growth and the last of the old distorted hoof was trying to split and break off.
Then we had rain, several days of slow quiet blessed rain that soaked into the ground and his feet. When I picked up his feet to clean them out after a couple of wet days I was amazed. For the first time he had enough hoof mass and enough moisture for it to be able to flex and pump normally as he moved. There was enough sole on the bottom to start sloughing off the old and for the first time I could distinguish all the parts of the hoof. Not only that, all four feet were symmetrical instead of lopsided, and there was enough moisture in his hoof wall that I could actually trim it into shape.
Thankfully he had once again decided that he appreciated having his feet worked on, so we struck while the ground was wet. I’d rasp a bit, and then send him around the round pen to see how it felt. If I didn’t have it right, he would come to a stop and hang his head down to his knees and stand there looking totally dejected. Then he would pick up and set the offending hoof out to the front or to the side, all the while giving me the eyeball to make sure I was paying attention. Then he would nibble on the high side of his hoof and eyeball me again. When I’d walk up rasp in hand, he’d raise it up for me to grab hold of and work on. We kept at it until his feet were all level, proportional, and properly angled. He was skipping about as soon as I got it right, and although he was a bit muscle sore the next day, is currently moving wonderfully.
I was not sure this day would ever come, and truthfully, I don’t think it would have if Domo himself had not been so clear and persistent in his own desire to heal. And while, no he does not speak English, he sure can get his point across when he wants to. My job is really to respect his self-knowledge and listen. And celebrate when we are successful.
My title comes from Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky. It popped into my head and seemed an altogether fitting metaphor for the lengthy twists and turns of this type of healing journey. We who are willing to set out then spend an awful lot of time wandering the tulgey woods with our vorpal swords and lost in uffish thought . Take heart for even though the journey maybe long and strange:
- `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
- Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
- All mimsy were the borogoves,
- And the mome raths outgrabe.
- “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
- The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
- Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
- The frumious Bandersnatch!”
- He took his vorpal sword in hand:
- Long time the manxome foe he sought —
- So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
- And stood awhile in thought.
- And, as in uffish thought he stood,
- The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
- Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
- And burbled as it came!
- One, two! One, two! And through and through
- The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
- He left it dead, and with its head
- He went galumphing back.
- “And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
- Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
- O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
- He chortled in his joy.
there are frabjous days.