My introduction to minis came through clients of my herbal supplement business. Though I had been around and trained (and rehabbed) a few ponies, I had yet to personally get my hands on a mini (other than those that belonged to clients). Fortunately, a client who is also a very good friend is happy to give me a lot of advice as I have recently added a third mini to my pair that I adopted last year. Misty, who is “20ish” has probably the most appalling feet I have ever had to deal with! Thus, my needing much help and advice in the mini department.
Basic feeding and caring for minis isn’t much different than a full-sized horse…albeit a full-sized horse with sugar issues. From what I have seen of most minis, sugar and starch control is the top of the list of importance, though they are surprisingly sturdy little buggers! My “old ladies” are very affectionate, a bit ornery, and very endearing. And then came Misty.
Misty was given to a very nice family who knew nothing about minis and spent several years just being a pasture pet. It does not appear that they gave her much interaction, or any particular care during her years with them. Nice folks, just lacking in knowledge about what to do with this small animal they were given. They asked me if I wanted her (to join my senior herd) and I was happy to take her. She had foundered in the past, I was told, and is very shy and “bottom of the ladder” kind of horse.
Well, they were correct about the having foundered, but for such a little thing, she has a very big attitude! She is also still very cresty necked and toxic so the very first thing we addressed was herbs for detoxing and helping control sugar levels. A lot of progress has already been made in the few weeks at our home.
What puzzles me the most is the condition of her feet. Her heels are contracted, the hoof wall is twisted and it looks like she was allowed to severely grow out and not be trimmed regularly. Though the other minis' feet are not great, the way to fixing all this somewhat stumped me. Yes, regular trims and good food, but what got me the most was the total lack of frog! “No hoof, no horse,” they say, and I was really wondering how this little horse managed to walk on those feet!
My farrier was fortunately not busy the week after Misty arrived, and gave me some tips on “mini trims” in between her visits to keep these little feet on the path to becoming healthier. My big question was “where are the frogs?” For those who may not know, the frog is the softest part of the hoof and the main body of it sits back towards the heel. The frog is the “support” part of the hoof…a shock absorber, if you will. There are many arguments to the exact job of the frog, but a healthy frog is well known to be a very vital part of the hoof. So the question was, “where did this horse’s frogs go?”
My farrier, who is full of all kinds of interesting information, pointed out that minis who are bred for showing often have their feet trimmed to produce a cute high stepping action. This information was backed up and expanded on by my mini expert friend and client. Long heels lead to upright feet, which leads to a big prancey step. The long heels contract the heel bulb, which chokes out the frog until it basically dies. These are often referred to as “coke can” feet. This apparently has become the standard for trimming a minis feet, rather than trimming them as you would a full sized horse’s feet. Add to that Misty’s feet having foundered and had been allowed to grow overly long until the toes curled. You can see it all in the lines of her hoof walls.
So our goal: Get the feet to where they should be, like that of a small horse! Lower the heels, allow the heel bulb to “spread” and see if we can get the frogs to regrow. As she is a senior and her feet have been this way for a very long time, its going to be very slow going. Its also possible at her age that it won’t happen, but that is part of rehabilitation…aim for healthy, do our best, but be realistic. Her new “herd buddies”, Amber and Sandelee, are already showing much improvement to their hooves. They were also trimmed to “show quality” but not as extreme as Misty’s. They were also full of thrush and needed a bit of rehab but in the last 6 months have shown vast improvements. That is our hope for Misty.
It’s a long road to improvement, but we’ll get there one little snip at a time.
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