Tiki the Lionheart - A Transition Success Story

This is a success story about my husband's horse, Tiki. Barry purchased MV Mac Tiki when he was 18 months old and already over 15 hands. He matured to a nice, solid 16 hands. Tiki has a few conformation faults, including a hammer head. Tiki’s motto on his Facebook page is “Heart of a lion; head of a wrecking ball.”  Unfortunately, he is also somewhat base narrow in his front legs and has short, upright pasterns. These two faults in combination have caused various lameness issues over the years. When Barry started riding him as a 3-year-old, Jeremy Reynolds was his farrier, and so Tiki had the best hoof care available. When Jeremy moved East and Barry to Napa, Tiki lost his farrier. At the hands of a new farrier, Tiki slowly developed heel pain and reoccurring stress rings around his front hooves. He walked on his toes, his stride became shorter and he could not tolerate trotting on hard ground. My farrier tried different shoeing techniques but the heel pain worsened. I can't solely blame the new farrier. The demise of Tiki's soundness was the result of a combination of things -- shoeing, conformation, carrying a heavyweight rider and training and racing on hard ground.

Add to all this, a comprehensive lameness evaluation at UC Davis indicated inflammation of the digital flexor tendons of both front legs. I had UC Davis’ resident farrier shoe him (twice) and then laid him up until he got the green light to go back to work again. As soon as Tiki went back to work, the problem returned. This time the inflammation in his front heels was visible in his heel bulbs. As it worsened,  he developed a nasty corn. I had a heated conversation with my farrier about Tiki and then, in a moment of sheer exasperation, I instructed him to just pull Tiki’s shoes off and leave him barefoot. My argument was that nothing we were doing was working. Tiki was barely rideable. If Barry couldn’t ride him, then there was no point in shoeing him.

This image was taken January 12, 2011. The inflamed heel bulbs and stress rings are apparent.
The frog is dark, recessed and unhealty. This was the day we pulled his shoes.

The red mark on his frog is a corn. It took a long time to heal.
You can see how unhealthy the hoof wall is.

This is Tiki's left front foot a year later, April 2012. The hoof wall and sole is much healthier
and the frog is improved (still a ways to go). His heels are about 30% wider.

This is Tiki's right front foot. It has increased in size from a 0.5 to a 1.5 in one year.

The Results:

Well, if Tiki could talk, he would have emitted a vocal “It’s about time!” The difference was immediate. He was tender-soled initially, but his sand-based paddock protected him from any bruising. What I noticed right away was that he began to walk around with his head held in a natural position, rather than holding it up to “protect” his front feet. His shoulders relaxed and his walking stride increased. Gradually, the "swing" in his neck returned.

His first set of Easyboot Gloves included a size 1 on the left front and a size 0.5 on the other three feet. He now wears 1.5s on the front and 1s on the back.  His soles, hoof walls and frogs are healthy. Although he still has short, upright pasterns, they have dropped some and his hoof/pastern angle is more closely aligned than it had been. Most importantly, he was completely sound and Barry could ride him again.

Tiki back in action with Easyboot Glue-Ons.

Tiki’s a great horse. He has a lot of personality. He’s fun to take to endurance rides and he’s an awesome trail horse that anyone can ride. He’s 12 years old now and has a long, sound life ahead of him.

Footnote: Incidentally, Tiki was not the first horse I have transitioned. Bearcat was the first. I had pulled his front shoes in 2010 in hope of curing his tripping, which worked. But it was this experience with Tiki that led to all my horses going barefoot now.


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