We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed….
This heartfelt story comes from Hoof Care Practitioner Vickey Hollingsworth of Clintonville, WI. Vicky says EasyCare hoof boots and Comfort Pads played a significant role in this horse’s life. This is a story about perseverance and hope. This story will resonate with those who have risen to the occasion to help an animal in need. Most of these situations are not for the faint of heart. Vickey tells her story about this very special mare that has touched many with her life lessons.
Libbey is a chronically foundered rescue horse who came into my life in 2007. It was a “love at first sight” kind of attraction and while her long term future was rocky and uncertain, it only seemed right to bring her into the family.
Her past was full of sickness, strange stories, and lameness but there was life in her eyes that I could not ignore. Her non-horsey owners didn’t want her anymore when they learned that what they had thought was arthritis turned out to be severe, chronic founder. They were not prepared to dedicate the time and money necessary for her recovery. I loaded her up and brought her home, not knowing if there was any hope. My vet gave us a 50% chance of her possibly returning to some form of manageable pasture soundness, but the prognosis was “guarded”. Libbey had been neglected for sixteen years and so many years of recurring laminitis left her pedal bones demineralized and fragile.
Once home, Libbey got her own paddock and run-in stall with soaked hay and nutritional support to start the healing process. My first purchase was a huge tub of bute powder that we unfortunately relied on often to give her relief from the pain. The next purchase was Easycare hoof boots and pads, which became a crucial part of her healing and recovery.
Over the months she became more and more comfortable and eventually became sound enough to go on short trail rides while wearing her boots and pads. She strides out confidently and happily and “owns the trail” with her big gaits and confident demeanor. One way or another, she’ll always find a way to get to the lead position and boogie down the trail, challenging others to keep up. The bute was only rarely needed for an ouchie day if she’d escaped her grazing muzzle, but all in all we had beat the odds!
Sadly, there was a monster in the closet just waiting for the opportunity to sabotage this blessed mare. Undiagnosed PPID (Cushings disease) sent her crashing into acute laminitis once again, despite a carefully regulated diet and over a year of amazing soundness. I can’t forget the pain I felt in my stomach or the tears hot on my cheeks when I looked at the radiographs and they showed all the new rotation. Seeing her in severe pain again and knowing what was happening inside her feet was almost too much to process. Every inch of ground we’d gained over the previous years was lost. For an hour I sat in the veterinary hospital with my head in my hands contemplating euthanasia. It seemed that Libbey’s clock had run out and that the kindest thing would be to send her over the bridge. I watched her standing there in the hospital stall doing her best to eat some hay and for the first time I truly felt alone. It seemed there was no more hope.
But the whole while I sat and stared at her, searching for my answer, I kept looking at her eyes. She seemed to say –don’t give up on me yet. I went into her stall and dug deep within myself to find the courage to make the right decision. I didn’t think I could handle the exhaustive effort needed to rehab her, if rehabilitation was even possible. The thought of months of frequent trimmings, hoof booting, abscessing, walking, hay soaking, etc. was overwhelming. We had a moment together and I felt like she wanted to keep fighting. At that minute I promised her that I would never give up until she did. If all my free moments were spent dedicated to her recovery, then that’s just the way it would be. My eyes were overflowing with tears as I stared at her Old Mac hoof boots in the corner of the stall and her Baker blanket hanging over the wall. The thought of taking her items home without her was too painful to think about and neither of us were ready for that.
We went home and started down the long journey – once more – to soundness. This time though I had another tool in my box in the form of a trim that would dramatically lower her heels and though it was risky, it was the only hope we had. Fifteen days after acute laminitis with 23 degrees of rotation, Libbey was 80% sound. The new trim coupled with her Boa hoof boots and pads kept her going . As we started the process of growing out a new hoof capsule….again. Amazingly, she never abscessed, and only made steady progress every single day. We surely would have lost the battle very early on had it not been for EasyCare’s hoof boot products.
At the time of this writing, it is one year past that incident and Libbey is happy as a clam living as a spoiled princess. She has not had a single day of laminitis or ouchie feet. She wears hoof boots as a preventative when the ground is particularly hard and unforgiving but all in all, I never would have imagined her recovery could be this complete!
Unfortunately though, life has a nasty way of reminding us we are mortal, and true to form, we were hit with another round of bad news just weeks ago. Libbey was diagnosed with DSLD, which is a genetic disorder in which ligament tissue breaks down throughout the body. She came in the barn one evening hopping on three legs after injuring a suspensory. Once again we were told her prognosis is “guarded” but then we’ve looked “guarded” in the face before and overcame. I dream of a way to petition the universe for immunity for this horse but we all know better. We will press on and continue to dream of a place without pain and reproach, without setbacks, failures or disease, all the while knowing it is only a dream.
Now, four months later, my sweet Libbey Belle is finally free from her pain. She’s out under the white pines at the back of the pasture. Everything went smoothly, and she was ready to go. By yesterday even her hind pasterns had begun sinking, the left front deep flexor had ruptured. The vet said it was only a matter of time until another rupture.
The universe is mysterious and gives us gifts at the most perfect moments. The storm that came up Tuesday night sent a wave of heavy downpour through Clintonville. The horses got stuck out in it before I could get home, so they all got rained on for half an hour. The rain water washed her coat and shined her up like a fresh piece of satin. Then yesterday the sky was perfectly blue, grass was green, and her dapples were shiny and bright! Her coat has never looked better or the color of it richer.
From the time of DSLD diagnosis until death was about 4 months. I really thought I’d have more time with her but I’ll be thankful for the 4 months. The disease was aggressive with all four limbs affected so I will be happy there was at least those last 4 months. The poor mare survived years of neglect and chronic founder, then Cushings disease, but this was the final straw.
I have learned more about compassion, discipline, dedication, heartbreak and victory from this horse than I could have ever imagined. From her I have learned that you never give up, even when the odds are stacked against you and the hand you were dealt is ugly. Sometimes life’s grandest lessons come from the animals, if only we can be still long enough to hear what they’re trying to say.
One of my favorite quotes: To say that death is the end of life is like saying the horizon is the end of the ocean.
There never really is an end, only a transformation.
Liberty Belle, Paso Fino Mare
Vet Dealer & Hoof Care Practitioner Accounts
I manage the hoof care practitioner and veterinarian dealer accounts at EasyCare. An integral part of my job is to stay current in all areas of barefoot hoof care, which enables me to serve this vital group of EasyCare dealers at the next level.