From the Foaling Barn


The Foundered Mare: Breeding Implications

Shiney (in the AirRide boots) gets her first adult companionship since she foundered in February. She's sharing her paddock with Jewel.


Our eight year-old mare, Shiney, foundered as a result of treatment for a retained placenta. Besides the founder (laminitis), she suffered damage to her kidneys, which complicated her treatment. To control the pain of laminitis, the usual protocol is to give the mare anti-inflammatories, which has the potential to further damage her kidneys. Although at times during her illness we feared for her life, eventually she began to improve and today she is relatively healthy. After the crisis was over, we were able to evaluate the damage to her feet. X-rays show that there was no rotation of the coffin bone in either foot, but in the left foot the coffin bone had sunk on the inside, causing her varying degrees of pain. Some days she walked pretty well showing pain only when she was turning to the right. But at other times she was quite sore at the walk. Part of the problem was that the part of the hoof with the damaged laminae was growing very slowly compared to the outside of the hoof, so that unless she was trimmed every two weeks, her hoof developed a significant imbalance which in turn was the cause of her pain.

Her progress to health has been slow and halting. Several weeks ago we had a setback when she developed a large abcess under her frog, which caused her extreme pain. She was so sore we were afraid she was foundering once again. Even after the abscess broke open, she still seemed to be in pain. However, x-rays showed that the coffin bone was unaffected. Within a few days, she improved dramatically and is now walking better than ever. But my vet and farrier warn that until the damaged part of the hoof is completely grown out she will be prone to more abscesses.

Which brings me to the biggest decision I had to make about Shiney--should I breed her this year of not. At first my vet was encouraging. By the time Shiney would bear any significant increase in body weight, the hoof should be completely grown out. But as her recovery seemed to sputter, I decided that I didn't want to take a chance with Shiney's health. She is a young mare and has many years of foals ahead of her if she is returned to full health. Also, I did not want to risk investing in an expensive breeding if there was any chance that Shiney might not survive her illness.

Because she is a well-bred mare (Shining Spark X Top N Final X Topsail Cody) with good earnings, and because her first two foals are showing promise, I decided that it would be worth it to pull at least one embryo from her. We decided to wait until she seemed to be stabilized to breed her. We bred her to Smart Spook, and flushed a grade 1 embryo. Unfortunately,the embryo did not survive in the recipient mare. So we tried again, this time to Gunner; no embryo. We went back to Smart Spook, but again had no luck. During this time we were trying to find the best way to alleviate Shiney's footpain--special shoeing, AirRide boots, lillypads, etc.

After three unsuccessful breedings we decided to call a halt, and do two things before we tried it again. We weaned her foal at three months to reduce the strain on Shiney. And we made a greater effort to control Shiney's pain. Our farrier and vet consulted and we came up with a plan of monitor her and trim her more often and to go back to AirRide Boots. We let her go through another cycle and then tried again. I also decided to change studs, to a younger stallion who I know has very good semen. We bred her to Spooks Gotta Gun and got an embryo, which took (we should have a heartbeat on it by next week). Then we went back to our original stud, Smart Spook, bred her again and got another embryo.

I'm satisfied that we made the right decision not to breed Shiney to carry, but, if I were to do this again, I would wait longer to try to breed her, until after we had weaned her foal and her pain was under control. The stress of her pain clearly interfered with her ability to conceive.

The Older Broodmare

Ice Cold Dunnit and BH Song and Dance

The last two Chatsberry mares to foal this year happen to be my youngest and oldest mares. They are both duns and if you didn't know better, you'd think they were mother and daughter, or grandmother and granddaughter. I've recently written about the problems of maiden mares, and right after I wrote that post, one of my two maiden mares demonstrated one of the problems admirably, by refusing to feed her foal. So I think you can understand, why I'm a bit worried about writing about my old girl. Like almost all serious horse people, I'm superstitious. But in the interest of education, I'll give it a try.

BH Song and Dance is twenty-three years old and is due to deliver her sixteenth foal April 13, although since I've owned her, she has been three to twelve days early each year. BH, by Be Aech Enterprise and out of Melody Jac (Hollywood Jac), is one of only a handful of mares to have won the NRHA Open Derby. Her LTE is $29,000 and her offspring earnings are in excess of $110,000. But if you saw her, you'd never believe these statistics. BH is a small, fine-boned mare, and ever since I've known her she as been significantly navicular. She shuffles along in the pasture, and she definitely looks her age. Last year, she had a foal in mid-May. We bred her once to Gunner with shipped semen and got her in foal.

BH is an exceptional broodmare, but I have a number of older mares, and while it is challenging to keep them going, with good maintenance practices and a little medical detective work, I've been able to get most of my mares in foal every year. A mare's peak fertility is reached at ages six or seven, and fertility begins to decline significantly after age fifteen.

Keeping a regular maintenance schedule, is crucial to keeping older mares in good breeding condition. All of my mares are seen by our excellent farrier, Dave Jacobson, every eight weeks. Navicular mares like BH especially need frequent trimmings. I also have three mares that require special shoeing to stay sound. Dr. Brian keeps dental records on the mares and we usually float their teeth every two year. However, I keep special watch on the old girls, because I don't want them to drop weight because of dental problems. Speaking of weight, I probably like my mares just a bit heavier than Dr. Brian likes, but with our extreme cold, I like a bit of extra padding on my girls. I feed free choice hay (a grass/alfalfa mix), Assurance Alfalfa Balancer, and oats. I adjust the latter two depending on where the mares are in their gestation, upping amounts substantially for the last two months of pregnancy and the first three of lactation.

Even when you do everything right, breeding issues become more numerous as mares age, including, cervical tears, uterine scarring and cysts, urine pooling, inflamation and difficulty clearing fluids after breeding, etc. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate many of these issues, including post-breeding lavage, Casslicks, hormone therapy. And if all else fails, there is always embryo transfer. A good vet like our Dr. Brian will be up-to-date on all the latest breeding technology. I also learn a lot from the internet--it's amazing what you can find on-line.

One of the best ways to make sure an older mare gets in foal, is to try to make sure she stays in foal every year. The more years an older mare goes without having a foal the more difficult it becomes to get her in foal. Mares are meant to have foals, and their reproductive tracts are healthier when they are being used as nature meant them to be. My little, navicular mare BH miraculously seems to become much sounder right before she foals and during the months she has a foal at her side.

Shiney Update: Shoeing the Laminitic Horse

Our mare Shiney foundered two months ago after treatment for a retained placenta. She's recovered from the acute phase now, but recently she has seemed to be increasingly sore on her left front. Last week, we took her into the arena, took off her Soft Ride Boots, and let her walk barefoot in the sand. It was apparent that on her left foot she was stepping first on her toe and then rolling to the outside of her hoof. When we turned her, expecially to the right, she was obviously in pain.

The next day, our vet, Dr. Brian Dahms, looked at her feet and determined that as her hoof has grown out, the inside of her left hoof, which suffered the greatest insult to the lamina, has not grown at the same rate as the outside hoof. Consequently, she was developing a significant imbalance. In addition, when she was forced to put pressure on the inside of the hoof, she experienced pain. The right foot appeared to be growing normally and was pain free. Brian suggested that we bring Shiney into the clinic to meet with farrier Blair Underwood, who does all the therapeuatic shoeing for the clinic.

On Tuesday, we hauled Shiney and her foal to the clinic and met with Brian and Blair, who suggested we use an EDS shoe (pictured) which would provide Shiney with a balanced foundation and support for her frogs. But most important, with the EDS shoe we could float the inside, short side of her hoof so that it would not touch the ground (the pad). The EDS shoe has a thick, rigid silicon pad attached to the actual shoe. Blair filed away about a fourth of an inch from the pad where it would have touched her inside hoof wall. He then put putty in the center of her hoof and molded it to the frog. When the shoe was in place, Shiney's weight would be supported on the frog and outside of the hoof with a gap between the pad and the inside hoof wall.

We will have to keep the gap free of dirt so that we can keep the inside hoof wall floating. Also, we will need to have the shoes reset every four to six weeks. Blair estimates that she will need to wear the shoes for about six months. The new shoes seemed to give Shiney instant pain relief. She is walking normally now.

I'll keep you updated as Shiney progresses.

Soft Ride Equine Boots for Laminitic Horses

When our mare Shin N In The Finals, began to founder (laminitis) after foaling and retaining the placenta, we were very lucky that she was already at Stillwater Vet Clinic under 24 hour monitoring. Her medical treatment began almost immediately. I saw Shiney about six hours after the initial signs of laminitis began. She was glassy-eyed with pain and reluctant to stand. When she did stand, it was excruciating to watch. I was amazed that the laminitis could progress so quickly, and I was fearful of what the outcome would be. Early the next morning, the vet clinic called to say that the acute phase seemed to be ebbing at bit. They wanted to know if by any chance, I had Soft Ride Boots that they could put on Shiney to ease her pain and support her frog while she stood. Fortunately, I had bought a pair of small boots for a navicular mare that we had shipped to Texas for breeding several years ago. I rushed down to the clinic with the boots. They fit perfectly and they offered almost immediate relief. Shiney has been wearing the boots almost continuously for a month now. At first we confined her to a stall, but as she has progressed in her recovery, we have turned her and her foal out in a run that opens off her stall. She still had a bit of soreness in her left foot that was apparent when we ask her to turn. Last week we ordered a new pair of Soft Rides, fitted exactly to her feet, along with orthotic inserts designed specifically for laminitic horses. She is moving even more comfortably now. If you didn't know the story you would barely notice any problems. I don't know how long she will need to wear the boots. It will probably be trial and error as to when we can take her off of them, and eventually she may need corrective shoeing. I do think the boots have hastened her recovery.


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