It all began in 1999 when my magnificent Morgan, Precious Promise, AKA “Delta,” got alfalfa poisoning while I attended an equine seminar in Tucson, AZ, which resulted in laminitis. She was brought to the University of Georgia (UGA) with lumps all over her body, heat in her feet and rotation of P3. I had never heard of laminitis, and 14 years ago, a diagnosis was nearly always a death sentence. Neither vets nor farriers had much in their bag of remedies to do much about it. It wasn’t until Secretariat died of the hideous disease that research begun in earnest, and a fund was set up to explore the condition and find solutions and relief. Most vet schools today, as well as the International Laminitis Foundation, spend endless hours on finding ways to prevent and cure laminitis.
Horses don’t have a way to release fever in their bodies, and it heads right to their feet. The disease continues and spreads unless all four feet are iced continuously for at least 24 hours (based on the most current research of Australian vet Dr. Pollit).
I brought Delta home from UGA with nothing but pain medications, instructions to sand her stall, feed her no grains, only water and low sugar hay and give her no exercise. They also sent me home with a pair of Redden Shoes that didn’t fit and gave me no instructions. Her rotation continued and a few months later she was humanly euthanized and laid to rest here at Carpe Diem Farms. It was then that I vowed to learn all that I could about the equine hoof, lameness, nutrition and stress on horses. You see, horses can get the disease by eating grass or grass hay with too much sugar; they can become similar to a human Type II diabetic. Laminitis can result from colic (an upset of the balance in the gastrointestinal track) or stress. For example, the racehorse Barbaro sustained an injury to one leg and had stress on the others, and he actually had laminitis in all four feet when he died.
Had I known then what I know today about ways to treat, relieve pain and inhibit rotation with the proper support of the hoof, I believe Delta would still be here. Doing nothing but watching and waiting is not my nature.
While Delta was sick we were gifted with two beautiful Quarter Horses: Fasy n’ Easy and Sweet Pea, her daughter. Both had flat feet, another condition of the hoof. Both had to be kept shod in order to raise the sole plane off the ground, and 5/8’s of an inch of the shoe prevented stone bruising and their resulting abscesses. Whenever they threw a shoe they were lame due to the soreness of their feet.
My journey began in making cushions for their feet. I used everything I could think of: rubber, insulation board, pool floats - all duct taped on their feet. The farrier would come in a few days and put the lost shoe back on, and we were good to go again. That process went on for years. As Fast ‘n Easy aged, the wear on her knees began to cause severe issues with her ability to be shod. The banging of the hammer on her hooves shot pains up through her shoulders that were unbearable. I would have to give her pain medications for days before and after just to get her feet comfortable for another six weeks. In the meantime, Sweet Pea’s feet continued to get worse, she rotated and, she too, was unable to have metal shoes put on. We began gluing on aluminum shoes that just wouldn’t stay on, which resulted in more experimenting with tape-on materials.
While all that was going on with Easy and Sweet Pea, our pony, Little Big Man, foundered again while I was out of town in 2004. The stress of his founder and the caretaker not knowing what was going on made my Alpha Mare, Gracie, have a bout with colic, which resulted in her getting laminitis a few months later. These magnificent creatures were my teachers and gave me more lessons in the disease process and what to do.
Two vets suggested that I euthanize Little Man, but my connection to him (and him “saying” no) gave me reason to learn more and try more. I found a new farrier, Stacy Henson, who had studied laminitis extensively with Dr. Redden (the vet/farrier whose shoes I had been sent home with in ’99). He made no promises, but he was willing to work with Little Man to save his life, make him comfortable and get him back with his herd. He had been the favorite of all the children who came to camps, and they all drew pictures and wrote him cards to show their support. I papered his stall with them to give him healing energy. His good friend and the head male horse of the herd, Charlie Brown, stood at his stall hour after hour, encouraging him to get up. Stacy came weekly, and I cared for him and his hooves daily. We used a variety of home-made shoes, as well as Redden shoes, wedges glued on and more. We did our best to manage his pain. It is said that the pain is similar to having your fingernails folded back and ripped off very slowly. You can only imagine! (Little Man also had complications from Cushing’s Disease, so his calories, sugar, carbs, and medications had to be managed with his feet.)
About five months after he foundered (the result laminitis…interchangeable words), he turned the corner. Stacy was finally able to glue on some aluminum rocker shoes with a break-over to assist in giving him relief. Within 24 hours, he had a reaction to the aluminum and I had to pull the shoes! His system was too sensitive. Stacy then made him some custom-made steel shoes with rockers that were just like the aluminum. Luckily, they worked, and he was able to get back outside with his herd! Little Man was once again the favorite of the children with a joy filled life teaching many how to ride and partner with a painted pony until the day he died of complications from Cushing’s Disease.
As I said earlier, Gracie foundered in 2005 as a result of having coliced. There is a study about a line of Morgans that all died as a result of laminitis. Gracie was Delta’s sister, and, although her laminitis was brought on by something different, the results were the same. Gracie endured much in our quest to understand the disease and her stoic ability to teach me. Her treatments included a tendonectomy, cold-water therapy, a sling, Redden Shoes taped on daily and a hoofectomy. We did everything known at the time to save her. She was humanely euthanized November 30, 2005.
All of these horses taught me and Stacy so much. We have dedicated ourselves to creating a shoe, slipper and glue-on that will allow the impaired horse to be out of their stall with their herd, moving at least in a small paddock in the sunshine with their friends. I continue to attend every conference I can find and study the most recent literature, research and nutritional information.
September 3, 2013, we received the patent for Easy’s Slipper®. It took nearly 12 and a half years from the first homemade tape-on shoes to the more than 37 renditions while in the patent process to create our end product. The result is a glue-on slipper with rails and an adjustable break-over that can be used by most horses as a general hoof shoe or with a closed bottom or fill-in pad that can be used for therapeutic purposes: lameness, laminitis, white line, navicular disease, flat feet and injuries to the hoof. Every discipline can utilize the slipper, which provides shock dissipation and absorption, as well as protecting the hoof. Easy’s Slipper is the result of the passion I have for my horses and the desire to give them the best care possible. With this shoe, I hope others can extend the same care and comforts to their horses that I strive to provide every day for mine.