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Magic boots: 'Bonnie looks like a new horse!'

Bonnie in her metal shoes before we put on the Soft-Ride gel boots.Winters are particularly tough on laminitic horses. It seems like everything is more sensitive, their legs, their feet, their bodies. Bonnie, now about 28 or 29 years old, has worn front shoes ever since she foundered in 2005. We tried pulling shoes during the snow and ice season, but Bonnie always became sore-footed.

I think for Bonnie, the soreness comes from a combination of sensitive feet, old-age arthritis, and whatever damage laminitis has done. Bonnie needed the support of shoes. Lately however, she seemed consistently tender. I wondered if her feet were weary of enclosure in metal shoes. I worried that she might also be developing contracted heels, and that the metal shoe was not allowing the foot to pump properly, encouraging circulation.

I visited the Soft-Ride website many months ago, but balked at the approximately $300 it would cost to fit Bonnie with two of the boots, which though they come with a “normal” orthotic insert for $200, would probably work better for her with the special laminitic insert for another $100.

Soft-Ride had great measuring instructions, but the process was still difficult, not knowing if I was following instructions correctly. A measuring video would have been helpful. In hindsight, I should have commandeered an assistant for the measuring part. Also, I needed a stubby pencil to get around the back of her hooves, and of course, all I had on me was a normal-length felt pen.

I decided to commit to the order on a Thursday night, and added two-day FedEx ground delivery. What a waste that expense was. Monday would have been understandable, but the boots did not arrive until the following Tuesday. I suppose I should look into a FedEx refund.

Gregg pulls Bonnie's metal shoes in preparation for putting on the Soft-Ride gel boots.
After a pre-fit with Bonnie still wearing her shoes, I guesstimated that the boots would fit correctly on her bare feet. My goal is to keep Bonnie barefooted, and perhaps, if the boots improve her overall foot health, ever so gradually transition Bonnie to a mostly-barefooted life. So, Gregg pulled her shoes.

I peeled back the heel of the first boot, held my breath, and slipped Bonnie’s foot into it. Cinderella could not have done better with the glass slipper. The boot, a 7 Long, fit! I slipped her other foot into a boot, loosely closed the industrial strength double velcro fasteners, and Gregg walked Bonnie a few steps just so her feet could push down more deeply into the boot. Bonnie looked tolerant, but I couldn’t tell how well the boots worked. I re-tightened the fasteners, and Gregg walked Bonnie around the staging area.

All I can say is, I should have put these boots on Bonnie when she first foundered! (Did Soft-Ride even exist then?) Bonnie looked wonderful. No more “walking on eggshells”! Our elderly, lame sweetie took full strides, flexing properly through the toe, heel, and foreleg.  

Bonnie stands in her new Soft-Ride gel boots, size 7 Long.
Backgrounder: In the acute phase of Bonnie’s first founder attack, we bought construction Styrofoam, traced around her feet, and wrapped the Styrofoam to her hooves with duct tape. This was cheap, but the true cost was time and sticky mess. Those Styrofoam booties had to be changed about every 24 hours because they went flat and the duct tape wore out, leaving tape residue on Bonnie’s leg hair and hooves.

I walked Bonnie back to the barn, and she actually pulled on me, not vice versa! A client who walked by us turned, looked, and said, “Bonnie looks like a new horse!”

Like many horses in pain, Bonnie often displayed wrinkled nostrils, pursed lips, and a dull attitude. I do feed Bonnie our dried willow to make her more comfortable, but even though I have seen no side effects, I don't want to overdo it. It would be nice if she didn't have to rely on pain meds, just a nice natural, health-promoting solution.

You'll be glad to know that when I returned Bonnie to her stall, she stuck her head over the wall and looked around bright-eyed. I could swear she was grinning.

Read also:

Planning a diet for the laminitic horse

You can't spell laminitis treatment without team

(Bonnie is the star of Winning Bet, a clean horse read for 'tweens and teens by Karin Livingston, author of this blog.)