Thursday, March 24, 2011

Midnite: Mini's Back on All Four Hooves Thanks to Prosthetic Boot

Midnite is a miniature horse at a rescue farm in North Texas; he has lived his whole life with a deformed hind foot that is missing its coffin bone, according to the Rescue.

Have you heard about Midnite? His story is all over the Internet and television news shows today. This young miniature horse was a law-enforcement rescue case who hopped into Ranch Hand Rescue in South Argyle, Texas on three legs. He couldn't put his left hind hoof down because...well, because it just wasn't there.

Midnite may have come to a safe, new home, but even as he gained weight and his overall health improved, he wasn't cheering up and that was a challenge. Almost as much of a challenge as simple movements like laying down, or getting back up. Scampering around with the other animals in the paddock wasn't an option. He won over the hearts of everyone at the rescue farm, especially director Bob Williams, and Bob decided to see if they couldn't do something to help the little guy.

The first attempt was using a donated Soft-Ride hoof boot (thanks, Soft-Ride!), with its removable gel-pad orthotics. These rehabilitation boots are familiar to many Hoofcare and Lameness readers, and lucky come in a vast array of sizes--even tiny enough for a mini. They taped the boot on the stump of his pastern each day and removed it each night. The staff massaged him, and powdered his stub, and they learned a lot about three-legged horses, especially how they need to re-disribute their weight after a long time of not using one of their limbs.

Here's a YouTube interview with Lane Farr, designer of the prosthetic clamshell boot.

From seeing a bit of improvement with the Soft-Ride boot, the rescue team, led by Bob Williams, scratched their heads and wondered what a human orthotics designer might be able to design for a tiny artificial hoof replacement.

Enter Lane Farr, a prosthetic designer with a lifelong connection to horses and a way with carbon graphite and fiberglas and gel foam. Lane designed a prosthetic support device that he told me both allows the little horse to bear some weight on what passes for a hoof, and also transfers some of the weight to a passive load share state rather than the direct load straight down the bony column through the pastern.

Lane told me that there is no medical history on the little horse,but that the assumption is that the deformity is congenital--it was present at birth.

The support/weight transfer boot has been through a couple of stages of re-design and Midnite is now able to run with it on, as you can see in the AP video.

I thought you might like to see these other videos, which show the boot up close. I'd love to see the inside of the boot and the gel construction and will ask Lane and Bob if we might get pictures of that. They're both busy with reporters today, and I know how they can be.

Hoofcare and Lameness apologizes for the ads on these and all videos. They are embedded by the hosts and they're just there, sorry. These television stations and media outlets are generous to allow Hoofcare and Lameness to embed the videos, or to post them on YouTube the way that Associated Press did. Many won't allow embedding at all, which is why many great stories can't be posted on the Hoof Blog. But for those who do work with us--the ads are ok, even though I will probably never need an orthodontist in Fort Worth! It seems like the least I can do for the privilege of sharing videos with you.

This short video has some good close-up views of the boot.

Finally, a big thanks, hats off and high-five to Bob Williams, the Board of Directors of Ranch Hands Rescue, Prostheticare, and Lane Farr for all their hard work on behalf of this little horse. I know some people say, "So what? Why bother?" but I would remind you that these are real people, without a lot of money to invest in a single case and who are pretty much self-taught, who took a risk and came up with a successful, low-impact way to help this horse.

What none of these videos tell you is that Ranch Hand Rescue could use your donation to help Midnite and all their other rescued animals. Here's a direct clickable link to their PayPal donation page. Please help them out!

It is true that with a $14,000 price tag, this clamshell design isn't going to sold every night on eBay, but this story has received more press than any story since Molly the Pony back in 2008, and I can tell you that that story had an amazing impact on the way that people think about going the extra mile and burning some extra brain cells before they give up on a horse.

I'd also like to thank Bob and Lane for taking the time to return my pestering calls when they have way too much going on already. Like me, they think you all, the readers of this blog, might be the ones who can make a difference.

Please prove them to be right.

 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to

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