Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Video: Almost Killed with Kindness, an Overweight Pony's Rehabilitation Begins with His Overgrown Hooves

When World Horse Welfare farrier Donald Nicol first saw a Shetland pony named Haggis, he went right to work on his overgrown hooves. The pony's owners were prosecuted under British law for cruelty in allowing the pony to become so obese. In the video, Donald goes all around the pony and comments on his hooves before he starts trimming. (© World Horse Welfare photo)
We hear so much these days about emaciated, abandoned, undernourished and/or "unwanted" horses left to fend for themselves. But today we have a video of a pony from the opposite end of the (weight) scale and the welfare scale.

Haggis the pony was almost killed with kindness. In fact, one of his stablemates was euthanized. His owner was prosecuted in Great Britain for allowing a horse to become too fat. And for neglecting his feet.

World Horse Welfare took Haggis on as a project, and the responsibility fell on farrier Donald Nicol to return his feet to normal. I thought this video was excellent because it shows how Donald evaluated and then trimmed the hooves, as he is often called on to do in his job with the charity.

When Haggis was found he was riddled with lice, grossly overweight and showing signs of laminitis.

His feet were left untrimmed for so long that they had curled up and forced him to walk on his heels. As far as the charity could tell, he hadn’t walked properly for years. Donald remarks in the video that the pony's hooves may never have been trimmed in his life.

Donald has some good advice for anyone faced with providing a radical shortening trim of the hoof. Because the pony is not bearing weight normally, the muscles and tendons of the limb have adjusted to the deformity; removing the long hooves will leave him sore. You can see his left front twitch after the wall is removed, as the muscles receive a new set of signals for where the ground is in relation to the limb.

“His feet were curled right up with so much growth that he was walking right back on his heels," Donald said. "This forced him to roll his feet over onto the outside and made him twist his leg outwards, this put a great deal of pressure onto his legs, causing extreme soreness.

“It wasn’t just his feet that were affected; the problem meant that he had large muscle build-up above his hocks because of the way he had to walk to compensate for having his feet so long. It caused him suffering all the way up his legs, via his tendons, ligaments and muscle structure; it puts a big strain on all of the components of the leg.

“Once I had trimmed back his feet, it still took him a long while to get used to walking normally again. His feet had probably never been trimmed, so we had to give him pain relief to help him get through that until he got better.”

Thanks to World Horse Welfare, the pony did get better and is now in a loving new home, but it still took time for him to trust humans again.
Ramsay Duncan, a local vet examined Haggis when he first came in.

He says: “He was grossly overweight, a body score condition of 4 and a half, with 5 being grossly obese; you could barely feel any ribs. We needed to manage his diet carefully, so that we could gradually get his weight down. We needed to avoid high risk laminitis.”

Since Haggis’s ordeal he has risen from rags to riches and met Great Britain's Princess Anne, patron of World Horse Welfare, at the charity’s farm. His adopter, Chloe McCutcheon, is thrilled to have him on her farm to keep her other horses company.

The idea of prosecuting a horse owner for horse welfare violations by allowing a horse to become obese is not something we hear about in the USA, but the British have taken steps to make a legal issue of obesity, both because of the general health risks and for laminitis, in particular.

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