Last Chances

Last Chances … the “last chance” horse – such a challenging job for a barefoot trimmer. When someone has ‘tried everything else’ for his or her horse without any success, many times that’s the time the trimmer is called in.

These challenging cases are the ones that make the trimmer think and assess and instill the need for some serious creative 'therapies'. Those are the times where all stops are pulled and all ‘methods’ of hoofcare are employed as indicated the need for them by the horse and his hooves.  

I always enjoyed the challenges. Specializing in pathological situations for over 15 years brought some pretty interesting situations at times. 

I remember one case -- I had been called in to remove the shoes because the horse was seriously lame and had not been able to get any relief from other hoof tenders before me. I was called in as a 'last resort'.

I pulled the shoe from the right front of the horse, started to clean with the hoofpick and BOOM! The hoof seemingly exploded in a mess of pus and blood everywhere!  I hadn't even taken my rasp or knife out of my toolbox. Just the hoofpick.  Man, it was a nasty abscess that blew.

Well, I'll tell you what -- that horse felt a whole lot better after all that junk volcanoed out of the sole of his hoof!  

The 'treatment' was easy and the "recovery" non-eventful. We soaked, we treated with Calendula flushes, popped some homeopathic silicea into his lip, bandaged and booted the hoof. The horse walked off in obvious relief. I instructed the owner to remove the bandage in 24 hours. When he did, the vent was almost completely closed up and the horse was moving soundly. 

That guy was an ‘easy fix’. He healed up just fine and was walking over rocks as if they were cotton balls in warp time.

The ability for the equine hooves to remediate and heal themselves is really remarkable!  

If a horse perforates the coffin bone down through the sole, exposing the sensitive corium, that hoof will 'grow' a protective covering over the perforation, literally, overnight. I've seen a number of cases that did just that.  That's not to minimize the critical state of the horse and hoof at the point in time of perforation. It’s not to say that every horse that perforates his sole will recover, either. A perforation of the coffin bone through the sole is extremely serious. Generally considered a lost cause most horses are euthanized at the point of diagnosis from the vet or farrier. The photo below, however, shows a severe perforation (She had perforated all 4 hooves!) and the progression of recovery over a very short 4 months.

That little senior horse was quite an amazing soul -- and her owner exhibited extreme dedication to saving her pony. Daily treatments, booting, special diet, special ‘meds’ … that little pony pulled through with flying colors and had no further founder episodes afterwards.

One of my most memorable cases was a 7 year old Lippizaner/TB who had been lame for most of his life. He was diagnosed as “Navicular” with no hope. The appointment for euthansia was scheduled for a Monday. The Friday prior the owner called me in extreme panic – willing to try letting her horse go barefoot as a ‘last resort’. My assistant and I went in on Saturday, pulled the front shoes, trimmed up the hooves and watched as the horse let out a HUGE buck and took off galloping around the indoor arena. He had a ‘slight gimp’ at that point but was obviously feeling some great relief.

The appointment for euthanasia was cancelled.

 A year of remediation on my farm took him to 100% soundness. (Only to have the vet re-examine him and proclaim, “Well, if you plan on riding this horse ever again you’ll have to put shoes back on him!” … Of course the owner replied in perfect manners, “Oh no!  He’ll never wear shoes again. Pulling the shoes is what got him sound again!”  …. And she was right. The horse is, as of this year, 18 years old and is still going strong .. .barefoot. I taught the owner how to trim her horse and she’s done a stupendous job of it over the years!

Sometimes it takes a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears to save the hooves; other times it takes a simple act of removing the shoes, trimming up the hooves according to each hoof’s requirements, and letting the horse be a horse; the hooves be hooves - strong, solid, resilient and able to carry the horse over hill and dale, through wet and dry and doing the job they were created to do – helping the horse to survive.






Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:



Great to talk with you, Louise! I’ll look forward to your email. :)

Gwenyth Santagate June 17, 2016


Louise June 16, 2016

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