Gambi’s Story



Gambi and good friend Carly, back on the trail. Spry and healthy at 24, Gambi is now being ridden again. Who'd ever know that he had a 'hopeless' case of founder in all 4 feet the previous year?

By Cindy Kunkel

Part 1 of a multi-part series about a foundered horse's recovery

In 1999, my entire philosophy on horse care, especially hoof care, changed because of a beloved horse that foundered and a German veterinarian, Dr. Strasser, whose methods saved his life. Having been around horses for fifty years, I had developed some "traditional” ideas on horse care that were hard to change, due to their reinforcement from other horse owners and professionals. So when Gambi, the family horse, foundered, I instinctively used the traditional means of treatment. After three and a half months, Gambi’s condition was continuing to worsen and I looked for alternative, less-traditional treatment options. By using the Strasser method, Gambi showed slow but steady improvement. As Gambi’s condition continued to improve, veterinarians, farriers, and various people came to observe our progress and saw the unbelievable results from the Strasser method. I hope my horse’s story might help other horse owners understand this method. I feel strongly that my horse would not have foundered if I had been practicing the Strasser philosophy for daily care. I am thankful that by using Dr. Strasser’s methods I was able to save Gambi’s life.

Laminitis? We take care of our horses

Our family has a 23 year-old, Anglo-Arab, bay gelding, Gambi, who was used for riding and driving. At the age of 17, when he was added to our family, he had rolled-toe shoes on the front, so my husband continued to put rolled toe shoes on him. After my husband’s back surgery, we continued to have the horse shod, but our farrier did not roll the toe. Gambi was reset every 6 to 8 weeks for the past 6 years. We were using him regularly, so we had the rear hooves shod the last 3 years. Despite being exercised regularly, he was on the heavier side. He was stall-kept at night and turned out during the day. His stall is 10’ by 20’ with rubber mats and sawdust bedding. He has a 40’ by 80’ paddock, a 3-acre grass field, a 1-acre shale hill, and a 1-acre wetland with a stream that is shared with a stable mate. Gambi’s affectionate disposition makes him not just a useful animal, but also a member of the family.

After receiving vaccines on 5/11/99, Gambi foundered and the vet treated him with 'bute'. Six weeks later, he was almost back to normal. Then on 6/23 and 7/12/99, Gambi received vaccine boosters. He foundered after each shot. Our vet believed Gambi foundered because he was overweight. Gambi was put on thyroid medicine. I was to continue with the 'bute', limit his hay, and eliminate grain and grass. To eliminate the heat in his hooves, I hosed them with cold water, used ice packs, and took him on short walks. Gambi and his stable mate, age 21, had an exercise routine of being ridden or driven every other day for about four miles. Nothing had changed and the horses were under daily observation. Gambi continued to get worse. He developed severe laminitis and dropped soles in both of his front hooves. I watched layers of the sole crack and sloth off. The frog split at the tip. The coronet band swelled and softened. The farrier was coming to evaluate the hooves and to shoe accordingly.

Looking back, I now realize the founder originated because of my horse's long toes and long, contracted heels and the added stress of the vaccines. I also realize that I should not have used ice packs on the hooves.  This procedure actually caused further constriction on the blood vessels and dried out the hooves.

Trying the traditional method of corrective shoeing to treat the founder

The farrier came to reset Gambi’s shoes on 8/3 and discovered that the coffin bone had rotated. I was not sure what this meant, but I knew it was not good news. The farrier tried a traditional method to correct the founder. He shortened the heels (relatively speaking), dubbed the toes for easier break over, added a synthetic pad for support, and nailed the shoes on backward to relieve toe pressure. For a week, Gambi was doing better. I decreased the 'bute' to 3 tablets a day. Gambi’s heels appeared to be growing faster than the toes.

More drugs?

On 8/7, I was advised to try an oral drug that would increase Gambi’s circulation and promote healing of the damaged hoof tissue. Within a few hours, I noticed he was breathing heavily with nostrils flared, the whites of his eyes showed discomfort, and his movements were nervous and tense. I was unsure if he was foundering again or colic was starting. I walked him throughout the night and monitored his condition. By morning, Gambi seemed to have returned to normal. Within the next 48 hours, I felt heat in his hooves. I hosed them with cold water. I took Gambi off the medicine because I was concerned about a drug interaction. It was at this time that I noticed bulges under the pads and prayed that it was not coffin bone penetration.

Gambi developed bedsores on the fetlocks because he was more comfortable lying down. I treated the bedsores topically. When standing, Gambi assumed the typical founder stance with his front legs extended trying to relieve toe pressure and the rear legs pulled under the body to carry his weight. He was in considerable pain and walked with difficulty. We upped the 'bute' to 4 a day trying to keep Gambi comfortable, but his condition was not improving.

Who is Dr. Strasser and can her method really help?

On 8/27, our daughter went on the Internet and found an article, "Treating Founder (Chronic Laminitis) Without Horseshoes”. She e-mailed Gretchen Fathauer, the author of the Internet site (, about our situation. Her information and experience with her horse Max gave us hope and a new direction. Her site documented many severe cases of founder that had been treated traditionally with failure only to be reversed using the Strasser method. This method had an enormous amount of medical and scientific documentation showing the progression of healing. Could this work for Gambi?

Is it too late?

Photo 1 - X-ray of Gambi's left front hoof: 19-degree rotation and dropped sole. Both front shoes had been put on backwards as a corrective measure to 'take the pressure off the toe'.

On 8/30, the x-rays showed 16° rotation in the right front, 19° rotation in the left front, and dropped soles in both. There was 13/4" separation of the white line at the toe! It was around this time that I read an article declaring 9° to 10° rotation a death sentence. This is when I realized how life-threatening Gambi’s case was.

The farrier removed the front shoes and was shocked at the condition of the hooves. The farrier called another farrier to help. The second farrier duct taped 4" high-density polyfoam upholstery material to Gambi’s feet. He wanted the polyfoam fastened to the hooves for 10 days. I was to keep Gambi stall bound and bedded deep in shavings. Farrier #2 checked Gambi’s pulse, flexor tendons, and general condition. He needed Gambi to be stabilized before he could work on him. On a scale of 1-10, with ten being the worst, Gambi was an 8 plus. The farrier had only ever seen one case that was similar and that horse did not make it. We will know more in a month.

Taking the shoes off makes a big difference

By the next day, Gambi, in his polyfoam 'boots', was standing and was attentive to his surroundings. Farrier #1 stopped and commented on Gambi’s fairly normal stance. Gambi had lost some weight, so I slowly weaned him off the thyroid medicine. I started giving him carrots and apples for pectin to help offset the effects of the 'bute' on the stomach, as mentioned in the Internet information. On 9/1 and 9/2, farrier #2 checked Gambi’s pulse and said to decrease the 'bute'. Gambi seemed less strained and wanted to move around in his stall. On 9/3, I read an article about a biotin supplement helping horses with dropped soles. I had been feeding this for the last six years. After talking to the company, I decided to double the daily dose. Gambi was down to 3 'bute'. The bedsores were healing. On 9/4, both farriers came to check on Gambi. His pulse and tendons were good. I had him down to 2 'bute'. On 9/5, I decreased the 'bute' to 1. On 9/6, farrier #2 brought a special feed to promote hoof growth. He told me to go back to 2 'bute' a day because Gambi’s pulse was a little racy. A week had passed since the shoes were removed and I finally saw some improvement. Gambi was standing.

Apple cider vinegar soaks and more improvement

Over the next 2 days, the polyfoam boots came off. For the first time in over a month, I could see the sole of Gambi’s hooves. The coffin bone had not penetrated. The sole had flattened and no longer extended below the hoof wall. After seeing Gambi’s necrotic hooves and reading more of the Internet article, I decided to start soaking Gambi’s hooves in a mixture of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 2 parts water. Gambi would not lift his hooves into buckets, so I stood him on poly foam block (couch cushion foam) soaked with this mixture for 20 minutes. Since it is important to soak the whole hoof, the coronet bands were soaked with towels that had been cut length wise, folded to about four inches wide and held in place with velcro. This was not the best way to do a soak but was the best I could do considering Gambi’s condition. After drying the hoof, I applied an ointment to a foam block that I duct taped to the hoof. I rubbed a small amount of the ointment along the coronet band.

Photo 2 - Left front: shoes caused contraction, long heels and toes, bulge from coffin bone rotating 19 degrees, abscess in frog, dropped sole.

On 9/9, I treated both front hooves with vinegar soaks and ointment. Gambi moved better. On 9/10, both farriers came. The farriers could not believe Gambi’s improvement. They took off the duct tape. They rasped a small amount off the right front heels and trimmed over ¼" off left front heels. I was still to keep Gambi in his stall and bed it deep with sawdust. On 9/11, I continued with the daily treatment of apple cider vinegar soaks and ointment. On 9/13, I noticed new growth all around the coronet band of the right front hoof. There was not as much new growth on the left hoof.

In retrospect, Gambi should not have been in a stall. The sharp turns of his box stall could have caused his severely foundered hooves to come off. I believe the slippery surface of the duct tape that held the poly foam to the hooves prevented this from happening.

Heart bars and another drug to stimulate growth? I don’t think so…

On 9/14, farrier #1 came to check on Gambi. He mentioned putting on heart bar shoes and using a different drug to stimulate growth. The reversed shoes with pads had not worked. Also, the last time we tried to stimulate growth, with a drug, Gambi re-foundered and his soles dropped. So past experience and the information that I read on the Internet made me decide against the heart bars and drugs. Gambi’s heels are 1½" from the ground to the hairline. This was quite an improvement over the original 3½" heels. His heel and sole area seemed extended downward. There were no deep crevices next to the frog that would encourage trimming as shown on the Internet photos.

Abscesses are signs of healing

On 9/17, Gambi’s bedding had been dampened by excess rain caused by Hurricane Floyd. When changing Gambi’s soaked polyfoam pads to dry ones, I noticed a soft spot in the middle of the heel of the frog on the left front hoof. This was the hoof he had been favoring with a short stride and hesitation. On 9/18, I found a hole as big around as my pointer finger and about an inch deep near the cleft of the frog where the soft spot had been. There was soft, crumbly pink and gray tissue deep in the hole. This was an abscess that was drawn out by soaks. I continued the apple cider vinegar soaks.

No more stall rest, exercise is good

Due to an accident, farrier #2 was unable to work. On 9/19, I rasped the toes back more, trying to copy the Internet information. Gambi was still progressing. His heel abscess was still open. Gambi wanted to walk. I led him through the paddock, about sixty feet, and into his grass covered pasture. He walked fairly well in his poly foam and duct tape boots. I tried not to allow him to eat grass. Although he did not founder on grass, I did not know if his condition predisposed him to grass founder. After returning to his paddock, I distributed hay in different areas to encourage him to move. The hole in the frog seemed to be redefining the heel outline to a more normal shape and depth. Now, the frog and sole could be trimmed down, thus allowing the heels to be trimmed lower.


Keeping record of progress, through photos and diary

On 9/20, I put Gambi in the cross tie to treat him because he no longer wanted to stand for the twenty minute soak. The abscess seemed to be healing. Gambi was standing more squarely and walking fairly well. I took photographs of the side, sole, and heel of Gambi’s hooves to send to Sabine Kells, a Strasser Certified Hoof Care Specialist, for a photo consultation concerning corrective trimming and further care. (Photos are recommended because this method of healing takes time and the changes are subtle. Photos allow you to go back and view the changes.) Gambi wanted to go out, so we walked through the paddock to his pasture and back. Although his pace was aggressive, there was a disjointedness in his stride and a wobbly dragging of his rear hooves. I was still giving him 2 'bute', biotin, four scoops of the special feed, two apples, several carrots, and two flakes of grass hay a day. The meals were divided up and staggered throughout the day. In need of a farrier, I called a third farrier. He had worked on Gambi before and was aware of the Strasser method. He agreed to trim Gambi. On 9/21, Gambi was moving more when in his paddock because he would look for his stable mate in another pasture, then return to his hay and the cycle would repeat.

Photo 3 - Left front: heels shortened slightly, necrotic sole, no white line visible, extended frog, coffin bone bulge.

Photo 4 - Right front: heels have been shortened, but are still too long; the hairline is nowhere near 30-degree angle; shows new growth and ripples in the stripes which will straighten out as the hoof growth becomes stronger.

What about Gambi’s rear hooves?

On 9/22, Gambi seemed unsteady and his rear legs were cold from the hocks down. I believed the rear shoes should be pulled and the hooves trimmed now. It had been over seven weeks since the reset. I checked Gambi at noon and he seemed to be standing more normal. From moving him around in the sun, Gambi’s legs were nice and warm. On 9/23, I was still concerned about Gambi’s rear legs. They were cold from the hocks down to the hooves again.

After purchasing and studying Dr. Strasser’s book, A Lifetime of Soundness, I saw thermographic images of horses with impaired circulation due to contraction and shoeing. At this time, I realized that Gambi’s legs were cold due to decreased circulation caused by his shoes and the contraction of his heels. The rear shoes should have been pulled sooner.

Photo 5 - Right hind: long toe and long heel, hoof circumference at shoe and hairline circumference nearly the same size (shoe had been on eight weeks); also foundered.

Photo 6 - Left hind: heels and bulbs show contraction; also foundered.


A farrier willing to learn with me

On 9/25, farrier #3 came. He had heard of the Strasser method. After seeing Gambi’s x-rays and noting the coffin bone was in a more normal position already, he agreed to work on Gambi. He commented positively on the ¼" of new growth at the coronet band. He backed up the toes on the front hooves. He cut away dead frog and lowered the heels more. The tendons and pulse were good. He recommended less 'bute'.

He pulled the rear shoes and commented on the founder he found in them too. He shortened and trimmed so the hairline of the rear hooves was at the recommended 30° angle.

Photo 7 - Left hind trimmed: shows contracted heels and elongated frog.


Visible progress

On 9/26, Gambi's forward motion showed improvement. He was very alert. I decided to give only 1½ 'bute'. On 9/27, Gambi still looked good. The trim seemed to have done him some good in the rear. Gambi was down to 1 'bute'. On 9/28, I walked Gambi 3 times. On 9/29, I gave Gambi ½ 'bute' in the morning and ½ in the evening. He seemed to be moving well. I continued the soaks and walks. The new hoof growth looked good. I decided to keep Gambi’s stall door open to allow him to move freely into the paddock.

The internet article emphasized the importance of exercise. Horses should have freedom of movement 24 hours a day. The article also mentioned that the hooves should be exposed to all types of terrain.

A proper trim is important

On 10/2, Gambi was especially good. Farrier #1 came and was pleased with the way Gambi walked. Since Gambi was to be trimmed frequently, I did not care how often farriers came out. He trimmed about 3/16" off the back heels without trimming the toe which made the angle of the hairline close to 45°. Gambi’s toes seemed extended. Then he proceeded with the front hooves. He took the frog and heels down about ¼". When he trimmed the frog, I saw the channel that the heel abscess took from the point of the frog to the heel.

The next day, Gambi seemed worse. His rear legs were tucked under and he was stiff legged. This was probably due to the recent trim. He did not want to walk, but did so only in order to eat the scattered hay in the paddock. On 10/4, Gambi seemed even worse. The problems were the same, just more pronounced. He seemed to be heating up in the front hooves and the coronet band was staring to swell. Worried about the trim of the rear hooves, I called Sabine Kells, the Certified Strasser Hoof Care Specialist. I was not sure if Gambi had been trimmed too short or if the hoof angle was incorrect. Since the heels did not bleed, they were probably not too short. She recommended lowering the toe to make the angle 30° again. Farrier #3 came and trimmed ½" off the rear hooves' toe walls. The angle looked good. Rear legs were in a better position. He made opening cuts on all 4 hooves between the hoof wall and the frog so the heels could expand for better blood flow. He said that it should help with the heat and swelling in the coronet band. The horse seemed more comfortable. On 10/5, Gambi was moving better and I soaked him twice. The heat and swelling were almost gone. On 10/6, we observed a step in the hoof wall showing that the wall was closer to the coffin bone.

Bulb movement? No Painkillers!

On 10/7, Gambi was better. Seeing such improvement and wanting to know more, I invested in Dr. Strasser’s book, A Lifetime of Soundness. I faxed drawings of Gambi’s hooves to Sabine Kells and related his progress. She recognized severe contraction and was surprised he was never diagnosed with “navicular syndrome.” Gambi was always a little trippy, but I had attributed this to old age and arthritis. She informed me his rehab could take about two years, but he would not be lame the entire time. The resuspension of the coffin bone would take about six months because of the extensive damage of the laminar corium. She encouraged 24 hour freedom of movement in the company of other horses, firm ground, daily hoof baths in water (apple cider vinegar water if the hoof has an abscess or coffin bone protrusion), walks at least 2-3 times a day for 20 minutes each (with something taped to the sole if necessary), and 2x/week trimming. (In Gambi’s particular case, she also recommended rasping the toe back vertically to within a ¼” of the white line to prevent further separation at the toe, making wider opening cuts, and lowering the heels.) She wanted me to be sure I could see hoof mechanism (the bulbs spreading apart when he put his weight on the foot). I checked and there was no spreading. Better trimming, time and exercise were needed to make the constricted lateral cartilages flexible, which would lead to bulb movement. Sabine insisted on no conventional painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs during transition or rehabilitation. These would not heal the founder and were no good for his internal organs. I saw little difference in Gambi’s movement with or without the 'bute'. He was eating and standing; not in pain, only minor discomfort. I could also tell more about his progress when off the 'bute', so no more 'bute' was given.

New circulation causes temporary discomfort

As the hoof was trimmed in an attempt to get bulb movement, circulation to the hooves increased and caused temporary discomfort, which was actually feeling returning to his spreading hooves. It was as if Gambi’s hooves were "asleep” due to lack of circulation and now he was getting feeling back. Unfortunately, this feeling was uncomfortable to Gambi and made him reluctant to move. His movement was necessary to keep the regained circulation. The discomfort would go away.

A bedsore abscess

On 10/9, Gambi was sore. He was reluctant to move. I walked him twice that day. On 10/10, Gambi had swelling from the right fetlock to 3" below the knee. I applied ice for 20 minutes. By noon, the leg was swollen more. I applied ice again and used a poultice. By evening, the swelling was extended to 3" above the knee. The swelling was soft. The next day, Gambi was still swollen and sore. The swelling had not spread, but was firmer. The swelling appeared to go down throughout the day. We reapplied the poultice. We were still soaking the hooves in apple cider vinegar. Gambi was wearing boots made of 2" thick poly foam and duct tape. Over the next couple of days, the swelling appeared to be going down and Gambi seemed more comfortable. I was still applying the poultice. It turned out that the swelling was actually an abscessed fetlock that was caused by a bedsore that had healed over.

My first attempts at trimming hooves

By 10/14, the fetlock was less swollen. I reapplied the poultice. I rasped back the toe vertically, as Sabine had directed. I knew there was about 1¾" of dead laminae according to the x-ray. I felt that I could rasp the dead material away without hurting Gambi. I was to leave ¼" of the white line, but I could not tell where the white line stopped or started. It was hard to tell where anything was on Gambi’s distorted hoof. Nothing was normal and there were no clearly defined areas. I worried that I took away too much. The next day Gambi’s swelling was gone and he was moving. My trimming did not appear to hurt him and it actually looked like I made the right corrections. On 10/16, farrier #3 came and examined my trimming. He trimmed a little off of the heel and frog. He made opening cuts for the frog to expand. I had him pull the stable mate's shoes because I saw long heels and toes on him too.

Bulb movement at last

On 10/17, Gambi was a little sore from the trim. Finally, I saw the heel bulbs expand and contract when he picked up and put down his hooves.

In for the long haul, it takes a year to grow a new hoof

On 10/18, Gambi was still sore, but improving. I had to force him to move. I continued the routine. There was over ½" of strong, thick, new growth. I realized it would take months to heal. I decided to try Gambi without boots. I made hay available to Gambi at all times. On 10/21, Gambi was moving and eating better. I saw him limp in and out of his stall several times a day to get the hay I spread around the paddock. On 10/22, I saw blood on the bottom of Gambi’s white front hoof. At the tip of the frog, there was a lump of dead horn. The blood seemed to be seeping out from under the decaying lump and migrating toward the toe.

Glucosamine, an acceptable holistic crutch

On 10/26, I gave Gambi glucosamine. I put it in his oats and he ate it. He had been walking with difficulty and I hoped this would help.

A new problem

On 10/27, the right front hoof wall started to break apart at the nail holes and Gambi was walking on his sole. The left front hoof had nail holes higher in the hoof wall and had not started to break apart yet. The next day, the outer sidewall of the right front hoof broke out, causing the hoof to be raised higher on the inside edge. The hoof could not be lowered on the outside edge to balance the hoof at that time because the horse was already on his sole and frog. On 10/29, the hoof wall was so broken up and despite the water soaks the sole seemed too dry and the horn sounded hollow when I tapped on it. I replaced the foam and duct tape boot to protect the right front hoof. On 10/30, I tried to keep the heels rasped down, but I was losing the 30° angle at the hairline. The frog tip was also touching the ground on the right front hoof. I changed to water soaks because Gambi was not abscessing and the coffin bone did not penetrate the sole.

A farrier consultation

There was ¾" new growth over the last two months and it looked very good and healthy. The new growth had touched the ground at the heel. There was almost ½" new spread in the heels of the front hooves. On 10/31, as his hooves were growing out, Gambi had to be forced to walk to keep them functioning. Gambi needed a professional trim. On 11/2, farrier #3 worked on Gambi's hooves. First, he lowered the heels. Next, he cleaned out around the frog and cut away laid-over tissue. He lowered the fast-growing bars, which were probably the cause of the present discomfort.  He trimmed out the opening cuts. Then, he dished out the sole along the frog where the bars had lain over. He did not trim the moon sickle toe area, which was different than his usual trimming method. He checked the 30° angle of the hairline. He was pleased with Gambi’s progress. On 11/3, although Gambi stood more relaxed, his movement was still poor.

Improvement in his movement

On 11/7, Gambi was moving better. He had been on the glucosamine for almost 2 weeks. Over the next couple of days, Gambi started to walk without me forcing him. He was finally bending his front legs at the knees. This was an improvement over the stiff legged heel-toe short stride I had observed over the last two months. When turned out onto the paddock, he resorted back to a slower choppier gait.

The toe heals last

I noticed a hole in the decayed toe area of the sole. This area of the sole had been soft for days. There was no blood or discharge from the hole and Gambi did not seem to be sensitive in the area. I continued with apple cider vinegar soaks. I sure did not want to see the coffin bone. On 11/16, farrier #3 came and trimmed Gambi. Gambi was moving well before the trim, but as before did not want to walk. The next day Gambi was really bad. Two and one half months and he was as lame as ever. Gambi did not even want to come out of his stall to eat hay. I made him walk.

More about opening cuts

On 11/26, Gambi was finally walking better. I was still trimming, but again the heels were getting ahead of me. It was time to call farrier #3. It took almost two weeks between professional trims for Gambi to walk comfortably again. There was an inch of new growth. On 11/30, I backed the toe by rasping it vertically. On 12/4, I took Gambi for 3 walks. This was the most walking he had done to date. The walks were at a steady pace and he needed no real stops or rest periods. On 12/6, I did not know when to stop making opening cuts. I was to draw imaginary lines along the collateral grooves of the frog and extend these lines past the bulbs. They passed at the middle of the bulbs, there was still contraction and opening cuts were needed. The bulbs of the front hooves were fuller. The frog was spreading. The hooves were more concave and no longer flat. On 12/8, I measured 1¼" new growth.

Taking his mind off his troubles

On 12/9, farrier #3 aggressively trimmed Gambi’s heels to ¾". He made opening cuts to the periople on all four hooves. He was pleased with the heel spread and amazed at the overall healing that had taken place. It could be another three months before the new sole reaches the toe. The next day, Gambi was prancing along the fence because he saw the neighbor's cows break out. He looked like his old self, I mean before the founder. His tail was up in the classic Arabian style. He was in a high stepping speedy walk with his head up, neck arched, and nostrils flared. He made several passes at the fence and then settled back to eating hay. Sabine had said Gambi needed to get his mind off himself. This was the first time I can say I could envision riding him in the future. Thank you Sabine, Gretchen, Dr. Strasser, and farrier #3.

On 12/11, we took photos of Gambi’s hooves for another photo consultation. He walked normally, even in the paddock. The moon sickle had a few chunks of horn missing, but there was normal horn underneath. I continued to watch for infection or too much deterioration.

Photo 8 - Left front: frog is de-contracting and looks healthier; white line is finally visible; white line separation 3/4 of the way around the hoof wall; new sole is migrating forward; necrotic horn is sloughing off; coffin bone is back into position. Bars are still lying down on sole and need to be trimmed into their proper place. The wall in the toe region should be backed up to the white line from either side of the tip of the frog.

Photo 10 - Right front: heel is a better length; slipper toe is growing out; 1" new growth; nail holes have grown out. A previous bedsore is also in the process of healing.

Photo 9 - Left front: shows hemorrhaging at the edge of slipper; slipper toe is growing out; heel is a better length but still long; nail holes have grown out; 1" new growth.

Photo 11 - Left hind: hoof is de-contracting; frog is wider; opening cuts are pointing toward the outside of the bulbs (compare to Photo 7). The hoof wall is still too long and the cracking in the sole shows that it is still too thick. Both need to be trimmed.


Photo 12 - Hind hooves: hairline is closer to the 30-degree angle; heels and toes at a better length; the ripples in the hoof wall and hemorrhaging on the white hoof show the extent of founder on the hind hooves.

On 12/13, Gambi seemed more sensitive when his hooves were too wet. There was not much I could do about the wet conditions caused by the rain. Gambi had a dry stall if he decided to use it. On 12/14, it stopped raining, but the 3 days of moisture had Gambi walking hesitantly again. By the next day, his hooves were drier and harder. He walked better. Gambi walked over ¼ mile. He seemed slightly hesitant on the two macadam driveways we crossed. On 12/18, Gambi attempted to kick up his rear heels for the first time. It was not too impressive, but an attempt was encouraging. On 12/21, the new growth measured almost 1½" now. I continued to soak the hooves in water, give 24-hour freedom, feed hay and oats, and walk him several times a day.


Four months of therapy

On 12/23, I led Gambi over a mile. He no longer hesitated on the macadam road. Gambi did not seem to mind the extra distance or new terrain. I believe the frozen ground of the barnyard helped prepare him for the firmness of the macadam. The coronet band and upper hoof wall of Gambi’s rear hooves were noticeably warmer after the walk. He seemed better after the walk. On 12/24, the day before Christmas was a busy day so I only took him for two trips to the manure pile and back. He was led without hesitation. On 12/25, Gambi walked over a mile again. On 12/30/99, Gambi trotted a little in the pasture. He trotted on his own with his stable mate. I decided to drive Gambi for the first time. I walked behind his lightweight jog cart for one trip around the pasture/driving ring. Everything went fine. Then, I got in the cart and drove around the pasture two times at a walk. What a wonderful way to end the year. Driving Gambi was so exciting. In four months, he went from lying around to pulling his cart.

Dr. Strasser’s book, A Lifetime of Soundness, increased my knowledge of founder and horse care, and her methods were just what we needed to help Gambi pull through. I do believe the professionals that were working with me were giving us extra attention in a sincere effort to help Gambi, knowing how much he meant to us, but their old methods were not working and the prognosis was poor. After trying the barefoot method, even though we weren't doing it completely right - just close - and seeing the positive changes, it was easy to stick with it.


To be continued…

For more information:

The books A Lifetime of Soundness and Shoeing: A Necessary Evil? By Dr. Hiltrud Strasser are available through The Horse's Hoof,,, and Star Ridge Publishing, 870-743-4603,

Gretchen Fathauer's website is

Dr. Vet. Med. Hiltrud Strasser operates The Institute for Hoof Health and ESHOP (European School for Hoof Orthopedics) in Tuebingen, Germany, a center for study and learning in which the hoofcare specialists in Europe obtain their schooling. In this first holistic hoof clinic, equine patients from around Europe are routinely healed and restored to a fully active life after being given up as hopeless and incurable by conventional veterinary medicine. Dr. Strasser has authored several textbooks on lameness and healing, reference books on natural boarding for horses, and many articles for both horse and veterinary journals. Only two books have been translated into English.

Sabine Kells, translator of Dr. Strasser's books, is currently the only Strasser Certified Hoof Care Specialist in North America. She is based in British Columbia, Canada and is available for consultation at PO Box 44, Qualicum Beach, BC, V9K 1S7, Canada.