Off the Injured List

This famous footballer's horse went head to head with a serious horse health threat, laminitis.

From America's Horse

Editor’s Note: Since this story ran in the November 2008 America’s Horse, Consent To Arms has passed away. Terry Bradshaw still owns Circle 12 Ranch in Oklahoma, although he has downsized the operation considerably.

In 2008, Consent To Arms wasn’t what anyone would call a glowing new mother.

Two weeks after delivering a foal, the mare - who had foundered previously - was struck again by laminitis. This time around, she was on her side “90 percent of the time,” said Chad Wing, who managed the Thackerville, Oklahoma, farm where she lived, owned by Pro Football Hall of Famer and sports commentator Terry Bradshaw.

“That baby learned to nurse her when she was lying down,” Chad said.

Like with Terry's mare, laminitis is a medical emergency that many horses are subjected to. Download AQHA's FREE report, Laminitis Treatment, to learn how to combat it.

Everyone at the farm hated to see Consent To Arms go downhill so drastically. She was a beautiful mare with great genetics - a daughter of Major JD Parker, Terry’s foundation sire who goes back to American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Jackie Bee.

There was “off and on talk about putting her down because I couldn’t stand to see her suffer,” Terry said.

When the foal by CK Kid was weaned, that talk got serious, and the farm’s veterinarian, Dr. Gerald Radde of Marietta, Oklahoma, thought of one more thing to try. He remembered hearing about a presentation on wooden shoes that had been given at a conference of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and by doing a little research, he found that one of the authors was just two hours away, in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

He enlisted Dr. Micheal Steward’s help, and the two set about making Consent To Arms more comfortable.

(For a detailed explanation of how the wooden shoes work, download our free Laminitis Treatment

report.) In a nutshell, the shoes are fashioned out of plywood, often with a ¾-inch thick layer of ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) on the bottom. The fronts, backs and sides are rockered, and the EVA will compress slightly depending on how the horse distributes her weight, so that the horse can create what Dr. Stewards calls “selective stabilization.”

The horse’s hoof is trimmed so that the coffin bone (which may have rotated downward due to the laminitis) is put back in - or at least is closer to - its rightful place. When the bone is de-rotated, it takes pressure off the blood vessels that were compressed by its rotation, and that helps restore blood flow to the foot.

The design of the shoes - which incorporates a wedged heel - allows the vet-farrier team to raise the back of the foot, taking the pressure off the deep digital flexor tendon, without compromising the new position of the coffin bone.

The shoes also support and stabilize the painfully laminitic foot, which Dr. Steward likens to a broken bone, and help boost blood flow to the foot, which is an important part of the healing process.

Still, a little bit of plywood, attached with some deck screws, is an unlikely hero.

“I had serious doubts about this,” Terry said. “Wooden shoes, are you kidding me?

“But she (was) such a great mare, she deserved quality of life.” And so he was willing to give it a go.

Not even Dr. Radde was sure how it would work, but “within a few minutes of putting the shoes on, she just went through a drastic change. I was so impressed. … And she got better and better in the next few days and got more and more comfortable with the whole thing.”

There are a few options to help ease the suffering for horses with laminitis. Learn about one, the wooden rocking horseshoe, in AQHA's FREE report, Laminitis Treatment.

Dr. Radde now has Dr. Steward consulting on several cases, hoping to learn more about the procedure so he can continue using it on more horses.

Consent To Arms had “quite a bit of rotation in both (front) coffin bones. This was not a mild case,” he said. “If (the wooden shoes) can be impressive on something like that, then it gives hope to everything below her.”

The farm manager, too, was struck by the mare’s progress.

By mid-August of 2008, 10 weeks after the shoes went on, “She (had) probably put on 150 pounds. Her eyes (were) bright again, and her hair coat came back. You (could) tell she (was) a whole lot better off,” Chad said. “She (wouldn't) have to carry another baby. She has definitely proven herself as a producer, so next time we’ll flush embryos.”

And as for the skeptical owner?

“I’m very pleased, without hesitation,” Terry said. “She (stood) up 98 percent of the time...healthy, no pain in her eyes. It (was) a blessing.

“I couldn’t understand how a horse could position its food and find its comfort zone, but that’s what the wooden shoes do. … It gives us hope in the equine business.”