Whisky hindWhisky is a good example - not only of what we can do with our "new found" knowledge of barefoot rehabilitation, but also why we do it. When he came to our place, he was about as bad as a horse can get. To put it bluntly, he walked in on his pedal bones, leaving a trail of blood. Laminitic in the extreme.   

Picture (Right)  A hind foot on arrival.    

How did Whisky get like this? He had initially foundered a month prior due to a combination of spring grass and poor hoof form (full weight bearing on stressed laminae with extreme lever forces), from which he had partially recovered. Then for reasons still unknown, he had a major and very sudden relapse back into acute laminitis with resulting pedal bone penetration on all four feet.

WHISKY JAN2006-1Whisky had about three feet in the grave.

Left: Arrival

At Mayfield he was trimmed on arrival (heels lowered to get frogs weight bearing and hoof wall totally relieved from any weight bearing responsibility). The photos show there was much that needed changing in his feet. Understandably, Whisky had a "dark-eyed" view of the world and the lucky trimmer wore a couple of little rabbit kicks for his efforts!

Most laminitic horses at Mayfield spend time initially on deep bedding until their situation stabilises, but Whisky had to go straight onto the rubber due to the open wounds on his soles which needed to be kept free from infection. Rubber is a very clean surface for a horse to live on. Fortunately for Whisky the first trim changed his feet so much that he could stand on the rubber without too much discomfort.


At the risk of “dumbing down” this story, barefoot rehabbing of laminitic horses is really quite simple: remove the causative agent from the horse’s body, remove pressure from the separated laminae and wait.

Whisky was no different. Even though he had penetration and a total separation of hoof wall, from day one on the rubber his feet began growing a new connection at the coronet. It takes four months (this is quite a consistent time frame) for this new connection to reach ground level at the heels and when this happens the horse begins to ‘sound out’.

Whisky did have one setback when a major abscess “blew” the sole and frog right off one of his front feet. But once that was out of the way, healing progressed quickly and smoothly.  Mention must be made of the amount of work that a case like this involves: His open wounds were soaked daily and at various times bandaged with poultices; he was trimmed weekly to ensure his feet remained in the best possible framework and he was fed grass hay ad lib, subsequently producing mountains of the world’s best fertiliser! Yes, a lot of work behind the scenes – all capably handled by Nicky who keeps the home fires burning at Mayfield!!

Right on cue: four months after arrival, Whisky was sound enough to go home. There has been some ongoing treatment for his solar wounds as they continue to clear up and still a lot of very regular trimming, but Whisky is now sound, healthy and has a much improved view of the world.

Treating horses like Whisky is a very stressful pastime. A lot of anxious moments and of course they don’t all make it. So why would I do it?

Back in the “traditional days”, horses like Whisky didn’t get a second glance; just the kiss goodbye and a little ticket out of here. I can't remember all the horses I’ve known in my time that for one reason or another finished up euthanized.

But horses have an unbelievably strong spirit that sees them trough troubled times. Evolution was a hard journey and any softness would have meant lunch for prehistoric dingoes.  And Whisky – he never threw the towel in. Didn’t once look like it. It is humbling to spend time with such courageous animals. That is why.


After one month


After 3 months


After 4 months


After 8 months

whisky arrival blood



After 1 month


After 4 months

whisky 8 months

After 8 months

whisky head

whisky going home

Going home after 4 months