Soak It Deep!
By Betsy Kelleher
Whenever I think about finding a new home for Lady, her special nature comes out and captures my affection. Once again, I appreciate her trust and acceptance of the things I do to her and I know it would not be easy to ever part with her. I’ve never owned another horse that has been so lovingly cooperative!
Her feet have become a worrisome issue. In spite of hoof supplements and my efforts to keep a clean dry stall, I’ve struggled with continuing problems with thrush and cracked heels. The bulbs of her heels keep peeling and her frogs keep wasting away. I have tried several different treatments, but none have produced lasting results. Her paddock is deep mud (it just keeps raining), and I know I should be cleaning her hooves out on a daily basis, but with four horses, I don’t have the energy to do each one every day! And who wants to pick up hooves that are plastered with wet mud? Fortunately, the other three horses don’t have as much problem with their feet at the moment.
At the Horse Fair in March, someone advised me to get a product called Cleantrax and soak her feet in that solution for 45 minutes. It is advertised to clear up any problem with one application. So I finally ordered a bottle (Valley Vet) and it is still in my refrigerator (directions say to keep it cold). I planned to wait until the farrier came and trimmed her feet, so I could treat clean hooves. While working on her feet, he confirmed that the problem was deep, and I needed to get down under those layers of frog and heel growing out and peeling off. Deep soaking sounded like the perfect answer.
In the meantime, I wanted to be sure I could manage the soaking procedure without wasting the expensive stuff. I thought about it for days and looked for soaking boots (which are not cheap) and tried to imagine the easiest way to do it. Then I discovered a roll of clear heavy duty plastic in my tack room (for covering windows in winter). I cut two big square pieces and bought some masking tape (easier to manage than duct tape).
With Lady in the crossties, I picked out one front foot, then put it down into a pail of water and cleaned it good. Taking a piece of plastic, I set the hoof down on the middle of it and pulled the ends up around her ankle, wrapping it with masking tape to hold it in place. Lady stood without moving while I tried to hold the four corners of plastic and manage the masking tape with only two hands. Using an empty soap bottle filled with iodine solution, I squirted it carefully down inside the plastic “bootie,” adding enough to come up over the edge of the hoof. Then I did the same thing with the other front foot. I wanted to be sure these homemade soaking boots would work before wasting that expensive bottle of Cleantrax. I had read somewhere that iodine is good for hooves and I had a large bottle of it on hand. So the iodine solution was my practice run.
And there Lady stood, both front feet wrapped in plastic booties filled with iodine solution, for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I brushed her and worked on her mane and tail, also used the clippers on her bridle path and ears and trimmed some fetlock hair, telling her what a good girl she was for standing quietly the whole time. But that’s Lady. She can stand still for almost everything when she’s getting attention. I think she likes being loved and cared for. She even gave me a nuzzle and a hug in her own special way.
A few days later, I soaked the back feet the same way. Two weeks later, I noticed Lady’s front feet were greatly improved, but the back feet still had problems. I decided that a stronger solution of iodine might be the answer, as well as soaking on a regular basis. I am still planning to use the Cleantrax one of these days.
I know I should clean out the hooves every day. I almost always do a horse’s hooves when I ride, but I haven’t ridden for awhile. Lady is out a few hours each morning, then again in the evening. It doesn’t make sense to clean her feet before she goes out, and when she comes in, her feet bulging with mud, I’m usually in a hurry. I know the muddy paddock is probably full of bacteria or fungus or some viral stuff, and walking in that mud just pushes it up into the cracks and crevices of each hoof, maybe even beyond the reach of a hoof pick. Since I can’t change the situation with a wet paddock, I guess I am going to have to change my ways, for Lady’s sake, and take the time to clean those feet every day whether I feel like it or not.
I believe this hoof problem provides a very graphic lesson for my spiritual condition as well. I know I should take time every day to pray and to study God’s Word and meditate on its application to my life. But each day is full of many other things to do, and very truthfully, I often lack the discipline. Just as Lady’s feet are exposed to that mud every day, my mind and my heart are exposed to influences and situations that can result in wrong decisions or actions. My spiritual immune system needs to be strengthened daily by God’s Word, and periodic “soaking” in the Word is good but not as good as the discipline of daily communion with Him.
Think of the sin of the world as a “bacteria” that each one of us needs to fight continually. Scripture defines sin as anything that is against God’s will, or anything that leads us away from following Him. Sometimes our sin stains are very deep within us. We have long confirmed habits that are difficult to break. We want to follow our own wills instead of God’s will. We want to live our own lives.
But God wants to put His Spirit within us to enable us to live the abundant life He has planned for each of us. He wants to reach out to others through us. Sometimes He has to resort to strange circumstances to get our attention. And God sometimes soaks us in situations that get bad enough to teach us our true need. He knows what works best to touch our hearts and He knows just how far to go with it to fix the problem. He also cares enough to go to the trouble of doing whatever it takes. He is more concerned with our spiritual condition and our relationship with Him than with our comfort.
Sometimes we just have to stand still quietly and take whatever He puts in our way. “Be still and know that I am God,” He whispers. We must learn to trust His love and His wisdom. And when we acknowledge His will is best, and learn how much He cares for us, we will trust Him to be right there beside us, through whatever He allows in our lives.
(Originally published in the July 2009 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)