By Gayle Carline
Sometimes evolution forgets to move forward and takes a step backward instead. Such was the case with a little paint filly who was born two summers ago in Lancaster, California. Little Lacey’s right front leg had decided that it needed to return to the days when horses had multiple digits. So it grew an extra hoof off of the cannon bone, on the inside of the leg.
When Jayne Jones met Lacey two years ago, her owners were pointing out the foal’s unusual right leg. But what Jayne saw was a pretty filly with a sparkle in her eye. She never forgot the little paint with the big attitude, and would ask about her periodically. She felt that Lacey had the temperament and the build to make a good show horse, if only she didn’t have that extra hoof.
Hearing two years later that the hoof had never been removed, Jayne became concerned. Although a fifth hoof is not life threatening, it can undermine a horse’s quality of life. For most of them, it is an annoyance that is constantly rubbed and kicked when the horse moves. For a horse like Lacey, it was a roadblock that prevented her from fulfilling her potential.
Jayne felt she needed to do something for this sweet natured filly, so she developed a plan for Lacey’s benefit. As owner of Rancho del Rio Stables in Anaheim, she knew she could provide a home for Lacey, and could pay for her surgery, but she couldn’t provide for the filly’s recuperation. Once the extra hoof was removed, Lacey would require daily hand-walking, periodic bandage changes, and even medications. Jayne would not be able to do this every day. But she knew someone who could.
Rancho del Rio Stables has a nonprofit organization on the premises called Earth Connections. Headquartered in Gold Point, Nevada, this group’s mission is to conserve wildlife and other natural resources, and to preserve the history of the Old West. Contacting Ava Roberts, their horse care program facilitator, Jayne explained Lacey’s situation and asked for help. Ava offered to provide volunteers who would care for Lacey after surgery as part of their program.
Once all of the arrangements for Lacey had been made, Jayne approached her owners. She offered to pay for Lacey’s surgery if the owners would give her to Jayne. Soon Lacey was in a trailer, bound for Anaheim.
Lacey was first evaluated by Dr. David Tresser of Equine Veterinary Associates. The x-rays showed the extra hoof to be fully formed, including the coffin bone. Lacey’s evaluation, along with the x-rays, were then sent to Dr. Ted Fisher of the Chino Valley Equine Hospital, who recommended surgery after reviewing all of the evidence.
On October 11th, Lacey made the trip to the hospital, accompanied by Jayne, Ava, trainer Denise Schreyer and Lacey’s best pasture friend, Dancer. Some of the students from the stable also went to the hospital to offer their support, and the procedure was witnessed by some of the veterinary students at Chino Valley Equine.
The surgery, while unusual, is not difficult. Dr. Fisher reports that he performs this procedure about once every other year. Care must be taken to completely tie off the blood vessels that feed the extra hoof, and enough soft tissue must be preserved to fill the void left by the removal. Recovery is fairly quick, taking only two to three weeks for the incision to heal. According to Dr. Fisher, he’s seen racehorses with this defect that are able to run without any problems, but he thinks it’s better to remove the hoof as early as possible in a horse’s life.
Lacey sailed through her surgery and was soon home with a cast on her leg. Being hand-walked every day gave her plenty of time to work her charms on the volunteers and soon she had them wrapped around her pretty hoof. If they weren’t in love with the paint filly before, they were definitely enamored after spending time with her.
As her incision healed, her cast was replaced with bandages, and then the bandages were finally removed. Her recovery was quick and uneventful, and Lacey is now back to running around with her friend, Dancer, kicking up her heels and showing off.
“She is just so precious, sometimes I think she needs an agent,” Jayne laughs. “I think she needs to be a Hollywood star.”
Jayne’s next move with Lacey is not the bright lights of the movies, but those of the show ring. She and her husband, Bob, are trying to get their little girl ready for a local halter show at the end of January. They plan to put her in local shows that are held at nearby Orange Park Acres, testing her abilities and working at her pace toward bigger and better things.
“I really think she’s got the potential to be a good show horse,” Jayne explained. “It just distressed me to see a beautiful horse standing out in a pasture, being bored, all because of a correctable birth defect. Lacey is such a magnetic personality that I want her to live the fullest life she possibly can. I think that all horses should be given the chance to reach their potential.”
Lacey may have started out life in the Prehistoric Age, but with a little help from a lot of friends, she has leapt into the 21st Century, on four solid feet.