Lacey: A Little Foot and a Big Heart

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.

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