Neighborly complaint: Fix those hooves!

Someone in Gordonsville has dropped the reins on taking care of at least one of the horses on an estate on Lovers Lane near Route 33, and a neighbor’s complaint is not gaining much traction with local officials or the owners, despite the owners’ seemingly ample resources and the pro-horse outlook of many in rural Albemarle county.

A neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous took a photo of the pony in question, which appears to be suffering from gross hoof neglect. Hoof neglect occurs when a horse’s hooves are not trimmed and the overgrown portions alter the orientation of the feet in relation to the ground, making it painful for the horse to walk and potentially causing tendon damage.

Horses are normally taken to farriers every couple of months for trimming and shoeing. These horse specialists practice a trade dating back to the Middle Ages that has roots in blacksmithing.

Though the issue was brought to the attention of Orange County Animal Control in April by the neighbor, the pony has been continually sighted with no noticeable changes to the hooves, even as recently as last week. In communications with the complainant, Orange animal control officials have repeatedly asserted that the pony is receiving rescue care, however they did not respond the neighbor’s request for proof of this.

“That length of hoof can only be caused by lack of hoof care,” said Maya Proulx of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue in Afton. “To grow feet that long might have taken a year to a year and a half.”

Ms. Proulx added that while severe overgrowth could not be fixed overnight, significant improvement should be visible if the issue was raised in April.

The vast estate where the pony grazes includes a mansion and two symmetrical ponds, as well as sprawling acreage containing numerous other horses that depict telltale signs of good maintenance—sleek, shiny coats and neatly groomed feet. So why has one pony fallen by the wayside?

Cindy Smith, an expert with Central Virginia Horse Rescue, thinks nutrition might be the culprit.

“Because they’re out on grass that’s too rich for them, a reaction in the hind gut can cause horses to run a fever in the feet,” said Smith. Laminitus can lead to swelling of hooves, potentially causing overgrowth, or foundering. “The pony has not had a fare for months. It is a very painful condition. It’s definitely a violation not to have proper care and it would be up to a judge as to whether the animal should remain on the farm.”