Q&A with Cindy Lueders, Hoof Rehab Specialist
Cindy Lueders married her hoof care practitioner, Adam, who studied the works of some of the greats: Jamie Jackson, Gene Ovnicek, Pete Ramey, Dr. Bowker, and his most recent mentor, David Landreville. Adam is a traditional farrier gone barefoot and Cindy’s business partner. Cindy is an equine rehabilitation specialist, and together, she and Adam operated Bitter Sweet Stables just outside Renfrew, Ontario Canada. Their last decade together has been dedicated to helping horses recover from years of damage through a more natural approach to rehabilitation and recovery.
Cindy has earned her Veterinary Assistants Diploma, completed a comprehensive course in Equine Anatomy and Physiology, and is a level 3 Master Practitioner in human and equine Reiki Pure Energy Healing. Additionally, she has studied the works of Dr. Eleanor Kellon on diet and metabolic horses, bodywork through the Masterson Method, T Touch with Linda Tellington Jones, and E. Bailey Tune on Equine Craniosacral Therapy and somato – emotional release. Cindy considers horses as her teachers, saying they have taught her more through hands on and in the field experience than any book or classroom ever could.
Though Cindy and Adam officially closed Bitter Sweet Stables to on-property rehabilitation as of December 2019, they continue to provide off-property care and consultations and plan to provide clinics and seminars in 2021 to bring more awareness to this type of rehabilitation and recovery for horses.
Can you tell us a little about your background with horses and how you got started in hoof rehab?
Adam and I have both been involved in the horse world since we were kids. He trained horses and was taught how to trim and shoe from a blacksmith. He wanted to be able to look after his own horses’ feet. He is a mechanic by trade. I learned to ride at a very young age, fell in love with dressage at age 14, and rode right into adult hood, taking a break to have my daughter.
In 2003, my life changed when I bought a broken down old mare that had some major issues, physically and mentally. All traditional methods failed us, and it was time to find a better way. I researched and studied and talked to so many different people. I finally found the answers I was searching for, and once I implemented them, the mare made huge improvements. She had Cushing’s and laminitis. I treated her as naturally as possible and it worked. I rode her daily, right up until three months before pneumonia finally took her from me. She was 30 years old when she passed.
This started my journey into rehabilitating horses. The more broken they were, the more I wanted to help. My motto was never give up unless you have exhausted ALL other options. Adam and I got together in 2009, and he, being very traditional, and I, being very much natural, had very different views on things. I started working with a few of his horses and convinced him to allow a barefoot trimmer to trim them and allow me to do bodywork on them with a diet change, and if he didn’t see a difference in a few months, I would admit he was right and I was wrong . . . lol. Well, I won that one and he agreed to come and see my horses and how my herd moved and performed. He couldn’t deny the difference. He wanted to learn to trim barefoot. Adam will tell anyone to this day, being on both sides of the fence, he would never go back to traditional methods including training horses. Adam and I have been in partnership ever since, and we were married in 2013.
What types of hoof issues have you successfully rehabilitated?
We have successfully rehabilitated horses with laminitis, founder, high-low syndrome (when one hoof in the front is upright with a high heel and the other is underslung with low migrated heel and long toe), contracted heels, thin soles, flat feet, sheared heel, extreme imbalances, seedy toe, thrush, navicular, and so much more. We have worked on a lot of different cases through the years, and our success rate is high. Like in anything, you can’t save them all. There are some cases that were to far gone and those cases are so disappointing but we always try. We weren’t ones to ever give up easily.
What is your typical protocol for rehabbing horses and how long does rehab usually take?
Our typical protocol for our rehab cases is first and for most, a full body exam, then a set up trim, housing the horses outside to move 24/7 on mainly sand. Nutrition is then addressed, a diet implemented according to the horse’s particular needs. No commercial grains! Low sugar! If the horse was having behavioral issues, we started to work on that as well. Sound body and sound mind both must be addressed for a full recovery in our opinion.
I use many of the modalities I mentioned in my bio, plus we always recommend massage therapy on a regular basis during the recovery phase. It speeds things up nicely. The body goes through so many changes. Helping out with bodywork just improves them that much quicker.
The time it takes for a rehab, where the horse is maintaining well, can be anywhere from 2 years to 5 years depending on the issues the horse presents at time of arrival. It depends on how diligent the owner is to aid in the recovery and how far gone the horse is at time of assessment, but we have had some that still surprised us with a faster recovery and some with a slower than expected recovery. It really all depends; every horse is different, every owner’s circumstances is different, and every hoof is different .
How important is diet during the rehab process?
Diet is very important in our experience, as the foot is part of the body. If the body system is weak, the hoof will be weak. There are some diets that cause inflammation in the body and that is where many of a horse’s issues come from, including laminitis, founder, allergies, ulcers, and skin conditions. It’s all from inflammation in the body. Our diet aids in lowering the inflammatory response.
Our diet consists of first cut grass hay in slow feeder nets, access to limited grass or none if the horse is metabolic. Soaked molasses-free beet pulp, white iodized table salt, Mad Barn Omneity Premix (vitamin mineral), and W-3, another Mad Barn product that is an oil containing flax and fish oils. We only supplement for joints if required and always treat ulcers as the horses we rehab are performance horses and the rate of ulcers is very high. We treat it with an Omega Alpha product called Gastra FX . The joint supplements we us are also from Omega Alpha. We always have white salt blocks out in paddocks and 24/7 access to clean fresh water.
What type of “housing” conditions do you use for horses in rehab?
The horses in our program were housed outside 24/7 with access to shelter and also with areas of different types of terrain and footing. We are huge fans of sand for hoof rehab. Access to water 24/7 and good first cut grass hay in slow feeder hay nets. Some horses can be pastured depending on their issues.
Can you tell us about a particularly difficult case where the horse pulled through and became sound?
We had a quarter horse gelding we took in; he was going to be euthanized so there was no harm in trying. We brought him home and got him going on the program. He had high and low ring bone in all four feet. He had laminitis, plus severely over grown hooves. Crest and fat deposits led us to believe he was insulin resistant but mild.
He could no longer be ridden and it took him a long time to just get from point A to point B, but in two years, with very diligent trimming every two weeks, we slowly started bringing him back with small changes at a time to make sure he would not have more damage done. We got to that sweet spot where he was able to trot again out in the field with his herd mates. Not long after that, he was able to canter and play fight up rearing with one of our other geldings. Then the day came at the end of the 2 years, I tacked him up and got on him to see how he would do. It was a day of great triumph and we all cried as that gelding and I walked out the lane and turned left down our dirt road. He never missed a step (no hoof boots).
What recommendations do you give horse owners when a horse is ready to return home?
When the horses are ready to go back home, we usually go out to their facility and see what changes can be made, if any. We then devise a plan that will suit both horse and owner or boarding facility. Every horse can go barefoot; unfortunately not every owner can. We try to give them the best advice possible for their particular situation. We have ended up over the years keeping some horses because the owner just could not accommodate the special needs of their equine companions– mostly IR and Cushing’s cases. We would take them in and give them a home until we could find a more suitable arrangement.
Our recommendations are very similar for all cases: give them what THEY need and they will thrive, give them what YOU need and they will survive. We want our horses to thrive, not merely survive in this world we have created for them. Keep them moving outside, keep their diet clean and as little sugars as possible to decrease the inflammatory response. Always keep their feet trimmed every 2-4 weeks to keep everything tight and landing heel first. It takes very little time for a hoof to start getting away from you, so stay on top of them.