Frankie's Recovery

We"d Love to Own horse Frankly Zippin overcame major tendon problems to become a winner in the Western pleasure arena.

Frankly Zippin

APHA gelding Frankly Zippin overcame major leg problems to become a successful Western pleasure mount. | Photo by Sabrina Tarter

Barn name: Frankie.

His people: G. Larry and Judy Murfitt, West Point, Indiana.

What grabs us: After an incredible growth spurt, Frankie suffered from severe tendon problems in both front legs. With some corrective shoeing, homemade casts, and dedication from Larry, the gelding went on to become a successful Western pleasure mount-earning 55 national points, as well as a Register of Merit award in the event.

Find out how Frankie overcame these issues in this Q&A with his owner, Larry Murfitt.

H&R: What did you first do when you found out about Frankie”s tendon problems?

Murfitt: We took him to the vet and did all kinds of X-Rays and procedures to try to see what we could do. We were given three options. We could do surgery: We could cut his suspensory tendons, and, hopefully, the big tendon behind his leg would stretch and grow, they said sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The surgery was rather expensive?especially when you had to consider that we had to do it on both legs. So the other two possibilities were corrective shoeing to try and lift his heel and elongate his toe to try and take some pressure off his tendons. They didn’t give much hope that that would do anything.

The third alternative was put him down. We’d just bought him and hadn’t bought insurance on him. I’d spent quite a bit of money getting him. We couldn’t afford the surgery, and I didn’t want to put him down, so the only alternative was shoeing.

I got together with the vet and the farrier, and we came up with a design of a shoe that would raise his heel and extend his toe at the same time-to try and take pressure off the tendon, but still have enough pressure that it would continue to stretch. However, that wasn’t very probable.

H&R: What did you do then?

Murfitt: I brought him home, and I remembered from years ago, I was talking with an old horseman. He”d had a problem with a similar situation, and he made some casts out of PVC pipe. He cast the horse so he could stand without knuckling over and to help stretch that tendon.

So I made some casts and put them on him; he had to stay in his stall all day. He got 20 minutes of hand-walking: I’d take the casts off and walk him 20 minutes a day. Then I”d put him back in his stall, put the casts back on, and he’d stand in his stall the rest of the time.

We got through the winter and come spring, he was walking pretty decently when I was hand-walking him, so I decided to put him on a longe line. He went ahead and walked nicely on the edge of that longe line, so I thought I’d see how he did a trot. So I trotted him a little bit, and he was fine. He didn’t mind at all.

I’d still take him back and put him back in his stall and put his casts back on. Then about the time it was warm enough to ride, one day I was longeing him and thought, ?Heck, if he can go around and walk that way, he can carry me. So I got on him bareback and we just walked around the arena. He was a 2-year-old, and he hadn’t been broken yet. But I just got on him anyway, and he walked around that arena like he was very pleased to do so.

After a few days of that, I thought, “Let’s see what he does when we trot.” So we trotted, and no problem. A few more weeks went by, and I thought let’s just see how he does at the lope. I put him up into a lope, and not a problem. So I stopped using the casts and kept exercising him.

We gradually brought back the extended toe on the shoe and lowered the heel and got back to a three-degree wedge shoe, and shoed before the end of that summer and then we started showing him.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!