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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dissection of chronic laminitic hoof

Lamellar wedge toe view.  Grooving, event lines,
quarter distortion

Yep, that is my kitchen

Heel view, note contraction, underrun heels,
 atrophy of digital cushion, peripheral loading

Sole view, not clear in photo but it was bulging.
Natural balance shoe, very little wear

You can see more of the state of the sole here.
 I've cut the toe off

This view shows the capsule distortion and my kitchen table...

No that wasn't me, the laminae really have gone mushy

The distal border of the pedal bone has disintegrated as 
you can see

Pedal bone is very damaged and is infected/rotting

A better view of the damage to pedal bone.
And my grubby kitchen floor.  I hasten to add I took my
gloves off  after the dissection so as to not get gloop on the camera

Another grim view of pedal bone



  • Let this one sink in. 
  • Look at it. Then look again. And again.
  • Ask yourself, how did this hoof get like this?  
  • This foot is from southern UK not a backwater in a third world country.

Let's work together to ensure that feet like this get consigned to history. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Meet Julie, trimming in Suffolk and Norfolk

To introduce myself to those who don’t know me already - I’m Julie, one of Lucy’s newest Barefoot South Associates.  I’m based in Mid Suffolk and I’m offering trimming services in Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as parts of Essex and Cambridgeshire.

I’ve had two main passions for as long as I can remember, horses and dance.  The dance seeming to give me a true understanding of the balance, movement and grace that is seen in a fit, healthy horse.  I could also see that some of the horses I was working with didn’t have that same ease of movement as their wild counterparts but, at the time, I couldn’t figure out why.

Then I met Mr Thomas.  

If I’m honest, when I first bought Mr T he was a bit of a train wreck.  The words used in his description should have included; lame, navicular, sheared heels, can see where we’re going…

Try as I might I could not get him sound and, to cut a (very) long story short, I stumbled somewhat blindly into the world of the unshod horse.

After many wrong turns, frustrations and research I found Barefoot South and a place where I could learn about diet, exercise, environment and the barefoot trim without it all being a big secret.  It was a bit of a revelation.

I decided that I would train as a trimmer and from then, everything changed – after two years of studying I passed my exams, meeting both the expectations of Barefoot South and the requirements of the Equine Barefoot Care National Occupational Standards.

Having confirmed my status as a hoof geek (I’m always happy to expand on my geek credentials) I want to help owners to help their horses find their balance, movement and grace and go on to do fantastic things – whatever that might mean to them.

Oh, and Mr T?  He’s sound.

I can’t wait to see where this new journey takes me. 

To make an appointment with Julie contact Barefoot South click on this link to our contact form                   

Monday, 19 December 2016

Hoof cracks

Hoof cracks can be scary, but they don't need to be.

I'm not big on drama, it just gets in the way.  See the hoof crack below.

When I was called to this case, the hoof crack had been present for 9 years and if I understand correctly had been resistant to conventional wisdom/treatments.  The horse was persistently lame.  The crack originated from a field gate injury.

The first photo was 5 months ago.  You can see the crack runs from just below the coronary band to ground.  It is wide, deep and infected.  The toe is also long and the dorsal wall has a distinct dish.

The 'Hoof Fairy Wand'* was activated and the second photo is now; December.  The crack is growing out nicely.  There is a little gunk in the crack, but it is less than 2mm deep.  The horse is now sound to hack out.

Early July 2016 crack is deep and infected

Mid December 2016 crack is shallow and growing out.

* Sorry - the magic wand doesn't exist.  Working as a team we tweaked a few things and the owner has done an outstanding job.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Balance and trimming

Not all horses are able to self trim.  Maybe they don't do the miles, maybe their work load is inconsistent, maybe everything they do is on the squish.

It can all end in tears.  See the first foot, more or less self trimmed. Then look at the second and third photos.  The latter in particular via the wobbly event lines show just how 'out' the foot was.

Went from very lame to high mileage performance horse.  Not overnight obviously.


Education is the way forward

This horse was tripping and couldn't stand properly.  An easy fix.  Shame that it had to get this far.  Can you see what is wrong with the hoof capsule shape?

Monday, 23 May 2016

Toe Cracks

Do hooves with WLD, Abscesses, or Seedy Toe need shoes to be fixed?

This horse had them all and the post relates to a horse I saw several years back, but I never showed you the finished product.

Well here you go.  Before and after shots in pairs.

FYI - this was not achieved overnight and took frequent trim intervals.

View from front

Left hind at the beginning
Left hind at the finish

View from Side

Side view left hind beginning
Side view left hind finish

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Never say Never x3

A rare still moment
1 - This is a KWPN I first met aged about 5.  Diagnosed Navicular the prognosis was poor and the Vet School advised PTS or at most a year as a light hack on Bute.

He is now 11 and doing just fine.  A sugar sensitive Labrador x Shetland pony of a horse, he weighs in about 750kg, or 1653lb for folks from the US.  He stands at 17.2hh, or 178cm in his bare feet.

2 - The big news is that he can turn out in a herd of 14 on 30 acres of ex woodland.  Relatively poor ground on a stonking hill that suits him pretty well.

3 - He can also jump.  The horse it was rumoured couldn't jump, quite clearly can when sufficiently motivated...  He decided he wanted to come in and the gate was shut, so he jumped the fence, uphill and out of mud.  We found the foot prints.  Never say never!

Friday, 6 May 2016

High Heels are not a good thing

High Heeled Shuffle

This horse had been lame on/off for two years.  The list of issues
was lengthy.  Movement resembled an old man with a Zimmer frame.

Compare the heel height in photo 1 with the good foot in photo 2.  You can see the likely consequences for the pedal bone of the hoof in photo 1, even without an x-ray.

The high heel was added to with a further wedge. Note the event lines and rasped out toe.

1 Compare the heel height with that of the photo 2 below
2 Dissection of an excellent hoof, note hairline at heel

3 Heel is the narrowest point of foot.  (incorrect)

4 Sheared and contracted heel, note excessive
 heel height

The shuffling horse became something of a tank on overdrive when shoes were removed.  Ridden work commenced earlier than usual in the rehab process because the horse was so strong in hand.

The photos below are just 7 weeks post de-shoe - change can happen fast in the right circumstances.  The owner has worked hard to achieve this. 
5 Same foot, seven weeks post deshoe, note
decontraction already happening

3 months post de-shoe and the horse is moving really well. Thrush is still an issue - it had got so deep into the foot under the pads and up into the sheared heel.  But it is getting better.  Horse jumped out of his field a time or two, so obviously feeling well.  Congratulations to the owner for seeing this through and sticking with him.

6 No longer shuffling, hacking out several times a week
and jumping out of field (boots are overreach not hoof)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Rehabilitating large horses

Let's be honest - our judgements do have a habit of being coloured by our personal experiences.  It is incredibly challenging to cast our life learning to one side and embrace the new and unknown.

It's no different with horses.

I remember having a challenging discussion with a vet regarding rehabbing larger horses.  Apparently ponies are easy, but big horses are impossible because they are too heavy for their feet and if the feet are compromised and unshod all is lost. Of course this is based on their personal experience.

Well this vet needs to meet the horse I worked on today (among others).  I've been working with this horse and his carer for longer than I remember.

In the beginning there was so much wrong, it was hard to believe there was any point in trying to rehabilitate him.  Not just the poor state of the hooves - and they were exceptionally challenging, but also the multiple upper body issues too.

But here we are a couple of years or so (I've lost track of time) and the horse is unrecognisable, except for his enormous 17hh+ presence.

Sound, his feet are pretty fab.  His soles are concave rather than flat.  The horn is hard, the hoof wall thick and intact. Frogs are hard and well formed.  I can trim his back feet without having to rest his toe on mine. His upper body issues whilst not completely resolved, no longer trouble him to the same extent.  He stands straight, no longer loading one foot in preference to the other, no longer routinely pointing.  He is shiny, a perfect weight and looks half the age he did when I first met him.

If horses could smile, he most definitely does. 

I will ask his owner if I can post photos in a future blog.  But honestly he looks so good, you'd never believe he had been in so much trouble.

And if your vet tells you that big horses are too big for their feet and can't be rehabbed - know that this might be the limit of their personal experience, but it isn't fact.  This horse and his carer prove otherwise.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Long toes - a change in perspective

A lot of comment is made about 'long toes' and many a poor horse has had their toes dumped or worse in an attempt to correct a problem by addressing a symptom without a complete understanding perhaps of the anatomy of the hoof or the consequences of addressing symptoms not cause.

The following photos are of three different horses, Horses One and Two had a toe shape typically criticised for being overly long.  The last one, Horse Three, was considered to be fine.

Horse One
Long toe?  Look at the shape and size of the heel,
particularly the lateral cartilage.  Can we just cut the toe off?

Can you see the lamellar wedge? The heel is weak.
See picture below. 
Collapsed heel - very weak digital cushion and lateral cartilages
Same foot a few months later, still in rehab but
compare heel and lateral cartilage with first picture

Lamellar wedge almost gone

Horse Two

Is this a long toe?
Solar view of above foot.  Which bit of the toe
would you cut off to shorten?
Notice contracted heel and thrush

Still a work in progress, but notice how the heel
has bulked up apparently shortening the toe

 Horse Three

This is a genuinely long toe.  Shod every 6 weeks

Front view of above
Same foot two months later, sound, no longer tripping
So what is often considered to be a 'long' toe is actually one with a shallow angle, often caused by a weak/atrophied caudal hoof.  This can be only be properly fixed by developing the back of the foot through proper diet and exercise.
A truly long toe is often completely missed - they are even considered normal or desirable in some circles.  Despite the fact that they can cause secondary problems such as tripping or injury.  The truly long toe as shown in Horse Three is easily remedied by a competent HCP.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Barefoot Performance Award

This trophy will be awarded at our inaugural Barefoot Performance show this coming Sunday.

I am so excited to find out who will win it.

Details of the show can be found here

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A day in the life of a Barefoot South student

Hi there, I’m Michelle. Some of you will have already met me and others will have heard that Lucy has taken on a student. Well that’s me and Lucy has set me the challenge of telling you about a day in the life of a Barefoot South student, so here goes.

6am – I get up early to attend to my four horses. They all live out 24/7 on a track and are fed ad-lib forage. I’m allergic to hay and have been trialling them on haylage but after 4 weeks it’s clear that it isn’t suiting them. All four have lost some of the concavity in their soles and one of them has developed really soft frogs which are prone to infection despite daily scrubbing. I’m amazed how much of a difference it’s made but it’s unquestionable: my lot all grow better feet on soaked hay.

8am – Set off to meet Lucy armed with my essential flask of tea – you never know how long it might be to the next cuppa in this job so best go prepared!

9am – Our first client is a small native type who has been diagnosed with PPID. We watch him walk across the stony car park and he walks over the stones happily. I trim his front feet and he’s an absolute dream; not only does he pick up each foot easily he actually holds the weight of his own leg which makes trimming so much easier. He’s an absolute sweetie so we have lots of fuss and cuddles too, always a bonus. Lucy trims his hind feet as he is a little arthritic and can find it uncomfortable. I watch as Lucy takes the time to let him relax his leg to where he finds it comfortable and she trims it there even if it’s not in the easiest place for her. After trimming we watch him walk on the same surface again and he’s moving very nicely, a slightly longer stride than pre-trim. We aim to watch all our clients horses walk before and after trimming to assess how they are moving and how the trim has altered that.

10am - Our second client has cancelled which leaves us time to find a cafe and catch up on some admin; booking appointments and responding to new enquiries. By pure coincidence we find somewhere selling cake.

12pm – Next up is an established client with a new horse. We deshod him two weeks ago and tend to leave a couple of weeks before trimming. His owner meets us direct from a clinic where he’s been moving forward and striding out better than he did in his shoes. Despite this she’s been ‘helpfully’ told by onlookers that he looks a bit short so she’d probably better shoe him! He has contracted heels from being shod but has all the makings of really solid feet. Lucy trimmed him and we then watched him stride out over the stoney car park really very well.

1pm – We have quite a long drive to the next client and we use the time to discuss feet, trimming, nutrition, my horses, Lucy’s horse and client horses. You name it and we chat about it as both of us are totally fascinated by our work.

2.30pm – We’re booked to see a new client with one horse to deshoe but it turns out to be two clients and two horses to deshoe! These ladies have clearly done their research which is always a good starting point.

One horse has quite contracted feet that look like they’ve been squished into too small shoes. They feel solid though and I’m sure he’ll find his way to rock crunching fairly easily. I used to hear Lucy say to clients “this foot feels lovely and solid” and not really get it. Somehow I seem to have picked it up though because now I see other people give me the same blank expression I gave Lucy. She’s right though, after handling so many feet you can just feel that some are solid.

Our second new horse is in a bit more of a sorry state. He’s been through all manner of remedial shoeing and is currently in wedge shoes with pads. If his feet weren’t in such a sorry state I would find this almost funny. In order to put the wedges on his heels have been cut very short, so once shod his hooves are at exactly the same angle as they would have been if they hadn’t bothered. I presume his pads are to protect his very thin soles, except I can see knife marks in his sole where someone has tried to carve concavity into them. Now I don’t need any of my training from Lucy to see that cutting material off an already thin sole is, at best, illogical.

To add insult to injury (quite literally) this horse’s frogs are so thrushy they’re almost entirely rotted out. His owner was very upset that no one had told her this was not normal and needed addressing. It was abundantly clear that if she’d known she’d have done something about it so it begs the question of why no previous hoof care professional said anything. It’s a question I can’t answer, but I can tell you it’s not at all uncommon and to me it’s a clear sign that those hoof care professionals were not putting the horse first.

So after much frog cleaning, applying thrush treatment and measuring him for hoof boots we wrapped his feet in nappies to keep him comfortable and his frogs clean until his new boots arrive. This owner has a bit of a mountain to climb, but she’s determined to do what is best for her horse, and now armed with the knowledge of how to deal with his thrush and keep him comfortable I don’t doubt she’ll get there. She’ll have some ups and downs but we’ll always be at the end of the phone and will drop by if she needs more support.

6pm – We’re in the car and on our way home. After a few minutes we both start sniffing around and realise we’re covered in thrushy ick and the car absolutely stinks!

7pm – Arrive home and after a quick hello to my partner and dogs I go out to feed, hay and poo pick for my gang and take a satisfied look at their lovely feet.

Once home I reflect on the fact that Lucy and I do have to have some difficult conversations with clients, usually about their horse’s weight or thrushy feet, or sometimes behaviour. But one reason I decided to train with Lucy was her mantra: “The Horses come First” and they really do.

Note: A week after this blog post we went back to visit our deshoe clients and the lad with the thrushy frogs now has small but lovely firm clean frogs. It’s clear his owner is putting in just as much effort as we hoped she would and her horse is reaping the benefits already.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Taking Bookings for 2014

Barefoot South's very own Hoof Fairy is back in harness and taking bookings for 2014

If you want to treat your horse's hooves to the magical touch make sure you reserve your space.

Existing clients can use current contact details.  New clients click Contact Barefoot South.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Barefoot and bitless police horses.

At least 3 US police forces have taken their horses barefoot and have noticed far fewer lameness problems enabling the horses to spend more time at work and less time off sick.  The photo below, posted with permission of the original poster is of a US police horse on parade.

If they can do it in the US how come we can't do it here in the UK? It can't be because of diet, exercise, environment or trim. The circumstances for these are pretty much the same both sides of the pond. 

The text below is cut and pasted from a US mounted policeman posting on 'The Right to Trim' FB page.

The horses we have retired recently, all have been in metal shoes most of their lives. We pulled all of our police horses shoes, but the damage was done on the majority of them that limited their careers as police horses. Remember, a lot of other issues can occur throughout the body of the horse because on the constant nailing on of metal shoes. The ones recently retired were not lame so to say but had hock, back and other issues.
My police horse Shadow, aka as Texan Star, has never been shod since we got him un 2002 as a two year old. He was schooled slowly, not rushed into service like a lot of young performance horses, and went to work on the streets as a four year old. He is now 14 and his health record is so far clean of any of the consistent lameness issues we had when we shod all of our police horses.
We now look long and hard any horse people want to donate that has been in metal shoes the majority of their lives because we know their careers will be shortened due to being in metal shoes. There are always exceptions but again we would prefer not to roll the dice taking horses in that have been in metal shoes.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Slipping on grass - I don't think so

Amazing Mother, daughter and cob combo.  They've all worked their socks off and this is one example of the results: Eventing Summer 2013

Yes they do get time faults - for going too fast...

Give them all a round of applause :-)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Doesn't this horse look fabulous!

You'd never guess she has Cushings (PPID) would you.  And neither did the vet.  But interestingly, there were a lot of clues in her hooves.

Her care giver/owner is amazing and honestly I am in awe of the work and diplomacy that has been executed in getting this mare what she needs whilst keeping everyone on board.

I initially suspected some sort of metabolic problem because despite barefoot protocols being followed the hooves were not responding.  Growth was poor both in terms of quality and quantity and the soles were thin and rather soft.

The mare had a poor topline and other issues which also backed up the idea that all was not well.  Prescriptions of protein powders and the other traditional initiatives did nothing to help the mare and the vet was resistant to the idea of testing for PPID as she was quite young.  The owner tells me she did consider having her PTS as she didn't want the mare to suffer.

After much diplomatic negotiation on the part of the owner the PPID test was done, Prascend prescribed and the horse started to recover.

The picture are of their first ODE one year on. 

Notes on PPID/Cushings

Even just ten years ago we only suspected our horses may have PPID if they became unusually hirstute and failed to shed properly.  Symptoms could, if we were lucky be moderated, but the outlook was poor. 

Today PPID properly controlled doesn't have to be the death sentence it once was.

We have a PPID test, although it's not 100% accurate and we have Prascend (Pergolide).

The test has to be done properly and not all vets are completely up to speed with interpretation of the results. So if you suspect your horse has PPID I recommend you read for the low down.

In the UK until recently vets would prescribe Pergolide but it wasn't/isn't titrated or licensed for horses.  Pergolide has been replaced by Prascend which is both.  Horses on Pergolide before the change are allowed to continue on it. 

It is important as an owner or care giver to realise that there are many subtle signs that your horse may have PPID that manifest years before the hairy, curly coat stage.

Loss of topline, pot belly, lack of energy, difficulty fighting infections, slow wound repair, poor hooves both quality and quantity and particularly a failure to grow a good sole, . The coat may be duller than you would expect.

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Southern England, United Kingdom