Custom Search
Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Learning more about trimming

To be a better trimmer I need to see a wider variety of cases. So I have taken myself off to Dallas to train with Jamie Jackson. He has updated his training programme and its much more intensive and rigorous than previously. Which is just as well because I know I have a lot to learn.

We are practising on a mix of cadavers and live horses. Although it is sad and sometimes unpleasant to think about the dead horses, I would rather make my mistakes on them than a live one. The fatal mistakes have already been made on the dead horses and sometimes the evidence is in their feet.

The pictures above show what could have been a good foot that over a relatively short time period could have been rehabilitated. It has bull nose and compacted soles from inappropriate foot care. The later pictures show the compacted sole coming out and what the foot looks like after one trim.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Test your horse management skills - every day

Keeping a horse barefoot is really a horse management test. However unlike SATS everyone gets to sit a different paper, sometimes you get examined daily and the course work is relentless and never ending.
So why do we bother? Because some of us have seen a successful end result and want what we feel is better for our horses. Others are driven by desperation as they have run out of conventional methods and their horse is still lame.
The end result of the soul searching and effort is worth it. When you have a particular horse and its situation figured out the results are very rewarding in so many ways. Whether you just want to ride without worrying about the state of the horse's shoes, or if your aim is to prolong your horse's working life, or you have experienced the joy of riding a barefoot horse.
And where does the daily testing come in? You may have read the 'Heartbreak' post which showed how a bit of well-intentioned, but inappropriate feeding damaged a foot very quickly. Well the photos above taken just 6.5 weeks apart show how if you stick to your guns and get the diet right the foot will heal quickly too.
You can see in the first picture how the foot has lost concavity, the white line is stretched and the sole is one big bruise. That is one rather sore and very miserable horse.
In the second picture concavity is returning, the white line is tightening up and bar one bit of damage the sole is back to its healthy colour. Fungal infections are a challenge where this horse is kept, but the owner does a good job of keeping them at bay. I don't have a picture, but trust me, that horse is positively beaming with happiness now. It is so good to see.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Now you see it, now not so much

Left hand pictures taken 4th September, Grace deshod the day before.

Right hand pictures taken today, 29th November - that's just over 12 weeks apart.
If you look at the left solar view you can see the blood spot in the toe as well as the huge hole at the quarter. In the right solar view the blood spot has completely disappeared and there is just a tiny trace of the hole in the quarter.
The bars which were overlaid are still growing strongly and insisting on being big and beefy.

The side view shows the hole in all its glory (left) and grown out (right). The toe on the left is too long and has a 'bull' nose, the toe on the right is a good length and the bull nose has gone. The coronary band is at a better angle (right) and the the quarter is no longer pushing it up.

No tricks, gadgets or special conditions. Just a better diet, some anti fungal treatment and regular trimming.

A work in progress

Part of me is reluctant to post pictures of Grace's feet, because the trim is not text book perfect. Heck its not even completely technically correct. But its the best we can do within the current framework. So I post a) with the proviso that no one wanders off using these pictures as an example of a 'good' trim and b) with the thought that they might provide hope for those struggling with a horse that is less than straight forward to trim.

The first picture is newly deshod. You can see the nail still stuck in her foot. Took a bit of wrestling to get that out. This foot looks 'normal' for a shod horse. But if you look more closely you can see how the foot is under-run - the heel is scooting forward. The coronary band is almost horizontal and the quarter has pushed the corresponding section of coronary band up too high. The lateral cartilage is weak and under developed. There is also a furrow above the coronary band. The foot is too long.

In the second picture - the mustang roll is not finished (I'd had enough of trimming in the middle of a gale). The whole hoof looks smaller - notice how the furrow above the coronary band has disappeared. The coronary band is at a better angle. The lateral cartilage is building substance. To get a better understanding of the sort of things going on inside her feet look at x-rays of other horses here.

Grace's feet in general look horrible (to me). But they are getting better. Decontracting, the corns have gone, the thrush is 90% gone and so is the fungal infection. The latter is problematic because of the extreme wet weather and a previously very damp bed (roof and walls leaked). But importantly Grace is getting happier on her pins. Her heel first landing is becoming more consistant and she is capable of more manoveres. (Things like turning on the forehand used to be impossible because of the pain in her feet.)

I am slightly dreading next season when I feel we are going to be really challenged on the diet front. But one step (literally) at a time. :-)

Stop Press!

Madam has achieved rock crunching. Way to go girl! Pictures to follow on Thursday. All credit to the dedication and care of her 'Mum'.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

About time - heels decontracting at last

Near fore, off fore, near hind, off hind - in order.

At last the heels in front are starting to decontract. It isn't something that should be forced, you have to listen to the foot, follow the live sole plane and let the foot take the time it needs to heal.

Forcing a foot can make the horse lame or take it in the wrong direction - trust the hoof to know what is needed. But of course, look after the gut to prevent laminitis and treat any foot infections as required. The aim with the trim is to only remove what natural wear would have taken off if the horse were living in an optimal environment with optimal exercise.

The heels on the fronts are arguably too long, but taking them any shorter would mean invading the live sole plane which is unacceptable. The owner has been briefed to look out for the sole turning chalky in the seat of corn area.

Madam has been an interesting case - because if you just looked at the outer hoof wall you'd think her feet were fabulous (and in many respects they are). But it has taken an age to get her feet to this stage and if you look at the undersides with a 'barefooters' perspective you can see that her feet can be better still. And we are not being totally aesthetic here - we are looking for function over form.

I suspect Madam's heel contraction is linked to her sugar intake. We had got them to partly decontract last winter, only to have them close right up again in the summer when she had an overload of sugar. It's something to keep an eye on.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Grace's feet

I've decided to post progress on Grace's feet here and keep her blog for news of her rehabilitation and training. We had the vet on Wednesday and I subjected the poor man to a short photo album of the changes in her feet.

The block of 4 photos above are of Grace's off (right) hind. Top two pictures are immediately after she was deshod, the second two pictures are some 8/9 weeks later.

This set of 4 shows Grace's near (left) fore. Again the top two are immediately after deshoeing, the second pair are 8/9 weeks later.
The vet appeared impressed with her feet which I have to take as a good thing. But the cynical parrot on my shoulder keeps squawking in my ear, that the average vet wouldn't know a good barefoot if it hit them. Very rude parrot! Tempered by the fact that the vet introduced an associate as a 'vet' (maybe a student?) and the associate didn't know which were the good feet and which were the bad and they couldn't spot the contraction. So rude parrot, but maybe she has a point.
Grace's heels are decontracting nicely and practically of their own accord. All I have done is to facilitate the process. Grace's bucket feed is the 'barefoot diet'. Now it is winter she is in at night and out at grass during the day. She is potentially 'metabolic' - certainly her feet are full of rings and she has other signs too. But we will wait and see how we get on.
She had terrible corns, but these have now gone and she is developing a reasonable heel first landing when led out in walk. However the yard we are currently at has no facilities at all - I would have to do all her training and rehab on the road. So we will shortly be moving. The yard we will move to is still 'traditional' but it has 3 schools and a variety of surfaces and enough off road hacking to get Grace established.
That is of course if she proves rideable at all.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Proof of the pudding

Madam's feet are well on the way to recovery thanks to her 'Mum's' efforts regarding her diet. And Madam looks so much happier too. Not just in her face, which is softer and relaxed, but her whole body which looks so much more comfortable. And of course her feet which are no longer inflamed or purple.

Barefeet are such effective barometers of a horse's health, I can't imagine wanting to shut that feedback down. I have a lot of sympathy for Madam's Mum (MM) - Madam must fall into the category of 'very hard to take barefoot' because she is so sensitive to sugar and simple starch. But MM is doing a great job in less than ideal circumstances and Madam is reaping the benefits.

The alternative would be a horse that is borderline laminitic all winter with full blown episodes in the spring/summer/Autumn - and if the evidence were covered up with shoes Madam could be in real trouble.

Bearing in mind how purple her feet were in the early days of our guardianship I am relieved that we caught her in time, albeit somewhat aggrieved that this sort of issue is not picked up by vettings. And that standard veterinary advice regarding laminitis is so fixated on dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause.

But let's stick to the positives. The finding we have is that it is entirely possible for a newish horse owner to successfully barefoot a challenging horse, if they are able to manage that horse's Diet, Environment, Exercise and Trim to suit. (DEET)

There is no doubt in my mind that Madam is better off because of her 'Mum's' efforts and that they are both a shining example of what can be achieved. (Especially now the linseed is doing it's work on Madam's coat!) :-)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Horses (and their hooves) don't lie

If the horse doesn't look right, then something isn't right. Its that simple.

I used to compete in Endurance. I liked the fact that my horsemanship was being tested. My aim was to complete the course with a horse that was in excellent condition and happy with their work.

Barefoot does that for me now. It tests my horsemanship. If I fail the results show in the feet. Much more quickly than they might elsewhere, and the marks on the hoof provide a timeline of my successes and failures.

Of course the rest of the horse is a reflection too. A poor coat, a rib showing that shouldn't be. But these are relatively easily managed and past successes and failures are not recorded. A good foot on a metabolic horse is more challenging.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

If my heart wasn't already broken

Then I think this hoof scenario would do the job. The deterioration in this foot in less than 3 months is distressing. Fortunately the owner is great and knows better than to slap a shoe on, which would mask the hoof pain, but do nothing to fix the cause.

The first picture, which is far from perfect, shows a foot which is on its way to good concavity, nice thick sole, tight white line. Now an inappropriate diet has put paid to that.

The second photo shows bruising extending across most of the sole, which has lost a lot of concavity. You can also see the extensive flaring of the hoof wall. The third photo below shows just how much concavity there used to be.

This is a super mare, practically perfect. Well trained, well made and pretty. Loves to work and will have a go at almost anything. But everything has a downside right? And hers is her metabolic challenges. If she were human we would probably label her diabetic and treat accordingly. Guess what we do to horses - we nail an iron ring to their feet so we can ignore the problem. But thankfully not (yet anyway) in this case.
I kid myself I am upset for the sake of the horse, which is true, but I am also frustrated at the ignorance of some 'equine professionals' who ruin horse and rider alike.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Foot wear

One of the commonest concerns I hear regarding taking a horse barefoot is: 'I am worried my horse's feet would wear down too much'. As I was trimming Madam yesterday (it took a couple of hours and was very hot) both her owner and I were wishing 'if only!'.

Madam works most days, over a variety of terrain including lots of rough stuff and roads, has lessons twice a week and does endurance. In just two weeks, despite all this work she had grown half a centimetre of foot.

If a horse is in good health and is worked correctly this amount of growth is typical and the more stimulation the foot gets, the more it grows. Wearing the feet out is the least of Madam's worries. If only her diet was as easy.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Project horse

We have a new horse. Terrible feet of course! Grace is going to have her own blog. If you want to see pictures and to keep up to date with her progress go to

Friday, 17 July 2009

One year on

First picture is April 2008, shortly after Madam arrived. There is no collateral groove round the apex of the frog at all, so the horse has very little between the corium and fresh air. This foot is vulnerable to injury and will be uncomfortable or painful over anything but soft surfaces. The second photo shows the foot in August 2008. Mid box rest for sacro illiac injury, its been trimmed at least twice by a qualified farrier. Despite the box rest the shape has improved, but you can see it has a flat thin sole with significant flare and a fungal infection of the frog. It hurts.

Madam's feet are still a work in progress but in the 3-5 pictures you can see the infection is gone, the sole is thicker and her heel buttresses have widened and got much stronger. She has a good heel first landing and is comfortable on lots of surfaces, but not yet large, loose stones over tarmac. I haven't yet dared to send these pictures to the vet who declared that Madam had flat feet (which was true at the time) but was so scathing (ok rude) when I said we could fix that with some decent barefoot trimming and management.
We are still battling flares. We have discovered through trial and error that Madam has chronic metabolic issues. Even a small handful of starchy food, a bit of unsoaked hay or a sniff of grass will compromise her feet. So every time we start to get a good foot we have let her down by giving her the wrong thing to eat. Now we know better we are making much faster progress.

Madam's hind feet were always like a polished glass table. Completely flat with no discernable collateral groove. Well look at them now!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Abcess and then concavity?

First picture 15/06 second is today 24/06. The light spot on the upper wing of the frog in the first picture conceals an abcess which blew out to the side. You can see the sole is starting to shed. The second picture shows the abcess hole growing out and how the sole is flaking off.
We struggled for ages with the hinds stubbornly staying pancake flat. It may be coincidental but the sole started to shed when the abcess relieved. The hind feet are not concave yet but they are on their way (long may it continue).

Flares are freaking me out

The first picture is 15/06 and the second is today 24/06. This is the same foot as in the posts below. Despite regular rolling the flares are still much in evidence. This is largely due to my cautious approach. If only I were brave enough to apply the Pete Ramey white line strategy. But that said, the foot is improving, just slower than it could if I were better at the trimming side of things.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Tough choices

I have to be honest. I'd rather turn Madam out if we could. But our temporary accomodation has no grass free turnout, in fact the grazing is some of the lushest in the area. But although it must be a bit stressful for her, there is no denying she is doing well. The first two pictures show her today - I swear she knows just how good she looks :-)

The four sole pictures show the off fore on 24/01, 01/02, 15/02 and 15/06 this year.

From the end of January until some time in March our trimmer was out of action. You can see how the foot is flaring out and a thumping great thrush infection is taking hold. Although we CleanTraxed her feet, we did in the end have to trim out a fair bit of rotting tissue. The daily use of Sudocream seems to have done the trick.

In today's foot picture you may be able to see the development of some decent concavity, the flare is under control, the frog is bulking up and the heels are starting to decontract. My thumb is holding back the tip of the frog to show where it is starting to shed. Unless there is infection developing underneath we will let this shed naturally, as the frog underneath is immature and will need protecting. This foot needs a trim and I will post before and after pictures when it is done.

About Me

My photo
Southern England, United Kingdom