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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

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!) :-)

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Southern England, United Kingdom