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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Barefoot - its a whole horse thing

Regular followers will have seen some of these pictures before.

I want to show how if there are metabolic, physical or stress issues these have to be dealt with as part of the transition. When a horse is not 'whole horse' healthy, it is likely to show in the feet and even the best trim in the world can't fix a poor diet or a stressful environment.

Just deshod, flare and stress rings clearly evident

Today, the foot is in better shape, but the lower two thirds is full of stress rings. The last big ring about 1/3 the way down was from when she had an allergic reaction to a vaccination.

Just deshod, heel contraction clearly evident

Today, foot decontracted

At least two severe laminitic episodes are evident in the stress rings. It would appear there was some separation. (I used off fore for this shot because the picture was much clearer, but both fores are the same)

The separation has grown out and the foot is a much better shape, but there are still stress rings, albeit much fainter than before

Just deshod - this foot is a mess of shedding sole, lack of trimming and thrush, it is misleading as to the true picture of what is going on with the foot

A bit later, the sole has shed out (this was not trimmed), the overlaid bars were trimmed and the wall tidied up and rolled. This picture shows how 'sick' the wall is. Very thin with little water line - it disappears altogether in the back half of the foot. The sole is completely flat, with very little depth to the collateral groove. The shape is more indicative of a hind, but its actually the near fore.

Same foot now. The heels have broadened, the shape is rounder and although its hard to see in this photo there is more depth to the foot.

But holistically this is still a sick horse. If you looked at her in the 'traditional' way you might not think so - her coat is shiny, she eats well, her eyes are bright and full of interest.

But her feet still hurt sometimes. Especially when she has been turned out on grass, or has suffered some stress. True she can manage a lot more surfaces than she could and she is happy to work on a circle both ways. But her feet lack sufficient concavity, her walls are still a bit thin, she has stress rings and struggles on lumpy concrete.

Until these issues go away I will not consider my job done. And my work won't be completed with a trim; its about diet, building her confidence so that she gets less stressed, repairing her immune system and then giving her enough appropriate exercise.

It's really easy to lame a horse with a bad trim, but the best trim in the world won't fix a horse if the other aspects are not properly addressed.


Andrea said...

I have to say I applaud you. I know SO many horses that sound just like this - barefoot, fat, shiny, sound on good footing and happy, but with no concavity and still ouchy sometimes on gravel - and their people (and sometimes their trimmers/farriers) say, "that's just her/him, with those wussy feet, he/she is always like that!" But it doesn't have to be that way, if there were more trimmers and farriers out there who, like you, believe in fixing the whole horse, not just the feet.

Val said...

Very interesting.

I have a question:
Is the color of the ring significant or just the wonky shape? In reference to the horse who had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, I was not sure if the stress ring was the light or dark-colored ring.
Thank you!

Sophie said...

Hi Thanks Andrea - I find as a trimmer the biggest challenge is encouraging owners to feed their horses as horses....

Hi Val
Stress rings - great question. Three things to note. 1) Stress ring can protrude or actually be a groove. Size matters - bigger is more dramatic event. Lots of little ones is often indicative of a horse that is 'teetering' - maybe soaking the hay properly will sort that out. 2) Shape - if the ring is 'wobbling' up and down then this is indicative of a foot that is either out of balance or is growing unevenly. For example - there will often be a 'wobble' at the quarters. 3) Colour - in pale hooves you can often see bruising. A 'splodge' bruise can be indeterminate as to cause, but one that runs round the whole hoof is indicative of a very stressful 'event'.

Hope that helps. Please bear in mind this is based on my experience and others may have more to offer.

Sophie said...

Sorry should also have mentioned - the stress ring is the horizontal ripple or groove on the hoof. The hoof wall should be smooth both visually and to touch.

Sometimes it is easier to feel subtle variations with your eyes shut. Another technique, especially with pale hooves, where rings can be disguised by stains, is to very lightly sand the hoof wall. So long as you don't go mad with the sander and do it by hand you won't cause any damage.

I personally don't agree with the practice of some farriers/trimmers who rasp and/or sand out all deviations. Depending on how much is done and the quality of the hoof wall this can be damaging.

Austen said...

I am loving reading your posts, they are just one more resource to compare the hooves of my TB - who I am happy to report is walking on gravel happy as a clam. We'll see if he's still so sound when the mud dries up and he's walking on hard ground all day!

I have a question about feeding, though. I agree with feeding a horse as a horse, and cutting out sugar as much as possible. But how do you keep weight on a horse like my hard keeper? I try to feed as much hay as possible, and only feed him low starch grain. Right now, I have started adding beet pulp to try to increase weight. It's making me crazy!

Sophie said...


I am glad you are enjoying the blog. I try to be as frank and honest as possible. All the things I blog about are things I have some personal experience of.

Re Diet - I am going to blog about this because it is so important - thank you for the question

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