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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

In suspension

This is a hoof comparison. The photos are taken 7 months apart.

First photo
Horse rarely stood with feet as a pair - one was always in advance of the other
Extensive stress rings/event lines had been rasped out - but still evidenced in the heel
The heel is in mid air suspension
It's hard to see in this photo but the heel is starting to run under
Coronary band has a deviation above the quarter
Lateral cartilage looks weak

Second photo
Feet are paired
Stress rings still in evidence but much less extreme and not rasped out
Heel is supporting the horse and in turn is supported by the ground
The heel is not running under
Cartilage is more robust
Whole hoof appears stronger

Monday, 19 April 2010

You can't necessarily judge a book by its cover

And a 'pretty' hoof won't necessarily perform better than one which is less photogenic. This foot has become rock crunching against the odds. It might only last for a few days, the horse is so metabolically challenged I plan to celebrate while I can :-)

Photos can be misleading. So let me describe what I see 'hands on'. The sole is really very flat and has been for months. Every time we get a smidge of concavity we have a metabolic event of some sort and it splats.

The white line is stretched and doing something rather nasty at the toe. We have also had a bit of thrush in the frog. But the horse is sound over some pretty nasty rocks. Bouncingly sound. Long may it last. We can work on better form, but healthy, active, function will go a long way to helping that happen.

Cross your rasps for this one. :-)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Transition goes both ways

Transition is often talked about as moving from a poor foot to a good foot. But you can take a good foot and add a little sugar and just like magic the good foot goes bad.
The pictures below span just two months. It took rather longer to get the foot back, but the owner is fantastic, made the effort and once again the horse has great feet.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Barefoot - know your landmarks

I was trimming a foot the other day and an observer told me I should 'Take a bit more off one side to make the foot symetrical.'. Well I didn't and I wouldn't.

Using a completely different foot belonging to a very kind volunteer I will try and explain why.

I must emphasise that the foot in the pictures is for demonstration purposes only and is not the foot which sparked this post.

The pink lines show the vertical and the green the horizontal planes. I hope you can see where and how the foot deviates from being symetrical.

If this were the foot in question the observer would want me to take off the portion of foot sticking out towards the bottom on the left hand side.

Now look at the solar view below.

The pink line bisects the centre of the foot. The green lines to the left and right are equal distances from the pink line. If (please don't) but if you followed the chop it off to make it symetrical theory then in this picture you would take out the right hand side. (Completely opposite to that suggested by the front view.)

Yes it's the same foot, the pictures are taken seconds apart on the same day.

If I had followed the observer's advice I would have ended up resecting the foot which is of course completely unacceptable.

I'll post a bit more about this later in the week. Questions welcome.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Sudocrem Balls

Do you sometimes like to play the five year old and get a little messy while having fun?

Well if your horse has thrush you can try treating it with Sudocrem balls.

First clean your horse's foot and if you wish flush/spray with something completely innocuous like dilute cider vinegar. Then stuff any cracks/crevices with the Sudocrem balls. Pictures below.

First get your 'ingredients' :-) Sudocrem or equivalent and clean cotton wool.

Pull off a small amount of cotton wool - about the size of a 10 pence piece or small gum ball (remember my hands are quite small)

Roll it around in the Sudocream. Make sure your hands are clean. You can make loads in advance and either store them in the tub or in a clean plastic bag.

I did say it gets messy.

Take one clean foot with thrush (see grotty central sulcus).

Stuff Sudocrem ball in the crevice and you are done. Plug all the holes/crevices and leave in situ.

Repeat daily if possible until the thrush has cleared. This may take a long time. But at least you know with the crevice plugged it will stop any more dirt and painful stones wedging in there.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Masking problems rather than fixing them

This post is inspired by my current horse; Grace.

Grace is barefoot and is in transition. Her shod feet were in poor condition and she is laminitic with suspected EPSM. To add further insult at sometime in her past she has received fairly traumatic injuries.

The reason I mention the laminitis, the EPSM and the injuries is that it is important to have a good understanding of the context in which a horse makes its transition.

Earlier this week, when I noticed that Grace was struggling to trot on a plain concrete surface it would have been very easy for 'Shoddies' (today's handle for people that shoe their horses) to blame her bare feet. It would have been equally easy to blame an influx of excess sugar from the spring grass. Or maybe even the EPSM. And I spent some time working through these thoughts.

After doing some research and sharing my thoughts with other experienced barefooters we figured out that the problem is at least in part related to her old injuries. It was even harder for me to realise that the school work that we have been doing to help with the injuries was also part of the problem. In fact it was Grace who had to point this out, I'd never have got there on my own.

So we have a smart, sensitive horse which was going lame on concrete - and at first glance it did look like a foot problem. In the bad old days she would have been shod and maybe with 'corrective' shoes. - However as this is not actually a foot problem she would still be lame. Then there would have been the endless rounds of nerve blocks, trot ups and pain killers and expense.

But because Grace is barefoot she can feel her feet. And because she can feel her feet her feedback to me about what is going wrong, where, is so much more accurate. Because I don't put on the shoes she hated so much she is learning to trust me and is getting more communicative as a result. Because shoes are not affecting the way Grace uses her feet and limbs I can more clearly observe what is happening in what circumstances.

Because the communication channels are not blurred in a multitude of ways by rings of steel we have been able to take a horse that was unsound in trot on concrete and get it sound again. And it didn't cost a penny or involve any drugs. And she is getting more trusting on an almost daily basis.

I am not saying Grace is cured and will forever be sound. I very much doubt this as there is so much more to unravel with her. But I do know that by taking her shoes off we removed a mask which hid problems rather than solved them. And don't get me started on shoes and laminitis :-)

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Southern England, United Kingdom