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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bruised hooves

I think it is important to understand where the bruise comes from in relation to where it is when you see it. 

For example, if your horse has a bruised sole you can be pretty certain that at some point in recent history there has been trauma to the solar corium.

I say 'recent history' because the time it takes for the bruise to reach the solar surface depends on:

Solar thickness
Rate of wear/growth

It is not unusal for me to see a bruise, remove chalk and then it is gone.  It all depends on how deep the bruise goes.

So for the moment let's focus on external trauma to the solar corium.  This can be a short sharp shock, ie the horse trod on a stone.  Or something more long term; overlaid bars causing corns for example.

But the chances of either type of trauma occuring can be reduced in the same way. 

1  Maintain proper foot health
2  Feed the horse appropriately
3  Trim on when required (not seveal weeks late) and in accordance with natural principles
4  Treat your horse with respect and listen to them

For wall bruises I fear I may have to be a little more controversial - but only reflecting what I have seen.

There are broadly two types of wall bruise.  One is the big purple/pink stain that is localised and typically seen in the quarters (moving towards the toe as the foot grows).  This type of bruise is often seen in the shod white foot, not so much in bare, although it does occur in barefeet too.  Sometimes, not always, this type of bruise is human/mechanical in origin.  What I mean is this; the foot has been allowed to grow or has been trimmed into a (usually) boxy shape.  The strain on the foot of this unnatural form causes trauma in the quarters, which then bruise.  It won't be seen in dark feet (usually) because the bruise is covered by the horn pigment.

The second is the big purple ring that circles the whole hoof, in the same way as an event line.  Again this is easily seen in pale hooves, but not those with pigment.

There are two main causes of the purple ring; dietary and mechanical and the latter falls into two further sub-divisions.  When there is dietary stress the horse will throw an event line in its hooves.  In extreme cases this will be bloody.

Mechanically, if the hoof wall is very weak it can fold under the weight of the horse near the bottom edge - for example when it is growing out a period of ill health.  This will cause bruising, but it is only for a short time because the fold will be near the bottom of the foot and will soon grow out.  The second mechanical cause I have seen is when a horse is shod 'aggressively' and the trauma to the foot will cause a bruise at the coronary band which will then grow down as a ring.

So if your horse is regularly getting bruises it is another indicator that somewhere, something is not quite perfect and you may need to rethink your horse's management.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Pins and needles

Ok as always I try and make this blog relevant to the everyday horse owner who has or wants to have a barefoot horse.  So I am not shy of acquiring ideas from the queries raised on forums - even though I do advise that these are not always good places to go to learn about barefoot.

Anyway someone contacted me about their horse, via a forum and this inspired the previous post about Ouchiness just post deshoeing.  The good news is that their issue seems to be resolving itself and they were kind enough to suggest that I might use their experience to help others.

Here is their note (names removed to protect the innocent).

Hi again,

This is the update and hopefully I won't have to bother you again....

Got to my horse's stable this morning and it was obvious that she hadn't moved alnight - all four limbs were slightly filled, poop in one big pile etc, etc. Got a halter on her and asked her to move...she was very reluctant and walking really strangely - exaggerated steps like when you put travel boots on them??... The filled legs cleared immediately but she was still walking really strangely.

Left her stabled and checked again about 3 hours later - repeat display from the morning so called the vet as I wasn't sure if moving her was wrong.

Vet attended - all life signs normal, no heat in feet, no sensitivity in feet, eating/drinking fine, no digital pulses, farrier had done a spot on job with removing shoes and balancing feet, no laminitis - still wouldn't move....weird
Transpires then 'pins and needles effect' were not allowing her to feel where her feet were. Got her out in the school and after a few mins she was walking normally. Will keep walking her in hand till she gets to realise that she still can walk!! Hopefully, that will be it and we can proceed with our rehabilitation programme!!

Thanks again, and just thought you would like to have another record of 'strange results' for your blog!!


Ouchiness - several hours post shoe removal

So you have done your preparation - improved your horse's diet for at least several weeks before shoe removal, read all the books and you are ready for the big day.

Excitement is mixed with a bit of trepidation; but you know it will be ok because all the horses you hear about have been just fine.

Only it's not.

Your horse was ok immediately post shoe removal but within hours they are looking uncomfortable, maybe just on one leg, maybe two, or horrors all four.

So why?

Well - you need on the spot experienced barefoot help to identify the actual problem but here are some starters for ten.

1 - the shoe remover decided to trim the feet and did a shoddy job of it
2 - your horse has previously undiagnosed laminitis or LGL issues
3 - the increase in blood supply once the shoes are removed can cause 'pins and needles' type effects
4 - muscles which had adapted to how the horse held its body when shod, are in the process of change
5 - when turned out post shoe removal your horse ran off bucking and strained something (oh yes it happens)
6 - your horse has thin soles (which can be improved) and is feeling the ground for the first time in ages (shoes numb the feet)
7 - your horse has thrush and can feel it now the shoes are off
8 - your horse has a poorly developed digital cushion/heel area and can now feel it
9 - your horse had wedge pads or egg bars or natural balance shoes on previously and these have upset the internal structures of the foot/foot balance and/or put strain on the tendons
10 - your horse has something else, entirely unrelated and it is just coincidence (for example pain in the cecum)

And don't forget, if in doubt always call your vet.  A horse should not be left miserable and in pain.  And - try to have boots to hand in case you need them.  Otherwise organise things so you can continue to work your horse while in transition without having to overly test them on horrible surfaces.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Flat feet - using DETEC3T

Oct '09
June '10
Profile front

June '10
Sept '10
Profile side

People worry about horses having flat feet, much more I think than the horses ever do.  Part of the problem, is that sometimes flat feet are lumped together with thin soles.

A 'flat' foot, with a good solid, thick sole and no underlying inflammation should be just fine.  You often see this conformation with some of the heavy horses and cobs, and they are often some of the most successful barefooters.

But a horse with a thin sole is going to struggle.  The good news is that you can fix this; if you follow the DETEC3T protocol.

The two feet profiled above both started with flat feet and thin soles.  The first foot belongs to a horse with extreme metabolic issues, so tends to only be 'rock-crunching' when conditions are optimal.  Winter, no grass, thoroughly soaked hay, etc.  regardless of how thick her soles are.  But the three pictures do show that a flat foot can gain concavity.

The second foot had one of the thinnest soles I have come across.  Taking the shoes off allowed better circulation to the foot and a natural foot form to develop. As you can see from the last three pictures, this foot has developed some concavity (and a thicker sole) relatively quickly.  The horse can now hack out on grass and concrete without boots.  Stones are still too much, but at the current rate of progress, it won't be too long.

So what is DETEC3T (long term readers will know this already so apologies)

Diet - feed a diet appropriate for your horse, which means knowing if they are 'metabolic' or not.
Exercise - feet grow in response to movement - so get your horse moving as much as they can, comfortably
Time - give the horse time to adapt, to any change in diet or exercise, to grow new feet
Environment - a hoof responds to the surface it lives and works on, so vary the terrain
C3 - commit to growing a healthy hoof, be consistent with diet/exercise, commuciate - listen to your horse
Trim - learn what is a good trim, get one when the hoof needs it, don't try to cheat nature

Monday, 20 September 2010

Story of an abscess

April '10
May '10
June '10
July '10
August '10
Sept '10

You can see the diagonal split in the quarter of the April hoof, what you can't see is underneath an infection has run from the abscess hole right through to the solar end of the water line.

By May this has opened up and June sees a whole chunk of foot breaks away.

You can see how the foot grows down and forward, the hole is now disappearing towards the toe.  By August all that is left is a slightly odd shaped foot and an unseen 'nip' at the edge of the hoof wall.

By September you would never know that this horse had abscessed.  Interestingly as the abscess hole has grown out the 'matching' deviation to the inside has also disappeared.  Because I didn't see the horse prior to the abscess I can not tell if she grew the deviation at the same time as she abscessed.  But I wouldn't be surprised.  Horses have an innate ability to grow the foot they need if we are smart enough to let them.

When I first met the horse in April she was ouchy over stones - but this I think was more due to a rather weak foot overall rather than the abscess.  The horse now works quite hard over all surfaces very comfortably.  And by quite hard I mean much harder than 80% of horses I meet.

In terms of trimming what did I do?  Well nothing fancy, I stuck to the AANHCP guidelines.  There was no packing of the hole, fancy treatments or washes, flushes or anything else required.  The owner did pick out the feet everyday and bad back allowing washed the feet with either a solution of cider vinegar or salt water.

Easy! :-)  The horse has remained in full work throughout.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Deviated hooves - now you see it now you don't

In April I started trimming a horse with a very interesting left fore.  Not only did it have an abscess hole (of which I will detail in another post) but it had a substantial deviation.

The horse has been trimmed regularly every 4-5 weeks and has continued with a reasonable workload and is now able to go over all surfaces without issue.  We still need to work on building up the back of the foot.
June '10

Sept '10

June '10

Sept '10

Thursday, 16 September 2010

TB Feet

Yearling TB
Found this gem on the internet.  Yearling TB being prepared for sale.  Feet a bit upright so this shoe is put on complete with gel sole and wire expansion.

Had a client with similar problem.  A few weeks walking 3X/week in hand and his feet have been restored to a healthier, natural form.

So pay your money, make your choice.  Give your youngsters the opportunity to move as horses should, failing that take them for a walk.  Or you could spend a lot of money on some fancy shoeing.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Honey I shrunk the horse........

Went to see a client today.  I swear the horse has shrunk in the wash. Really, it is quite a bit shorter than when I first met them. 

So I was sorting through photos this evening (yay time I got a life!). And I think I found out why.
Spring 2010

Sept 2010

The angles are not the same, but even so, I think you can see that the Spring foot is quite a bit taller than the Sept. foot. And no, we haven't just lopped the bottom off :-)

Horse is very sound and working hard.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Time X
Time X plus 6 days

Check out: toe shape, frog, heel bulbs.  With this much change in such a short space of time, don't be surprised if there are 'off' days.  Actually though, the reverse is more surprising, just how little bother there is (all things considered).

Friday, 10 September 2010

Transition - assessing visual changes

About 2 months later

Shod hoof - note heavily rasped outer wall.  You can see the paler inner hoof wall where the dark outer hoof wall has been rasped off.  Some hoof care practioners do this to try and shape the hoof to their ideal.

This has left the hoof weakened and vulnerable - you can see the seedy toe developing.  What you can't see is how much the hoof wall has been thinned (in terms of volume) which makes it crack and break up very easily.

There are multiple event lines and the healing angle can be clearly seen below the coronary band.
2 months later

When shod this was a slow growing hoof.  But if you compare the two photos above you can see just how quickly the hoof is growing now it is bare.  This hoof is still throwing out event lines, the cause of which will need to be investigated in due course.  The seedy toe is still in evidence.

The hoof is changing shape, quite dramatically, not just from this angle, but also (which can not be seen in these photos) the heel is widening and the toe is getting rounder.  I will post separately for to show this.

Side view 3rd week July

7 weeks later

The first side view picture matches up with the second front view photo.  (Apologies for the horrible angle.)  There is a deviation in the coronary band, which has dropped out by the second photo, this is not unusual and is something I am happy to see happen.  The event lines are easily seen, as is the high volume of growth.

This is still not a happy foot, but progress is being made and quite quickly.  It is just when you have a huge mountain to climb, even if you gallop along, it will still take a while.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Barefoot - not so new

How long has barefoot been around?  Well if you are a horse, for well over a million years :-)

Thought you might like this extract from a work originally published around 1880.

In November, 1878, a correspondent wrote in a contemporary: — ‘The argument against horseshoes seemed to me so strong, and the convenience of doing without them so great, that I resolved to try the experiment. Accordingly, when my pony’s shoes were worn out, I had them removed, and gave him a month’s rest at grass, with an occasional drive of a mile or two on the high road while his hoofs were hardening. The result, at first, seemed doubtful. The hoof was a thin shell, and kept chipping away, until it had worn down below the holes of the nails by which the shoes had been fastened. After this, the hoof grew thick and hard, quite unlike what it had been before. I now put the pony to full work, and he stands it well. He is more sure-footed; his tread is almost noiseless; and his hoofs are in no danger from the rough hands of the farrier; and the change altogether has been a clear gain, without anything to set off against it. The pony was between four and five years old, and had been regularly shod up to the present year. He now goes better without shoes than he ever did with them; and without shoes he will continue to go as long as he remains in my possession.’

That eight months after — in August, 1879 — this gentleman should send a copy of this same article to a provincial paper, is proof that he had never had any difficulties after the first month, the time needed for the ‘thick,’ ‘hard’ horn to reach the ground. There is one thing that he does not tell us, but which would have been interesting to know; and it is, whether any of his neighbours found heart and brains enough to profit by his example. His silence leaves room for the conjecture that ‘they had eyes, but saw not.’ It is even possible they still look upon his proceeding as an eccentricity. Such is life; the world might stand still for all that some people care to the contrary.

At the same time that this was passing, a well-known farmer and breeder of shorthorns in Cumberland wrote: — ‘I had a brood mare which had been running barefooted for several years, when, ceasing to breed, I took her up and used her as a shepherd’s hack, where she had constant work for two years; and, in travelling from farm to farm, she had a considerable distance of hard road to traverse daily, yet she never required shoeing. In the summer of 1877 I purchased a farm horse which had had the misfortune to get a nail into its foot, and he had been under the farrier’s treatment for several months; but had made so little progress towards recovery, that I determined to try what Nature would do for him. I had his shoes taken off and turned him to pasture. In the spring of 1878, being still rather lame, I put him to work on the land; and he is now doing all sorts of farm work, including drawing manure from the town, and drags his load as well over hard pavement as any shod horse that I have. Whether he could stand constant work on hard roads I am unable to say; but he does all that I require of him, and the experiment is so satisfactory that I intend to put another horse through the same training.’ The ‘Lancet’ says: — ‘As a matter of physiological fitness, nothing more indefensible than the use of shoes can be imagined. Not only is the mode of attaching them by nails injurious to the hoof; it is the probable, if not evident, cause of many affections of the foot and leg, which impair the usefulness, and must affect the comfort, of the animal.’ There is no dearth of complaints about horseshoes; but people still ‘cling so tenaciously to the favourite superstition’ of regarding them as ‘necessary evils,’ that the idea of fully examining the other side of the question never seems to occur to them; although, when it is brought to their notice, some are found willing to listen to argument and profit by it.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Continuing professional development - AANHCP

One of the joys of belonging to the AANHCP is the wealth of experience within the ranks that I can call on any time.  And I mean anytime because there are members all round the world.  I doubt there is an equine foot problem that hasn't been encountered by an AANHCP member somewhere.  So when you use an AANHCP trimmer you know you are benefiting from that, not just the person under your horse.

Ok promo over!  :-)

I am just on my way back from 3 days of CPD in Denmark - a great experience and my whole hearted thanks to the people who facilitated it for me and made the whole trip a pleasure and so worthwhile.  And the horses for lending me their hooves.

Now all we need is a set of replacement arms and legs (for me) :-)

And for those of you that know me personally, I can assure you that the minor traffic incident was in no way anything to do with my driving.......  and a collision was avoided and I have still to find out where the horn is on a Danish car.  Or how to fill up with fuel, or drive on the right hand side of the road, or where the rear view mirror is.........

But the car is back safely and unscratched and I am now sitting in the airport hoping that EasyJet fails to live up to it's reputation.  Who knows we may actually leave the airport on time and without any hiccups!

But don't hold your breath :-)

Normal service will resume when I am back in the UK.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Diet - learn from my mistakes - confessions of a barefoot trimmer!

The moral of this story is:  Find something that works and stick with it.  Do not be tempted to change anything without very good reason and unless what you have is not working.

But the biggest point once again is 'hooves don't lie', so listen to them before all others.

I have a rescue horse 'Grace'.  It was a while before I could really address healing her feet, we had other stuff which was higher priority.  Anyway, I was really chuffed this year when she became rock crunching in February.  It all went horribly wrong in April when she was wormed with one of those long acting wormers, she promptly went footy and we have struggled ever since.

Her footiness was made worse when she was let out of her dirt paddock onto lush grazing by a well intentioned, but uninformed person.

Normally a bout of footiness if caught early can be quickly remedied with appropriate management.  But unfortunately the long acting wormers sit in the liver and do their damage over weeks and months.

Equally unfortunately Grace also has EPSM.  So resting her is not an attractive or sensible option and tweaking her diet is more than normally complicated.

We moved her onto a strict routine of exercise within comfort levels 3X a day.  Turnout only in an arena.  Hay soaked for 12 hours and then thoroughly hosed off to get rid of as much sugar as possible and any traces of chemical fertilizer.

Her feed was forage based, very low sugar, (but high in oil for the EPSM) and the minerals fed made allowances for the high iron levels we have locally.  So we were doing the best we could with what we had, but were chasing the elusive rock crunching we had before spring.  (I am going to have 'there is no magic bullet' tattooed on my forehead).

There is no published data that I can find which firmly pulls together the damage caused by long acting wormers and how to fix it with a horse that is both prone to laminitis and has EPSM.  As you can imagine, it is a tough place to be.

Perhaps against my better judgement I tried a couple of new 'laminitic safe' products.  One of which caused very unfortuate negative behaviour changes and the other which made her EPSM symptoms surface quite badly.

So we have reverted back to our normal feeding programme of:

Soaked hay
Micronised linseed (from Charnwood Milling - less than £1kg)
Vit/Min supplement
Herbs according to need including lots of nettles and milk thistle

And from now on I will never use another long acting wormer, nor will I let anyone persuade me that they know better than my horse what she can or can not eat.

Touch wood, but slowly slowly her feet are improving and she is gradually returning to rock crunchiness :-)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Equine corns

I did read an equine professional website which declared that the prognosis for corns was guarded.  I also read several which suggested that poor shoeing is a leading cause.

I am going to stick my neck out here and disagree with both.  A corn is a bruise caused by inappropriate/too much pressure.  I've seen corns in both shod and barefoot horses.

Mostly the bars have overlaid onto the sole and the resulting pressure has caused a bruise which is often not spotted until the offending bar is removed or wears off.

I have also seen a very tall foot where the bar hasn't overlaid as such, there are layers of false sole in the way. But the bar has also grown equally tall and pressed against the sole in the vertical as well as the horizontal planes.
Corn day one
4/5 months later
Ok, now it is obvious from the photos that this foot still has some healing to do even with the corn gone.  But on the plus side the horse is now completely sound over all sorts of terrain and competing fairly frequently sans boots.

Note the improved quality of the frog.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Why barefoot works - or rather why shoe a foot in this condition?

Well to be honest, just a hint, because to do the whole thing would take longer than I have today.

Regular followers will remember the cadaver post from Texas *I often wonder how the heck that horse got into that state.  Today, somewhat to my horror I freely admit, I got a bit of an inkling.

I try to avoid forums (not good for my blood pressure), but they do have a use, which is to inspire some of my posts.  Well today I came across a post about a horse just diagnosed with navicular. *

See post 59 for photos and some thoughts.

The diagnosis of navicular was made on very thin grounds.  The horse, with obvious central sulcus infection, possibly a trace of LGL/lami, underrun and contracted heels has been shod with heart bars and gel pads.

Add in some 'interesting' trimming, including heavy rasping out of flare, add a few months and 51 states and there you have it.

The hoof in the first link is from the US, the second from the UK, but you can see how the US hoof may have started out looking something like the UK one.  Now that I find seriously scarey.

But not as scared as the poor horse should be with all that ********* nailed to the bottom of his foot.

So why could barefoot work in a similar case to the 'navicular' in this post?

Well for a start, without a shoe on it is much easier to:  a) treat the central sulcus infection b) for the heel to decontract  c) the underrun heel to be addressed and d) dietary issues are much easier to identify

As an added bonus it is much cheaper too.

But the downside is that the responsibility is transferred from vet and farrier to the owner.  So pay your money make your choice.  Please just don't ever let your horse suffer (let alone die) for it.

* Please note that barefoot hooves can end up with tall heels, central sulcus infections etc too.  It is all about the overall management.  Also in no way is this post criticising the owner of the horses concerned.  Without proper advice and experience we can all end up in a jam.  And many years ago I wore that T-shirt too, which is why I went barefoot in the first place.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Contracted and/or high heels

Look at hair line
Solar view of same hoof

You can see the Thrush infection in both the collateral grooves and central sulcus. Spreading the heels with this level of infection can be painful, so the horse lands toe first to avoid it. This sets up a spiralling series of problems, which can ultimately end with a diagnosis of navicular syndrome.

The trick is to sort the Thrush as a priority, which may also include dietary adjustments. There is no hard data, but experience suggests that horses which are in robust health and working hard (barefoot) tend to have much less of a problem in resisting this type of opportunistic infection.

The trimmers job is to sensitively put the heels back where they should be. This will take time and will not be successful if dietary and/or environmental issues are not addressed adequately.

This foot has also flared forward (see bottom half) but this is gradually growing out. Note the flare has to be grown out (and trimmed as you go along of course), you can't just chop lumps out of the foot to try and make it the correct shape immediately. Although if you look at some feet you can see where it has been tried.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Solar view hoof crack

End May 2010
End August 2010

We looked at a significant hoof crack a couple of days ago.  The above photos are of the solar view.  (Apologies for lack of focus in second, I've broken my camera.)

Look carefully at the toes.  In the second photo the deep part of the crack has reached the ground and formed a hole.  This will be flushed with a non necrotising product (probably salt water) but not packed.

Putting the crack to one side, can you see how the frog is getting healthier, the heel buttresses have more substance and the white line is tightening up.

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Southern England, United Kingdom