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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Hoof Reading 3

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Because the shod horse doesn't feel it's feet so well, in the UK we have become conditioned to seeing severe cases of thrush and thinking of them as normal and of little consequence. And if a thrushy, shod horse trips over a stone or goes a bit hoppy on a limestone track we blame the stones rather than our hoof care.

But it's not the stones at fault. Evolution (or God if you prefer) has given the horse feet that are capable of negotiating some of the toughest terrain on earth. When they are healthy. If your horse struggles with stones the very painful truth is that your horse is not in optimal health.

So apart from soreness over stones and the disgusting smell, why does thrush matter?

In very simple terms; a horse in pain from thrush won't use the back of their foot properly. The suspensory/concussion absorption mechanisms come out of use and the horse will become more prone to injury. The heel will start to contract and if this goes on long enough the horse may well get a diagnosis of 'navicular' in any one of it's many flavours.

Thrush is serious and it must be effectively treated.

The hooves in this blog

Hooves 1-3 as you can see have severe thrush, no. 4 isn't too clever but it's not as bad.

The hooves have been freshly trimmed (not by me) and the owner is concerned that the hooves may not be properly balanced.  Although photos can be misleading, I have to agree that there are areas of concern. 

Q What do you think of the hooves in these pictures?

14 comments:

Lisa said...

Are 2 and 3 from the same horse? I sometimes see that funny extended bar/sole ridge all the way around the frog. I leave it if possible, as I figure the foot will drop it if it does t need it anymore after the trim. What are your thoughs on this lumpy stuff?

The thrush in these feet looks different to the thrush in Aussie horse feet. Hard to put my finger on it, but yours looks more spongey, ours looks more like black cream, of like an oily residue.

Kate said...

I'll give it a shot.

#1 - narrow heels with poorly developed digital cushion. Frog in bad shape due to thrush. Hoof wall overgrown, some evidence of white line separation on right side of picture - could be the lighting.

#2 - underrun, narrow heels, side sulci look bad and have cracks running back into the heels - ouch! Are bars folded over sole? Some sign of white line separation on right side of photo towards the heel. Central sulcus doesn't look too bad.

#3 - a lot like #2 except the frog's in worse shape - looks almost rotted and central sulcus looks very bad.

#4 - I think this is the same horse as #5. The back of the heel is very contracted, particularly in the heel area and there are deep cracks. The hoof capsule seems to be distorted - the heel on the right side of the photo has a better-developed digital cushion, and the stance of the horse in #5 would be consistent with this. I'm speculating that this isn't a trimming issue but rather perhaps compensation by the horse for a conformational issue above the feet, and it looks like from photo #5 that it affects both front feet, but the trim may be making things worse. I don't like the look of the dark area along the white line in the toe area.

amandap said...

Haven't much time at the moment but I have to comment on photo 1! Apologies, I can't wait!

Freshly trimmed! It looks like only the left half (looking at the screen) has been trimmed the right half hoof wall is long and left flat as is for a shoe, whereas the left side is trimmed lower and a roll put on.

smazourek said...

Good thing you said you didn't trim these hooves, cause I was thinking for freshly trimmed hooves I see an awful lot of work left there to do.

If it were my horse I'd be trimming off those nasty frogs and bars, treating with oxine or White Lighting (or whatever similar product you have in the UK), and doing a diet overhaul. That horse is seriously lacking in some vitamins and minerals.

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Lisa - the pictures are from an email enquiry, but I have the carers word they are the same horse.

If the horse is putting down extra material in the sole I leave it. Although if it sticks up proud (higher than the outer edge of hard sole plane/hoof wall) then I will graduate to take the height down to just below. Otherwise the lumps can end up taking the whole weight when the horse is walking on a hard surface and this can be painful.

UK thrush is spongy - quite often the bacteria/fungus will eat into the frog from the bottom of the collateral groove and then cause the frog body to go squishy before it then shreds off in a puddle of goo. We get the black stuff too, but this is a later stage.

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Kate

Bar looks folded over in the hinds (2&3)

Buttresses are pretty weak all round although better in hinds than fronts.

It's hard to tell without an oblique view, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the hoof balance (or lack thereof) is contributing to the stance.

There seems to be no attempt to create a roll.

I can't directly commment on the DC but I wouldn't be surprised if it is poor, because with that much thrush the horse won't be using the back of their foot properly.

Lucy Priory said...

Amandap what bothers me is that I am given to understand that this horse has been attended to by a qualified farrier who is marketed as a barefoot specialist.

If this is the case is it any wonder that some people say they tried barefoot but couldn't make it work?

And what is the barefoot organisation that this farrier is a member of teaching?

Peripheral loading can be used (not that I'd advise it) to disguise foot pain, in much the same way as shoes, but that doesn't excuse leaving the foot badly balanced and not rolled.

Equally why no concern about the thrush or advice on what causes it, the secondary impacts and how to treat?

Lucy Priory said...

Smazourek I agree the frogs need to be treated. I'd take the necrotic tissue but be as minimalist as possible. I'd also request a period of dry while the thrush was treated and boots to protect them when necessary. A lot of recovering frogs are set back by bruising when they are still soft.

amandap said...

Lucy Priory said...
Amandap what bothers me is that I am given to understand that this horse has been attended to by a qualified farrier who is marketed as a barefoot specialist."

That was my next question, was the trimmer a professional?
Even as a pasture trim this looks bad to my non professional eyes.

The thrush on all feet is dreadful. It must be so sore. Not recommending a strict treatment regime for this and dietary advice is imo verging on negligence!

Apart from the severe thrush in all four hooves and strange trim, it looks to me as if the front soles are quite flat, collateral grooves look shallow and there is darkening (?bruising) in areas. Poor horn quality and white line disease as well.
The hind hooves (2&3)by contrast look to me to have very deep collateral grooves, long heels, and much sole wishing to shed. Is this right or am I way off the mark?

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I have to comment :-)

These photos are of my horse. (Don't worry - i haven't taken offence to anything that's been said! I'm here to learn :-) ) She's a 15.2 welsh D X TB, about 12 years old. She had been in heartbars (as per vets advice) for the last 3 years due to a DDFT injury. The farriers were remedial farriers, who we were referred to by the vet. Eventually, i got so unhappy with her feet and the recurring thrush and lameness, that i looked into going barefoot.
I bought the Feet First book and spoke with the authors before anything was done. Molly was never on a high sugar diet to start with, but her minerals had never been balanced. So we did a complete over-haul and the shoes came off 8 weeks later (the 29th of July) The next trim was the 22nd of August, where my other 2 went barefoot too. The photos on here were taken on the 18th of September and her next trim is booked for the 7th of October.
The trimmer is registered to who they are supposed to be registered with and came recommended. I'm at a loss now as i keep going off these recommendations and getting nowhere. I always trusted my farriers and vets, but now i know better. The feet are being treated for the thrush now as per Lucys top tips :-) and if you are interested, there is a link to her barefoot album http://s172.photobucket.com/albums/w8/mollymurphy_2007/Molly/Molly%20Goes%20Barefoot/ (sub-albums for each foot on the right) I dont know about foot conformation, but i do think the thrush is getting better. I'm just waiting for the copper and zinc supplements to kick in too.
We're moving to a new yard next weekend, so i will be getting all of the grazing and hay analysed (again!) and start over. As for the trimmer...who knows.
Thank you all though. I know we've got a lot of work to do, but we'll get there, i promise!
Lucy - fancy moving to Cheshire???!!! :D

amandap said...

Wow! How brave of you. What is it they say these days?... respect!

I am an owner so can't really comment on the trim.
I do know the biggest difference I've seen in my horse with a history of cracks came from no grass and soaking all her hay. It might be worth a try until you get minerals and analysis sorted.


The other thing I can say is it will only get better now, there may be ups and downs but healing has begun.

Lucy Priory said...

Hiya all

First I want to thank the owner of the hooves under discussion for allowing us all to use them as a teaching tool and to say 'hi!'

Second I want to say that although I have my concerns about the advice the owner has received; I don't think we should be too harsh with the hoof care professional concerned.

Unfortunately I see this sort of problem and much worse every day. So it's pretty much endemic. Which has to be a reflection as much on the training people are receiving as on the work/advice being delivered.

So my goal is to try and help people recognise the good, bad and downright ugly for themselves.

If you have any ideas on how I can do this more effectively then please do feel free to send me your thoughts.

amandap said...

I think your blog (written stories) using case histories is one of the best ways for people to learn especially with the photos.

I am very aware of and grateful for your commitment, taking the time and effort to keep your fab blog. I'm also very grateful to the owners and carers for agreeing to have their horses showcased here.
No suggestions from me I'm afraid.

A big belated welcome to the owner of the latest horse to be featured.

Anonymous said...

The inside heals of the front feet are too long, causing the outsides to lean in. The insides will continue to bear more weight, and exacerbate the condition by the outsides getting increasingly longer while the insides get even shorter.

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