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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Does your overweight horse have hooves that are 'starving'?

Lower half free access to grazing and overweight,
upper half same grazing but muzzled and correct weight

Hard to see, but hoof has 'dessicated' texture,
 horse overweight

Dessicated hoof has split (outer hoof wall only).
New growth - horse correct weight is coming in much

Solar view of split hoof above, pre trim,
you can see crack is outer hoof only

I freely admit some uses of the English language freak me out a little. One of which is 'you need to get after him' - more of which in a future post, and another is: 'I don't feed any supplements in the summer, he is out on the grass.' This latter phrase, in tandem with the to my mind somewhat romantic notion that horses (in the UK) can get what they need from their environment can lead to problems.

The hooves above are attached to horses belonging to the very best type of carers. Dedicated to the welfare of their companions and prepared to research and investigate how to optimise their health. Both horses are 'metabolically challenged' - so are more difficult than the average horse to look after.  So all credit to the carers for putting in the extra effort it takes to look after them.

Unfortunately both horses got a bit on the round side. It happens. Most of the time the results are no more than a bit of porkiness and a shortness of breath. But with horses there are times when the outcome is a bit more unfortunate.

As you know long term overweight in a horse can lead to Insulin Resistance and Laminitis (2/3 lami cases are linked to obesity). But what doesn't seem to be recorded in any data I have found is any material on the fat but 'starving' horse.

There is growing awareness, but it is still low, that in the UK our forage tends to be short of copper, zinc and magnesium. So if your porker is reliant on forage alone they may well be short of these vital minerals.

The hooves above have succumbed to fungal infections which have damaged the outer hoof walls. This happened when they were overweight and reliant on grazing alone. Put on a diet and given a modest amount of supplementation and you can see the hooves are improving.

It's early days for one of the hooves, but although it will take a few months for the cracks to grow out, the quality of the new horn is good.

So keep an eye on the texture of your horse's hooves. Dry and crumbly or dessicated coconut hooves don't really need hoof dressings*, but they probably do need 'feeding', with a correct mineral balance not more sugar.

*Which unless carefully chosen can make the type of fungal infections seen in these hooves worse

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Thoroughbreds, barefoot, concrete and dressage

So pretty :-)

You've met this chap before see here - well his hooves at least.  He now happily hacks on concrete, no boots required.  (His old boots have been helping another horse to rehabilitate and will shortly be moving onto their third customer).

But just to show his brain is as good as his feet he has been strutting his stuff in dressage.  And to my mind he is looking just great. :-)

Big hugs to his people for doing such a good job :-)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Teaching a horse to wear a grazing muzzle

This protocol is not entirely mine, I've adapted it from one I found on a nutrition site, but it seems quite sensible. So if any of you are contemplating using a muzzle to restrict your horse's grazing you might want to try this and let me know how you get on.

Allow yourself and your horse plenty of time for this - several days or a week or more
  • Start with the muzzle and put some food into the bottom
  • Allow your horse to put her head into the muzzle themselves, don't force it on. Give her time to figure out that if she puts her head into the muzzle she will get some food.
  • When your horse has sussed this bit put the muzzle on and put some food through the hole at the bottom.
  • Then at the next session you can take your horse to the grass area and place the muzzle on the horse. Pick some grass and put it up into the hole at the bottom a few times.
  • Then begin to ask your horse to follow this down to the grass but still put some grass into the hole for her. Do this a couple of days.
  • Your horse should start to to put her head down to get the grass you are putting through the bottom.
  • If the above has gone well she should then start to try to get her own grass as you let her search for what you have been putting up into the muzzle.
Don't think the horse can figure it all out by themselves - some will but many will need the help of the above protocol.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Happy tails............. 5 weeks barefoot diet and now comfy on stones

I am sure last night's phone caller won't mind me sharing the anonymised and paraphrased content of our conversation and some of the relevant background. Just to give everyone a bit of inspiration and some food for thought maybe.

Caller started the 'barefoot diet' just five weeks ago and to her complete joy (and much excitement) her horse can now manage a tricky concrete and stones track that he has always had trouble negotiating before he started the diet.

The background is this:- Met caller some five weeks ago.  Horse had been shod for some five years.  First shoeing was on vet recommendation because the horse had gone footy in the late spring/early summer.  (Yes I know what you are thinking!)

Owner not terribly chuffed as had been determined to keep horse barefoot, but was persuaded that this was the best and only option.  No mention of diet or low grade lamintis was made.

So five years on and some unfortunately damaged hooves and the horse is still not comfortable over stones.  Just five weeks on the 'barefoot diet' and he is transformed.

Go figure.

The good news is that now the owner knows what is needed and can manage her horse accordingly.  It only took five weeks to transform this horse, but it might take a little longer for the frustration of the 'wasted years' ( owners words not mine), to ebb away.

Big hugs to them both.

Oh and to misquote Dr Kellon, 'Halfway measures lead to halfway results."  This owner has followed instructions to the letter, including instituting an exercise programme to help manage the horse's weight.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thought for the day

I think I am going to stop using the word 'transition' when discussing how to transform a sickly shod foot to a high performance barefooter; I've come to the conclusion that it creates false impressions and expectations in a lot of people's minds. 

Almost as though the process is no more challenging than moving from train station to airport lounge, when actually there is usually the need for a tremendous amount of hoof structure development which takes a lot of time and application.  Often many months of daily grind.

Which leads me to success factors.

What really counts? Time and consistent delivery of the things a healthy hoof needs; decent diet and appropriate exercise. Not money or lots of facilities.  Just quiet determination and the ability to read your horse and act accordingly.

The very best hooves on my books are attached to horses that frequently live out 24/7, often in less than ideal environments, one particularly so, but they are fed properly and work their butts off.

Note: they work their butts off - a hoof needs to work, one that doesn't will lose function and performance even if it is outwardly 'pretty' and tough.

Those on full livery seem to do the least well.  And it's not because the owner lacks dedication or makes no effort.  But 'things' have a way of happening that throw a proper spanner in the works.  From unhelpful turnout situations/timings; to equally unhelpful feeding practices and time/cost pressures on livery staff.

More than one horse on my books has had it's health transformed by moving from human 'ideal' livery to something far less luxurious.  Not sure the same can be said for their carers though..........  (only kidding - the carers seem to cope just fine!)

I  personally found the same with previous horses.  Moved them from very nice stables etc etc to a muddy field with a track, no rugs, no electricity or school.  They did just great, so did my bank balance. 

And oddly I ended up doing much more riding - with no yard to sweep or stables to muck out I had more time.  And the feet working so much harder were so much fitter - and so was I :-)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Home grown...

Just deshod

11 weeks later

Very 'metabolic' horse, to the extent that a couple of handfuls of the wrong sort of hay will have a negative impact on legs, feet and behaviour (swelling, footiness and grumpy). Not an easy one for anyone; so hats off everyone to the owner of this horse for doing such a grand job in very difficult circumstances.

Overall shape change
Bulking up of frog
Reduction in thrush
Development of heel buttresses
Thickening and toughening of sole
Extra bulk in heel bulbs

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Southern England, United Kingdom