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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Taking Bookings for 2014

Barefoot South's very own Hoof Fairy is back in harness and taking bookings for 2014

If you want to treat your horse's hooves to the magical touch make sure you reserve your space.

Existing clients can use current contact details.  New clients click Contact Barefoot South.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Barefoot and bitless police horses.

At least 3 US police forces have taken their horses barefoot and have noticed far fewer lameness problems enabling the horses to spend more time at work and less time off sick.  The photo below, posted with permission of the original poster is of a US police horse on parade.

If they can do it in the US how come we can't do it here in the UK? It can't be because of diet, exercise, environment or trim. The circumstances for these are pretty much the same both sides of the pond. 

The text below is cut and pasted from a US mounted policeman posting on 'The Right to Trim' FB page.

The horses we have retired recently, all have been in metal shoes most of their lives. We pulled all of our police horses shoes, but the damage was done on the majority of them that limited their careers as police horses. Remember, a lot of other issues can occur throughout the body of the horse because on the constant nailing on of metal shoes. The ones recently retired were not lame so to say but had hock, back and other issues.
My police horse Shadow, aka as Texan Star, has never been shod since we got him un 2002 as a two year old. He was schooled slowly, not rushed into service like a lot of young performance horses, and went to work on the streets as a four year old. He is now 14 and his health record is so far clean of any of the consistent lameness issues we had when we shod all of our police horses.
We now look long and hard any horse people want to donate that has been in metal shoes the majority of their lives because we know their careers will be shortened due to being in metal shoes. There are always exceptions but again we would prefer not to roll the dice taking horses in that have been in metal shoes.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Slipping on grass - I don't think so

Amazing Mother, daughter and cob combo.  They've all worked their socks off and this is one example of the results: Eventing Summer 2013

Yes they do get time faults - for going too fast...

Give them all a round of applause :-)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Doesn't this horse look fabulous!

You'd never guess she has Cushings (PPID) would you.  And neither did the vet.  But interestingly, there were a lot of clues in her hooves.

Her care giver/owner is amazing and honestly I am in awe of the work and diplomacy that has been executed in getting this mare what she needs whilst keeping everyone on board.

I initially suspected some sort of metabolic problem because despite barefoot protocols being followed the hooves were not responding.  Growth was poor both in terms of quality and quantity and the soles were thin and rather soft.

The mare had a poor topline and other issues which also backed up the idea that all was not well.  Prescriptions of protein powders and the other traditional initiatives did nothing to help the mare and the vet was resistant to the idea of testing for PPID as she was quite young.  The owner tells me she did consider having her PTS as she didn't want the mare to suffer.

After much diplomatic negotiation on the part of the owner the PPID test was done, Prascend prescribed and the horse started to recover.

The picture are of their first ODE one year on. 

Notes on PPID/Cushings

Even just ten years ago we only suspected our horses may have PPID if they became unusually hirstute and failed to shed properly.  Symptoms could, if we were lucky be moderated, but the outlook was poor. 

Today PPID properly controlled doesn't have to be the death sentence it once was.

We have a PPID test, although it's not 100% accurate and we have Prascend (Pergolide).

The test has to be done properly and not all vets are completely up to speed with interpretation of the results. So if you suspect your horse has PPID I recommend you read for the low down.

In the UK until recently vets would prescribe Pergolide but it wasn't/isn't titrated or licensed for horses.  Pergolide has been replaced by Prascend which is both.  Horses on Pergolide before the change are allowed to continue on it. 

It is important as an owner or care giver to realise that there are many subtle signs that your horse may have PPID that manifest years before the hairy, curly coat stage.

Loss of topline, pot belly, lack of energy, difficulty fighting infections, slow wound repair, poor hooves both quality and quantity and particularly a failure to grow a good sole, . The coat may be duller than you would expect.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


Time to update this post; 'Help my horse has gone footy'  

Footiness is the bane of many a barefooter, and unresolved footiness, or a misunderstanding of what footiness means are common reasons for shoeing.

But the world is slowly waking up to the idea that a horse's hooves are a window to her health and it's a sad day when we choose to ignore the warnings we are being given.

And footiness is a warning, pure and simple, that all is not as it should be.  How we react to that warning says a lot about us.

What I failed to mention in the previous post is that list items 1-6 can cause an inflammatory response, as can adipose tissue.  This can cause footiness regardless of how good the hoof is.  Long term inflammation also seems to impact on the ability of a horse to grow a good foot, particularly sole. And a thin sole is a problem even if the horse isn't obviously footy.

If we are lucky, the footiness, including the thin sole sort, is indicating a basic management error (see post highlighted above) and can be resolved relatively simply.

If you can't resolve the footiness through good management then you need to consider metabolic disease such as Insulin Resistance (IR), Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), commonly known as Cushings.  I've found that many horses that fail to grow a thicker sole have metabolic problems.

Also consider what I call FTS, Fat Thigh Syndrome.  I've known horses go footy simply from being overweight.

And if the horse has been out of work for any reason don't forget that the feet need time to get fit. No I'm not being daft, check hoof anatomy, there are a lot of ligaments in the foot and if they are not working they can get out of shape.  I've personal experience of that.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Track livery on private yard in Chobham, Surrey

Space for one or more unshod geldings. Beautiful track with natural shelter. Not surfaced, but that will be done in due course. Very high standard of mains electric fencing.

Use of school (not lit), good quality stabling and tack room.

All this in exchange for helping owner with her horses. This includes poo picking the track and putting out hay. Mucking out one rubber matted stable and taking bucket feeds to horses on track.

The track is close to the stables so not too much treking back and forth.  Good hacking is available, but you/your horse may have to negotiate some traffic/cross a road depending on how far you want to go.

In the first instance contact

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Healing heels

There seems to have been a bit of a 'theme' to recent visits.  Lots of new clients, lots of caudal hoof pain.  Lots and lots of heels which are stratrospheric in their ambitions.

Horizontal or near horizontal coronary bands supported by near vertical heels are not a good thing.  I have no idea why they are so popular, but in some parts of SE UK they seem almost endemic.  It seems boxy feet are fashionable these days, even more so if the hoof capsule can be persuaded to go to 5 inches plus.

These unnatural edifaces may or may not also be very contracted.  They are nearly always bruised to some extent.  Not necessarily visible from an external perspective, but the minute the foot is picked up and cleaning commences there it is.

One I've done recently had more than 1/2 depth of deep purple bruise in his heels both fronts.  Yes the poor lad did breathe a sigh of relief when we'd helped him out with that.  Took two goes over 3 weeks.  All credit to the owner for being able to deal with it.  We booted and padded for exercise in between but such was his relief at having his heels seen to I understand he has been going really rather well despite it all.  Prior to trimming he had been in so much pain we had to stand him in shavings just to do his feet.  Now he can stand completely bare on concrete quite relaxed and happy.

If you know what you are doing heels are 'easy', but if you don't I can understand why people worry.  It is very easy to make a mistake that takes a long time to recover from.  I can even understand, although I don't endorse the view, why some people say to leave them alone.  Wishful thinking that perhaps they will magically take care of themselves with or without some road work.

Well in SE it's not happening.  Not because people don't try, they really do.  I know people who do hours of roadwork, but because the horse is not using their heels properly they don't get worn properly and it all goes base over apex.  Then trimming the resulting hotch potch isn't something that can be approached with all guns blazing.  If you are going to restore function and comfort it can take time, a lot of skill and often takes boots, sometimes with pads too.  And my owners always get homework and I always know if they have done it.

Remember the mantra 'comfy footsteps'.  Progress will be so much faster.

When I get some time I'll post some heel pictures.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Asymmetry/deviation and balance

Brief intro - previously shod cob.  Hooves were 'pretty' when shod, but the horse used to trip. I don't think they qualify as 'pretty' anymore, but horse doesn't trip either. I know which I prefer, for the horse's health and the safety of the rider.
LFT - balanced?

Know the difference between flare and asymmetry/deviation? Not everyone does and confusion between the two often leads to unnecessary heartache and drama. It is important to understand why they are different and how each arises. Although if the HCP is practising NHC not too much can go wrong.

We have reviewed deviation before; basically all the structures are synchronised, but the solar area of the hoof has shifted. This might be en masse to the lateral or medial sides or there maybe a bit of a wibble going on see here. So long as the horse is sound and the pedal bone is in balance I don't worry too much.

In an 'ideal' world we might see deviation as an abberation, it does tend to reflect a compensation for another issue maybe higher up. Sometimes if the issue is resolvable the deviation will disappear over time, see here. Sometimes the issue has become fixed, it might be wonky legs or an old injury.

Regardless by applying NHC and with the owners/carers playing their part, the horses I have dealt with have all kept sound and done well.

Flare is another matter and by flare I mean the flare you see when the white line is stretched. See here where the toe is stretched - seen most clearly in the second to last photo of the series (in the linked post, not this one). The hoof in the second photo below has flare, from a stretched white line which you can see extends all round.

It was suggested to the owner of this horse that the hoof was out of balance and that this should be addressed before dire things happened.  As you can see from the photos below the hoof is actually asymmetric or deviated from the outside, but perfectly balanced from the solar view.  If an attempt were made to dress out the asymmetry/deviation you can easily imagine what might happen. 


Stretched white line, foot in balance

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Credit where it's due

I've been asked on more than one occasion to promote products and/or companies in the body of this blog.  For money.  I won't do it.  This blog is meant to be an educational and discussion tool.  It isn't a front for selling.

But today, I break my rule, but not for money and not because I've been asked.

Round of applause goes to Priors Farm Equine Vets.  Once again Ben has risen to the challenge presented by Grace.  No drama, no second mortgage required, just sensible, horse centered pragmatism. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Would you be interested?

Student Opportunity

Due to demand for our services outstripping supply, Barefoot South is offering two student places. Students will qualify to become a Barefoot South employee when training is successfully completed.

If you are interested in applying please email by no later than 11th May 2013.

Applicants will need to meet the following criteria to qualify for interview.

·         Demonstrate some practical experience of barefoot, performance horses, this could be owning a working barefoot horse, or looking after working barefoot horses

·         Be able to discuss the pros and cons of barefoot management techniques

·         Hold a full, clean, current UK driving license

·         Have own transport

·         Be capable and competent in handling horses of all sizes

·         Computer literate

·         Have use of a mobile phone

·         Be a quick learner

·         Capable of taking direction

·         Excellent communication skills, written and verbal

·         Possess strong basic maths skills

For further details or any other queries or if you are not sure if you meet the criteria, but are interested in becoming a student please contact Lucy on the above email address.

UK applicants only, all physical aspects of training to take place within one hour of any part of the M25, at Barefoot South’s discretion.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Sweeties and Spavins

The biggest challenge with this horse (for me) was getting her shoes off without hurting her.  I was pretty sure she was nail bound, quite possibly pricked and being on the older side, somewhat stiff and she has spavins. Shoeing had always left her sore, and her owner had to bute her before being shod.

The owner has an ongoing task which is bigger still.  Keeping this young lady away from the sugary consumables she loves.

A recent incident involved breaking out of her stable and into the cattle feed shed where she was found stuffing her face with Liquorice Allsorts.  Apparently that is one of the ingredients of cattle feed these days, and if you check out Dairy One you can get the analysis for 'Candy Byproduct'.

Despite these challenges, the usual livery/grass problems and the dire warnings from the usual suspects about how a spavined horse can't go barefoot, this partnership has done very well.  You can see them below on a sponsored ride, completely barefoot, no problems with slipping.  Quite a few problems with brakes so I'm told.  Oh and her hinds aren't nearly so stiff these days.

Rocket fuel not required, a forage based diet provides this horse with plenty of energy - picture taken by Mark Dalton

One of the fab four... hooves that is

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Weebles wobble but they don't fall down

Experience of hoof rehab highlights how much an apparently solid and well defined part of a horse's anatomy, ie the hoof can change, both for the good and the not so much.

And of that outwardly solid structure there is one section which can cause enormous heartache and pain, whilst being largely ignored and when noticed frequently misunderstood.  Yet this section is also capable of impressive transformations which often go unnoticed.  What am I referring to?  Heel bulbs of course.

Hence the title
"Weebles wobble but they don't fall down."
Which means to me at least, that the heel bulbs can be in terrible shape, but the poor horse attached to them will still struggle on. Until they reach the point of catastrophic failure anyway.

When you know what to look for the signs are obvious.

Personally I like heel bulbs to be substantial, plump, full bodied, balanced. These qualities hint at well developed lateral cartilages which are a vital part of properly functioning hoof.  I also tend to find them attached to hard working, high performance hooves.  Soggy, squishy, underdeveloped, pointy heel bulbs are generally attached to hooves which are in poor shape one way or another.
Can you see the 'wobble' - horse unsound

Bulbs bulked up - wobble gone - horse sound

Major wobble

If your hoof anatomy is a little shaky, there is a diagram below. (I never said I could draw...) If you want to you might like to try to apply that drawing to the photos. Then compare the anatomy drawing with my rough sketch of a hoof I saw recently (below). Can you see what is happening? The horse was not comfortable. There was other 'stuff' going on, but leaving the foot out of balance wasn't helping. It will take time to address the balance for that hoof (it's not just a matter of lopping a bit off the bottom), but early signs are good.


Friday, 19 April 2013

18 days

RFS - Day One

RFS - Day 18
Compare white stripe in hoof wall with RFS Day One
LFS - Day One

LFS - Day 18
Compare lateral cartilage and heel bulb with
LFS Day One

We first met these hooves here. The horse is currently competent over tarmac, concrete and grass, somewhat footy over stones. Flight of forelimbs significantly improved post trim yesterday. (Improved breakover) Horse looked softer, more relaxed and behaved impeccably despite very windy conditions and rattling sheds. Exercise is designed to rehabilitate hoof and body and is focused on comfortable footsteps... lots of them.

If you have time to exercise your horse then rehab at home is very doable and you get to learn what will and what won't work for your horse. 

This horse lives at a conventional UK livery yard, no special facilicities, equipment and all the usual challenges.  And still we have significant change and improvement in a short space of time.

The owner is fabulous, and that is what makes the difference - the diet and exercise regimes are being followed through.  It's a team effort and the most important member of the team is the main carer/owner.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Educational trends and Sugar Beet

For those of you that don't know me - I'm pretty ancient. Not pre war, I just feel like it, but older than the current UK Prime Minister and that is just plain wrong........

In my day (insert much tooth sucking and huffing and puffing), all kids had a reasonable grounding in science, math and general logical thinking at least until the age of 13.  I don't know how it goes now, but 'general science' doesn't seem to cut the mustard in the same way as studying the sciences separately.

Well the proof is in the pudding perhaps, and it is sad to see a general trend for folks not to question published material, digital or print.  But we should and we must apply a healthy dose of scepticism and logic to everything we read.

Take for example sugar beet.  An innocent enough vegetable, but one that can be very devisive. Maybe not as devisive as Maggie Thatcher, God rest, but I loved her for her honesty and I love sugar beet too.  So my cards are on the table, I am pro sugar beet.  But don't let my opinions sway you.  Be logical, look at the data.  Don't be swayed by hysteria either, and there is a shed load of that on the internet these days.

In examining sugar beet you need to separate your data by country, as each has their own regulation regarding how food stuffs are grown and handled.  And this is where the first set of errors creeps in.  For example in the US much if not all sugar beet is GM. In the UK the percentage of GM sugar beet is 0.  That is right, nada, none, zero, because GM sugar beet is not accepted by the sugar processing industry in the UK. It is a very tightly controlled industry, I was actually slightly horrified because it is pretty much a closed shop.  A bit like the unions dear Maggie wasn't so keen on.

So in the UK we realise we have to look at UK data not US.  If you can be bothered, and once, when I was a bit younger I was, you will phone up producers, suppliers, nutritionists, scientists and so forth.  You will get hold of EU legislation and information on pesticides etc.  Having done all this you may find there are two factors at work that make the idea that beet pulp is 'laden with toxins' an 'interesting' idea.

The two factors are science and money.  And never underestimate the power of money (sad but true).  I've often found the way to influence an apparently intractable person was to point out the bottom line benefits.  So for the science, the noxious chemicals and yes I accept that chemicals are noxious, are so low that they are pretty much beyond detection in beet pulp.  I say 'pretty much'  because no doubt there is batch out there where they found some.  For the money, these noxious chemicals are so expensive that farmers, mindful of the bottom line, work extremely hard to minimise their use.  Which makes a nonsense of the idea that these things are liberally sloshed around like so much pond water with neither due care nor consideration.  I don't doubt that some farmers are careless, but the sugar industry tests each batch of beets and won't accept anything which is going to interfere with production or the end product.

But don't get drawn into the rhetoric, hype or hysteria.  If you are worried by the products you feed your horse, do the work.  Understand how your horse's digestive system functions, appreciate the beauty of hind gut fermentation and what is required to keep it afloat.  Call your suppliers, get the data.  And observe your horse.

For what is one man's meat is anothers poison.  I do respect Kellon and the work she has done.  I don't know of anyone else that has the sheer volume of data to support the thinking and findings.  And volume counts.  There are too many ill thought out studies based on handfuls of horses.*  They don't stand up to scrutiny and should be discounted.  Equally I accept that some foodstuffs which are well tolerated by the majority of the equine population won't be tolerated by all.  So if unmolassed beet, or alfalfa or straw etc doesn't work for your horse that is a good finding, but don't use it to assume they don't work across the board.

*And this is often about status and sometimes money too.  Scientists gain standing from the numbers of papers they publish.  They don't necessarily have to be any good.

This is an american blog, but elaborates on the material you may find if you do the work.

If someone wants the UK data it is there you just have to work for it.  If you want me to find it for you I will, but you'll have to pay me!

To start your journey and I don't say this guy is right, but it is a starter.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Bit of a bind

I first met this charming big black beastie (BBB) on 13th May last year.  His owner had contacted me for help as she didn’t want to lose him.

Prior to our meeting BBB had been referred to a leading referral centre (LRC) with 4/10 lameness in the left fore.
Using MRI scanning the diagnosis was remodelling of the Navicular bone and some damage to the DDFT in both front feet, but primarily the left fore.  But when the owner discussed the diagnosis the waters got muddied somewhat, but ultimately the LRC recommended a year in a field and maybe he would be suitable for the odd hack if he was shod with wedge shoes.  The vets said enjoy that for as long as you can but his prognosis isn't a good one and ultimately will result in Euthanasia. 

And so our journey as Team BBB began.

Recently deshod. Outer hoof wall previously
rasped out. Signs of nail bind present

Roughly two weeks later

Now, notice flared quarters. Not perfect, but
 funcional and sound

Hind post deshoeing


Hind now

To be honest there was nothing exceptional in the outward appearance of the recently deshod hooves.  Thinning of hoof walls and nail bind are surprisingly common in the UK.  What was more unusual was the condition of the hind feet, but these weren’t the focus of the lameness issues.
Today all the hooves are still a work in progress, and I can’t comment on the condition of either the Navicular bones or DDFTs - but what is form without function?  And I am happy to report that BBB is sound and moving beautifully.
How has the owner achieved this remarkable outcome?  Well lots of hard work it’s true, a successful barefoot horse needs a lot of exercise, but diet change was important and allowing the hooves to function naturally without the impediment of a rigid shoe.

What BBB’s owner has to say

"Prior to having a horse with 'caudal foot pain' exacerbated by shoeing I would not have even considered barefoot. I am embarrassed to admit that the one person who kept her horse barefoot at one of the competition yards I was at was someone I avoided as I thought she was slightly strange and a 'parelli type' hacking with horse trainers and never wanting traditional shoes. I didn't for a second think that by keeping her horse barefoot she was looking out for the wellbeing of her horse’s soundness and longevity.
I started my barefoot journey truthfully and honestly because I felt I had little other choice or at least not a very hopeful other choice! I am amazed at how Lucy has guided me, sometimes through gritted teeth (especially with reference to the dietary changes!) with patience and honesty. I was told from the start that it is not always an easy journey and that he may well be sore initially and have peaks and troughs in his transition phase. I was very lucky in that it went very smoothly with an overall improvement that was seen very quickly.
BBB is now one year barefoot and has grown his first new hoof capsule (apparently the second will be even better!) He is completely sound and competing successfully at BD level dressage. I owe this phenomenon to nature which is truly a rather wonderful thing, BBB for 'talking' to me and guiding Lucy's expert DEET principle and to Lucy for being there every step of the way (it helps that you do not go to bed until late!). I look forward to seeing BBB's feet this time next year :)"

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Thoroughbreds can't go barefoot they have genetically bad feet ;-)

Early May 2011

Mid August 2011

Except time and again TB's are proving this common misconception just isn't true. 

This TB had 'typical TB hooves'. Just check out the bull nose in the May photo. By mid August same year the bull nose is halfway grown out. At this stage because the owner was otherwise occupied the horse was a pasture ornament, all that was changed was the diet (shoes had been removed shortly before May photo). If the horse had been exercising I'm pretty sure the bull nose would have grown out faster. The horse is now a competent barefooter, declared very sound by vets and turns his hoof to dressage, jumping and eventing.  Oh he hacks out on roads too...........

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Sometimes it hurts like hell, but it's worth it

Ok, to protect the innocent and cut a tangled history to size.

Older horse, been through the mill, current fix is heart bars in front, vet says nothing more can be done and if they don't work then call it a day.

I'm asked to peek over stable door - horse definitely not happy.  Owner not happy. So a date was fixed.  To pull the shoes that is.
Heartbar shoe in situ

Note filler on inside of right fore

Immediately post deshoe

I always ask owners and carers for updates and this is what I got today:

"Well like a 2 year old to lead and a greyhound when turned out! He's never been like this before think I might have shoes put back on! Only joking his stride length in front has lengthened a lot, his walking perfectly on road and on stones path, slightly footy when turning. His frogs look even better than yesterday it's absolutely amazing, I've even showed YM the pics!!"

Not bad for 3 days deshod.

And the pain? Well that's nearly all mine - my arms are killing me! :-)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Out with a whimper in with a bang

Apologies for no posts since November.  Had a minor diversion.

Now I have a question for you guys.

How long between these two photos.  Same hoof, promise!

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Southern England, United Kingdom