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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

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