Horse Feet - I'm the Boss!

Posted by Steph Teeter/Endurance Net

Well, I'm ten weeks into the 'no shoes' thing - and I may be at the point of 'no going back' now. I'm pretty much convinced that it's the best thing for my horses. I still have worries and concerns... not so much about whether or not a horse can be sound and functional in endurance without steel shoes - this I believe is totally possible. But more about managing the transition period - and if I'm going to have issues with boots, no boots, etc. while keeping up my ride schedule. 
 
 
 
I've had fantastic experiences with the glue-on boots during a ride, I've never felt my horse move so freely and lightly. But with the current process of glueing, then removing (which is a bit of a hassle and also an expense) I don't think I'll want to glue on boots for every 50 mile ride that I do. Multidays, yes - or 100's, yes - but not for just a 50. So that leaves me needing to ride in boots since the horses feet aren't tough enough to go without some protection at this point. Jaziret's feet are just in between sizes - #2's are too tight in the heel bulbs, #2.5's are too long in the toe. I think I'll end up taping his feet and using the 2.5's for the next ride (April 3, Tough Sucker!) - but I've seen them twist on him, and we'll have river stops, sand, rocks... we'll see! 
 
I've been doing the trimming myself on the horses that are here with us in Arizona - and I think I can keep it up and not have to depend on somebody else, and periodic appointments, at least for some of the riding horses. I actually enjoy it - and it's very empowering to be able to do it myself, at any time. Just a little rasping, some cleaning up of the frog and sulcus, a little whittling on the bars- every other day or so. It's not as strenuous when done a little bit at a time, and I LOVE the fact that the horse doesn't have to go 6 weeks or so between trims. I can keep the foot balanced all the time. I'm not positive that I'm doing everything right, but the more I listen and watch and learn, and the more I practice with the tools, the more confident I feel.
 
 
I went to a fantastic clinic on Sunday by Dr Tomas Teskey. He's a veterinarian, now living and working at the family ranch in Hereford Arizona. A fascinating individual - soft spoken, yet very passionate. He's been promoting the 'barefoot' horse for several years (almost a decade I think(, and has become an expert in the field of hoof function, and health and soundness. The morning was spent with him presenting slides and pictures. He explained the basics of the horse hoof - anatomy and functional mechanics and physiology - and he described the damage that can be done to the hoof structures over time by the constant application of steel shoes, or lack of care (inadequate or improper trims), or constant stall confinement - most of which boiil down to an inhibition or absence of natural expansion and contraction and weight loading mechanisms of the hoof. He also addressed the need for a holistic management approach - diet, exercise, hygiene. He continually stressed the importance of exercise and movement - critical to the development and maintenance of a healthy hoof. He showed several examples of healthy hooves in different environments - and the differences one would see in rocky or sandy terrain, or soft grass terrain, or wet, or dry, etc. - differences in how the hoof adapts to the different environments - thickness of sole, length of wall, density of hoof wall, etc. 
 
After lunch he gave us an amazing lesson in hoof anatomy with the dissection of the foot of a 2 yr old thoroughbred horse (cadaver). The foot was well formed and in good shape. He showed us some trimming techniques - what to look for, how to deal with the various surface parts - sole, wall, frog, bars, sulcus. He then took the foot apart bit by bit - peeling the sole away from the corium so we could see what it looks like on the other side - very cool to see the sole/frog interface from above and below. He then exposed the coffin bone - and showed where the bone ends, and the cartilage begins as it forms the arc of the foot. As the horse's heel strikes the ground the force is absorbed through the cartilage, the digital cushion, the laminar suspension, and even the 'hydraulics' of the massive network of blood vessels that perfuse the lamina. He showed us how the navicular bone fits into the curve of the coffin bone - the location of major blood vessels in this junction, and the hazards of contracted heels in a horse, with the resulting constriction of blood flow. Very graphic. I do love this stuff! 
 
The clinic moved to the barn where he did some evaluations on horses - it was interesting - but the horses we looked at had been barefoot for several years already. So we were able to see good healthy feet, but I would have been more interested in seeing transitional horses, or problems to solve, at least at this point in my 'education'. 
 
 
I think the thing that impressed me the most about Dr. Teskey was his very simple, natural approach to managing the horse's hoof. He is a strong proponent of letting the horse 'do it's own trimming'. Give the horse a natural environment, a regular exercise or movement regime, and the hoof will respond optimally over time. He has also observed that some methods of trimming can cause damage, and inhibit the formation of healthy hoof material. Excessive carving of sole is one of the things he warns against - basically don't touch the sole - let it exfoliate naturally. Roll the walls to prevent chipping, don't leave long walls or heels, but some extension of hoof wall is ok especially in softer terrain. It's important for the frog and sole to also bear weight. He did encourage keeping the frog healthy by trimming away flaps or thrush infected areas. He cautioned against using caustic products, that can kill live tissue as well as anaerobic organisms, but feels it is very important to keep the junctures free of thrush. 
 
An ongoing problem I've had with my horse Jaziret, is a persistent fungal/bacterial growth in the heel sulcus. His heels are contracted, there is a pretty deep space between the bulbs. I can get the goo cleaned up but it will come right back if I stop treating it daily. I think the only way I'm ever going to be able to eliminate this is by getting his heels to expand and open up that area. Theoretically keeping a good exercise/turnout regime will encourage the heels to expand. And I think I'm seeing some improvement since I've pulled the shoes, but now I'm going to more aggressively address the general health of his frog and sulcus. Trimming any dead or infected tissue from the frog and between the heel bulbs. There is now a pretty deep valley in the widest part of the frog, and I'm going to focus on keeping this cleaned out - removing all but the healthy/live frog tissue. We'll see! But I am enjoying the process - and the notion that I'm totally in control of the feet - and can see direct and immediate results from the things I'm doing. (right or wrong - but hopefully getting righter all the time :)
 
This is definitely a new 'journey' for me! I'm enjoying the learning curve, and very encouraged by observing success stories, and seeing some beautiful feet on hard performing horses. It's nice to have more choices in hoof protection on the market now - so that people like me can transition to a barefoot horse, but still keep riding and competing. As long as I can keep the horse comfortable, and working, I'm willing to keep up the management efforts. 
 
It will be interesting to see how it goes when I get the horses back to Idaho. The terrain will be different from the hard granitic soil surface here. Softer dirt, more really rocky areas, daily creek crossings. I'm also looking forward to working with all the other horses! Some have been barefoot during the winter, some shod. A couple of them have been turned out (w/o shoes, but also w/o a focused trimming regime) because of minor foot (I suspect) related lameness. 
 
We'll see!
 
Steph

Then and Now

This last year has been a huge year for me in natural horse care and natural hoof trimming. While I have trimmed my horses for the past several years, I haven't had to deal with anything abnormal. My horses had nice feet, were sound and didn't show any signs of sugar/starch sensitivities. I think last year the barefoot Gods decided to lay it on me. More on that later, in this post I want to show some pictures I took of the "then and now" pertaining to my mare. 

This is Belesema Replika. She was new to me as of last September. I adore this mare. I wish I had pictures of her feet prior to ripping off, er pulling her shoes, but considering we took them off the second she was placed into my hands, I didn't have time to take pictures. 

 
Replika had been pulling front shoes for the past year. The farrier had attempted to stack up her heels in the hinds and completely dubbed off her rear toes to prevent this. I know he was only trying to help, but he either forgot or didn't know enough to address her front feet. She had several new and old marks on her heels from forging. Her toes were long. Her heels contracted. Her soles were flat. Oh man..... She was sore barefoot on all ground, so we immediately fitted her to glue-ons and packed those babies with Goober Glue. I kept boots on her for 7 days at a time, letting her feet breathe for a day or two before re-gluing the boots. Within three weeks she was sound barefoot in the pasture. 
 

This mare went on to complete four days at a five-day ride in October, one month after transitioning to barefoot. We took it super slow and rode our own ride everyday. She continued to amaze me, day after day. I pretty much left her alone the rest of the winter, putting her on a high-fat, low sugar/starch concentrate, Platinum Performance and Platinum Hoof Support.




I kept up on her feet, increasing the breakover and working on her medial-lateral balance. Imagine my surprise this spring when I took the following pictures... (Before on the left, after on right).
 

Check out that concavity! Her foot was so flat last September.




Look at the poor quality of frog, the overreach marks and the long toe/low heel...




Despite the left-over glue on the "before" foot, you can see the flare and long toe. The "after" shot shows a great hoof-pastern axis. Her heels are of a good height and the flaring is gone!
 

 
This is my favorite shot. Look at that difference! Her feet gained a size in the Easyboot Gloves! 

I have been riding Replika for the past few weeks completely barefoot. I started cautiously at first, only taking her on the best footing. Every week she got stronger and stronger, and faster and faster! She flew over hard-pack dirt road with gravel the other day, I couldn't have been more excited! It's still a road, but I couldn't be any happier with the progress this mare's feet have made in the six months. I CANNOT wait to see how they look in another six months!

Amanda Washington

The Chronicles of the Pink Helmet

Welcome to The Chronicles of the Pink Helmet! My name is Amanda Washington. I have been riding horses since the age of eight, when I started riding a ginormous OTTB. I did pony club for a few years, and then got into riding and showing Arabian horses. I gave endurance a shot in 2004, when a friend convinced me to take my hunter pleasure show horse, CRA Samurai (Sammi), out for a "trail ride." HAH! That was the hardest 25 miles of my life! 



Photo Courtesy of Stevebradleyphotography.com

I have since gone on to compete almost 2000 miles throughout the Northwest. My gelding, Sammi, was probably the most talented guy I will ever own. Unfortunately the years and years of "show shoes" and subsequent poor trimming on the off season took its toll on Sammi's feet, and he developed navicular at the young age of thirteen. Sammi has since retired, and I have become obsessed with natural hoofcare and barefoot trimming. 

I have been using hoof boots for the past three years, and have been trimming my own horses for just about as long. I found the Easycare Gloves and Glue-Ons last year and haven't looked back since! I am excited to continue using and experimenting with various Easycare boots and glues throughout the 2010 AERC ride season. I hope this pink helmet sees many miles of beautiful Northwest trails this year! 

Amanda Washington
 
 

Hoof Capsule Distortions/Flares

This is the first issue in a mini series on hoof capsule distortions, short HCD.

During these blogs, we'll examine the reasons why the occur, how we identify them, what we can do to correct them, which horse hoof trimming to apply and finally, how the glue on Horseshoes can help in the whole process.

Today we want to look at hoof wall flares. Flare can occur for a variety of reasons. Some are:

1. The horse's leg is not centered over the hoof.
2. The horse is narrow or wide based
3. Hooves are turned in or out
4. Shelly hoof wall
5. Bacterial invasion in laminae
6. Inflammation of laminae
7. Trimming intervals are too long.

As we see, there are a variety of reasons for flares. The common denominator for flares is simply: improper loading.

Flares are created by stretching and tearing of horn tubules. With enough stress through stretching, the laminae cannot take the stress and begin to tear. Bacteria then invade, further weakening the laminae. In a flared hoof, the energy of loading will be transferred obliquely across the horn tubules, instead of in line with the tubules. A flared hoof wall has a very limited amount of strength. It cannot function properly in the way of absorbing concussion, storing and releasing energy. In fact, the longer we leave flares, the greater the potential damage with bacterial infection, followed by the destruction of the laminae.

What can we do about it? Obviously we cannot change the conformation of our horses. Some horses are always prone to develop flares. However, we can help by shortening trimming intervals, applying barefoot trimming methods, bevelling the hoof wall after a trim and paying close attention to the medial/lateral balance.

Flares need to be removed by top dressing the hoof wall. Most farriers and hoof care practitioners follow the rule of thumb of not removing more than half the thickness of the hoof wall. Farriers want enough hoof wall left to hold the nails and clinches. There is also an argument that the hoof capsule is weakened by removing more than half the thickness of the hoof wall and therefore cannot not support the load anymore.That makes some sense, but doesn't solve the problem. We still have hoof wall separation and we still have a weakened hoof wall. It's not the thickness of the hoof wall that we are concerned with, much more important is the health of the laminae. With a weakened laminae, it doesn't matter how thick your hoof wall is, the hoof capsule won't be able to support the loading.

I believe in rasping all the flares off, even if I have to take it down to the white line at the quarters. Thus the hoof wall is now straight and is allowed to regrow. The stress is removed, the laminae can heal. Best to use a Hoof Jack for the rasping. Much easier on your back.

Now we are coming to the essence of it all; Protective Horse Boots.

The EasyCare Glue Ons are like a hoof capsule reinforcement. It almost doesn't matter how thin the hoof wall might be at the quarters or dorsally, the Glue ons, together with the glue create an additional artificial layer of a hoof wall, strengthening the thinner areas and holding the hoof capsule together. There might be uneven loading, the hoof might load more medial or more distal, the Glue on Horseshoes mitigate this problem  tremendously. Since using glue on horse shoes, I have seen a remarkable reduction in flares. Laminaes are healthier, no bacterial invasion through the nail holes anymore.

Below are some images of flares.



Dorsal view of the untrimmed hoof, flared
 


Before the trim; take note of the weakening of the laminae medial and distal
 


After trimming, before removing flares. Notice the destruction of the laminae at the quarters
 


After flare removal
 


Dorsal view after top dressing the flares



Left hoof: View of the sole after top dressing the flares 
 


Right hoof: after top dressing the flares, the wall at the quarters are pretty thin. That is okay, though. See text above.


That's it for today. Next time, we are discussing dorsal HCD

So long,

Your Bootmeister

Low Grade Laminitis: A New Understanding of Hoof Pathology? - By Richard Vialls DEP, MEPA (UK)

Introduction
I originally got involved in equine feet because of my mare, Esme, who has proved to be an incredible teacher when it comes to hoofcare. I struggled for over 4 years to work out why she was never sound - initially in shoes and then (when the shoes contributed to catastrophic hoof pathologies) without shoes. I could make the hooves look better, I could keep her comfortable and even at times fully sound, but it seemed that no matter what I did, any improvements were patchy and limited.
 
One of the biggest problems I faced was flaring. I would gradually trim the flaring out, but each time I thought I had the flaring under control, the feet would flare dramatically again - sometimes it seemed almost overnight. My initial assumption was that this was somehow to do with moisture levels. Her hoof walls were poor in quality with a lot of cosmetic cracks to let moisture in. Eventually, in desperation, I decided to check back through my records (by then I had 3 years worth of regular photos and notes) to see if they confirmed by suspicions. What I expected to find was that the hooves flared over the winter when she was turned out in wet pasture and that the flare would decrease over the summer when the weather was drier. What I actually found was subtly different.
 
It seemed that the hooves were always at their best in February /March (when I expected them to be at their worst after a wet winter). The flaring seemed to appear then within a few weeks so that the hooves were at their worst by April/May. They then improved a bit over the summer before going wrong again in the autumn. From October onwards I then saw a steady improvement in flaring, only for things to go wrong again in February the next year. By that time I was working as professional EP and had a number of laminitis cases on my books. I quickly recognised the pattern as matching almost exactly the periods in the year when I saw the most problems with laminitis.
 
I then started looking at my clients' horses to see if I was seeing the same pattern and, sure enough, there it was staring me in the face. Not only that, but the horses that matched this pattern were precisely the cases that I most struggled to help. I started trying these horses (including Esme) on the kinds of dietary changes I normally use for laminitis cases and fairly rapidly started to see impressive results. At the same time I was learning more about diet and how it affects laminitis. Being able to indentify milder symptoms caused/exacerbated by the same dietary problems but at much lower levels allowed me to develop better diets for laminitics of all kinds.
 
I've spent a lot of time looking for references to a condition of this kind in the published literature and have found very little. There is some mention of 'sub-clinical laminitis' in the literature, but the very term 'sub-clinical' means without visible signs and I was very definitely seeing visible signs (see below for details). It is clear that researchers generally accept that laminitis doesn't always have to be catastrophic, but there seems very little understanding of exactly what happens in such a case.
 
Over the last year, I have been studying this condition in my own horses and my clients'. I have been able to build up a picture of a pretty consistent set of clinical signs that are clearly diet related and respond well to the same dietary interventions that work in full blown laminitis. My colleagues and I are now calling this condition Low Grade Laminitis (LGL). We may need to change the name as we discover more about it. I would be extremely interested to talk to any other researchers who are identifying similar patterns.
 
So What is Low Grade Laminitis?
At a simplistic level, Low Grade Laminitis is just low grade inflammation of the laminar corium. However, unlike the condition that we've known and dreaded for generations, in low grade laminitis you don't get the catastrophic failure of the laminae and the resulting extreme pain and damage to the hoof. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but the most likely explanation is that a horse with Pre-Laminitic Metabolic Syndrome (PLMS) enters the developmental phase of laminitis but does not progress to the acute phase. From my observations of such cases, I think that many of these horses may have regular bouts of mild inflammation of the laminar corium that come and go through the year. These bouts may last as little as a few hours or as much as a few weeks. Given what we already know about PLMS, the most likely trigger for these bouts is dietary - i.e. eating food that is too sugary for a horse with a compromised sugar metabolism.
 
This process actually makes a lot of sense in the context of the existing knowledge of and theories about laminitis. There is nothing in the disease models that we currently have that says that the developmental phase of laminitis must automatically lead to the acute phase. If a PLMS horse is already 'on the edge' because of a unsuitable diet, it would appear that dietary challenges (maybe something as inocuous as an extra carrot as a treat) can push the horse into a danger zone where the laminar corium becomes inflammed. If those dietary challenges then go away (say the horse doesn't get a carrot the next day) then the horse can step back from the brink before a catastrophic chain of events starts.
 
Needless to say, if this theory is correct, a horse exibiting this condition is probably at a much increased risk of developing full blown laminitis and indeed this does seem to be the case. My own horse Esme has had two mild bouts of full laminitis and I have seen similar things in other horses. That said, there does seem to be quite a large amount of leeway between developing LGL (particularly the milder forms) and developing full blown laminitis. This may suggest that the current assumption that the development phase is short lived and moves almost innevitably towards the acute stage is incorrect. It is possible that this view of the condition has resulted because most laboratory research into the condition is done on animals that are deliberately pushed into laminitis by some major insult (such as being deliberately poisoned or fed excessive amounts of sugary feed).
 
What happens to the foot in LGL?
Again, there is still much work to do to characterise what really happens in LGL, but here's my current understanding of what goes wrong as a result of the inflammation. Bear in mind that this represents my current theories and may change as I and other researchers learn more.
 
Tender Footedness
Not every LGL case shows signs of lameness, but many are at least footsore at some stage. Shod horses are far less likely to show any discomfort as shoeing seems to effectively mask a good degree of foot pain. If the laminar corium is inflammed, it is not surprising that the horse can be footsore. We all know how even minor inflammation in our own bodies leads to mild discomfort. It is important however not to confuse tender-footedness from LGL with tender footedness caused by the hoof capsule being in poor shape. Clearly if the sole is very thin (e.g. due to over-trimming), the horse will not be comfortable even with no inflammation present. For this reason, for tender-footedness to be considered an indication of LGL, it needs to be significantly more than would be expected given the externally visible quality of the hoof capsule. In terms of equine podiatry and barefoot horses, an example would be a horse that had a usability score of 6 out of 10 but was still unhappy walking on smooth tarmac.
 
Where a horse is actively having a LGL attack, it almost always results in an increase in tender footedness in my experience. However, all things are relative - so a horse that is normally fully sound at the gallop on stony tracks might still seem very sound on smooth tarmac despite a mild LGL attack, but might be seen to be a little more hesitant than normal on the stony tracks. In contrast a horse that is only just coping on tarmac without the LGL will appear obviously lame once an LGL attack starts.
 
Because LGL does minor structural damage to the foot, the tenderness often continues for some time after the LGL attack stops. A mild attack on a foot with a strong hoof may result in discomfort lasting for a week or so even if the attack is stopped (i.e. the diet is changed) within 24-48 hours. As such, tender-footedness is not necessarily an indication that the attack is still current.
 
Raised Pulses
If you've ever hit your thumb with a hammer, you'll know that it tends to throb - this throbing sensation is caused by increased blood flow to the inflammed tissue. The same happens when the laminar corium is inflammed, but the hoof capsule prevents you feeling the throbbing (the horse feels it though). You can however feel this as an increased strength of pulse in the main arteries to the foot. In traditional laminitis, the digital pulses (best found either side of the pastern just under the fetlock joint) are typically described as 'bounding'. Vets tend to assume that any pulse that is feelable but not significantly raised is 'normal'. What I'm finding by studying LGL is that in horses that don't exhibit this condition, the pulses are difficult to find when the horse is at rest (exercise brings the pulses up a little). In contrast the horses exhibiting active LGL have pulses that are easily found but not necessarily raised to the level that would traditionally be seen as a warning of laminitis or other inflammatory foot condition. Given that the pulses are slightly raised at the point where the corium is actually inflammed, this makes pulse taking an extremely useful technique in picking up LGL early on before too much damage is done.
 
Bear in mind that other conditions (e.g. abscessing) can also raise the digital pulses. Normally if the pulses are raised in all four feet, this is strongly suggestive of laminitis (the exception would be bruising to all four feet from overuse) whereas a raised pulse in a single foot is far more likely to be an abscess.
 
I'm seeing some evidence that even after the underlying laminitis attack is brought under control, raised pulses may continue for a while as the damage to the foot heals. Obviously the more severe the damage, the longer it will take for the inflammation to go down after it's cause is removed and hence the longer the pulses will be raised.
 
Strong Heel First Landing and Shortened Stride
Laminitis tends to make the toes more sore than the rest of the foot, and LGL seems to be no exception to this. One of the first signs of an LGL attack is that the horse starts to put it's feet down slightly more heel first than normal. A healthy horse should (assuming the horse is walking/trotting with impulsion) put the foot down almost flat but very slightly heel first. The effect is difficult to spot and to the untrained eye often looks like a flat landing. In LGL, the landing becomes more obviously heel first.
 
Foot pain also typically results in a shortening of the stride length. Trot tends to become flattened (i.e. easier to sit to). In addition, canter departs seem to become more difficult for some horses with canter becoming 'balled up' and bucking on transitions more common.
 
These gait changes are often the first indication that something is going wrong. If you know your horse and the way it moves well, this can be sufficient warning to change the diet and stop something more serious going wrong.
 
It is not uncommon in my experience for a 'lazy' or 'nappy' horse to lose these traits when the diet is changed to an anti-laminitis diet. My suspicion is that very mild LGL causes feet to ache slightly which can make a horse reluctant to move forwards with impulsion. Quite a few of my clients have commented that their horses are far more forward since LGL has been addressed and more than one has complained that they can no longer sit to their horses' trots!
 
Altered Stance
Even at stand, a horse's use of his/her feet will alter if they are inflammed. In severe laminitis, you often see a rocked back stance where the horse attempts to take as much weight as possible off the front feet and also off the toes of the hind feet. In LGL, the alterations to stance are far more subtle. Typically, the hind feet are placed slightly further forwards than normal so that the cannon bones are no longer vertical. This tends to result in uneven growth/wear on the hind feet and quite commonly the hind feet struggle to maintain adequate heel height without shoes.
 
I also commonly see the front feet placed further backwards than usual (i.e. the cannon bones behind the vertical). I am not entirely sure why this happens but it may be part of the process of moving weight backwards onto the hind heels.
 


Esme demonstrating the typical LGL stance with hind feet shuffled forwards and front feet shuffled backwards.
 
One upshot of this stance is that the horse has to use the hind quarters musculature to achieve it (unlike a normal stance where the stay apparatus locks and the horse needs no muscle tension to keep weight balanced on the hind legs). This constant tension in the hind quarters tends to lead to muscle discomfort in the rump and lumbar spine. Stifle problems also seem to be more common in LGL cases (possibly due to uneven muscle development in the hind legs). This muscle tension may well contribute to the alterations in gait described above - especially the reluctance during canter transitions.
 
Unusual Growth Rate
Many (but not all) LGL cases show a reduction in growth rate of the hoof. A tiny minority show excessive growth rate. As yet I don't know what the significance of this is. As such, it is not diagnostic on its own, but as part of the general picture contributes to a suspicion of LGL.
 
Typically the altered stance described above leads to more stimulus being applied to the heels, especially on the hind feet. This may result in higher growth rate at the heel than at the toe. However, it also typically results in more wear so that the overall effect (especially on the hinds) may be low heels. This difference in heel/toe growth rate, if present, will result in growth rings that are further apart at the heel than at the toe although the effect is usually small enough that it isn't immediately obvious.
 
Flaring
There is much debate about the precise mechanisms by which the hoof wall is produced and how it slides past the pedal bone. I don't want to get into that debate here, however there is one aspect of these mechanisms that is important in LGL. By studying the mechanisms with which the hoof responds to an abscess, you can demonstrate that the hoof wall has a 'repair mechanism'. Whenever the hoof wall becomes damaged, the laminar corium starts to produce extra horn (which I call 'repair horn') that repairs the damage to the wall. When an abscess forms at the sole and blows at the coronary band (the most common type of abscess if the vet hasn't intervened and drained the abscess at the sole), this repair horn is used to glue the wall back onto the laminar corium and make the hoof strong again. Similarly, where there is a traumatic injury and a section of hoof wall is broken off, the laminar corium will 'patch' the hole by producing repair horn. My suspicion is that the trigger for the production of this repair horn is inflammation in the laminar corium. If that is the case, then when the corium is inflammed as a result of LGL, we'd expect to see the corium produce repair horn inside the wall that is distributed according to how much inflammation there is. While I still have work to do to demonstrate that this does indeed happen, what I observe in real cases fits with this theory perfectly.
 
What I typically see in the days/weeks following a LGL attack is that the wall flares. This flaring alters the angle of the hoof wall from top to bottom simultaneously. Given that it takes 6-7 months for a whole hoof wall to grow down (more in a shod horse), this is too fast to be coming from the coronary band. The only explanation I can find is that the wall is being pushed out from inside by extra repair horn produced at the laminar corium. Once the active LGL stops, the flaring remains but grows down the hoof with the wall. Some months later I find a wall where the top portion is upright and parallel to the pedal bone, but the bottom part is flared. Where the LGL stopped suddenly (maybe because the diet changed for the better), there will be a hard line change of angle in the hoof. It is often far easier to spot LGL once the underlying problem has gone away due to these sudden changes in angle. Spotting it as it first happens takes a good eye for what represents a good shaped hoof (although a front hoof that is significantly longer than it is wide is a good clue). Regular measurements of key parts of the hoof (e.g. ratio of frog length to hoof length) can also help to pick up this flaring early as can taking regular photographs. LGL bouts are often seasonal (being most common in Spring and Autumn) which makes identifying the flaring between bouts easier.

 
A hoof showing flaring as a result of past LGL (probably around 3-4 months earlier). Note the sudden change of angle half way down the hoof wall. The second photograph shows the same hoof some months later after regular trimming and maintenance on an anti-laminitis diet.
 
For some reason, some breeds seem to flare more for a given severity of LGL (guaged using comfort levels). In particular, thoroughbreds seem to flare a lot whereas iberian breeds tend to flare less.
 
Ring Shaped Wall Bruising
Whenever the laminar corium is inflammed there seems to be a greatly increased risk of bruising in the coronary corium (the tissue that produces the hoof wall - sometimes known as the coronary band). I don't as yet know whether this damage to the coronary corium is as a result of the same mechanisms that cause the inflammation to the laminar corium or whether this is some kind of mechanical secondary damage due to loss of structure in the laminar corium. Either way, it provides some useful clues, if only in white feet (although in the most extreme cases it is sometimes just possible to see bruising even in a black foot). Unfortunately, the bruise is initially formed behind the periople (the equivalent of a human cuticle that is sometimes confused with the coronary band). As more wall is produced, the bruised horn travels down the wall, taking around 3-4 weeks to appear below the periople - so this sign again only tells us of past LGL bouts. If you have some idea of the growth rate of the hoof, you can estimate how long ago each LGL bout happened by measuring the distance of the bruising from the hairline. This can be useful in trying to determine what is causing the problems.
 
LGL cases often show bands of orange colouration - sometimes, but not always, with patches of bruising with the band. I now think that this orange colouration represents tissue fluid being released into the horn at the coronary band (similar to a mild grazed knee that weeps tissue fluid but doesn't actually bleed). With the coronary corium inflammed enough to leek tissue fluid, any further stress on the hoof wall will lead to bruising in that area. This may explain why shod horses with LGL typically have the strongest bruising (and also the most flaring) directly above the nail holes.
 
 
This hoof shows typical ring-shaped bruising consistent with a bout of LGL around 3-4 months earlier. In this case, there is an orange ring of tissue fluid release with patches of more concentrated bruising. The bruises either side of the toe were probably caused by flaring in these areas putting additional stress on the coronary corium. The small bruise at the toe probably represents a kick to the coronary band while it was already slightly inflammed. Often these rings of bruising lie at the change of angle in the flaring. In this case the hoof has been trimmed making the bruising easier to see, but removing the flaring.
 
White Line Disease
White line disease is an infection of the wall that causes the wall to delaminate. This infection feeds on damaged horn. For the infection to track further than the very surface of the hoof you need either mechanical damage (e.g. from an over-long hoof wall breaking away) or microscopic damage to the hoof wall structure. When the coronary corium gets even very slightly inflammed, blood products (serum and/or red blood cells for example) get incorporated into the horn that the corium produces (giving us the visible bruising described above). As this horn grows down and reaches the bottom of the hoof, it provides the perfect substrate for white line disease to feed on. As I have worked with more and more LGL cases, I've noticed that the cases that exhibit white line disease that is difficult to treat almost always have signs of LGL as well. Even more conclusive evidence is that once I have the LGL under control, the white line disease suddenly goes away around about the same time the last bruising and flaring grows off the bottom of the wall.
 
 
This hoof (from a cadaver used for research purposes) clearly shows bruising consistent with LGL. It also shows rampant white line disease. You can clearly see both the delamination of the wall caused by the infection and the black shadow in the bottom quarter of the wall where the infection has tracked up between the layers of wall.
 
Sole Bruising
More recently, I've been able to demonstrate in cadaver feet that not only do the laminar and coronary coria become inflammed, but the solar corium (which produces the sole) does too. As with the wall bruising, I don't yet know for sure whether this is a direct effect of the laminitis or a secondary effect due to the solar corium getting overstressed as the rest of the foot fails. However the pattern of bruising is almost always even across the whole sole, suggesting that it is a systemic effect rather than a mechanical one. This solar bruising may well explain the tender-footedness that LGL cases show.
 
It is rare (although not unheard of) to see this bruising appearing at the surface of the sole. This may be because such bruising provides the perfect feeding ground for infection which will convert the blood products into black slime rapidly and effectively.
 
 
This photograph shows a section taken from a cadaver hoof that exhibited signs of LGL. A faint bruise can be seen just having formed at the top of the wall just below the coronary band - this bout must have happened only days before the horse died (was that why the horse was put to sleep?). Just below the solar corium, there is a very strong area of bruising. The distance of this bruise from the corium matches very well that in the wall bruising suggesting that both bruises happened at the same time. This level of bruising would likely have made the horse extremely sore footed. Amongst the small number of feet I've disected so far exhibiting signs of LGL, almost all of them showed some degree of sole bruising.
 
Frog Bruising
We've already seen bruising in all the other coria that take any kind of mechanical strain while holding up the weight of the horse. It doesn't seem too much of a leap of faith to assume that the frog also gets bruised. Until recently I've struggled to show this (partly due to a shortage of white frogs in my so far limited supply of cadavers). However, a recent live case showed me exactly what I was looking for around 2-3 months after the last bout of laminitis.
 
 
This photo shows frog bruising that forms a layer over the whole surface of the frog. The frog has been trimmed (which is what revealed the bruising) and as the layer was very thin it has only ended up on the surface in patches. Solar damage consistent with solar bruising that has become infected is also rather obvious. This horse was extremely lame around 3 months earlier.
 
Thrush
As with the white line disease, any bruising damage in the frog is likely to be the perfect breeding ground for thrush infections. As you'd expect, LGL cases typically have rampant thrush that can be managed with disinfectants but keeps coming back. After a couple of months of an anti-laminitis diet, all the damaged horn has grown out and the thrush miraculously goes away. LGL cases often have thrush that tracks through the frog in layers, allowing whole sheets of frog (sometimes quite thick) to come away. My suspicion is that this represents a layer of bruising in the frog that gets close enough to the surface for infection to track into it.
 
Stretched White Line
Given that LGL represents inflammation of the laminar corium that doesn't manage to cause the laminae to actually fail, it makes sense that the worst cases may show a small degree of stretching of the laminae without actually seeing them fail as in full blown laminitis. The insensitive laminae (one half of the laminae) forms half of the white line as it merges with the sole, so a stretched laminae will result in a stretched white line. The worst LGL cases often show a white line that is slightly stretched - especially at the toe area (exactly where laminar wedge forms in full laminitis). If X-rays show clear signs of rotation or sink on the pedal bone, then the diagnosis is clearly of full blown laminitis. LGL cases don't show these changes on X-ray.
 
The stretched white line may also be a route for infection to get in and it is common for LGL cases to show significant white line disease actually in the white line (as opposed to in the wall as described above).
 
Occasionally I've seen blood in the white line in these cases (presumably this has come from bruising of the laminar corium some weeks earlier) however this isn't as common as in full blown laminitis cases.
 
Abscessing
The inflammation in the various coria forms the perfect home for an abscess to brew. All that is needed is a route for infection to get into the foot. The stretched white line provides just that. As a result, abscesses are more common than normal in LGL cases - especially the more severe ones.
 
Under-Run Heels
More recently, I've noticed that under-run heels are more common in LGL cases (although this seems also to be related to breed with thoroughbreds being far more prone). The most likely explanation is that the flaring described above contributes to distortion of the heels. However, I have wondered whether the same inflammation processes may directly damage the lateral cartilages in some way.
 
Flat Footedness
The increase flaring tends to pull the white line outwards and in turn the edge of the sole is also pulled outwards. This tends to reduce the amount of concavity. Inflammation of the sole will also result in a thickening of the sole (false sole), especially towards the centre of the sole. If there are under-run heels, these will also contribute to a flattening of the foot's internal arch. The result is that flat-footedness is more common in LGL cases - especially in breeds that tend to flare a lot with LGL such as thoroughbreds.
 
Insulin Resistance
The assumption here is that LGL is just a milder form of pasture laminitis. Given that the latest research is suggesting that the underlying condition that predisposes horses to laminitis (PLMS) includes an element of Insulin Resistance (IR), you would expect to see signs of IR in LGL cases. In my experience, not every LGL case shows clear signs of IR, but the majority do.
 
Conclusions
I'm now convinced that many of the hoof pathologies we commonly see are often as a result of or at least contributed to by LGL. The typical horse that does not do well out of shoes may well be suffering from LGL. In my own practice, I'm increasingly finding that the vast majority of the cases that I struggled with previously now do well without shoes once a suitable diet has been found. Often the improvements gained surprise the owner and sometimes they even surprise me.
 
As yet we have little hard data on how prevalent this condition is in the UK. 70% of my cases show some signs of LGL - but given the remedial bias to my practice this is not particularly informative. Estimates from my colleagues range from 10% to 50% of horses in the UK. My own suspicion is that the higher figure is probably nearer the mark with pleasure horses (as opposed to those in heavy work) being the most prone.
 
It is still early days, but a better understanding of this condition and how to deal with it promises to very significantly improve the health of our horses' feet.
 
© Richard Vialls

Read more about Richard Vialls and Equine Podiatry at his website here.

8 of 12 Owners Say Their Horses Prefer It



Rusty & Rocky on the Arizona Trail.

Old Pueblo 2010

It was a fantastic day for Easyboots yesterday at Day 2 of the Old Pueblo 50 mile ride in Sonoita, AZ. 

Ride Manager Marilyn McCoy was very pleased with the number of participants at the ride. Marilyn always puts on a good event and this year was no exception. The new sections of the Arizona trail are spectacular - the footing is good, there is enough elevation change to assure great vistas and good use of various muscle groups for horse and rider. One could never grow tired of the long views and unspoiled wilderness out there.


I took Redford, who was still in his Easyboot Glue-Ons from last weekend's Dynamite Dash. Leslie Spitzer had ridden him in the 50 and Rusty had used him extensively the week prior for trail marking and re-marking, so I decided he would be fine for one of the days. Rusty rode Rocky in Glue-Ons - we were testing a new glue that Garrett seems quite excited about. The glue sets up really quickly but still has the elastic properties we all like so much. We had plenty of spare Easyboot Gloves with us in case the glue did not hold for the 50 miles, but we would not need them. Rocky traveled well all day and was wonderfully sound. This was his first ride since his accident at Death Valley in December, so it was nice to get it right.


Do You Boot?
We finished in 11th and 12th place at 2:22 PM - just shy of six hours ride time. Easyboot cleaned up: of the first 12 riders to finish the 50, 8 of them were in Gloves or Glue-Ons. There was good representation at the back of the pack, too. Julia Lynn Elias rode her big chestnut Shagya, Chilli, in his first 50. I think they got turtle award. She pulled his shoes the day before the ride and used Glue-Ons. It was her first time riding one of her own horses booted/barefoot and I think she will be back for more.



Chilli getting his first barefoot trim.


Amanda Washington Reports on the Dynamite Dash 50 in Scottsdale

Submitted by Amanda Washington of Middleton, ID

I had the amazingly generous opportunity to ride one of Garrett's horses, Belesemo Inferno, in the 50 at the Dynamite Dash endurance ride put on by Rusty Toth on February 27. This is the first year for the ride, and despite monsoon-type weather in Scottsdale the month prior to the ride, a change of ridecamp a week before and quite frankly a really scary weekend forecast, the ride went off without a hitch!
 
Rusty contacted me a few months ago to see if my husband, Robert, might be interested in vetting. Of course I said yes, so long as I could ride! I then convinced my husband it would be a great thing to do while we were on our annual migration south. Didn't take much to convince him.  



Garrett Ford quickly offered me a horse and we were all set! Being from the northwest, I am one of the few doing the "barefoot thing" in endurance. I was super excited to watch Mr. Easyboot himself apply the glue-ons to horses prior to the ride. I have been riding in Easycare boots for three years but have only been gluing boots for rides since last June. Considering we don't have the option up in the NW for others to glue on for us, we have had to learn ourselves. I can tell you, it wasn't pretty at first, but we got the job done! I was feeling pretty good about my glue jobs towards the end of last season, but watching Garrett and seeing his end product was the equivalent of thinking you sound pretty good singing in the shower and getting laughed off the audition stage at American Idol! 
 
Friday afternoon I watched while Garrett apply boots to a few horses, one of which was our own Steph Teeter's horse, Jaziret Bey Musc. Now Rhet is no newbie endurance horse. At almost 19yrs old, Rhett has some 4,000 miles including numerous fast 100's and several years of FEI competitions. I haven't seen Rhett since October, when he did his last NW ride with steel shoes. Steph pulled his shoes shortly after arriving in Arizona with the support of Kevin Myers. Rhett's feet look AWESOME and I think Steph has been pretty pleased with his booted performance. I think we have another barefooter up here! 
 
Boots were applied to a couple more horses, one of them being Clydea Hastie's nice big bay gelding who was only three weeks out of shoes and who went on to tie for second place in the 100 the next day.  The other was one of Kevin's horses, Redford, who has gorgeous bare feet! 
 
It was fun watching, chatting and comparing methods. I love the ease at which Garrett prepares the foot and applies the boot. We talked excitedly about some new glues and the prospect of finding "the one," the Holy Grail of glue if you may! Of course that being said, I am sitting here on my flight leaving Phoenix looking out at the engine compartment thingy which appears to have some type of Goober Glue/Adhere-type adhesive holding things together. Although this is freaking me out a bit, I can't help but think we might need to consider checking that stuff out!
 
I could not believe the number of booted vs. shod feet at this ride. It was exciting and I think a preview of what to expect throughout the rest of the country in the near future. I believe 8 of the 12 horses in the 100 were booted!! None of them were pulled, and while I don't recall anyone losing a boot, one did lose a shoe but went on to complete the 100 with the help of an Easyboot Glove. I had an awesome ride on Inferno, and got to spend some time with Easycare's Miriam Rezine, who was fantastic to ride with.  
 
We had a blast flying through the Tonto National Forest, lucky enough to see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever seen! Our horses were outfitted with glue-ons, applied with Adhere for me and a new glue for Miriam.  Their footfalls were familiarly softened by the rubber boots. I was thrown off several times throughout the ride by a familiar Northwest face among plenty of friendly strangers. From seeing Steve Bradley out taking photos, to riding with Steph and our favorite Canadian, Brian, and then seeing my husband vetting, I felt like the Northwest was plucked from the cold winter and transferred south! 
 
These barefoot hoof horses are amazing.  They travel effortlessly over hard-pack road, fly over rock, glide through sand and then come to rest comfortably in their natural state after wraps are pulled and boots are removed at the completion of the ride.  

I feel like I have come so far from the first time I awkwardly picked up a rasp four years ago. My husband was also excited to see all the barefoot/booted horses. He has patiently taken numerous radiographs so that I could check angles, depth of sole, length of toe and breakover of the various boots.  
 
It is so exciting to see the amount of riders leaving their horses barefoot, and utilizing the tools available to cover the miles we cover without having to nail on steel shoes. I hope the revolution continues!


Thank you Southwest! See you next year! 
 
~Amanda Washington





Far Wins Best Condition Award at Dynamite Dash 100

55 riders turned up at base camp on Friday to check in. It could not have been more thrilling on the morning of the start to realize there is a big difference between knowing the trails and actually knowing the trail.

Of the 15 starters in the 75 and 100-mile distances, 11 were riding barefoot booted horses and there was a 100% completion rate.  And there were no boot losses whatsoever. 

There were 40 people in the 50 mile distance: three were pulled.

Kevin Waters and Rusty were kind enough to glue on Far’s Easyboot Glue-Ons on Friday morning while I was at work. They used Goober Glue under the sole and Adhere on the hoof walls. The boots were perfect and Far felt extra springy in them.

Garrett Ford and Miriam Rezine spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon at base camp gluing boots for Steph Teeter, Clydea Hastie and Leslie Spitzer.  

Clydea Hastie pulled the steel shoes from her horse, Ash, three weeks ago. She tied for second place in the 100 on Saturday: talk about a fast transition.

I was very fortunate to ride in the good company of Kevin Waters and Stephanie Palmer Du-Ross.  Both of their horses are incredible: Kevin on Ali and Stephanie on Halji. We made sure every mile was filled with humor and we regularly traded off leading and following. 

When we were obliged to change the location of base camp two weeks ago we also had to redesign the access points to the loops. I had a fairly good sense of where the trail was, but it got very exciting in the soupy dark with 15 riders behind me running along at 12 mph.

The trails here are fairly flat and are made up of decomposed granite with almost no rock.  Footing is firm and although there is a gentle incline heading west from base camp, there are very few hills.

The first 25 mile loop was mostly on single track trails or dirt roads with no wash, and the fast pace made the miles fly by. The vet checks were all in camp, and the army of neighborhood volunteers was quick to sort out their roles of pulsing, calling, scribing and managing the flow through the vet check. Robert Washington, DVM (who came in from Boise)  and Stacey Sickler, DVM were solid and steady and stayed top of their game.

The 45-minute hold went by smoothly and Far ate fairly well, but not ravenously.  We set off together for our second 25 mile loop. We would head north to pick up Camp Creek Wash and then continue north for seven miles up to Bartlett Dam Road. Since we were at the front of the pack, the footing in the sand was still firm. We walked and trotted up and then sped up on the way back. 

We finished the second loop much faster than I had planned. We knew a big storm was supposed to move in at sunset and all three of us wanted to get as many miles done as possible in the dry. 

 

Conditions remained perfect for us all day: the second 50 mile section of the ride was split conveniently into two 12.5 mile loops that we repeated. The first storm front did not arrive as had been anticipated, so we benefitted from cloudy and conditions and our pace remained fast but not frenzied. The wind and driving rain did not arrive before midnight – well after our horses were tucked in their blankets for the night.

We even got to start our last 12.5 mile loop in the setting sun, so our speed was hardly compromised by darkness.  Far picked up his eating and drinking at the 62.5 mile mark and his parameters stayed healthy all day. One of the things I really like about that horse is that he always takes good care of himself. This day was no exception.

We finished with a ride time of 10:45, which makes it one of the fastest 100s I’ve ever done. Far looked fresh and got straight A’s when we presented for BC. What a way to start off my new life with EasyCare.

Keep up the bootlegging (I’m thinking we just may be onto a really good thing here).
 


A Thousand years of Rocket Science...

Of all the medieval inventions still in use today, can you think of a single one that has undergone less transformation than the horsehoe?

Horseshoes- not much has changed!
Photo above shows a selection of English horseshoes in the store of the Weald and Downland Museum, dating from the eleventh century to the nineteenth. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia contributor Warofdreams. 

Amazing isn't it?   When I saw this photo and caption in The Thoughtful Horseman newsletter it stopped me in my tracks!  As it sunk in I thought,  "talk about being stuck in a rut"!  Some would say, the iron horse shoe in its traditional form owes its longevity to the very fact that it works.  But does it really? Many "traditional" professionals in the equine industry are thinking long and hard about this. In fact it is one of the most talked about topics in the equine industry.  It is hard to argue with the results of natural horse care and a barefoot life style for horses.  We  know that iron shoes can contribute to many various issues in the horse.  Many of us have personally experienced the roller coaster ride of lameness or a loss of a horse that, if we had only known then what we know now; things would have been so much different.  It is bitter sweet.   As this awareness grows, barefoot hoof care is thriving.  With the Glove , Glue-On , Edge and Rx hoof boots entering the market in 2009 we have never had more options in hoof boots than we do today.  BUT, not to rest on our laurels EasyCare will push on, taking hoof boots to the next level.  The industry demands it, the horses demand it.  I am  proud to work for a company that isn't stuck in a rut!  EasyCare is constantly evolving and working diligently to bring professionals and horse owners the best in bare hoof protection and education through the latest advancements in technology. 

The Thoughtful Horseman newsletter written and distributed by barefoot trimmer Maria Siebrand of Coronado, CA.  If you don't currently receive her newsletter it is great and I encourage you to subscribe.   Maria is an EasyCare dealer, PHCP member and mentor.  She is available for clinics, lectures and mentorships on barefoot hoof care and progressive horsekeeping practices.  Thank you Maria for your inspiration.