Tender Foot and Chip Foot

After talking with a friend who uses EasyCare hoof boots we decided to try them for one of our horses. Our horse Tampa was sensitive on rocks and when the farrier would remove his shoes for a trim. Tampa would pull back when our farrier was trying to remove his shoes even after pulling nails one at a time. I think it bothered us more than our farrier but it also told us Tampa needed a change. We decided to get them for our horse Jack also. Jack had never been shod and wasn't tender footed but had trouble with cracking and chipping to the point that large chunks of hoof wall would come off. Now both boys do very well and have no problem with us putting on or taking off the Easyboot Glove. This is our third summer using hoof boots and I encourage others to give them a try.


Name: Janet Broadhacker
City: Maroa, IL, USA
Equine Discipline: Trail
Favorite Boot: Easyboot Glove Back Country

June 2013: Hadley's

Congratulations to Hadley's, EasyCare's Dealer of the Month for June. Hadley's is located in Canon City, Colorado and they are very early in their EasyCare Dealership career. They just became an EasyCare Dealer on February 25, 2013, but they have taken EasyCare Hoof Boots to a whole new level.

When Shay-Lee Hadley first contacted us to become an EasyCare Dealer, we were somewhat concerned. How could our EasyCare products fit with a company that was now manufacturing banners, providing embroidery services and dealing with some equine products? But, they also manufacture Barrel Wraps, which are barrel covers that provide advertising for barrel racing events. This should have been a clue to us. After talking with Shay-Lee by phone, she was so enthusiastic, convincing and engaging, that we approved them.

When a dealer is approved by EasyCare, we encourage them to stock a few of each of our best selling boots. Shay-Lee would only order the Easyboot Rx and EasySoaker. Again, we were a little concerned. No need for concern - she and her husband, Jack, had it all under control.

We found out that they were bringing the EasySoaker and the Easyboot Rx to barrel racing events and were selling out of them at every event.

When they were on their way to BBR Finals in Oklahoma City, Shay-Lee called for an order of Rx boots and we were back ordered on size 3. We suggested bringing the Easyboot Trail. They enthusiastically brought the Trails with them and sold out of them the day before the event started. They called us and we did a direct ship of Trails right to the Oklahoma Fairgrounds. They had horses lined up at their booth waiting for fittings to buy the Easyboot Trail.


Jack doing fittings at the Oklahoma Fairgrounds.

A barrel horse sporting his Easyboot Trails.

And they sold out again! On their way home, Jack was driving and Shay-Lee called for seventy-two more Easyboot Trails that they had taken orders for on the last day of the finals.

It turns out that Hadley's have recognized a strong niche for hoof boots for barrel racers. Shay-Lee said that she had previously used a competitors boot on her horse and found that they were just too heavy and clunky. She did some investigation and liked the Easyboot Rx and then the Trails. These athletes are most often standing on cement floors in stalls for two or three days, waiting to go in for their 16 second run. What a better way to protect their legs and give them comfort than to have them wear EasyCare hoof boots with foam comfort pads. They also recognized that the Easyboot Trail gives these horses great traction when trailering.

Next the Hadley's are headed to NBHA (National Barrel Horse Association) in Mississippi and after that they are off to Las Vegas. Let's see who can keep up with the Hadleys!

Bear Dog is Haldey's best EasyCare hoof boot promoter.

Watch My Back!

Actually I'm just kidding. What I really meant to say is: Watch your back!

The human knee is not well designed for all the sport and work activities we expose it to. Anyone who has suffered from a knee injury can testify how crippling this injury can be. However, with an injured knee, we can usually still somewhat function and should it go out, knee replacements are available.

The situation with our backs is quite different. Any injury to our backs can be extremely painful and often we are flat out. Our backs are our life lines. Without a healthy back we do not function, it's as simple as that.

Photo by Susan Kordish, Cowgirl Photography.

Hoof trimming and applying hoof boots like the Easyboot Glue-Ons is hard on our backs. Back pain and compressed discs are all too common among professional and amateur hoof trimmers and farriers. When our backs are sore, it takes the fun out of trimming our horses feet and we cannot do a good job. There are some practices that will save our backs for years and allow for pain free work.

In my blog last month I wrote about the benefits of using a hoof jack. If you missed last month's blog, you can read it here: Five Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Hoofjack.

Using a Hoofjack, I can keep my back straight and relaxed.

One of the most important things to remember is to always use proper posture. That means keeping your toes pigeon toed, your ankles and knees flexed and your back straight. We want to balance over our feet and work our quads to keep us in the posture, not bend our backs.

With a straight  lower back, I can trim all day long without suffering any back pain.

Let's look at a couple of images of the same trimmer and compare the two different postures:

Flexing from the lower back causes strain on the spine. The red arrow points to the place
where the back is bending forward, purple line helps evaluate the bending of the back.

Flexing from the femur (hinging torso forward). The green arrow shows the origin of flexing.
The back is much straighter which results in less strain on the lower back.

Remember to keep your muscles toned. A lot of joint injuries happen because agonist and antagonist muscles are not balanced and not of equal strength. With skiers many knee injuries happen, because their quads are so much stronger compared to their hamstrings. They overpower the hamstrings and under the right circumstances the uneven forces acting upon the knees result in a torn ACL. Their is a similar relationship with our backs. Our back muscles should be of equal strength to our core or stomach muscles. Plank exercises are great to strengthen our core muscles.

Stretching the body is equally important. Even when doing our best to save our backs, strains will occur. The vertebras of our spine are cushioned with discs made of cartilage. When bending, loading or twisting the spine repeatedly only in one direction, these discs will get compressed in one direction which can lead to pinched nerves, lack of flexibility and arthritis.

A regular exercise program that incorporates pilates or yoga can be extremely beneficial. Not all of us have the opportunity to do that so here are some of my simple stretching exercises. They only take minutes and allow for a healthier, pain free back.

1. Between trimming, I place my hands on my hipbone and push my pelvis forward. Hold for 30 seconds, the relief is instant.

2. After trimming I hang from a bar or tree branch. This lets the weight of your body stretch and elongate your back. For better effect, stretch your heel towards the ground while hanging.

3. Do the plow. In the beginning, you might not get your feet to touch the ground. With time you will become more flexible and your back will loosen up. Do not force this stretch, work up to it as far as your body allows.

The beginning plow. Start easy.

Your goal is to eventually have your feet touch the ground behind your head.

The Plow is one of the best back stretches you can do: it creates space between the discs to allow for cellular exchange. Toxins are being flushed out and you are feeling rejuvenated. Hold it for up to two minutes for maximum benefit.

4. Spinal twist and side bends round out my program.

 

I hope you benefit from my tips and tricks for a healthy back.

The Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

Global Endurance Training Center

Report from Europe

Another European Hoof Care Clinic Tour came to a close last week. This brings the number of these workshops and seminars in Europe up to 12 since starting this program over three years ago. During these trips I have seen remarkable horses, visited great places and met so many interesting people, with most of them I have been in contact ever since.

Although I'm conducting the seminars, teaching and demonstrating various barefoot trimming methods and protective horse boot applications, I feel like it is me who is learning the most. To be able to see and work on a wide variety of horses of all kind of  breeds and to learn new ways to address hoof problems and pathologies in other parts of the world has been an incredible experience.

During these clinics I often start with PowerPoint presentations on anatomy, followed by conformation evaluations and how conformation influences hoof growth. I'm also discussing various pathologies, causes and consequences.

Hoofcare does not stand alone and by itself.  I always emphasize the fact that healthy hooves grow from a healthy environment which encompasses proper nutrition, movement, turnout, exercise, adequate substrate and timely trimming. A hoof, as it presents itself to our eyes, mirrors the horse for better or for worse. The holistic principle is essential and central to all Natural Hoof Care and must never be left out of the equation.

Following the theoretical indoor session, we then move outside to work with horses. Before we  even pick up a hoof, we evaluate the whole horse, teeth, hair coat, muscle development, conformation, overall health and how the horse is standing while being observed. Is it standing quietly and square (a rarity), or with one foot forward or camped under, post legged, shifting constantly from one leg to the other? We then can draw conclusions and  already know how the hooves are going to look like. We understand easier why a hoof grows a certain way and displays certain characteristics. When looking at the actual hooves afterwards, we are then merely confirming our conclusions from our observations.

Participants often bring their own horses to learn with them. Many have been trimming their own horses already and want their job being evaluated and possibly improved. Others want to learn how to trim their horses hooves and will then be given opportunity to practice.

I avoid passing judgment. Instead I try to guide them to look at their trimming from different angles and to open new avenues to help their horses. There are very few absolutes, if any. Every hoof is different, therefore we should treat each hoof as an individual.

Day two starts again with theory and  a detailed presentation about various hoof protection applications. I introduce the different EasyCare Hoof boots together with all the Vettec Glues and their respective application. We then practice together to fit Easyboot Gloves, Trail, Backcountry Gloves, and others like Epic and Glue ons. A presentation of  gluing Glue on shells follows.  Participants often have the opportunity to glue their first boots themselves and even learn how to build a hoof shoe with Vettec Superfast.

This past tour was especially interesting.  Zuerich, Switzerland, was the first stop. Nina Good and Marina Huber, who had just completed a 3 months internship at Global Endurance Training Center in Moab organized the seminar with about 20 participants.  The group consisted of professional trimmers and farriers, beginning trimmers, drivers and riders  in various equestrian disciplines. A great mixture of prior knowledge and skills and horses of all kind of statue and shape. 

Zuerich Group.

 The Bootmeister is demonstrating the application of Easyboot Gloves.

The enthusiasm and participation  was amazing. Everybody was learning and also sharing.

Onward to the Bretagne (or Brittany), the most western part of France. This time I was guest of Christophe and Carole Bogrand, who own and operate Chateau du Launay near Ploerdut. www.chateaudulaunay.com.

This 300 year old castle was our place for the clinic. Again, like in Zuerich,  the organization was superb, Christophe and Carole  were the most wonderful hosts one can wish for.

The group was smaller, which gave everybody more opportunity to practice trimming and gluing Easyboot Glue on horse shoes. We even had two American participants, friends and clients of GETC, who flew in from NY to participate in the clinic and enjoy the castle and the outstanding cuisine by Carole Bogrand.

It is awkward to take a Hoof Jack by airplane. So when no hoof stand could be found anywhere, we had to be creative.

We ended up gluing 4 boots.

I have to admit that their first glued boot did not quite look like that, but somewhat close.

On a cultural note, after the clinic we went riding for a day through some magnificent country and rode by a 7,000 year old Druid tomb. I'm always fascinated by history and their remnants. So much we can learn from it.

Last stop was Duesseldorf, Germany. Claudia Bockerman, who undertook a two week hoof trimming and hoof protection internship with me at GETC's facility in Moab a couple of years ago did the onsite organization. Again, we had a mixed group with various background levels and experience in hoof care and trimming. This made it again a learning and sharing experience for everyone.

The riders of the world are very eager to learn about Natural Hoof Trimming and EasyCare boots. And this is just the beginning, I'm convinced of it. More clinics are already being set up in Europe for next year. I will keep you posted.

Your Bootmeister,

Christoph Schork

Gluing On The Ghetto Way - An Alternative for The Slight of Hand

This blog should peek the interest of Easyboot users like me; you use a lot of Gloves, you love using Glue-On boots and are comfortable gluing boots on on a regular basis with assistance, and you wish you were comfortable doing it alone.

I'm not entirely proud of this method but hey, it works, in fact it works really well. I'm also sure others have done this but I want to make sure everyone knows it's an option, even if it's not as pretty as the classic glue job.

Background

When I need to glue boots on, I enlist the help of my husband: literally for his hand strength. It's strange really because I have, on many awkward occasions, been complimented or high-browed (for the lack of better words) for my hand strength. I grew up on a working ranch, working horses and doing everything else that goes with the territory of raising cattle and making hay; I've got strong hands... for a girl. But on a 90 degree day, I fail to win the race against time with Adhere (I think half the problem is also mental, or "frenzy syndrome," which is also associated with, but not limited to, my gender.)  I just can't squeeze the gun fast enough to get the job done. I make it through one hoof like a champ and then my hand falls off.  

So I trim the horse (I use a hoof jack to save my back,) prep the hooves, lay everything out, put the goober glue in bottoms of the shells, then call Sean in for back up. Sean squeezes the adhere into the shell and hands it to me, I do the classic smack'n'twist, and move expeditiously to the next hoof, at which point Sean is handing me another shell and we make our way around all four hooves. After squeezing Adhere in the last shell, Sean kneels down and puts a bead around the top rim and I follow, hoof-by-hoof, smoothing the bead and tidying up with my ever-shedding-latex-glove-clad-fingers. We do this Merry-Go-Round-and-Round the horse often. It's a delicate, planned and well-practiced dance, very carefully executed. We know the drill. We often only use one mixing tip for one horse, and it very rarely goes awry but there is the occasional horse-related interruption or adhere tube switcharoo.

Moxy and me finishing Tevis 2012 with all four Easyboot Glue-On boots firmly in place, they were still difficult to pry off 3 weeks later. Proof of a successful gluing operation/Merry Go Round dance with my husband.

The problem is hunting season: Sean's gone. 

So here's my ghetto alternative, aka "goober booting it." Pick out some of your fairly-trashed-yet-usable-Gloves (the sizes you need, obviously,) and wash them up, scrub them out, set them out to dry, perhaps even spray alcohol in them to ensure they are as clean and dry as you can get them. Fear not, they don't need to be surgically clean, just relatively clean. Prep your horse's hooves, set everything out, but add a popsicle stick to your tool kit. Do your usual triangle of Sikaflex on the bottom of each boot, plus a ring on the walls (have a seat on a bucket while you work, take your time, it's Sikaflex, not Adhere, so chill.) Now take your popsicle stick and use it to paint/smear a thin layer of the Sikaflex on the walls where you would usually put Adhere. Pop them on the hoof like you always put Gloves on; tap the toe in, put the foot down, put the velcro straps on tight.

Be aware that the wet glue also acts as a bit of a lubricant at first, so the boots are more likely to slide around on the hoof or twist. Don't panic, this hoof glue is very forgiving. I hung out with my horse for that first hour (drink a beer, do some chores) to make sure things stayed straight and there were a few times I thought the hoof was twisting or sliding back in the boot (so his toe wasn't quite all the way in,) but I just picked the hoof up and banged the toe back in to the front or twisted it straight again. The glue is still wet, it's no problem. I was surprised how well it went. I found that after an hour, the thin layer around the hoof wall was fairly set up, so I put him in his run for the night. He did his usual in there, standing to eat, pacing, twisting, whatever, it was nerve wracking but the next morning the boots were on perfect. The glue set up over night, and they looked great.

From there I just unscrewed everything and removed the gaiters. And voila! Glue-On boots minus the frenzy-associated adhere set up time.

You can leave old power straps on or rip them off.

The cool thing is now you have a pile of spare parts to recycle for your other Gloves, and you didn't even use any of your new Easyboot Glue-On shells. So technically this process is green. Go green baby!

I do not recommend doing this on horses that will paw or jig, this method simply isn't an option for bajiggity horses. In fact, I took my horse for a workout ride, washed him off, and then trimmed his hooves etc.  and once I had all the boots glued on I fed him so he would stand there calmly for an hour (consider doing this whole drill where the horse usually stands and eats if he is nervous).

The not so cool thing is that these are even harder to remove than the adhere ones because the glue stretches instead of cracking. But another cool thing is that all the glue is flexing with the hoof, on top on bottom, everywhere, au natural.

I definitely recommend the classic glue on procedure, but in a pinch, "goober booting" is an excellent alternative.  

7 Ways to Make Life Easier

Sore backs, bloody hands, uneven trims?

Which horse hoof trimmer has not dealt with all of these problems, maybe all of them each time trimming? Here are some tips to make horse hoof trimming a lot easier on your body.

1. Stand pigeon-toed with your knees together. Use your upper thigh to keep you balanced and supple.

2. Keep your back straight, flex from your pelvis forward, do not bend your back. You might want to practice this posture a few times.

3. When trimming sole with your hoof knife, push the knife with your opposing thumb. It is a lot safer and keeps your hands from being cut up.

4. Start with a different hoof on each trim.

If you always start with the same hoof, by the time you are done with the last hoof, you will be more tired than when you started. A trimmer that habitually starst with the front left will work that hoof differently than when he finishes with that hoof. You thus avoid creating major differences between the feet over time. Pay close attention to patterns that show up if you are trimming several horses.

5. Switch your rasping strokes evenly. One hand is stronger than the other. If you always push the rasp with your right hand, you will rasp more off one side of the hoof than the other, thus creating imbalances. Push with the right hand diagonally down while guiding the rasp with your left. Then push with the right hand  diagonally up across the hoof. Switch hands, push with your left hand diagonally down while guiding the rasp with your right hand, then push with your left diagonally up.

PUSH the rasp, don't press down with it. Let the rasp do the work.

Watch the sequence in the 4 following frames. Left hand carries the watch, right elbow is wrapped for easier identification of left and right.

 

6. Use an apron. It saves your legs and knees.

Back is straight, the hoof rests on thighs protected by the apron.

7. Use a Hoof Jack. It is safer for you and your horse and protects your back. A Hoof Jack is an investment for life.

You can place your pigeon toes on the Hoof Jack to stabilize it.

When you are not hurting, Horse Hoof Trimming is a lot more fun and you will do a lot better job!

So long,

Your Bootmeister

 

Trim, Taut and Terrific (Well Nearly) On a Paddock Track

Submitted by Written by Susan Gill, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

Around our area of eastern Australia (and probably Australia in general) it feels like we have been in spring for at least 12 months, with abnormal and continual warmish and wet weather promoting amazing pasture growth. After being in perpetual minor drought conditions for the last decade at first this change was wonderful. But after struggling with weight and hoof issues for the last year, we're all a bit over it now.

No-one likes to have their weight issues commented on, and Joby felt that having a grazing muzzle on for at least 12 hours of every day very insulting. To me it was a much better alternative to locking her up in the proverbial Jenny Craig paddock, but Joby apparently liked her voluptuous figure - without the time to keep her in full ridden work, I was losing the battle despite the feed restrictions.

All that changed in the space of an afternoon when I decided to create a paddock track in her 2 acre rectangular paddock that she shared with 2 other horses. Using some steel star pickets at the corners, and push-down stakes at intervals in between, I was able to create a version of Jaime Jackson's Paddock Paradise - a simple track around the perimeter of the paddock, approx 2 horse widths wide along the straights, more in the corners for flowing movement, and bending where necessary to wind around trees and stay away from non-grassed areas. I was able to put in the pickets and posts, and thread the tape around the whole way in less than 3 hours by myself (with the help of a Jack Russell Terror called Hedgehog!) 

The paddock track, now bulging in for more space and eating opportunities!

It reduced an overgrown paddock into a manageable containment area, promoting movement and interest - there is often a "catch-up" feeling with the horses. Joby has lost a little bit of weight without needing to be muzzled and is talking to me again. As the feed in the track area has gone, I have started shifting the fence tape inwards to allow more feed, and/or let them in to the centre area for controlled grazing time.  I contructed it very early in January and these photos were taken 8 weeks later. Although the track is well eaten it is holding it's integrity, and the centre is still overgrown. One horse per 3 acres used to be the normal grazing ratio - the last year it's been ridiculously different.  

looking quite purposeful, Joby leading Jazz on their quest around the track.

The paddock track has been a great solution to a frustrating problem, keeping the horses happy and healthy promoting movement which is great for hooves and weight reduction. It  will be easy to dismantle in winter if the pasture growth slows down and/or they get more work. All I can say is if I had known how easy it was to construct I would have done it much sooner!   

Riding on the Sunny Side of the Cloud

Submitted by Susan Gill, Team Easyboot 2011 Member in Australia

Jenny Moncur and I have just come home from a fantastic weekend which involved travelling 5+ hours each way with another special friend - Colette - to compete at our first 80km endurance ride in a long time.  My last serious ride was the National Tom Quilty 100 miler in 2009.  Since then I've had a bit of a holiday as I've brought along 2 youngsters and just completed 20km and 40km training rides.  Jenny is in the same position but more so, her last long endurance ride being in 2006.  My mare Joby was going to be completing her first 80km ride, and Jen's mare Promise was under the 13-month rule so running to novice times as well.  Colette came along as Camp Boss and strapper, and did an awesome job of organizing us both so we could relax and enjoy the ride.

Weather where we live has been wet, wet, wet.  In the end I decided to wait until we arrived to glue on Joby's Easyboot Gloves because the afternoon was forecast to be quite fine.  Her feet aren't the best barefoot examples at the moment, with dodgy frogs due to persistent thrush from her environment.  I just wonder what so many of the shod horses hooves look like from a worm's eye view!  So glueing on her boots seemed like the hassle free option to provide maximum comfort for the longer distance - Sikaflex cushions make her feel like she is striding across grass when she's travelling along bitumen and gravel roads.  And the ride conditions were very "ordinary" - wet, cold, and plenty of mud - again another reason to glue to minimize time and effort checking boots between legs.  Jen had originally planned to do the 40km training ride but stepped up to the challenge on the day, so she was riding Promise in Easyboot Gloves with hoof pads. 

Never one to be totally in the background, I pre-painted Joby's Easyboot Gloves in bright blue to match my riding colours - it would have looked a picture if my shirt wasn't hidden under wet weather gear!  I approached the glueing process with a typical aussie attitude of "she'll be right mate" which probably should have been refined slightly but got me through nearly the whole ride without a glitch.  Yes Kevin I agree, boot fit AND preparation are key factors - I did lose one boot around the 60km mark but Jen spotted it flying off so it was easy to find!

cleaning preparation before glueing

Each hoof was cleaned up on the sole with a hoof pick and then scrubbed with a wire brush, but remained moist due to the wet conditions of the past week.  I wasn't worrying about the dampness as Sikaflex reacts in a positive way to moisture.  The hoof wall was dry-scrubbed of mud, but possibly a fine residue remained in places - the boots were definitely less bonded then normal.  Perhaps I should have given them an actual wash.

A little touch up trimming, taking off a bit more toe, just to help fit and breakover, and a light rasp on the hoof wall if I remembered.  This is her off-fore.  You can see she's got a few trouble spots, a sad frog, and a bit of a flare to one side - a case of go with what you've got on the day.

starting to put a bead of sikaflex  around the shell's inner edge

Starting to put a bead of sikaflex around the inner rim of the boot.

Doesn't the boot look beautiful although it got covered in mud soon enough.  The gaitor is still attached at this stage. Again in hindsight, I could have used a greater quantity of glue - I hardly had any oozing out of the boot, and no mess on me at all - a dead giveaway when I think about it.

setting up

Putting the sikaflex on Joby's sole.  Jenny is well dressed in her TEB tee-shirt, so am I under my woolly jumper.  We're great friends with totally different ideas about temperatures.

I just squiggled a quantity of sikaflex onto the sole, into the collateral grooves, and the concave area of her sole, knowing that when her boot was put on, the glue would ooze into position as needed because it is quite liquid under pressure.  Boots actually go on easier too, because it acts like a lubricant on the hoof.

sikaflex on the sole

Once on, the gaitor is wrapped around to help keep the shell in position while the Sikaflex is going off, but I also added super glue around the rim.

superglue around the rim

The fit isn't that tight, the vee isn't stretched at all, but she actually needs that size for length.  So 4 boots in places, she snoozes quietly in her yard, and we fill in the rest of the evening.  I think the whole process for each hoof took less than 10 minutes - I was pretty cruisy about it.

Around midnight the rain started - we must have brought it with us.  I listened to the leaks in the horsefloat where we were sleeping, and wondered what else would be getting wet - pretty well everything due to more leaks or just condensation.  A 6am ride start meant getting up at 5am to get organised.  Jen put on Promise's Gloves in the rain.  I was one up on her via glueing the afternoon before although I did need to unscrew all the gaitors (Experience Tip: don't clog up the screw heads with paint, otherwise the screwdriver won't grab and undo the screw!).  We both got equally we saddling up the horses!

Off in the dark to start our first 40km loop.  Apparently it was really miserably cold and wet the whole day but we didn't notice because we were having too much fun!  Joby took it all in her stride like a seasoned campaigner, taking her example from Promise who knew what it was all about.  We rode to the conditions and enjoyed nearly the whole loop.  One section was quite daunting to most riders - it was a very boggy slippery track up a very steep hill, and down the other side.  Yes the boots slipped a bit but we just sat quietly on the horses and allowed them to choose their path, trusting that we were safer on then off them. Promise did a couple of metre long skids on the way down and looked like an elegant ice-skater, totally relaxed and unfazed by the experience - she almost looked like they were deliberate by the way she coped!

Back in camp, great parameters for both horses although Jen was starting to feel the pain from an extremely dodgy ankle.  Out again in continuing wet and cold weather.  Although the rain cleared up intermittently, apparently temperatures never made it to 6 degrees celcius for the entire day (according to the weather chart it actually felt like only 1.5 degrees for most of it) - but the horses just kept going like they were having as much fun as me.  Jen was past it, but her attitude kept her going to the end.  

Joby and Promise vetted through beautifully, with Joby winning the Best Managed Novice Horse Award which kept me grinning.  At a ride where some riders didn't bother starting due to the perceived conditions of the track, we felt really comfortable about going ahead, knowing that we'd all be ok.  Mind-set is everything, setting yourself up in a positive way makes all the difference!  My attitude was easy to maintain - I knew that I'd rather be out riding than not, so I was happy.  Jen's attitude was much stronger - it had to be for her to get over the pain and continue on.  We crossed the finish line together, knowing that the four of us have just passed one milestone and are now set up beautifully ready for our next adventure - a mini marathon in August.

Jenny was a little worse for wear after the event, succumbing to hypothermia, but was much better the next morning after sleeping with 2 hot water bottles and a Jack Russell Terrier :)

Lesson 1.  Dress for the conditions, even if you think you don't feel the cold.
Lesson 2.  Be a tad fussier with preparation and enjoy the results.
Lesson 3.  Attitude makes all the difference!

crossing the finish line


So How Do My Horse's Feet Look? Learning to Evaluate Your Horse's Hooves

It seemed like every day I trimmed horses, I was asked the same question, over and over again: “So, how do my horse's feet look?"

It wasn't long before I had an epiphany: Why not teach the owner to evaluate and trim her own horse? If I could do it, why not other owners?

Before long it was me asking, “So how do your horse's feet look this month?” And the owners couldn't wait to answer. Because every month, the feet looked better and better. After 7 months, they usually looked exceptional and I was off the case and on to new students. Vets and farriers alike were asking the proud owner-trimmer, “So who does your horse's fantastic feet?” Oh that was music to my ears! For the vast majority of horses, this is not rocket science. If you want to understand 'all things hoof' at the molecular level, you sure can be. But if on the other hand, you want to put a nice foot on your horse and then hit the trails, by jove I say let's keep it simple!

The coffin bone is sitting in the capsule. You can see the laminae inside the wall and also where the bars would be in the back of the foot.

In a sound horse the coffin bone sits 4 to 11 degrees off the ground and draws flat at a gallop. Notice the unfortunate 'moth-eatien' perimeter common among our domestic horses. The coffin bone suffered too much concussion.

In the first photo you see a hoof capsule that I cooked down on my outside grill. The primary goal of trimming is to encourage the hoof capsule to grow a strong, protective enclosure for the coffin bone and soft tissue structures(cooked off) which are located in the back of the foot.

Inside the capsule you can still see remnants of the laminae. The coffin bone also had laminae on the surface and the two lamina were connected. See how the coffin bone sits in the capsule. The lateral cartilages are soft tissue structures on either side of the back of the coffin bone; they cooked off. The digital cushion, also gone, was located in the back center of the foot, over the frog. Dr. Robert Bowker has likened soft tissue structures of the hoof to the excellent, gel padding found in running shoes. One of the jobs of the soft tissue structures is to absorb shock.

Run your fingers from the hairline down, and note with a marker or chalk, where the healing angle stops. That's how much good wall to coffin bone connection you have. Ideally it runs to the ground.  Some horses do flare right from the hairline.

In step one of a foot assessment, I run my fingers down the hoof wall, feeling the angle of growth as seen in this photo with my first model from Allie Hayes, of Horse Science. I call her 'Honey Bunny', a wonderful horse who gave her life to educate us bipeds. In most traditionally cared for horses, the first inch or so of wall growth is the angle the horse would like; the rest of the foot is what he is stuck with. If shod, plastic shoes included, the poor horse is cast with no hope of growing a good foot. Jaime Jackson calls this good, top connection, the healing angle. With the correct trim and diet, the healing angle grows to the ground within 7-12 months. Let's take a look at the hooves of three horses:
  1. Sunny, Off the Track Thoroughbred
  2. Eddie, Quarter Horse Cross
  3. Daniel, Percheron
Love "Sunny" Days, Off the Track Racehorse

Rehabbed OTTB: feet, body, mind.

Sunny (a clicker trained horse), now 12, is my Off The Track Thoroughbred; I rescued him as a rising 6 year old.  I gave him a year off to be a horse on full turnout with a small herd in Unionville, Pa. and revisited his ground training. Rebacked as a 6 year old, he immediately came up lame in a sand ring. What a surprise that was. It took another year to rehabilitate his partially torn, high suspensory. 

Front view of right front hoof in June. This is the tail end of our spring grass season.

The side or lateral view shows a slight flare (bad), short toe and low heel (both good). Note correct hairline angle down to the ground.

Above, here we are in June, 2011, at the tail-end of our spring, high-sugar grass season. On the front view, from the hairline to the black, horizontal marker line is the healing angle, the hoof Sunny wants. Below the black line is flared hoof wall where the lamellar connection between hoof wall and coffin bone broke, a sign of laminitis due to spring grass. Spring shots may have also played a part.

It is my habit to sharply (60 degrees or so) bevel or angle the outer (dark) and inner wall (bright white) from April 1st to July 1st in an effort to avoid flare. This is called the rehabilitation trim. Although he became gimpy on the gravel driveway this spring, he was rock solid sound when trotting down hills, mounted or unmounted. If he is happy to slam his 1,000 lbs on the back of his feet, on a grassy down hill, I am happy too.

Before evaluating Sunny's hoof, I would like to discuss some terms. In this solar view below, notice the perimeter of dark outer wall. On a white hoof the outer wall is an egg shell color. Inside his outer wall is the inner wall or water line. Most farriers don't talk about the inner wall. When I first started I confused it with the white line. The inner wall is always bright white, regardless of hoof color. Go in one more time and that is the laminae or white line; it's actually off white and often, if you look closely, you can see what looks like scales or leaflets. With a big flare the laminae often pulls apart at the ground level and you can really see the disconnection. A healthy laminae or white line is very thin and tight. Next of course is the sole, then the frog. A healthy foot has a concave sole. Another wall, the bars are on either side of the frog. They begin at the heel and slope gently to mid frog.

Sole view where I marked (A) the extent of his sole concavity and (B) the open angle of his heels, aka decontracted heels.
     
"So how do these feet look?"  

  1. In the first photos, the hoof has a nice cone shape. Good feet come in a variety of shapes, some cone and some more upright. The outer surface is smooth showing no laminitic rings. There are some superficial, vertical cracks along the bottom of the wall created by a response to changes in the environment: wet, dry, wet. In the (hopefully) dry months of July and August, the wall will look like smooth gray granite. Even healthy hooves are on a continuum if your weather and ground vary.
  2. As noted, he has flare (disconnected laminae) in the lower portion of his foot. Because of this flare, I would expect some loss of concavity on the bottom, sole view. As an aside, when I am helping a horse grow his first well-connected wall, I have noticed that concavity of the sole will start to form when about 2/3's of the hoof wall has the correct, healing angle.
  3. When viewed from the side, Sunny's hair line slopes down, telling me his coffin bone is well placed. The hairline angle may vary a bit depending on his hoof continuum. I do not force any particular angle. However, a horizontal hairline, which we will see in a moment on Eddie, tells me the horse is incorrectly walking on the front of his coffin bone. According to Pete Ramey's research, the coffin bone in an excellent hoof is within the range of 4 to 11 degrees off the ground in the back. (See the photo where I am holding the coffin bone off ground parallel above.) Ground parallel is not correct. You can only see these angles on radio graphs but I have found that if you just do the natural trim, your horse will find what is right for him. As for evaluation, just look for a downward sloping hairline on the side.
  4. On the sole view, I have marked his uneven concavity which I expected. Whenever the laminae loses substantial connection: (A) the hoof capsule is too far up the leg and (B) the coffin bone, always under the horse, is too close to the ground. How all this occurs and what actually happens is a heated topic of debate that you can research elsewhere. Again, as I do the trim, the perfect connection will grow in and full concavity will appear. No worries.
  5. I also marked, on the sole view, the open angle of his heels at the back of the foot. That is another sign of a good foot. The heels are decontracted. Contracted heels on the other hand, point towards the toe or even angle in; I have seen hooves where the heels actually touch! In effect the horse created the additional structure he needed, almost like a natural bar shoe, in order to protect his unhealthy frog and weak back-of-foot. (Remember our shock absorbers: two lateral cartilages and one digital cushion per foot.) As the frog and internal structures improve, most horses grow excellent, decontracted, short heels. Heels should not be forced apart with an 'opening cut' because the horse will then land on undeveloped or unhealthy structures. Ouch!
  6. The frog's central sulcas, in the center back of his foot, is on the mend. I will treat it daily until it is a thumbprint. I treat until it looks healthy. Don't stop just when it stops hurting.

The Before Story: Thin, Shelly, Racehorse Feet are created by people and are not congenital.

Off the track racehorse has thin, shelly feet. Laminitic rings run the full hoof length. The thin wall chips easily.
  1. Notice the perimeter of the hoof wall. As soon as it hits the ground, the paper thin wall chips. Compare this to Sunny's June feet. It does take several hoof capsule growths for a horse to develop correct wall and sole thickness. Lots of movement really helps.
  2. Sorry I don't have a sole photo. They were flat and thin. The frogs were pencil-thin and unhealthy. When viewing the foot from the bottom, the outer (dark) wall and inner (bright white) wall were so thin that in areas, one or the other would disappear.
  3. That white band you see coming out of the hairline is just the periople and is perfectly normal. When wet it often appears bright white. I have seen draft horses with the periople running half way down the wall.
  4. When I first ran my fingers down his front walls, I noticed that they actually angled in, 'inside the vertical' and then flared out. My guess is that due to the suspensory tear behind the right knee, the farrier over-trimmed Sunny's hooves and put him in small shoes to relieve pressure when raced. Of course this was in lieu of rehabbing him. The shoeing job forced the foot to grow in an ice cream cone shape!
  5. Below are 4 butt cracks signifying thrushy feet. If your horse's feet touch wet ground or manure, consider investigating and cleaning the foot daily. Treat unhealthy frogs. No frog, no foot. The Horse's Hoof has a great series on frogs. Thanks to that series, I am much better at frog care.
Four butt cracks means thrush. Horses can not move happily on infected frogs. Keep a watchful, daily eye on your frogs.

Eddie, Quarter Horse Cross

Eddie when his owner and I started working on his hooves.

Eddie is turned out for 18 hours a day and ridden every day in an arena or on trails. He is 17 and is trimmed by his owner who now trims professionally in my area. His diet is primarily forage. When his owner began the rehab process, she trailed out in padded Epic boots but now is using unpadded Gloves. He requires no protection when working on grass.

Eddie's rehabilitated hooves in June have a cone shape, granite-like horn color with horizontal front hairlines.

The side or lateral view shows a hoof under the horse, nice mustang roll and a correctly descending hairline.
"So how do these feet look?"
  1. They all have a nice cone shape. His toes are short, just where he wants them. (Not based on a formula, in other words.) There is no noticeable flare. We are still in our spring grass season so it's not surprising to see a few laminitic rings. 
  2. From the side view you can really see the mustang roll that is critical to a good trim. If you trim the bottom flat, as in the 'pasture or farrier trim', you will never grow a well connected foot without flare. 'The Mustang Roll' is created by rasping the wall from the bottom at an angle; then trimming the wall from the top at an angle; finally by running your rasp around the edge, you round the entire perimeter, from heel to heel. It's amazing how this simple process relieves mechanical stress and allows the wall to grow out perfectly, well connected to the coffin bone.
  3. The front side view appears a bit 'bull nose'; I would check the heel height and just make sure they aren't too low. (Range 1/16" - 1/2"over the exfoliated sole if the frogs are healthy. To find the exfoliated or 'live sole plane', just scrape your hoof pick on the sole. The old stuff will scratch off, in most cases.)
  4. Notice from hairline to ground, Eddie's short heels, as viewed from the outside. If he were to move to the desert they might become even shorter, as would the toes.  His soles might thicken in response to movement on hard, dry ground. His capsule might move down the leg a nick and on radio graph you would see the coffin bone sitting higher in the capsule, just as we see in the mustangs of the western U.S. I mention this because often we owners don't see hooves in climates dramatically different from our own. Again this is part of the healthy hoof continuum.
The side view of Eddie's hoof shows short heels, full concavity from the frog to the laminae aka white line, and a beveled or angles outer wall.

From the sole we again see that nice round shape with the angle of the heels pointed out, in decontraction. The sole has a shallow bowl shape. The frog is sturdy and healthy, devoid of fungus and bacteria.

3.  In the side or lateral view of the sole, you might notice that in some parts, only the outer dark wall has a 45 degree angle or bevel on it. Because Eddie has no flare, his owner has applied a maintenance trim. She is allowing the inner, bright white wall to grow a nick over the sole. Typically Eddie wears down the inner wall at the toe. Giving the sole just that tiny bit more concavity which travels from the frog to the laminae and then up to the top of the inner wall can greatly improve barefoot performance according to Pete Ramey. It certainly is what we observe in the wild. Please see below, where there's a 'maintenance' self-trim on my hoof specimen from the desert in Australia. 
4.  In the second photo, I notice what a nice round shape Eddie's foot has. The cracks on the right side of the sole tell me that he plans to exfoliate it himself. No need to trim his sole; let him do it.
5,  The lumpy line on the right perimeter of the hoof is actually laminae, 'extruded laminae'. The foot probably got wet at one point, then dried and a part of the laminae or white line was squished up. It is completely cosmetic and harmless. Let Eddie wear it off.
6.  The central sulcas is located in the rear middle of the frog. It should like just like Eddie's, a thumb print. When cleaning the foot, daily if your horse lives in any moisture or manure, make sure that area is not sensitive to the hoof pick or any hand pressure. 900 lb Eddie can canter down hill on those babies. Healthy frogs are grown and except for nipping off a tag or perhaps a flap covering an indent that might become infected, I do not routinely trim them. They want to be callused. If sensitive, treat. Again check out The Horse's Hoof series.

Here's the hoof of a feral Brumby from Australia. Notice the "maintenance" trim, the beveling of just the outer wall.
Feral bromby hoof from Australia's hard desert.

  Let's have a look at Eddie's before shots.

Eddie is standing on four beer cans. Long toes and long heels with laminitic rings.

A gelding in high heels is not a pretty site.
  1. Once your eyes have seen a few rehabbed feet, you will immediately gasp at these long toes and may even faint when you see heels the long. Poor Eddie is walking on the front of his coffin bone.
  2. See how horizontal the side hairline is? Ouch! The coffin bone within the capsule is standing on it's toe. Dr. Bowker has said that you will find remodeled (worn down) coffin bones in most domestic horses. Instead of a nice smooth edge, Eddie's coffin bone is most certainly 'moth eaten', just like the majority of our domestic horses. See the bumpy perimeter of my coffin bone in the beginning of this post.
  3. On the side of Eddie's left front foot can you see the bulge above his hairline. It begins about one third back from the front, and continues to the back, over the heel bulbs. Internally that is the lateral cartilage that is being shoved up the leg by the incorrect structure of the foot.
And the view from the sole:

Side view of the sole reveals good concavity, a healthy frog, but too much wall. And lots of heel.

Eddie's trying very hard to shorten his toe from 12:00 to 2:00! Otherwise quite a nice shape with healthy frog, which is so critical to the successful rehab.
  1. He appears to have full concavity which is great. I love the round shape that is often the sign of a horse who hasn't spent much time in shoes.
  2. Eddie is trimming his own toe back to where he wants it. (Toe at 12:00 to 2:00) Some people will see that and immediately call for shoes thinking that he might wear down his whole foot! No, he is just attempting to self trim into something he can walk on.
  3. Heels take some discussion.
    • From the side view, when Eddie was standing, the heels were definitely long; the horitzontal hairline is a dead give-away. Looking at the heels from the sole view, they are also standing too far over the sole. 1/16" to 1/2" is the norm, if the frog is healthy.
    • Also check out, from the sole view, the length of heel from hairline to the actual heel he stands on; it is also long. The good news is that he has a healthy frog so we can confidently rasp his heels down and back where they belong. I wouldn't lower them more than 1/2" on one visit.
    • But what if his frogs were thrushy? I would leave enough heel to protect them then rigorously treat the frog. Forget about heel height; it will come along as frogs rehab.
    • Make sure the horse can walk off sound. Never trim a horse lame. That's nuts in my view.
    • Just as the coffin bone can be too close to the ground, so too the lateral cartilages and digital cushion, back-of-foot. When this happens, a lot of rehab has to happens as the heels grow towards what Eddie wants.
  4. Take a minute to compare Eddie's before and after photos. During the transition, Eddie never took a bad step. As in all things related to Equus, the time it takes is the time it takes.
  5. The bars are another hoof wall. They begin at the heels and slope down towards mid frog. If the bars stand over the outer wall, I trim to the correct height, a bit over sole. Please don't excavate into the sole. When bars become too long, they may dig into the ground or 'lay over'. According to Dr. Bowker, they do not 'impact' or press deeply up into the foot. His conclusions are based on thousands of dissections.
  6. Eddie also has 'sole ridge' that is located next to the frog, on the sole. It begins where the bar ends, at mid frog and runs the length of his frog, on the right side. I scrapped the sole next to it so you could see the ridge more clearly. On some horses, it can run around the entire frog, on the sole, from the end of each bar. This hoof created more structure  because it is needed. If the ridge is still there after 3 months, I may begin to trim it, however normally it exfoliates on its own. I have never seen sole ridge on a good foot. Pete Ramey used to trim the sole ridge in his book, Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You,  but over time has stopped the practice because he made too many horses tender as noted in his book-update article, Making Natural Hoof Care Work.
And finally,

Daniel, Percheron
The amazing Daniel, beloved by all at Tory Hill.
     
Daniel started life with the Amish and for 8 years worked a farm in Lancaster, Pa. He remained a stallion, thus that glorious neck, before transitioning to a dressage gelding used for teaching. One of his students bought him and took over the care of his hugely flared feet, complete with a matching crack. Now he is part of a primarily OTTB herd (don't tell him he isn't a racehorse), on full turnout and ridden a few times a week, lightly. He is in his early 20's. He never wore boots.

Below, here is where we started. Somewhere along the line, Danny injured his coronary band. Then, unrelated to the injury, huge flare was allowed to developed. Finally the outer wall cracked in response to the mechanical stress of the flare and deformed wall. The crack had been with Daniel since his Amish days.
The outer wall accomodates the massive flare by cracking. Don't let this scare you. I took the flare way back. His owner maintained the mustang roll and the flare grew out, and along with it, the crack. Its worth soaking a long term crack to kill nasty inhabitants.

The damage is evident.
Another view of the damaged hoof wall emanating from the coronary band.
     
And below, Just beautiful! The damage to the coronary band, although still present, is less evident in the wall when the correct hoof capsule is grown. How long does it take? As long as it takes. Growing out cracks is straight forward. Shoes make cracks worse and do not 'hold the foot together' as I have been told countless times.

Grow out the flare and voila, a lovely draft foot trimmed by his owner every other week.

There is a widespread but incorrect belief that big horses need big, flared feet. When you look at severely flared draft hooves, from the sole view, they will look triangular with points at the toe and on either side. As always, with correct and patient natural trimming, the feet come around. They're still big feet! If you have a draft horse, you might be interested in Pete Ramey's latest That's My Horse: Drafts.

Below, look at the width of the back of the frog! Now that's a central sulcas shaped like a thumb print. Talk about decontracted, healthy heels. Danny's owner couldn't have done it without her Hoof Jack! Can you imagine holding this big guy's foot for a trim?

With the correct trim, Danny's feet remain substantial. Hats off to his owner.

In conclusion, rehabilitation of the equine foot occurs at each horse's pace and is heavily dependent on:
  • The diet,
  • The environment,
  • Movement and
  • The trim, in that order.
Please remember that even exceptional feet exist on a continuum.

On occasion your pony may get a laminitic ring or a quarter crack or a chip in the wall or an abscess. Be patient yet knowledgeable with her rehabilitation and always do the best you can. As long as your horse is sound, in good weight and has a shiny coat, life is good. 

I hope I have given you some useful information to assist you in the evaluation of your own horse's hooves.

Next month I will post a pictorial discussion of many common 'oddities' you might see in barefeet that are: just out of shoes or poorly trimmed or good feet having a bad day.

Until then, see you on the trail!

Here are some resources that you might be interested in

For a more in depth understanding of the hoof and how it all works here is a small sample of resources:
  •  The DVD set Under the Horse by Pete Ramey
  •  Clinics with Dr. Robert Bowker
  •  Courses with the Equine Science Academy
  •  Whole Horse Symposium in Missouri on October 15-17  Dr. Bowker and Dr. Tomas Teskey among many others, will be presenting. This is a priceless opportunity to talk to the best and brightest.
  •  I have free, basic trimming videos for applying the rehabilitation trim on my site at 4sweetfeet.com
  • The Horse's Hoof.  Note that all trims are represented, not just the natural trim based on the wild horse model. Personally I don't agree with the more invasive trims. It's a nice resource though and worth reading with a critical eye.

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