DHF Case Study: Laminitis and Canker

This is one of those cases that stays with you; that you think about even when you're not with the horse.  The initial description from the veterinarian was "Every time the owner picked out her feet she would bleed.  When I saw her feet I thought, OH MY".  I get called in by veterinarians typically for one of two reasons: either the horse doesn't have enough foot to nail to and they need performance glue work, or like in this case, the horse's feet are significantly distorted with pathology and they need help with rehabilitation.  It's never good when the vet says "Oh my!" when they see the horse's feet.  So I was expecting a train wreck.

When I met this mare I thought helping her would be pretty straight forward.  It ended up being a little more complicated than I was expecting.  She had some significant hoof capsule distortion typically found with chronic laminitis complicated by contracted heels.  All of that is pretty easy to address.  My biggest concern was the description of "bleeding when her feet were picked out", and was thinking about the coffin bone penetrating her sole or a deep abscess track in that area. Here are her feet when we first saw her:

The veterinarian met us at the appointment and took radiographs for us.  

The veterinarian diagnosed the pony with chronic laminitis with rotation and sinking.  Our plan was to pull the shoes, apply a de-rotation trim to re-align her hoof capsule with the internal structures, addressing the phalangeal and capsular rotation.  Oh, and to figure out what the bleeding when the hoof was picked was about. 

After pulling the shoes, CAREFULLY cleaning out her frogs, and applying the de-rotation trim, the bleeding was not coming from where we expected. 

We were looking at canker.  This poor mare, foundered, with contracted heels, chronic thrush, AND canker.  We determined she was going to need daily attention to her feet to eliminate the canker, and help her regain soundness.  We brought her to our Daisy Haven Farm Rehabilitation Center to facilitate her care.  Of course with the additional benefit of addressing her underlying metabolic problems through diet and environmental management.  

There are many different ideas on how to treat canker.  We see a fair bit of it in our area with so many draft horses going though auction, as it seems most prevalent in draft breeds although occurs in all breeds.  I also saw a lot of canker in Nigeria during my trips helping horses there.

Canker is generally thought of as an infectious process that leads to a proliferation of abnormal tissue originating in the frog.  Why it happens and why only to certain horses is not known, however, it is generally associated with excessively wet conditions, poor hoof management, and possibly a poor immune system.  It's described as having a cauliflower appearance, typically highly sensitive, bleeds profusely when trimmed, and often has an associated putrid smell.(1)

In this case we worked with veterinarian Dr. James Holt of Brandywine Veterinary Services in Glenmoore, PA.  His go-to method of treatment for canker consists of debridement as needed, followed by topical application of oxytetracycline (oxytet) on cotton padding against the affected tissue with pressure, changing daily, then weekly Clean Trax soaks.  When it looks like the canker has been eliminated, continue treatment for an additional two weeks to help prevent regrowth.  We applied the oxytet to the cotton padding, wrapped the foot in a diaper with vet wrap to hold it in place.  Then applied a Cloud Boot with antimicrobial powder to prevent any sweating inside the boot in our humid environment.  

This worked quite successfully for this mare:

We were also able to get her metabolic problems controlled during her stay with us, and returned her to her owner at a new boarding barn, quite comfortable, and with a management plan in place to prevent future recurrence of either the laminitis or the canker.




1: O'Grady, Stephen E., BVSc, MRCVS, and John B. Madison, VMD, Diplomate ACVS. "How to Treat Equine Canker." Equine Podiatry. Northern Virginia Equine, 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 02 Sept. 2016. <http://www.equipodiatry.com/canker1.htm>.

Tevis 2016: Elite Gluing and Crewing

There are many different ways we can experience a world class equestrian event: as a spectator, as a volunteer, as a competitor, and even for some, as a judge. I've been honored to experience several of these kinds of events as a competitor and also as a volunteer, and they all overflowed with feelings of excitement and fulfillment.  However, none of them compare to my experience at The Western States Trail 100-Mile Endurance Ride: The Tevis Cup, just last week.   

The Tevis Cup made it to the top of my list so quickly and easily because I was able to experience the ride from two very different, yet equally amazing perspectives: in the early part of the week as a member of the Easyboot Elite Team, and then during the ride as elite crew!  

Being part of the Easyboot Elite Team was a phenomenal experience.  Starting a few days before the ride we helped about 50 horses, that's somewhere around 200 feet that we glued boots on!  It was a blast.  The energy was high from riders and Easyboot Team members alike!  We were here to help these horses have the best ride they could possibly have with the best hoof protection our industry has to offer for such a tough event.  

Every horse I helped with their hoof protection I felt like I was part of their teams.  There were six of us on the Team, plus Garrett Ford and Christoph Schork coaching.  Team members included farriers: Josh Bowles, Jeremy Ortega, Deanna Stoppler, Derick Vaughn, Pete Van Rossum, and myself, each worked in teams of two gluing.  One partner would be responsible for foot prep: buffy, scuff, wire brush, torching, and dremeling. The other partner would be responsible for gluing: prepping the boots, applying Sikaflex and Adhere to the boots, facilitating horse handling, work space management, and boot application.  

Boot size selection was typically done by both partners, which was surprisingly easy considering the horses arrived with their feet already trimmed. As a group the Team Members are used to fitting boots to our own trim, so to fit boots to someone else's trim was an interesting process.  As a whole the horses arrived with very tidy trims and good feet which made boot selection easy.  

We took turns with each responsibility, one prepping and one gluing each day. The goal was to get really good at one part of the process on the first day, then switch roles, and do the other part of the process the second day.  The repetition of one part of the process helped ensure consistency and excellence in application.   I was partnered with Jeremy Ortega, fellow farrier and friend from California, who had also been on the team last year.  With his previous experience he helped me get up to speed quickly on the tiny details that make or break success at a ride of this level.  We had a great time together!  

While my work gluing was over, the best was yet to come!   I couldn't come all the way to California to help everyone get ready for the ride and then not stay to watch! Even better, I was honored to be part of ride crew for Garrett and Lisa Ford.   What a phenomenal group of people!  

Someone said to me that crewing for Tevis is harder than riding it, well this group made it seem pretty easy.  Yes there were many stops, and yes getting in and out of some of them required a lot of physical labor by the crew, however, talk about extremely well organized.  The Ford's crew operated like a well oiled machine, it was amazing to be a part of it!  

 And what a Team to crew for!  Garrett and Lisa crossed the finish line hand-in-hand as they have for the last several years, Lisa placing 2nd with her horse GE Cyclone, and Garrett 3rd with The Fury. Lisa's horse even went on to win the Haggin Cup.  Yahoo!  I felt like I had won it myself, being part of the TEAM.  

I'm still "riding high" from the week at Tevis. Garrett asked me at the end, "What do you think?  Not the gluing, about the ride"?  I thought for a moment and responded, "It's amazing, every detail matters, the preparation, the training...but at the end of the day, it's still an endurance ride, ridden one step, one mile, at a time, hold to hold, just like any other ride".  Now I want to ride Tevis myself, even more!  

Everywhere we went, Kevin Myers was missed..."IRFKM" = I Ride For Kevin Myers was spotted stenciled on horses, people and things, and t-shirts were abundant saying "We ride with Kevin".  We know he was there with us in spirit!


The Easyboot Elite Team Members who stayed to crew for Tevis.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time with some of the greatest people in the world doing something we all love, helping people excel with their horses!  



The Amazing Kevin Myers

There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this.  

Kevin Myers, my friend, colleague, and mentor, is gone.  Kevin and I shared a CONNECTION.  Many good times: through social media, email, and in person traveling together to teach, meeting up at conferences, visiting each other's houses and even riding together.  I first connected with Kevin through EasyCare, but honestly can't remember the first time we met in person.  He was the kind of guy who you felt like you knew forever.  He always brightened a room, and had a way of making everyone feel like they were on top of the world.  

 "There are two ways to bring out the light: be the candle or the mirror that reflects it".  Edith Warrington

Kevin was both the light and the mirror.  He was my mentor in many ways.  He lit the spark that started my endurance riding journey after being a dressage rider my entire life.   

On one ride in particular, I was riding in Durango with Kevin, Rusty Toth and Kim Lipko, another endurance friend.  I was discombobulated in the treeless endurance saddle on the horse I was riding as I was used to riding in an english dressage saddle.  We had 25 miles to cover that day, up and down one of the beautiful mountains in the area.  The horses were being conditioned for Tevis and I was along as a guest.  I was never going to get through 25 miles bouncing around the way I was!  Kevin generously sent Rusty and Kim on ahead and slowed down with me, giving me an "endurance riding lesson" while on the trail.  He coached me to absorb the irregularities of the terrain with my ankles and to post differently in a more forward position so I could stay with the horse easier.  And best of all, he taught me the "endurance shimmy", trotting with the horse down hill at speed.

Halfway through the ride we caught back up with Rusty and Kim and all finished the ride together.  It was one of the highlights of my 20 year riding career.  I felt like I could ride anything, anywhere that day, all because of Kevin.  And that experience spring-boarded my confidence with riding out on trail which I had never done much before, and enabled me to successfully participate in endurance rides, my FIRST one just a few weeks later we took 3rd place and Best Condition in the Vermont 50.  Kevin's support even helped me feel comfortable taking my seven-year-old daughter out riding now too.


Kevin was always going above and beyond to make sure everyone around him was taken care of in a light hearted way.   He and I taught several EasyShoe clinics together. He was fabulous at improvising and problem solving on the fly which made traveling together and teaching the clinics fun and easy. Especially with his dynamic sense of humor. We had favorite songs that we would sing at the top of our lungs going to and from the clinics to get motivated for the day (Rixton "Me and My Broken Heart"), and crazy words that Kevin used became part of my daily vocabulary even when we weren't together (Re-DONK-ulous!!).

Kevin was a gifted teacher, sharing information and techniques brilliantly to help the clinic participants feel successful.  He was always the first to cheer you on, whether it was the first time you've glued or your 1000th.  He made you feel like you could do anything.  

I am eternally grateful to Kevin in so many ways.  He has been a huge supporter of my hoof care work, from helping me navigate the blogs I write here for EasyCare, Hoof Love Not War, to offering me opportunities to teach and be part Team Easyboot, and Team Easyboot Elite 2016.   I taught a hoof mapping course to the EasyCare employees and Kevin helped me do an EasyCare webinar on Therapeutic EasyShoe Application during which we had technical difficulties where one camera went down and so most of the webinar was taken from behind me...we laughed about that a lot.  I know these opportunities were available in large part because of Kevin's support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Kevin, for your faith and support over the years.  It has meant so much to me.  


Kevin Myers leaves a dark place where his light no longer shines.  His loss leaves a hole I cannot fill.  I will miss his sense of fun, his energy and way of making me feel like I could conquer the world.    

Fly free my friend, you will always be in my heart and mind.  

Bowker Master Class in Australia

Traveling to the other side of the world to Australia is a surreal experience, 24 hours of air travel to land in a beautiful place full of completely different flora and fauna, let alone tremendously entertaining accents.

I recently had the opportunity to go to the Melbourne area of 'Straya, as it's often locally called (try saying this with an Australian accent), and attend Dr. Robert Bowker's master class at the Equine College of Podiotherapy.  The College is located at a fantastic facility, Mayfield, in Yarck, Victoria, and is a nationally accredited educational program run by "The Barefoot Blacksmith", Andrew Bowe.  

The master class is an advanced hoof course offered to students at the school. And while Dr. Bowker is from the USA, nothing like this 3-day master class with him is currently offered here in the US. It was an incredible opportunity to attend this class as it is not usually open to those not enrolled in the school. I was traveling to Australia to teach a Daisy Haven Farm Hoof Distortion and Glue/Composite Shoe Workshop and was invited to guest lecture on glue and composite shoe work at the Masterclass. Of course, I extended my trip to attend the entire program.  

Sitting and listening to Dr. Bowker at such a concentrated level helped me further understand the theories and anatomy he has been sharing with us for years. Dr. Bowker has always been a great influence in my approach to my work with the horse's foot and this master class just reinforced and enhanced my understanding of the function of the foot. Here are a few key thoughts that stood out to me from the course:

1. Most of the blood flow to the foot is going to the back part of the foot. 

It is commonly thought that the digital cushion does not have significant blood supply as the large vessels of the foot lead to the front of the foot, and the sensitive frog and digital cushion are pale in a dead foot. However the digital cushion is made up of mixoid tissue which has bazillions of micro vessels: like watering your garden, using a fire hose would eliminate top soil, however if you use the fire hose to feed many small sprinklers it will work to water the garden without damage. So the digital cushion actually has immense blood supply.  

This previous blog highlights some of Dr. Bowker's research on the circulation of the back of the horse's foot: How to Develop a Healthy Foot: Circulation Is It!.

2. Navicular syndrome is a whole foot problem, as opposed to being contained to just the back half of the foot.  

In comparison to a healthy foot, a horse with navicular syndrome will have:

  1. Lateral cartilages with greater size micro vessels indicating chronic inflammation.
  2. Digital cushion with less fibrocartilage and mass, the fibrocartilage is a key component in energy dissipation.
  3. Impar ligament and deep digital flexor tendon lesions associated with "navicular disease".
  4. Coffin Bone will have 1/3 less bone than all other horses age 2-31 when navicular syndrome is present, i.e. osteoporotic.
  5. Primary Epidermal Laminae are closer together indicating increased stress.

The newest information Dr. Bowker presented at the class was on fascia. Dr. Bowker has been doing dissections from the carpus down the distal limb examining the fascial sheets. So far no two horses are the same.

He has been able to draw preliminary conclusions from the dissections that indicate horses are not born with developed fascial bands. They develop over time in response to how the foot interacts with the ground and manages vibration.  

Key points:

  1. Fascia is an integrated binding fabric between and around muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments.  
  2. These structures “float” or are meshed within fascial layers and bands and develop and change over time.
  3. Many structures are connected through fascia where no other apparent connection exists. For example, the common digital extensor tendon connects all the way to the frog through fascia.  
  4. Dr. Bowker has observed that managing vibrations, especially at high frequencies has a negative impact on the fascia.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of valuable information presented. My book of handouts is 3" thick and my notes are pages and pages long.

My favorite quote of the whole course:

"The unanswered questions aren't nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers."  Dr. Bob Bowker.

​Huge thanks to Sarah Kuyken of Innovative Hoofcare Australia for hosting me in Melbourne and Andrew Bowe of the Australian College of Podiotherapy for allowing me to present some of my work with composite shoes and attend the master class.

For more information: www.DaisyHavenFarm.com and www.IntegrativeHoofSchool.com.

Spring Laminitis: The Not-So-Silent Killer

This year we’ve seen more horses in our area developing spring laminitis than ever before. Many apparently healthy, stable, sound horses becoming foot sore with heat and digital pulses seemingly out of the blue.

We often stop and ask why? Is it the unseasonably warm winter we’ve had causing higher carbohydrate levels in the grass? Is it the increased incidence of Lyme Disease compared to other years? Or maybe it’s the stress on the horse of extreme temperature changes in the last month, with freezing temperatures changing to sunny and 70 degrees back and forth several times over the past month?

The reality is that most times it’s not just one factor that causes a horse to tip over into active laminitis, but many different factors that unfortunately come together at the same time. And some horses are more at risk than others. Common risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • History of previous laminitis
  • History of metabolic disorders
  • Access to spring grass without restriction or management 
  • Administering multiple vaccines at one time  
  • Administering heavy duty wormers
  • Administering Corticosteroids
  • Emotional stress
  • Underlying systemic illness
  • Mechanical stresses on the feet
  • Current dietary protocols
  • Overworking or under working your horse
  • Genetic pre-disposition

Individually, the items on this list may not be too concerning. Put several of them together, though, and it can be enough to push the horse over into active laminitis.

Another factor to consider is many times laminitis is there long before we see acute symptoms. Subclinical laminitis is inflammation in the laminae without evidence of pain, heat or digital pulses. Yet we can often see evidence of laminar inflammation before active laminitis is noted.  

Signs the horse may be having subclinical laminitis:

  • The horse’s gait shortens on hard ground
  • The horse’s soles have become thinner
  • The horse’s feet have bruising in the toe/white line area
  • Your horse’s feet develop significant flares and dishing at the toe 
  • The horse’s neck gets bigger (cresty) and is hard or firm on palpation 
  • The horse exhibits post-trimming/shoeing sensitivity where there had been none in the past

This is an example of a horse who had many of the signs of sub-clinical laminitis before unfortunately rolling over into active laminitis: 


If you suspect a horse has laminitis:

  • Take the horse off of any pasture 
  • Put the horse somewhere they will stand quietly and provide some foot protection:
  • Call the Veterinarian:
    • The vet may do some blood work to determine risk status for metabolic disorders
    • The vet may recommend some anti-inflammatory support like Bute or Banamine
    • The vet may recommend icing the horse’s feet to reduce inflammation and ease pain
    • The vet may also want to do baseline radiographs so any further laminar changes can be assess as needed in the future.
  • Implement an emergency diet to reduce potential insulin spikes like Dr Kellon’s: ECIR Emergency Diet

To help prevent these types of laminitis:  

  • Have a dry lot  to get your horse off of grass at high risk times.  
  • Monitor your horse’s weight so they stay in an ideal range without obesity, and if you see them gaining weight take action so they lose weight. 
  • Educate yourself about diets that help horses maintain level insulin
  • Space out vaccines and worming to reduce stressing your horse during high risk times, especially spring and fall.  
  • Maintain a strict hoof care schedule all year long to keep the horse's feet healthy



PHCP Conference 2016: Packed Full of Gold

Several months ago I saw an event post on Facebook regarding the 2016 Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners Conference in San Diego, CA. When the event information came across my news feed, I felt compelled to attend. The lineup of speakers looked phenomenal featuring Dr. Deb Taylor, Dr. Hilary Clayton, nutritionist Carol Layton, Garrett Ford of EasyCare, and more.  The venue was set to be top notch, in sunny San Diego and located in large part at the beautiful Arroyo Del Mar, training facility of Shannon and Steffen Peters.  

Top that off with the opportunity to visit with friends and colleagues, this conference was too good to pass up.

This educational event was a hoof care provider's dream. I was incredibly impressed with how smoothly the conference ran, and how lovely San Diego is this time of year.

I was also impressed with the diversity of attendees. Veterinarians, barefoot trimmers, farriers, body workers and more. The information presented was diverse in subject matter, and valuable not only for my own personal knowledge, but also gave me a broader understanding on several topics that will directly help me help my clients' horses as well. Here are a few of the gold nuggets I took home.

Among many wonderful topics, Dr. Deb Taylor discussed negative palmar P3 angles and brought with her 3D-printed digital cushions. Note the difference between the digital cushion on the left, lacking mass and substance, and the digital cushion on the right, which is more robust. It was a fantastic way to fully visualize how important the mass of the digital cushion is to the foot of the horse. If my horse's foot had the digital cushion of the model on the left I'd have a lot to worry about. A robust digital cushion is critical to a healthy palmar P3 angle and straight hoof pastern axis.

Dr. Hilary Clayton discussed several interesting topics, one of which was "Biomechanics of the Hoof-Ground Interaction". There were two statements she made that stood out to me in particular.

If the Reaction Force vector does not pass through the center of rotation of the joint it creates a torque around the joint that the soft tissue has to oppose'. Dr Hillary Clayton, PHCP Conference 2016.

This statement brings home the importance of a balanced trim and how a thorough understanding of anatomy and locomotion for the hoof care provider is critical to the health and soundness of the horse. 

'The Distal Interphalangeal Joint is largely responsible for accommodating irregularities in terrain or farriery but not day after day, step after step'. Dr. Hillary Clayton, PHCP Conference 2016. 

This statement by Dr. Clayton highlights our responsibility as hoof care providers to respect the living tissue of the horse, and to remember how our work significantly impacts not only the soundness of our animals today, but long into the future.

Garrett Ford's demonstration of some of the latest and greatest glue-on composite shoe options for horses was enlightening. Any one of us can take a boot or shoe and apply it with success to the foot, but the benefit of watching an expert like Garrett apply a specific product can take a good application by any one of us and make it great. It's the small details that make the difference. I appreciated watching his shoe selection when applying the new Flip Flop, especially how he adjusted the back of the shoe for appropriate fit with a buffy. It was also helpful to watch how he applied the Glu-U Shufill packing to the front half of the foot, leaving the back half open so dirt and debris wouldn't get under the front of the shoe, but could still easily fall out of the back.  

Carol Layton discussed nutrition for the horse and diet, especially as it relates to Insulin Resistance and PPID.  

'Horses are designed to be trickle feeders, the worst thing we can do is feed them sporadically' Carol Layton, PHCP Conference 2016.

She showed us photos and video of the micro-organisms with their anatomical parts, searching and eating, living their life in the horse's gut. It was fascinating, and highlighted the importance of having the right micro-organisms in the digestive tract of the horse. Especially as it relates to the insulin resistant horse being on a "diet". Commonly, these horses are on calorie-restricted diets, which means they don't eat all day long. She emphasized the importance of using an appropriately low ESC + starch forage fed at a rate of 1.5% of the horse's body weight per day in a slow feeder net so they nibble constantly. 

There are too many gold nuggets of information to highlight them all here. I encourage you to consider attending the next PHCP Conference in 2018. 


Glue Timing: Wrestling With Temperature Control

Glue work is messy!  It's fraught with opportunity to get glue on yourself, on the horse, and all over your clothes.  

Now let's make it even more complicated when we consider that glue is temperature sensitive.  It cures faster in when it's warm and slower when it's cold...which means we have to constantly adjust our working speed for a variable we cannot control, or completely predict: THE WEATHER.    

Here in the Northeast we are feeling the cold temperatures acutely given the most recently Blizzard Jonas that just dumped 30" of snow on us in 24 hours here in Pennsylvania!  

This has made me acutely aware of the difficulties of using glue in extreme temperatures.  Keep in mind I use primarily fast set acrylic glue: Equilox II, EasyShoeBond Fast Set, or Hoof Life Swift Set, etc.  I want to share with you the guide I use for applying EasyShoes with acrylic glue in different temperatures. Given the snow I see when I look outside, I'm going to focus on tips for heating the glue and shoe.  

There are various ways of heating glue in the cold weather.  In addition to keeping my glue in the house overnight so it doesn't get chilled, I use a heating pad, like you'd find at the pharmacy for your back, to heat my glue.  Depending on how cold it is, I would also keep the glue near the heat vents in my truck in between stops. And when it gets REALLY cold, I also use a heat gun to heat my shoe:  

And the heat gun to heat the foot:

And to heat the glue once the shoe is applied:

With the kind of horses I work on, holding the foot up when the glue is curing is critical to success, as is building height and mechanics with the glue and the shoe. So I tend to like my glue just starting to get thicker when I put the shoe on the foot.  

Here is a video of the difference in glue consistency.  The glue on the left is too thin unless you're doing a weight-bearing application.  The three glues on the right are too stiff and have set up too much to use to attach a shoe to a foot, but the glue in the middle, second from the left, is.....you got it...JUST RIGHT!


Here is a chart for how I break down my heating and cooling strategies by ambient temperature:

85-95°F and above: 

  • Consider slow set glue  -or-
  • Chill fast set glue with an ice pack in cooler or fridge


  • Keep glue out of sun
  • Fast set glue consider cooling with an ice pack in cooler or fridge


  • Put glue in sun to take any chill off


  • Heat glue in heating pad on LOW to take chill off


  • Heat glue in heating pad on MED-HIGH
  • May need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot.


  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • Heat shoe before applying glue
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot
  • Consider heating the horse’s foot with heat gun right before application


  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • Heat shoe before applying glue
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot
  • Heat the horse’s foot with heat gun right before application

25°F and below: 

  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on horse's foot
  • WILL also need to heat shoe before glue application, and foot before applying shoe
  • May also need to keep packing, tips, and other supplies in a warm room especially at temps below 20°F
  • Consider heating work space with torpedo heaters, etc.  

This is based on a horse that stands well, working in a protected space without wind or direct sun, and your desire to have the glue set up as fast as possible, approximately two minutes.

Temperature ranges need to be adjusted for wind (down 10 degrees from ambient temperature) or working in direct sun (up 10 degrees from ambient temperature).   Of course direct sun out of the wind can also help you if it's a slightly chilly day!

You can also adjust this chart down 10°F if you want the glue to be more liquid when you apply your shoe to the foot like in a weight bearing application, or a horse who doesn't need so much height or mechanics built into the shoe.  

I hope this information helps you be more successful in getting your glue to behave in all sorts of weather!  With any questions or for information on glue and composite shoe hands-on clinics, please see:



Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision Part 3

In Part 1 of this series on hoof radiographs, I discussed how to get accurately acquired and measurable radiographs for hoof care decisions. In Part 2 of the series, I discussed some things you can look at to get the most out of your accurately acquired hoof radiographs. In this last part of the series, I'm going to show you examples of how assessing the foot in front of you with the benefit of radiographs can greatly enhance your ability to help the horse.

This is a horse who was lame in both front feet with significant hoof capsule distortion when I was called in to help. There are several external characteristics we can use to identify the distortions in this capsule: the steep coronary band angle, shallow dorsal wall angle, under-run heels, pointy heel bulbs, etc all lead us to reliably conclude this is a long toe/low heel foot. Most of us would probably want to shorten the toe, develop heel height, and move the foot print back in some way shape or form. 

Here is the sole view of this foot. Note the location of the white line marked with the red dotted line. One trim option would be to bring in the length of this foot by applying a hard roll on the wall from heel to heel. That would certainly make this foot more compact and given the right diet, environment and exercise the feet would certainly improve.  

Another option would be to map the sole of this foot. Given the hoof guidelines I like to follow when trimming and shoeing, it would certainly give me more information about how I could get this foot back,but the 50/50 line is in the middle of the sole. We can see that this foot has a long toe, and maybe even a lot of toe, but can the map be right? 

A radiograph in this situation would give us valuable objective information about where the bones and soft tissue are located inside this distorted foot. The radiograph here confirms the long toe/low heels assessment and accuracy of the hoof map, but also gives us specific and measurable information about the foot we have to work with in front of us:

We all have different trim styles, and some of us like to do things faster or slower for the horse and the specific situation in front of us. Because of my experience with rehabilitation and specifically using radiographs as an objective reference, in most instances I like to gain as much ground in my rehabilitation each visit as possible. Given this horse's situation, and the information the radiographs gave me, here is what I did at the first trim:

I would not have done this aggressive of a trim without the radiograph to guide me.

Here is the lateral view, showing signifiant improvements to Hoof-Pastern Axis, Palmar P3 Angle, and the balance around the Center of Rotation being closer to my goal or 50/50. I would apply a hoof boot therapeutically or composite shoe to this foot during the rehabilitation process.  

Another example of how accurately aquired hoof radiographs, and specifically Dorso-Palmar (DP) radiographs, can help you in your decision-making for the foot in front of you is this foot here:

This horse was very lame with digital pulses in both front feet when I was called in to help. Externally he was lacking vertical depth, with low heel angle. What was also interesting about this horse is how crooked his leg and hoof capsule appeared. 

The lateral radiograph confirmed how little foot we really had to work with, which the horse's pain level and hoof inflammation was certainly telling us. What was also very interesting was the DP radiograph, since it also indicated significant medial lateral hoof imbalances that we could help this horse with at the time.   

This horse would definitely benefit from composite shoes like the EasyShoe, to facilitate building vertical depth until the horse can grow it. With the added information from the DP x-ray I would also look to build up the medial side of this foot in my shoe and glue. Without the radiograph we might not have been able to make as quantitative a balancing decision.  

Working with hoof radiographs can greatly increase your ability for accuracy and effectiveness for the horses you work on. I encourage you to request radiographs on your horses as much as possible. The information you gain is invaluable. For more information on using radiographs in your work, please see www.DaisyHavenFarm.com and www.IntegrativeHoofSchool.com.

Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision - Part Two

In my EasyCare blog last month I discussed how to get accurately acquired, measurable radiographs (X-rays). So now that you have your fabulous radiographs what do you do with them? Many veterinarians don't think to offer radiographs for hoof balancing to the farrier because they believe the farrier doesn't know what to do with them, and they might be right. You probably don't need radiographs for all of your horses, but you'd be surprised how much radiographs can help you be more effective for many of the feet you work on. Sometimes you just don't know what you don't know. Radiographs give you objective information about the relationship of the internal and external structures.  

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your radiographs. Remember a radiograph takes a three-dimensional form and turns it into a two-dimensional image:

It's often helpful to have more than one view of the foot you're looking at in order to be able to orient yourself three-dimensionally especially for hoof balancing radiographs. As discussed in the previous blog, typically lateral and dorso-palmar (DP) radiographs are most helpful. Wrapping your brain around the three-dimensional anatomy and how it relates to a two-dimensional image can be tricky. With practice it gets easier, so look at lots of radiographs and ask lots of questions to those that know how to read them. Here is an explanation of some of the relative anatomy on those two views to help you orient yourself. Keep in mind the cadaver bones pictured are not from the radiographs next to them:  

In the lateral view, it's important to remember that you can only assess dorsal-palmar and distal-proximal balance, not medial-lateral balance. The medial-lateral dimension is flattened in the image.

In the DP view, it's important to remember that you can only assess medial-lateral and distal-proximal balance, not dorsal-palmar balance. The dorsal-palmar dimension is flattened in the image.  

My hoof balancing guidelines as I've described in previous blogs are based on four criteria as a starting point:  

Of course there are always exceptions to those guidelines due to movement considerations and needs of the individual animal. These hoof balancing guidelines are easy to assess in the radiograph and compare to the foot in front of you.  

For hoof balancing and shoe placement purposes there are many things you might look at on the x-ray in front of you. On the lateral radiograph I look at these parameters when judging how to trim and where I want to place any shoe I might be applying:

  • Palmar P3 Angle: Bottom of P3 in relation to the ground
  • P1/P2 Joint Angle, P2/P3 Joint Angle, and Dorsal Wall Deviation/Flare to judge capsular and phalangeal alignment.
  • Judging sole depth and corium location if you can see it helps keep you safe.
  • Palmar curve gives you some information about the potential for concavity for the foot, and helps me decide if a horse can be sound barefoot or might need a composite shoe.  


On the DP radiograph I consider the following parameters:

  • Comparing joint space from one side to another: is one side closer together than another?
  • Comparing the midline of each bone and the tilt of the joint compared to the plane of vascular channels of P3: while no horse is straight, the AVERAGE sum of those planes should be flat landing.
  • Compare the relative sole depth on each side of P3: this parameter can be problematic as the bottom of P3 can model.
  • Consider the location of the frog and central sulcus and shape and size of the collateral grooves, this can provide valuable information as to the yaw and roll of the limb. 

Whether you're the kind of person who likes to look at measurements, angles, and ratios or the kind of person who prefers a more organic assessment of symmetry and form, radiographs will do a lot to help you with your work. In Part Three of this series on radiographs, I will use a case study to demonstrate where radiographs gave me surprising, yet critical information which helped make the decisions to help the horse.



Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision - Part One

There is so much about the foot we are expected to interpret from external landmarks: sole depth, toe length, heel height, position of the bones, soft tissue inside the capsule, and more! Most of us hoof care providers can get really close in our assessment of the feet we work on, however, we all have some percentage of our horses that we feel a little less certain about. It might be a horse with very distorted feet, or a specific pathology that muddies the waters a bit.  

In these cases, hoof radiographs (x-rays) can be quite enlightening. The information a well taken hoof radiograph can give you is tremendous, especially with pathology or severely distorted feet. Although I'm also surprised at how helpful radiographs of my healthier feet can be - just a slight adjustment made from seeing a radiograph can make a big difference to the horse.  

So what do you need to get good information out of radiographs to help you in your hoof care work? There are two main views that are most helpful to the hoof care provider:  

  • Lateral-Medial, from the side of the foot, also known as a Lateral Radiograph
  • Dorso-Palmar, from the front of the foot, also known as a DP or AP Radiograph


 Here are several key elements that will help you be successful assessing Lateral and DP radiographs for your hoof care work:

1. Be present when the radiographs are taken. You're going to want to ensure the radiographs are taken with technique that makes them accurate and usable for hoof assessment. If you cannot be present, you'll want to have a conversation with the veterinarian as to what you're looking for and how you want the foot marked or labeled.  

2. The horse's feet need to be picked out and wire brushed clean, including the hoof wall from ground surface to the coronary band, around the heels, into the collateral groves, central sulcus, and any other separations and pockets, for clear visibility of all structures in the radiograph. Many of the tips and tricks in my previous blog on taking hoof photographs also apply to taking good radiographs.

3. The horse needs to be standing on level ground, with cannon bones perpendicular to the ground, a leg at each corner. Both feet, whether front or hind, need to be on blocks of equal height, and the horse's head should be facing straight ahead. This prevents body positioning and weight bearing imbalances from skewing your radiographs.  

While good setup and technique for acquiring the radiographs is critical for any assessment of the horse's foot, it is equally important they are taken with a scale marker for calibration so physical measurements can be achieved that are accurate.  

There are several options for calibrating radiographs, three of which are shown here:  EPC Solutions Scale Marker, a wire on the dorsal wall of known length, and the Metron Imaging Blocks. Scale markers need to be in the "plane of interest" which would be the area of the subject that is most important to scale to.  In this case, that would be the mid-line of the limb.

There are also other markers that can be helpful like a thumb tack at the true frog apex, or at the widest part of the foot on the frog. Barium radio-opaque paste showing the true dorsal wall and heel on lateral radiographs is often helpful as well.  

Here are some examples of radiographs with common problems that make it challenging to assess hoof parameters. 

In this image, there are no scale markers, and the foot is not entirely included in the radiograph:

This radiograph is not a true lateral view, it was taken off-axis and without scale markers: 

Well taken hoof radiographs can be so helpful to the hoof care provider in providing accurate information for helping the horse. To appreciate how powerful this information can be, EPC Solutions, a leading innovator in Equine Podiatry Consulting, utilizes Equine Podiatry X-rays as an integral tool in their practice. They assess the distal limb and develop farrier plans that optimize recovery in cases with difficult hoof pathology. Here is what they have to say about taking hoof radiographs for the farrier:  

“There are significant differences between diagnostic radiograph views compared to podiatry views. Diagnostic radiographs are usually aimed at an angle to the sagittal plane, investigating into a joint or at oblique views to "see around the corner". They are shot with a harder exposure that burns out edge definition and soft tissue detail. Diagnostic views incur magnification and image distortion but are not usually an issue for intended purpose.  

For podiatry radiographs the x-ray beam should be aimed straight-on, perpendicular, to the distal limb and the crosshairs centered strategically at or near the bottom edge of the coffin bone. It is important to shoot the image with a level beam- running on a horizontal plane to the ground surface/palmar rim of the hoof. Generally, due to the height of the x-ray unit body, this is not possible unless we raise the hooves - typically placing them on wooden blocks to align the bottom of the coffin bone level to the height of the beam.  

Combined with a thorough understanding of hoof bio-mechanics, distal limb pathology, farriery, nutrition and body therapy support, podiatry x-rays provide very useful information for veterinarians and hoof care providers towards a complete distal limb solution."  

Here is an example of what good podiatry radiographs can do for you, as marked up by EPC Solutions. 

"Podiatry x-ray hard and soft tissue parameters provide useful insights into distal limb health and static balance. While externally this hoof may appear relatively healthy and even nicely aligned with hoof pastern axis, many internal data markers highlight the need to optimize the hoof balance and address possible underlying metabolic changes in the hoof before long-term pathology affects soundness levels". EPC Solutions

Ideally, we would all get baseline podiatry radiographs of our horse's feet for assessment once a year to have a greater chance of preventing lameness issues before they occur. However, even if you just get well-taken, measurable radiographs of your difficult cases, the horses will benefit immensely. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month, which will discuss how to read your accurately acquired, measurable radiographs.