Looking Beyond Frequent Hoof Trimming as the Magic Fix for Hoof Rehab

By Hoof Care Practitioner David Landreville of Landreville Hoof Care

If you’re struggling with hoof issues, don't fool yourself into thinking that merely trimming more frequently is going to be a magic fix. There’s always a learning curve and there are often kinks in that curve.   

The key to lameness prevention, rehabilitation, and continued development is keeping the outer wall off of the ground.

To accomplish this, I believe that optimum weight bearing is when the inner wall is loaded at the Four Pillars. I don’t try to make it happen in one trim. It’s built over years of frequent trims. After trimming to the inside of the inner wall, it takes three weeks for the inside of the outer wall to make it to the ground (with this kind of trim), which is why I try to keep them on no more than a 3-week trim schedule. The second and third weeks are the optimum comfort weeks for the horse. The inner wall, through its attachment to the sole, is set up to support the weight of the horse. The strength of the outer wall is not in its ability to support the weight of the horse, but in its ability to contort while simultaneously resisting the forces of contortion. 

Frequency is only part of the equation.

The trim has to unload the outer wall and put the majority of the horse's weight bearing comfortably on the back of the feet. Correct weight bearing and movement is what heals feet. The trim just sets the horse up for healing.  1/16" of vertical error at the ground equates to 2 inches of horizontal displacement at the wither on an average size horse. 

Too much weight bearing on the forehand causes excessive toe loading.

When the lateral heel on a left front foot is continually being left 1/8" longer than the medial heel it causes the horse to shift their weight 4" to the right. This places the right front 4" closer to the midline of the horse. This results in the majority of the horse's forehand weight being supported by the right front.  Most horses are already too much on their forehand due to the lack of knowledge about the relationship between proper heel shape and caudal soft tissue development.  A horse that has natural downhill conformation and who is also naturally right forelimb dominant can be a disaster in the making. The right front becomes the crutch for the horse, resulting in mechanical founder in the right front. The symptom may be wall separation and/or sole penetration but the cause is 1/8" margin of error in the trim. This is not a disease; it’s a breakdown in the mechanical bond from excessive force. Keeping the horse properly squared up over their heels is how you fix them. 

Example of improper trimming for founder.

When you're rehabbing founder, you're essentially taking the horse back in time through all the phases of their foundering. Helping a horse get comfortable is only the beginning of restoring them to a point where continual development is sustainable. 

This is the right front foot of a right hand dominant horse that foundered due to improper trimming.  These photos show 7 months of progress to reverse the damage.

Photo of improper trimming for founder

This is a caudal view of the same horse. 

Don’t rely on frequent trimming as the magic fix.

Trimming more often may just create a disaster – faster. I’ve found that a good trimmer/owner team is central to the horse’s successful rehab. Choose a trimmer who not only knows how to fix a hoof problem, but who does meticulously correct work and who also knows how to prevent it in the first place. How do you find out? Ask lots of questions! (Tip: Do they have horses of their own with structurally sound bare feet that they’ve been riding for years?)

And finally, be upfront how an issue will be handled. The trimmer should have a couple back up plans and the owner should be clear about how willing they are to go the distance if plan A doesn't work out.

 

- David Landreville

www.landrevillehoofcare.com

Here's an Easy Way to Install an EasyCare Comfort Pad

By EasyCare Product Specialist, Jean Welch

An EasyCare Comfort Pad is a great way to provide added comfort, support and protection for your horse. It comes in a one size fits all, and is a quick trace and trim in most cases. But if you don't have a template, try this handy tip that I picked up from Chris Mason at a Hoof Care Conference in the beautiful state of Washington. Not only does it make it simple to custom fit your Comfort Pad, but it also prevents any waste. There's a very good chance you'll be able to squeeze more than one pad out of just one Comfort Pad!

Comfort Pad Installation

1. Get some tin foil that's about two times the size of the outer sole. In this example, I'm using a Size 1 Easyboot Glove.

2. Fold it in half to make it stronger.

3. Insert it into the boot, and scrunch the edges of the foil up against the inside of the boot.

4. Carefully remove the foil from boot, and voilà, you have a perfect template of the boot's inside foot bed.

5. Lay out your pad and trace your foil template.

6. Use heavy duty shears to cut the pads out. Remember to keep your cut to the INSIDE of the line.

If you have Easyboot Mini's, just think of all the pads you can get out of one Comfort Pad.  I tried this tip on a Size 2 Mini and got 11 pads!

Save the scraps and you can even make your own frog supports as well.

If you'd like more product tips, we have a lot of helpful articles on our Hoof Care Blog and videos on our YouTube channel.

Shoeing The Hoof Or Shoeing The Horse?

By Christoph Schork of Global Endurance Training Center

Horses hooves do have "big shoes to fill," pun intended. Not so much because of previous great shoeing experiences but more so because of their responsibility to carry a heavy body through life's travels. Whether it's just hanging out as a backyard horse, competing on the track, dressage, versatility, trail riding, endurance racing or competing on demanding 100 mile races like Big Horn, Old Dominion, Biltmore or Tevis.

GE Blizzard of Oz, wearing the new EasyShoe Flex during the Old Pueblo Ride in Arizona, finishing in First Place and winning Best Condition

When talking about shoeing or booting horses, are we shoeing a hoof or are we shoeing the horse? Now, what does that question entail? In the definition of a farrier's job description, he or she is engaging in 'horse shoeing.' Nobody refers to a farrier as a 'hoof shoer.' For the sake of an argument, let's look at the term 'hoof shoeing' first.

Shoeing a hoof means that we are looking specifically at a hoof, trimming it according to our parameters and then booting or shoeing that particular hoof. We might be looking at live sole, medial and lateral balance, point of rotation and midpoint balance. We are evaluating and trimming and shoeing a hoof!

When trimming and shoeing a horse, I follow an holistic approach to hoof care. First I evaluate the conformation and posture of the horse, then I consider the weight and the alignment.

As an example of how we trim and shoe to provide support for the whole horse, not just a single hoof, we'll look at the horse below.

This image shows an untrimmed hoof. We can observe that the hoof is pretty symmetrical in appearance from the dorsal view point. If we draw a red line through the center of the fetlock we can see that both halves of the hoof are equal in width.

Here's a similar observation on a horse with a trimmed hoof.

In both cases the horse's body is supported by the hoof. The whole hoof is equally loaded and receiving equal ground pressure.

In the next case, however, the hoof cannot fulfill its job of properly supporting the horses weight. The plum line drawn from the center of the canon bone does not divide the hoof capsule in equal halves. Notice how it's offset to one side. The lateral half of this front right hoof is quite a bit wider compared to the medial half. (Blue horizontal line vs green line.)

My next question is how can I mitigate that conformation fault and center that hoof better under his leg? For starters, when trimming, I'll rasp the lateral wall a little more and the medial wall somewhat less, to try and move the hoof more underneath the bone column. 

Look at the two blue vertical guide lines coming up from the supporting area of the sole. The leg is now more centered over the sole. I shifted the support area medially.

When shoeing or applying hoof protection to this hoof EasyCare provides the tools to center the hoofs ground bearing surface even more under the leg. The new EasyShoe Flex is the perfect shoe to help horses with asymmetrical hooves.

Here's how the Flex can be used to help center the hoof under the limb.

In this photo, I moved the Flex more to the medial side (see the red arrow), to center the bone column over the supporting surface.

The weight baring surface of the Flex is now centered under the red plum line, and both lateral and medial (yellow lines), are equidistant between the two blue vertical guide lines again. 

The protruding edge, red arrow, can easily get beveled off so a horse would be less likely to step on it and pull the shoe off.

With a grinder or even a rasp the shoe can get easily modified. The spring steel insert can also get rasped without any problems. 

Stay tuned, because I'll be sharing more information on the Flex. You'll learn how easy it is to nail on the Flex, get some DOs and DONT's, and see my test results on their performance during long and hard endurance races up to 100 miles in length. I'll also be including the Flex Light, the version without the spring steel core.

In the photo below, the Flex Light, in a size 3, is shown on top. It comes with the heart bar for frog support. Below the Light is the Flex Open Heel with spring steel core, also in a size 3. The steel inside gives it enough rigidity so that a heart bar isn't necessary. It's also available in a heart bar version.

The Flex is opening a lot of new doors for the riders, farriers and trimmers alike. 

From the Bootmeister
Christoph Schork

www.globalendurance.com

Glue-On Composite Shoes Help the Horse & Build Bridges

By Daisy Bicking of Daisy Haven Farm

In the past, I’ve written about the importance of finding common ground with each other. Whether you call yourself a farrier, barefoot trimmer, equine podiatrist or hoof care provider, it doesn't matter because we're all responsible for the same thing:

The care and soundness of the horse’s foot.

I’ve written about how we all have beliefs about what we do with the horse’s foot along the lines of religious conviction. (See blog "One Hoof Church, All Religions") We tend to think in terms of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong. However, I believe we are more than that. I believe that what we can learn from each other about helping a horse overcomes anything that could divide us.

I get to travel all over the world teaching and helping others be successful using glue-on composite shoes like the EasyShoe (Performance, NG, Sport, Compete, and new Flex) Easyboot Glue-On, Easyboot LC, and Easyboot Flip Flop. The diversity of practitioners attending these clinics amazes me: farrier, trimmer, podiatrist and hoof care provider.  The glue-on composite shoe clinics attract individuals from a variety of backgrounds and training styles who come together in one place to learn how to help the horse. There are very few places where such a strongly opinionated group of people can come learn together and dare I say, even learn from each other!

Glue-on composite shoes create a common ground that bridges the differences between us, and opens the door to opportunities to help each other help horses more effectively. They're a tool that accommodates not only differences in trim style, and differences in believe about shoe placement and fit, but they cross international differences of language and culture. Regardless of a person's background or location, glue-ons are a tool that anyone can successfully use to help the horse.

I recently traveled to Norway and was excited to see many diverse practitioners come together again.  We had participants who called themselves farriers, blacksmiths, and natural balance farriers.  We also had barefoot trimmers from multiple schools of training, and several veterinarians.   Everyone was open-minded to new ideas and respected each other.

We had fun, learned from each other, and helped a number of horses in the process. 

At this clinic in particular we talked a lot about the Four Stages of Learning.

Many of us operate in the first stage of learning, Unconscious Incompetence, meaning you don't know what you don't know.  When you realize you need to learn more, you get to the second stage of learning, Conscious Incompetence, which is a very uncomfortable place to be but often motivates you to obtain more education, like coming to a hoof clinic.  Then you learn more, and get to Stage 3, Conscious Competence, meaning you can use a new skill but with concentration and effort.  Then finally when you've practiced enough, and have proficiency at the task you get to the fourth stage of learning, Unconscious Competence, meaning you can do something competently without conscious thought.  

In order for such a diverse group of practitioners to get together, often the participants have to be willing to live in Stage 2, a place of Conscious Incompetence, in front of their peers, many from opposing philosophies.  It takes a great deal of mental and emotional toughness to put yourself in that place.  The group from Norway excelled at being open-minded and supported each other by sharing new ideas without judgment.  They each took away new information and skills to practice, which moved them to Stage 3, Conscious Competence.

I am amazingly proud to share a tool that can create common ground among diverse practitioners. There is so much to gain from coming together and learning from each other, I am grateful that glue-on composite shoes can create a platform for sharing as well as be a valuable tool to help the horse.  

 

For more information on Daisy Haven Farm and Glue-on Composite Shoe clinics please see:
www.DaisyHavenFarm.com
www.IntegrativeHoofSchool.com
 

 

Tips on Applying a Power Strap to the Easyboot Glove

Submitted by EasyCare Product Specialist, Jordan Junkermann

Our Easyboot Gloves are a form fitting, versatile boot that allow high performance riders to perform at the level they want without adding weight or bulkiness to the barefoot hoof. The Glove has the capacity to be used for long distances and frequent riding, which means they also do well with weekend riders, parades, and with driving horses.

To truly benefit horse and rider, this boot requires a snug fit, and while some hooves glide into the boot like Cinderella into her glass slippers, others have a shape that makes for a challenging fit. For a more rounded hoof shape, you’ll find that the Glove comes in larger widths.This may give you the perfect fit. But, if the hoof is narrow for its length, there’s a solution to snug up the fit - the Easyboot Power Strap. It cinches the boot like a belt.

Here are some tips on applying the Power Strap

The two best methods for inserting holes where the Strap will connect to the boot are a leather punch or a wood burning tool. Keep in mind that the holes need to big enough to accommodate a T-nut, screw and washer.  

1. Leather Hole Punch

One option is to use a leather hole punch and punch on the indicated areas of the front of the boot and power strap. In the method below, we used a different kind of punch that works best when it’s sharp. The tools you will need for this method include: a wooden block, a nail to start the puncture, a punch, and a hammer. First, make a small hole on the boot with the nail and hammer, using the wooden block as a brace on the inside to give you something solid to steady the punch. Next, hammer a hole on the other size of the boot with the punch and hammer, again using the wooden block as a brace. 

Using a nail can start a hole in the desired area

 

Using this type of punch requires a hammer.

2. Wood Burning Tool

Another method suggested by one of our Product Specialists is to use a wood burning tool. It can be purchased for around $16, and it’s quick, requires less strength and creates a perfect hole for the hardware to sit in.

Start by heating up the wood burning tool. It’s a good idea to have a rag handy, because you’ll want to periodically clean the melted rubber off of the tip of the tool to reduce excess smoke.

 

We tried a couple different tips but found a wide one to be useful. Make sure to screw it in before you heat up the tool. 

 

Start with the base of the boot. Make your holes where indicated on the front of the boot. Don't be afraid to make it a little bit bigger than the tip.

 

Clean up any excess rubber at the back end or any that builds up in the front. This excess could get in the way of threading the screw onto the T-nut.

 

Create the same holes on the Power Strap using the markings on the back of the Strap as guides.

 

Make sure to check that your screw will fit into the holes you have made.


 

 

Trim the ends of the Power Strap by cutting the line above the correct number on the Power Strap that matches the size boot you have.

 

Once the T-nut is seated in the back of the boot, it only takes a minute to line up the Power Strap hole and tighten it down with the screw and washer. 

 

To make it easier to line up the second hole, use a pair of locking pliers as a clamp to hold the boot, Power Strap and hardware in place.

 

Placing the second side screw is easy with the locking pliers.

 

The Power Strap in place!

 

Attaching the Power Strap to the Glove can be simple and should provide the snug fit needed to enjoy this popular boot.

The Challenges of Spring Grass: Laminitis and Founder

Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Dawn Willoughby

Original Post June 2, 2011

In most cases, owners can prevent the ravages of laminitis (inflammation of the laminae between hoof wall and coffin bone) and founder (pulling away of wall from coffin bone due to a broken laminae). During my six years as a professional trimmer, I tried to educate owners about preventing this painful situation. Here is a review of what I shared with them every spring.

I live in Delaware where we have a spring that challenges most horses. Beginning in late March, early April, our sugary spring grass starts to grow. Our worst days are cool and sunny. This combination has the effect of creating a surge of sugar in the grass. When the sun goes down, the spring night temperatures are cool, keeping the sugar in the grass, not allowing it to return to the roots. That's a double whammy for the natural herd that is out 24/7. It isn't until July that we reliably dry out and warm up every day and night. When this happens the sugar returns to the roots. I learned about forage growth and pasture management from studying materials and attending clinics by Katy Watts, www.safergrass.org, an agricultural expert and owner of founder-prone horses. She offers wonderful lectures on her site as well.
 

Sunny & Doc

Sunny and Doc, “the bay thoroughbred twins” at Tory Hill Farm in Glen Mills, Pa. Up to their eyeballs in spring grass, these former athletics are not markedly affected.

When I had a trimming practice, I encouraged owners to mark April 1st to July 1st on their calendars and prepare for spring grass for their easy keepers.
  1. First and foremost, adjust the diet. Lower dietary sugar anyway you can. You will need to be especially aggressive if you have a horse prone to laminitis and founder, usually known as an “easy keeper”. Examples: draft horses, native horses and ponies and donkeys. Eliminate grain, molasses, most treats and, if necessary, add a muzzle or put the horse in a dirt pasture or on a dirt path system such as Paddock Paradise. Hay should have 10% or less sugar. Correctly soaking hay can reduce sugar by 30%; leave the sugar water on the bottom of the tub. Most horses do very well on forage diets.
  2. Maintain or increase exercise. I have a friend who ponys her mini off her warmblood mare! This year she is teaching the mini to drive.
  3. A distant third, the trim. Apply a steeper bevel to outer and inner wall in order to avoid any wall pressure on the laminae of a normally well trimmed horse. In other words, apply the “rehab” trim (more info below).
  4. Involve the veterinarian as needed.
In the spring, the grass is nourishing seeds in order to survive. Even if you have an over-grazed area, you can assume it's high in sugar if there is grass. Stressed grass is high in sugar. I use Equi Analytical Laboratories to test hay and pasture. The test costs $26. Then I know the exact sugar content as well as the amount and proportion of minerals in my horse's diet. I have learned to supplement my horse's meals by balancing the minerals in his diet. Dr. Eleanor Kellon, www.drkellon.com, will help you create a plan for your horse or you can take her basic course on-line and learn to balance the diet yourself. Dr. Kellon is an expert in this area, especially working with foundered horses and will help owners with medicinal supplements, as well. She is well educated in homeopathy and herbal treatments.

As for the trim, I put a steeper angle (55 degrees) on the walls and switch from a “maintenance” trim to a “rehabilitation” trim in April, on all horses, founder-prone or not. That means I apply the mustang roll to the outer and inner wall, right to the laminae. I return to the maintenance trim in July when the sugar reliably declines, just beveling the outer wall. By relieving any pressure on the laminae (aka white line) via the wall, I am able to minimize wall flare due to laminitis. I have noticed that in May, my OTTB, Sunny. becomes a bit ouchy on the gravel driveway so clearly he has lamintis. There are other telltale symptoms. He may lose a little bit of concavity, about a half inch from the laminae. If he experiences any wall flare, it is limited to about an inch from the ground. In our 6 years together, he has never gone lame. Another telltale sign is one or more horizontal rings on the outer wall, laminitic rings where the laminae detached, and reattached. When I ride out in rocky areas, I simply boot the front. Padded Epics, Gloves and Generation 2 Old Mac all do a nice job.

Example 1
Tessa is an 8 year old, warmblood mare. She has been barefoot her entire life and has had what I consider a good trim for the past 4 years. Her owner trims her every week or two. She is turned out with a babysitter, Frisco the mini, on 3 acres that wrap around the house. Their diet is mostly low sugar hay. The pair moves a lot, checking on their people. This year Tessa's owner reduced her grain from a couple quarts to a handful. This is the first spring Tessa has not needed boots for cross country rides. I have seen her walk over rocky paths with no problem, just as she does the rest of the year. Tessa maintained full concavity on the bottom of her feet. Her weight has gone down to a healthier level too: you can feel but not see her ribs. Before hand she looked like a “typical” chunky warmblood. She is ridden daily.
 
Tessa & Frisco

Tessa and Frisco, both easy keepers, look great this spring. More importantly, they feel great.

Example 2
Martha learned to trim her two Percheron crosses a few years ago. This is the first spring at her own farm and she can finally control their environment. The horses are on a pasture with no grass. They eat nothing with grain or molasses and have low sugar hay strewn about the pasture. They are ridden most days. Here is the note I received from Martha this past April, 2011:

In that we are trying to save the pasture and have them on only a third of it (with no grass, just hay), we are also doing the boys a huge favor...they have absolutely NO laminitic rings, NO sore feet, NO hardish neck on Squire, etc. wow, all those times you said to keep them OFF the grass in spring and fall and other high sugar times, this really proves that point. Tell all those sorts of non believers who think their laminitic prone horses who are eating little bits of "stressed" grass, aren't getting enough to matter, that they are DEAD wrong and can get in touch with me it they want proof!!!  Bravo Dawn!!!
 
Shawn & Squire

Percheron Crosses, Shawn and Squire, have happy, working feet this spring.

Example 3
Early in my career, I worked on a chronically foundered Friesan who lived on a pasture with short, sad-looking vegetation (I hesitate to call it grass), growing in sandy soil. I couldn't believe it could make any horse sick but I was wrong. The only solution for a sensitive horse like that is to get him off the grass and feed the correct amount, by weight, of low sugar hay (Dr. Kellon can help you with the amount of hay). Although his owner didn't agree, I still believe the horse had been chronically foundered for most of his life. This explained his reluctance to work under saddle at the trot or canter. When I saw him, it was the first time he had gone lame. But I am sure he didn't “suddenly” get sore; he simply couldn't hide it anymore. His body had the telltale fat pad pattern of a lamintic horse: convex, filled in area above the eyes, cresty neck and fat pads on his shoulders and on either side of the tail.
 
Fat pad distribution After

Common fat pad distribution on founder-prone horse, a pure Friesan, and several months later after his diet had been corrected.

It's easy to tell on most horses if the wall is well connected to the coffin bone. Just put your fingers on the hairline of the coronary band and run them down the wall. Begin on one side and work your way around the entire foot. If you feel a flare, the wall isn't connected. This has been the case with almost every horse I have worked on. By correcting the diet, exercise and trim, I routinely grew out well connected feet. The only exception is a horse who has been chronically foundered and the laminae became scarred. There is nothing for the wall to attach to. Typically the wall is well connected for about half the foot and then flares out, even after a year of good care. Some horses do flare right out of the hairline but as you apply the correct trim, you will see the well connected foot at the top of the hoof capsule.
 
Bugsy After

Right off the track, Bugsy, shows off his original shod foot and four months later, half of the great foot he grew in 4 months. His is an example of flaring right out of the hairline, all around. He remained sound throughout. Long toes and underrun heels may be common on racehorses but don't confuse that with the excellent feet we can grow on thoroughbreds!

On sensitive, easy-keepers, owners must go into over drive in the spring and any time the weather is sunny in the day and cool at night, with adequate rain to grow grass. For some horses, I suspect Cushings Disease if they present with founder in the fall. The vet can test for this disease; long body hair is a late stage symptom.

Charlie, a Holsteiner gelding, came to the farm where I boarded in 2010. He had not been at the farm long enough to have well trimmed feet and the owner didn't have any “spring grass” experience with him. She was told he “rotated” in the previous spring. In May 2010, he developed massive abscesses along the hairline and in late May the wall pulled away from the coffin bone, founder. In a typical founder stance, Charlie “sat back” on his haunches to relieve pressure on his front feet where the coffin bone was threatening to push through the sole. When we could pick up a foot, we put him in padded Old Mac's G2. I showed the owner how to “peel” away part of the outer wall on the ground with nippers. We took the toe back to where it should be, giving him some relief. It took 12 months for his owner-trimmer to grow out a good foot.
 
Charlie

Charlie has almost grown out one of the large abscess, the horizontal line near the bottom of the foot from last years bout with founder.

Going into the spring of 2011, the owner decided to see how Charlie tolerated the grass, now with good feet. He did not (it really is about the diet). Abscesses appeared in April. He was put on a sacrifice lot with a friend, full time, with access to two stalls. In mid May, after the abscesses popped, (no one touched him with a knife of course), the owner experiment with muzzled turnout because Charlie moves so much more when he is with the herd of eight retired racehorses. She finally settled on a routine of muzzled turnout by day and sacrifice lot and two open stalls with a friend at night.

Don't tell me you can't keep a muzzle on your horse! Figure it out. Add a leather halter over the muzzle. Vet tape the two together. Add a brow band to the halter. Braid the crown piece into the mane at the pole. Add halter fuzzies everywhere to avoid rubs. I recommend removing the muzzle twice a day to check for rubs. If the horse has “an accomplice”, put that horse in a muzzle too; if he doesn't need it, just make the hole bigger so he can eat grass but not pull off the muzzle.

There is a misconception that once the horse has “rotated”, he can't go sound. This is untrue. In the vastly over-simplified version, the wall disconnects from the coffin bone when the laminae breaks due to a sugar overdose. If anything “rotates”, it's the wall away from the horse. The coffin bone is right where it should be, under the horse. According to Dr. Tomas Teskey, many horses feel better within days of a dietary correction. On most horses you can grow out a good foot in 7-12 months depending on how bad the situation is. Dead lame horses may recover more slowly. Please check Pete Ramey's site, www.hoofrehab.com, for many useful articles written by this well known “founder junkie”. His DVD series, Under the Horse, is excellent. Within that series are a couple of DVDs focusing on laminitis and founder. Shoes and stalling are never a good idea in my view.

The ultimate test? I was able to keep two miniature donkeys healthy in a grassy, 35 acre Pennsylvania pasture by putting Best Friend muzzles on them in mid-March and leaving them on until the first freeze, in December. They never even developed fat pads on their necks, shoulders and rumps. I did take off their muzzles for a half hour at breakfast and dinner to check for rubs. They shared a half cup of “safe” food. They were not fed apples or carrots because the glycemic index, although low for humans, is too high for super easy-keepers like donkeys. This advice came from Dr. Eleanor Kellon, my favorite equine nutritionist.

Clearly it is possible for owners to manage diet and lifestyle for their founder prone horses. I hope this introductory article is just the beginning of your research into learning all you can about preventing laminitis and founder for your best friend.

Good Luck and Happy Trails!

Dawn

My Favorite Resources
  • Equi Analytical Laboratories http://www.equi-analytical.com. The sister laboratory, Dairy One, has additional educational information.
  • Dr. Eleanor Kellon's www.drkellon.com offers reasonably priced consults and great on-line courses. The first course to take is “National Research Foundation (NRC) Plus”. The NRC 2007 recommendations books is available on-line.
  • Pete Ramey's www.hoofrehab.com has articles, DVD's and current research.
  • Katy Watt's http://www.safergrass.org/ offers consults, articles and excellent Power Point lectures on CDs and clinic schedule.

Dawn Willoughby lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her husband, Drew Knox, Annie the Rottweiler and Sunny, OTTB. During her professional trimming career (2004-2010) she focused on teaching owners to trim their horses. She will work with owners online who have no access to trimmers and will conduct owner-focused trimming clinics internationally. She now focuses on equine bodywork along with in-hand and mounted training as physical therapy for the horse. Dawn maintains an educational site, http://4sweetfeet.com/, where you can find free trimming videos and articles on all aspects of natural horse care. The videos and more are also on http://youtube.com/4sweetfeet.

Under Pressure - Discovering A Hoof Abscess (Part One)

Submitted by EasyCare Product Specialist, Kelsey Lobato.

An abscess is a bacterial infection of the connective tissues between the hoof wall and the sole of the hoof. Abscesses can be triggered from a number of causes, such as a bruised sole, poor trim job from your farrier, or even a change in weather, such as going from extreme heat to damp conditions. Once the abscess has established itself in the hoof, the horse begins to show signs of mild to severe lameness. Each horse can react differently when dealing with the abscess and each abscess case can be different.

Since it is impossible for a horse to move without bearing weight on each leg, the constant pressure on an infected hoof causes mild to harsh pain and can advance the infection. As the horse bears weight on the exposed area, the bacteria travels up into the hoof cavity. The immune system sets off an inflammatory reaction in the area, causing a strong digital pulse and hot spot. White blood cells begin to surround and kill the bacteria in the surrounding tissue. These white blood cells produce the discharge that generally accompanies abscesses.

This exact scenario has been plaguing my horse, Summer Flame, for the last 6 months. It never fails, you think you have conquered the abscess and another one blows a week or two later. In my case, in different hooves. I continued to try and figure out why my surefooted barefoot horse was dealing with re-occurring abscesses this year. Was it the weather? Does she have mild laminitis? Is she constantly bruising on her sole? Is it her feed?

To the inexperienced eye, abscesses can look like shoulder injuries, hock injuries, hip or back injuries. Horses can limp lightly or be dead lame. They can pop suddenly then go away without notice or they can gradually increase in pressure creating a panicky situation.

I have experienced all of the above. The most recent occurrence happened gradually, creating a swollen front leg, a strong digital pulse, drainage in the heel bulb and a solar surface abscess, which I found after she let me clean her hoof out. My first reaction was "oh she got kicked" because she had never had leg swelling while fighting an abscess and then I saw the drainage from her heal bulb. Face palm to the forehead "Great another abscess!" (Well, I am getting good at these). I was worried about the swelling though, as a colleague stated it might be cellulitis, which is scary! I called the vet explained to him the symptoms and more. He did not think it was cellulitis; gave me antibiotics and Bute to hopefully take care of the re-occurring abscesses in her system.

Just as a side note, the only reason my vet gave me antibiotics was because she was actively draining from the abscess and the previous abscesses have drained and started healing. I recommend to only give your horse antibiotics and Bute if the abscess has blown. Giving antibiotics or painkillers to a horse that has not had release from an abscess will slow down the process, make the issue more painful and prolong the issue.

Below is a picture of what she looked like when I first found the abscess. As you review the picture, you can see the forearm and the knee are both swollen, making it hard for her to bend her leg and walk.

These next two pictures show the solar surface abscess and then the heel bulb abscess. You can see where the abscess started in the white line of the bars and tracked up to the heel bulb where the pressure was released.

This is the same scenario as the previous abscess she had in her right hind leg. The only difference is that there is major swelling and the previous solar surface abscess was small and healed pretty quickly after the farrier trimmed the dead sole away. I asked my farrier if he was concerned that she was having so many abscesses. He did not have an answer for me nor did he return any of my phone calls. He continually tells my friend, who I board with, that the horses all have great feet and not to worry.

After discussions with my vet and feedback from my farrier, I started doing more research on abscesses and why they might be re-occurring in Summer. Every page I turned and every article I read came up with the same answers. The answers being: diet, mild cases of laminitis, environment, sole bruising and poor trimming. Poor trimming is what got my attention. I have been noticing that my farrier leaves on quite a bit more sole and frog than usual. I thought nothing of it as she has had the same farrier for over 5 years and has never had previous hoof issues. Well, when your horse is constantly receiving incorrect trims over and over again, the hoof wall and bars can become overgrown and weight bearing, creating them to fold over and capture bacteria on the whiteline, creating a perfect environment for abscesses. Especially, if the horse is unable to wear the extra sole and frog down in its environment.

This was an "ah-ha!" moment for me and had my vet come out to verify. He and I came to the conclusion that my farrier has continually not been trimming her correctly and now it was showing. As well as other factors including a dry winter and stone bruising from the new dirt that was added to the paddock this year that contained rocks.

In conclusion, I am thankful that the abscess cause has been found and my horse is on the mend. I found that knowing your horse’s feet and making sure your farrier is doing his job right is key. Generally speaking, correct and frequent trimming, not allowing the bars to be weight bearing will keep your horse from abscessing. It’s just that simple!

In my next blog, I will touch on the topic of what treatments work for me along with what EasyCare products I use to help with the healing process.

EasyShoe Performance NGs: Another Tool on the Belt

Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Timothy Prindle of Barefoot Equine.

Atlas, a mustang came into my care about 7 years ago. His owner, Megan, moved to Los Angeles from Seattle and brought Atlas to an eventing barn. What makes Atlas an interesting case is that even with strong mustang hoof walls and soles, he grows ferociously straight forward with long toe/under run heels if not kept in check. So steady, consistent trimming has always been a vital part of his hoof care.

When I began with him, his heels were fairly contracted with a narrow frog that protruded significantly higher than his hoof wall, which I wasn’t thrilled about because I could not reduce heel height safely without risking sensitivity. An on again off again soundness issue was diagnosed as degenerative joint disease within the coffin joint. To reduce stress on that joint, the veterinarian recommended we use shoes in order to cut back toe and enhance breakover.

These were the days before I had given up steel, so I outfitted him with a set (which, of course, I had to grind the heck out of so as not to create excessive pressure on those protruding frog heights). He still struggled with some lameness even after the metal shoes were put on and we found that by keeping the toe back with 4-6 week shoeings was imperative to keeping him sound. Additionally, since his diagnosis, the vet would come out to give injections to his joint every 6 to 8 months. In time, however, I could tell the steel shoes were doing nothing to help a narrow frog and contracted heels. 

As a farrier out of Cornell Farrier School, it seemed natural to progress to the EasyShoe Performance NG for those horses needing a little help beyond barefoot—and to also have another tool in my belt aside from booting. Barefoot was my specialty, so EasyShoes made sense from a natural hoof care prospective and they were slowly beginning to replace steel in my work. Atlas was the last of my horses still in iron.

I mentioned to Megan that the EasyShoe Performance N/G shoes could be a perfect compliment to the veterinarian's prescription, which would allow for better expansion of his foot and provide the freedom for his heels to spread. So we pulled the metal shoes and started with EasyShoes. 

That was 3 years ago, and now Atlas is a much happier horse. His heels have spread astonishingly, more than I had anticipated, and he has a wide frog to match his thick, mustang hoof walls and sole. His injections last almost twice as long and he doesn’t miss a step on the jumping course with the EasyShoe’s tread. As his owner says, "Atlas lives for the cross country portion of the eventing discipline. And he’s now becoming proficient in stadium jumping as well—novice level (3’3’’  jumps)."

As for me, I put my last steel shoe on 3 years ago and now use the EasyShoe Performance N/G’s regularly in my craft. They have proven to be an excellent tool for rehabbing as well as providing support within specific equine disciplines that typically require steel shoes. 

Share Your Adventure March Winner: 2017 Division One Trail Rider and the Easyboot Epics.

Submitted by Easyboot Customer, Robin Morris.

My partner’s name is Beau. He is an eleven-year-old Quarter Horse Saddle Mule. I absolutely adore him and ride a lot which is probably an understatement. I have logged every mile since the day we became partners on June 16, 2014. To date we have logged just under 7,800 miles. 

As an active member of our local Back Country Horsemen, many of our rides are in the mountains in Montana and Wyoming wilderness areas. We often travel on sharp rocks to elevations exceeding 11,000’. The terrain is tough on steel shoes. I was wearing through a pair of shoes in under 6 weeks. 

Through trial-and-error with my farrier, we went from standard steel shoes, to toes and heels, to tapped tungsten rods, and to finally tungsten forged to his steel shoes at the toe and heels. The tungsten shoes are good for about 900 miles, which includes several resets. 

While we have figured out what shoes work best for the trails that Beau and I travel and the miles we put in, his hoof health is important. He is trimmed every 6 weeks year-round. Both my farrier and I strongly believe that an equine’s hooves need a break from steel shoes. Last winter, during his barefoot break, he got a rock stuck in the collateral groove surrounding the frog, mis-stepped and incurred a minor suspensory branch injury. Wearing a “000” shoe, you can imagine how small his frog and groove are. He was initially on stall rest and then restricted for two months. It was a long two months for both of us. Wanting to still give him a break this year, I was very nervous about going barefoot.

On several trips in the Wilderness, several of my riding partners lost a shoe. Having a boot as back-up allowed several of them to “keep riding” while others had to walk their horses out and opt out of following rides. So, this year, I set out to kill two birds with one stone. I researched boots until I was completely confused. Evidently mules are harder to fit as they typically have hooves that are longer than they are wide. Beau’s feet are no exception. After several failed attempts, I contacted Product Specialist, Regan, with EasyCare. I spoke to her about the Easyboot Epics based on several reviews by other mule owners. As soon as they arrived I put them on, took pictures, and I emailed them to Regan. Between her and another Product Specialist they confirmed that the fit was spot on. I was so excited!

Knowing that I should break them in on a short ride, I saddled up and rode three miles through deep crusty snow, slick mud and gravel. Beau was short strided for about a quarter of a mile and then fell into his normal stride. After the ride, I completely checked out his pasterns, there was nothing. No heat, no elevated pulse, no rubbing, all was normal. I was stoked! I already had a longer ride planned for the next day with a buddy and felt comfortable going with his new Easyboot Epics. It was amazing how much easier they were to put on the second time! I trailered 38 miles where I met up with my riding partner, Jody, and her Quarter Horse mare, Win-E. The trail chosen was a county road. In Montana, in the winter, you have to get creative about where you can ride. I only bought boots for his front hooves and after 5 miles or so he was getting a little ouchy on the back hooves, so we headed off-road, where I really got to try out the security of the boots on bentonite. 

Bentonite is a mud that is mined for its sealant properties. Since it provides a self-sealing, low permeability barrier, it is often used for holding ponds. When it rains, you avoid bentonite roads as it takes on a “snot-like” quality that is impossible to drive on, you will get stuck, and is tough to get off any surface if allowed to dry. I was absolutely tickled and impressed that after logging 21 ½ miles not only did the boots stay on, but Beau’s pasterns were absolutely normal upon removing the boots. However, it did take a lot of soaking, brushing and scrubbing to clean the boots. I am so thankful that Beau’s new boots solved two issues: they will carry him through his barefoot break and serve as spares for all of my miles with shoes.

Glue-On Without Glue: Part Two

Submitted by Product Specialist, Jordan Junkermann.

This is an extension and follow up from my blog, “Glue-Ons Without Glue.”

In February, I experimented a few different times with the Glue-On shell and Mueller tape. I took Pistol, my 6-year-old half Arabian, out on two trail rides with front boots on and ran my barrel horse Billie, a 19-year-old Quarter Horse, in a race also with front boots. The Monday after the barrel race, when I had shells still on both horses, there was our first big snow storm. Better late then never right? It provided an opportunity to see how the shells would stay on in the snow and mud.

The horses are on full turn out to pasture and have access to the paddock and run in shed. The total they have access to is about 3 acres. Generally, this would be a situation were boots see a lot of wear and tear. Some of our riding boots such as the Easyboot TrailOld Mac G2 , or Epic have shown success in turn out situations. Our therapy boots like the Easyboot Cloud and Rx have a harder time withstanding the pressures of a frolicking horse. However, many people do see success in small pastures or large paddock areas. Our newest release, the Easyboot Stratus, may be a game changer in the Therapy aspect. But a boot like the Glue-On is durable, low profile, and below the hairline so it shouldn’t face the challenges that full coverage boots face. Keeping them on is definitely a concern.

What I found was that the Mueller tape with the Glue-On shells held up to snow, mud, full turn out, and stayed on for multiple days. I am pretty happy with this experiment. They stayed on for four days through a variety of weather changes. Of course, the Glue-On shell has the same restriction it has always had of not being able to be on for a longer trimming cycle. That shell fits best on a four week trimming cycle, which my horse's are not currently on. It should not be left on, especially in moist environments, for longer then 10 days at a time. Using a packing material that has anti-fungal properties like EquiPak Copper Sulfate or Artimud will greatly reduce risk of thrush build up. Because the shell doesn't expand as the hoof grows, it will interfere with hoof growth if left on for too long.

I do recommend checking on the shells every day, especially with snowy, wet environments. I didn't check them very well after the first few days and once I did I noticed that after those initial four days of moisture having contact with the Mueller tape, the adhesive wore off. Only one shell after the fourth day stayed on. The other three boots (both of Billie's and one of Pistol's shells) fell off. Luckily I found two in the paddock and one in the pasture after searching for a while. Keeping that in mind, I think this application will be the most successful in drier environments. But as I said the shells did stay on with full pasture access and snow for four days.

At this point this type of application would work best for short periods of time when the horse needs added hoof protection. There has been some success in cutting a hole in the sole of the shell to provide airflow to the hoof and allowing the shell to stay on longer. However, this allows rocks access to the sole of the foot and other materials can get packed into that area. I don’t think it would be a good solution when using Mueller tape. I will definitely be using this type of application process again to continue testing the success rate in a variety of situations. Hopefully this gives some of you an alternative option to try out if your horse fits into the Glue-On shells! Happy booting!