That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It: The Learning Curve

Submitted by David Landreville

That's My Story by Collin Raye was a popular song in the 90's. I don't know how many times back then I would hear someone finish their sentence with the line, "That's my story and I'm stickin' to it." I feel sorry for Collin Raye as I'm sure he never escaped his fans shouting this line at him. What I find interesting though, is how a hit country song aimed at self deprecating humor quickly became a national anthem that seemed to "stick." This method of "tweaking the truth" has become very prevalent in our society and has become an every day part of my personal experience with horse people: Veterinarians, farrier/trimmers, trainers, and horse owners. It's easy to judge the success of a concept, or product, by your own experience, but not very productive to just stop there. Here's a self deprecating story about my learning curve with EasyShoes.

I've spent many years developing a predictably successful trimming protocol. The trouble is that success is like money, and it seems that you can never have enough. When the EasyShoe first came out, I have to admit, my first thought was negative because it looked too much like the demon I'd been fighting for years. A funny thing happened, though. Over time, the closer I looked at it, the more interested I became until I was modifying Glue-On shells to mimic the design (because they weren't available to the public yet). I started gluing them on my own horses and immediately had some positive results. They improved the movement and the integrity of the soft tissue in the back of their feet.  I was excited about this and couldn't wait for the EasyShoe to become available. As usual, when trying something new, there will be a learning curve. My problem was being able to make them last for a full trim cycle. I was getting anywhere from a day to a month. I still saw hoof improvement as long as they would stay in place. I was afraid that I wouldn't be very successful using them on my client's horses if I couldn't reasonably predict how long they would stay on.

After a few brave souls offered to be experiments, I slowly broadened my experience and learned to improve my success rate. I achieved good changes in the hoof but only moderate success with them staying on the feet. To be honest, it was very close to a matter of doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Something finally changed but it wasn't for the better. A new client asked me if I would apply them to her horse as she was going on a 50 mile endurance ride in the upcoming weekend. She seemed thrilled at the chance to be getting to try this new product. After applying them she took photos and proudly posted them on Facebook. One of the comments read, "not enough glue"... from Garrett Ford. A nagging feeling crept in and I couldn't get rid of the sense of foreboding. I was terrified that they were going to come off during her ride. My internal dialogue took over from there. I couldn't wait until the weekend was over. I called her on Monday hoping to hear that she had a great time and all my fears were over nothing. Instead, they were confirmed. She had a horrible ride, losing all but one shoe by the forty mile mark. She had no way to remove the last shoe and for fear of hurting her horse she got off and walked him to the finish line. I'm sure my name came up more than once in that stretch of the trail. I apologized but wasn't sure that would be enough.

After a futile attempt at justifying the failure with rationalizations such as, "these shoes just don't work on a well trimmed hoof" and "if the horse had better conformation there wouldn't have been so much torque on the shoe", but I knew other people were having more success than I was. I decided to reply to Garrett's comment, "I would appreciate any tips that you might have." Garrett graciously offered to show me first hand the protocol that he had developed for predictable adhesion (the same protocol that is available on the EasyCare website). After spending a day gluing shoes on his horses, I realized that what he was showing me and what I had been doing were a universe apart. Garrett advised me that, if you don't develop a strict protocol, you'll never be able to look back and see why you were successful or where you failed. This made perfect sense to me because I felt the same way about trimming. I'm grateful for the lesson and now I am very proud of my shoeing results. As a matter of fact, I've had to develop my own protocol to remove them in a timely fashion. If you're not having good results with something that other people are, you may just be the variable.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking' to it...for now.

The Illusion of Heel Height

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Many people don't know this, but horses aren't "stuck with the feet they have". Over time, their feet can be restored and can reach a state where continual development is possible. Don't say "That's just what they have." Hoof development is not necessarily limited by age, conformation, or even tissue damage. I believe it's mostly limited by knowledge and perception. For instance, someone can have a lot of success keeping horses sound with their trimming and booting protocol, but when they teach someone else that student has their own experience and interprets it a little differently than the teacher. When that student teaches someone else, the same thing happens and this goes on and on until the details of the original protocol get lost in translation. It becomes very unreliable, like the telephone game. If the founder of the original method is unfortunate enough to have their name attached to it, they will most certainly get as much blame as praise. The success rate may become uncontrollable and a new method will eventually arise.

Photo credit: Daisy Bicking.

There have been plenty of good trimming methods developed by good practitioners, and the best ones are constantly evolving (methods and practitioners). What you don't hear so much about is hoof development. I believe this is because everyone is too busy arguing about trimming methods to realize the incredible regenerative qualities of the horse's hoof. Almost any hoof, whether the horse is young, old, or debilitated. The challenge is methodology. There is a certain relationship that the hoof structures have to be in for the hoof to reach growth equilibrium and for the structures to reach a state of continual development: a relationship that must be maintained constantly. This is one of the lessons of the Mustang Model. It's nothing new. Horses have been doing it for themselves for eons.

Many hoof care practitioners realize the advantage of self wear for establishing individual physiologically correct hoof conformation. For some, including myself, it is a source of great frustration. I'll admit that when I first heard claims of achieving barefoot soundness from acres and acres with 24/7 movement on varied terrain my reaction was "What about the rest of us who only have small acreage or just a rented stall?" After I brooded on this for a while, the thought crossed my mind, "Why not simulate the wear?" The only thing I had to change was the frequency of my trim. I had noticed on my own seven horses that within one week of beveling the wall in order to load the peripheral border of the sole, they had already grown enough wall to transfer the weight from the peripheral border of the sole back to the wall. 

All the photos of wild hooves and the self trimming domestic hooves that I had seen looked more like my horses directly after a trim, so I decided to increase the trim frequency to once a week. This isn't an original idea. There are plenty of horse owners that ride regularly, do their own trimming, and dress their horses feet up a little just before or after a ride to keep the chipping and cracking down or to keep their boots fitting optimally.

I just decided to do it on seven of my own horses for as long as I saw favorable results. That turned out to be about seven years. Most of my horses were rescues with hoof/body issues and less than favorable conformation. I found that when I kept their feet perfectly balanced, the structures began to develop and take on a shape of their own. This contributed to the overall unique shape of each foot and transferred into the improvement of the horse's conformation. They were all standing more square and this, in turn, transferred into their hooves, maintaining their balance. The longer I kept at it, the less I had to do at each trim interval and the better their feet and bodies looked. And the better they were moving. They all fit nicely into Easyboot Gloves, and though they could be ridden bare foot, they went even better when booted. It's been about ten years since I started my simulated self wear experiment. A few years ago, I completed my track system and imported tons of sand. The extra movement and forgiving footing has allowed me to reduce the trim frequency to 2-3 week intervals with out compromising hoof development. 

Caudal hoof development can be measured by assessing the ratio of vertical heel depth compared to vertical heel wall length. A well developed heel has more heel depth than heel wall length. Here are three examples of of heel development.

I've measured the vertical heel depth from the pink line at the hairline to the blue line at the termination of the collateral grooves and the heel wall length from the blue line to the green line at the ground bearing surface of the heel wall. 

David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

How to Achieve Hoof Growth Equilibrium

Horses' hooves are highly regenerative. They are designed to be a sustainable structure that not only lasts a lifetime but improves over time. When the horse's weight is continually and properly balanced over the horse's hooves and the surface area of every structure receives the correct amount of pressure, you will achieve growth equilibrium. When this is frequently maintained through miles of wear, and/or simulated wear from trimming, the hooves will continually develop over the lifetime of the horse. This means that horses have the ability to have the best feet of their life when they are older. When this is tapped into, the rest of the horse benefits also.  There will be less strain on the legs, hips, back, shoulders and neck. This will minimize injuries and allow the horse to become well conditioned with out having to compensate.

Draft cross on 80 acres, Bermuda grass diet, and a two-week trim cycle. Before and after trim.

The benefit to the horse and human is that the comfortable working career of horses can be extended well into their later years. Imagine a horse that's well conditioned when they are in their twenties. This isn't easy to do. In fact, it takes money, time, knowledge, and discipline. By now, most barefoot enthusiasts know well that it can be very difficult to trim your way into successful bare hooves. It's even more difficult to trim your way into well-developed bare feet. Most also know that this isn't likely to happen if the following criteria are not met:

  1. A proper diet of mostly grass hay.
  2. Adequate movement over varied terrain.
  3. Frequent, minimal, and proper trimming.
  4. Proper use of boots, pads, or composite shoes.
  5. Balanced riding.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but I believe that most horses have room for improvement. Hoof development goes far beyond typical maintenance trimming and requires either a lot of land for adequate movement (many daily miles for self balancing wear), or knowledge of equine physiology for trimming that closely mimics balanced self wear.

Recognizing Structural Development

  1. A dense digital cushion that you can feel when you palpate the tissue in-between the frog and the pocket in the back of the foot that's formed by the span of the heel bulbs.
  2. Full and rounded heel bulbs from healthy well stimulated lateral cartilages.
  3. A full frog that feels like tire rubber.
  4. Thick undeviated hoof walls and bars.
  5. Smooth concave soles.
  6. Well-connected lamina, especially in the heels and between the toe pillars.
  7. Well-defined edges between structures.
  8. An even layer of retained sole that's only present in the deepest part of the sole continuing around the tip of the frog (sometimes this will form a circular shape outlining P3 ).

What strategies do you employ to achieve hoof growth equilibrium?

David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Get the Drift

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

The photos below are the right front foot of a right fore-limb dominant Warmblood. She stands 17h and has size four feet. These photos span five months time. The previous trimmer was doing a good job keeping the heels level and the toe reasonably short but due to her body weight being imbalanced over her feet with the majority being over her right front, the hoof capsule drifted laterally until the outer structures started to break away from the corresponding inner structures.

She wasn't lame at the time that the first photo was taken, in fact, she was being ridden weekly by the trainer/trimmer and by the owner for weekend dressage lessons. I feel that this is important to note because many horses endure excessive damage to their feet and limbs because they don't show obvious signs of lameness and the owner/trimmer either doesn't recognize hoof distortion or isn't sure what to do about it.

The photos are two different views of the same foot. The time span between the images on the left and those on the right is several months.

This horse is not fully rehabbed at this point but she has continued to maintain progress in spite of many hoof care challenges. Here's a list of the pros and cons of her environment and lifestyle:

Pros:
1.  Lives in a 1/4 acre paddock with several other herd mates.
2.  Gets ridden regularly (and straight) by a professional trainer.
3.  Fed mainly Bermuda grass.
4.  Gets a properly balanced trim every 2-3 weeks.

Cons:
1.  The footing in her paddock is several inches of manure.
2.  She gets supplemented with alfalfa.

This mare had a chronic infection in the lateral bar that was being caused by the shearing forces from the outer structures tearing away from the corresponding inner structures. The footing in her paddock made this difficult to clear up.

This horizontal sequence of 3 photos shows her foot at different intervals of the rehabilitation process.

Left to right: 10/23/2013 - 11/9/2013 - 3/9/2014.

I've outlined the frog in pink and the outer edge of the collateral groove in green. The vertical blue line runs from the back of the central sulcus to the center of the toe. The horizontal blue line indicates the back of the heel bulbs. The red dots indicate:

From top to bottom:
- the center of the toe
- the tip of the frog
- the center of the back of the foot

The white outlined areas show where the foot is making ground contact. The top row are the same unmarked photos. When the coffin bone is correctly aligned with the hoof capsule the red dots should line up on the vertical blue line. The earlier this is detected, the easier it is to correct.

Conditioning from the Ground Up

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Every step a horse takes can either build them up or break them down. Every serious rider is aware of the benefits of conditioning their horses bodies through regular work and play. Fewer are aware of the benefits of conditioning their hooves. Every time a horse takes a step there is also the potential for development or breakdown.

Development happens when the peripheral edge of the sole at the toe is making contact with the ground and the heel purchases, seat of corn, and the back of the frog are properly shaped, in a tight relationship with each other and the ground.

The heels must be kept as parallel to the coffin bone as possible and the posterior and/or medial or lateral drift must be corrected as much as possible. The more the foot is centered under the limb with the weight over the heels the more the foot can develop with every step. I believe that when the feet are continually kept in this level of balance, they can develop over the horse's lifetime. Even horses with so called "bad" feet can be improved. This leads to a well conditioned horse on well conditioned feet. This is one of the lessons of the mustang model.

True hoof balance is not commonly understood so it is very common to see a muscled up horse that needs a lot of body work because they're being trained while compensating on crooked feet. This leads to their eventual breakdown and the horse spending his/her golden years in chronic pain, when they could be spending them in the best feet of their life. This is an obtainable goal. It is possible for an old horse to have good feet when trimming is addressed properly and maintained frequently. Besides a proper trim, here are some other considerations for developing and conditioning hooves:

  1. Movement - the best trimming in the world won't condition the feet if the horse spends most of its time in a stall. Look into the benefits of Paddock Paradise style boarding.
  2. Footing - provide plenty of areas where the horse can sink his/her feet into a 3-4" deep small stone particulate footing like sand, chat, or pea gravel. This will increase stimulation and lead to an increase in blood flow which is beneficial to healthy growth. Creating some uneven surfaces with larger rounded rocks in a cobblestone effect is good for advanced conditioning.
  3. Diet - what's good for the ribs isn't necessarily good for the feet. Eliminate, or at least minimize sugars and starches or hot feeds. These types of feeds can produce poor quality hooves. Development relies on healthy growth.
  4. Booting - boots and/or rubber shoes are not just for protection. They can be used for advanced conditioning. I think of a booted foot as a "super foot." The horse's leg bones get smaller as they get closer to the ground, yet the forces from movement and impact increase. These same forces that are detrimental to a weakened foot can be advantageous to a foot with well developed caudal structures. There is a lot of energy generated from the concussive forces to a foot during locomotion as well as from constant pressure and release from weight shifting when the horse is standing. This can be used for or against the horse depending on whether the foot is properly shaped or not.

Horse care can be a rewarding experience full of valuable lessons. Due to the unique physiology of horses this care should start from the ground up - feet first. The photos show a before and after set-up trim where the heels and frog have been lowered, leveled, and properly shaped to control hoof capsule migration that leads to hoof distortion and structural damage. Shaping should emulate natural wear patterns to optimize healthy growth, function, and development. A horse standing and moving on feet that are perfectly balanced under him side to side and front to back will build beautiful feet that last a lifetime. Boots make this even more possible.

Do You Need Boots When You Ride?

Submitted by Asa Stephens, Hoof Care Practitioner

Here are a few hints that will tell you that you do.

In desert environments and in places where horses are stalled in small enclosures, you rarely get a horse that can handle sharp gravel on a trail ride.

A healthy hoof is short and has most of the bulk in the back part of the foot. It has a flat, dry, large frog. This frog rarely sheds and has no bacteria pockets.

A frog that gets paired away or is shedding at every trim or almost every trim, or has bacteria pockets in it, is not healthy and you should ride in boots.

A healthy sole will callous nicely. Dead shedding sole material does not accumulate in a healthy hoof. If this happens between each trim, the foot is not healthy. Ride in boots.

The bars are hoof wall that turns in alongside the frog and collateral grooves. They help stabilize the back of the foot. They are short and grow only halfway down the frog. If they grow out over the entire bottom of the foot between each trim, then the foot is not healthy. Ride in boots.

When you pick the foot up and look out over the heels and the hairline, you want to see thick hoof wall forming the heels and bars. They do not taper out and get thinner. The hairline should be pretty straight over the heels. If the hairline and heel bulbs form a W, the hoof is not healthy. Ride in boots.

A healthy foot will have air-tight seams between hoof wall and sole. An unhealthy hoof does not. It has separation where little gravel and dirt gets in. Because of the dry environment, the dead sole will often dry up and curl inward, making the separation worse. In the desert area, the sole has the same color as the sand and dirt so most people do not know this separation exists. The dirt is so packed in between hoof wall and sole, so you can’t see it. You will have to take a very sharp hoof pick and dig in the white line area to find it. If your horse has this separation, ride in boots. If your horse is not tender on gravel just before he is due for a trim but always after, then ride in boots.

A healthy foot should not feel a maintenance trim. When using boots while riding you ensure a healthy heel first landing which will help the horse grow the healthiest foot he can get in his situation. Adding a pad to the boot is even better as it stimulates the frog each step. 

Does your horse land heel first or at least flat at a walk? This can be hard to see and if it is difficult, look for a forward motion with no hesitation, with very little dust in front of the hoof when landing. Check that the fetlock is at its lowest before landing (not coming down after hoof is on the ground). If he doesn’t land flat or heel first, ride in boots.

A little misleading. The picture on the left is a toe first landing at a walk. The picture on the right is a heel first at a trot. 

A farrier does not trim or sculpt a healthy foot. The correct diet, exercise and the right environment build healthy hooves, and a good farrier maintains them. There are many variations of unhealthy feet.

Some are unfortunately permanent, if internal structures are too damaged. Some can rehab quite nicely. Some are inherently stronger (some breed of horses have an advantage because of thick hoof wall and massive frogs). They can sometimes go completely barefooted even with lack of sound “housekeeping”.

Remember, it is the internal structures that need strengthening, not so much the outer shell. By making your horse run around landing toe first battling the gravel in order to “toughen up his feet”, you most likely will never get the healthy feet you and your horse were hoping for. You are only hurting your horse. 

There are many boots on the market, and if you have patience you will find the right one. Try to be there when the farrier comes to trim if and when you need boot help. The farrier would love to help you find the right boots. If you are in any of the situations mentioned above and don’t want to use the boots, you can either try glue on shoes or shells, or go back to traditional shoeing.

So if you can’t fulfill all the necessary requirements for healthy feet (most boarding facilities in Nevada have few options for 24/7 turnout), the boots are an excellent way of protecting your horse’s hooves while riding. The boots will not cause damage. They let the hooves work the way nature intended. They can be taken off after the ride when the horse goes back to his stall.

If you think boots on a horse is a sign of failure, then I have truly failed you as a hoof care provider. Try to see boots as today's hoof protection in a sometimes imperfect situation: a way to have the cake and eat it too. Your horse’s hooves will continue improving while you ride and have fun.

Marie's Opinion

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Transitioning horses from shoes or neglected bare feet into properly shaped, fully functional, and comfortable bare feet can be challenging. If you don't care for a good challenge, you're not likely to be successful...save for luck. You will really have to pay attention, listening to your horse, and being mindful. I tend to have an all or nothing mind set, so when I became convinced that shoes were a bad idea for our navicular horse, Santo, I pulled them off, and I also took them off of Cloud 9 and Marie (our 2 mares). The other gelding (Dante) was already barefoot. He was only two and not being ridden yet. Prevention made so much sense to me that I decided to go all out.

Cloud 9 had no trouble with the change, except for the rainy season in the 1st year. Marie had her own opinions about things. I bought her a pair of Easyboot Epics with 1/2" comfort pads. The first time we went out on the trail to try out her boots we made it about 200 yards and she came to a stop. I urged her on but she gave me her "pay close attention to what I'm about to tell you" look. She's an Arab...I dismounted, took her boots off, and checked for rubbing or pebbles. I didn't find anything. I left the boots off, mounted and off she went, with a little encouragement, for about 50 feet. She came to a stop and refused to move forward again. I looked at her eye again and said, out loud, "you don't like that either, do you"? I took her home and we got our exercise in the soft sand of the round pen. We did that for the next month, until she was comfortable on the hard dirt road. At our place, in order to get to the soft, sandy trails along the wash, we first have to travel down a hard packed dirt road with one inch gravel sparsely strewn and accumulated mostly at the edges and down the middle ( it's distributed this way from cars using the road ). I always try to stay between the gravelly parts. After a half mile of this there's a patch of the road that gets really rocky with golf ball to basketball sized rocks halfway submerged and very little earth in between. After that it's smooth sailing down the almost rock free trail. After Marie was comfortable enough to go out on the road again, without boots (I think it was the rubbing that bothered her) we routinely rode out and I got off and hand walked her through the really rocky part.  I remounted when we ran out of rocks and did the same on the way home.  I did this for over a year. I never minded it and I knew she appreciated it by the look in those extremely expressive eyes of hers. One day on our way back I dismounted at the rocky spot, as usual, and began to walk off leading her. She took a few steps and stopped. I urged her on and she wouldn't budge. I checked her feet for rocks and they all came up empty. I urged her again and she remained frozen in her tracks. I asked her what the problem was and she just stood there with a patient look on her face. I mounted up and asked her to move off and she walked right off.  I went a few feet and dismounted so she didn't have to carry me through the rocks.  Again she wouldn't budge. I looked at her and asked again what it was that she was trying to say. All of a sudden it dawned on me. She didn't need me to get off anymore. I mounted and we crossed the rocks and we've crossed them for several years now. She never complained again...about that.

Over the years, I always got the feeling that Marie wasn't all that wild about trail rides. She always went out the gate willingly, but she took every opportunity to tell me she would rather be home with the other horses. The further away we got, the more she let me know. She prefers the arena, especially if people are taking pictures of her. She will also pose for the occasional tourist hiker. On the way home, she usually tells me which routes are shorter.  We have had many arguments about this. When ever she loses she "mad walks" home. I don't care, as long as it's a walk.  That's the compromise.  She usually forgets by the time we get home anyway. When the Easyboot Gloves came out a few years ago I liked the design and wanted to try them out.  I put them on Marie and we headed down the trail. She was in a particularly forward mood this time so we went for a longer ride. I realized something else was different. She was more adventurous than usual. This time I was the one that said, "OK, far enough." On the way home, she argued at the forks in the trail, because she wanted to stay out on the trail. She had so much extra energy. By this time it was clear to me that she loved her new boots.

Marie is 15 here.

In the beginning, when she first came out of shoes, her feet weren't the proper shape yet. There's a big difference between a farrier trim and a physiologically correct barefoot trim. As I learned the difference, her feet became more properly shaped and fit more comfortably in the boots. I've become accustomed to riding Marie, as well as our other horses, in Gloves, Glue-ons, and EasyShoes regardless of how good I think their feet are. I keep their feet trimmed frequently and balanced properly. Even if they are sound with out boots, I prefer riding and not wondering about their comfort and knowing that every step is building a better foot and protecting their feet as well as their joints from future problems.
 

A Little POP Quiz

Submitted by Karen Bumgarner   

There are some basic hoof care principles that I often take for granted that people know. Yet I get surprised and find out that people really don’t know. So here is a little quiz just for fun and savage amusement as you test your basic knowledge.

 Q: What is the varnish-like layer of the hoof called?

 A: Periople, an often shiny protective covering for the area of newly formed hoof wall just below the coronary band.

This photo shows the periople outer layer of the hoof wall

Q: How much does a healthy hoof grow per month?

A: 1/4 to 1/2 inch, this can be influenced by many things with the most common factors being that of age, exercise, seasons and quality of feed.

I trimmed off a ¼ inch of hoof and it had been 4 weeks since the last trim.

Q: Approximately how often should a horse's foot be trimmed?

A: 4-8 weeks depending upon growth, although I think us endurance riders, especially those who use Gloves and or Glue On’s tend to trim at least every 4 weeks. I have a few customers who go 8 weeks and sometimes the hoof is really too long. I suggest to most owners to do a light maintenance rasping after 4 weeks if they prefer to have me out every 8 weeks.

 

Q: Why should you pick out your horse’s hoof regularly?

A: Check for injuries or bruises, check for loose shoes (if you shoe), check for rocks, check for thrush. This task takes less than 5 minutes a day. In fact it takes me longer to find the hoof pick and halter the horse than it does to pick out their hooves. Yet I know riders and horse owners who do not pick out hooves on a regular basis. How do I know? Because their horses are not well behaved when it comes to hoof handling. Yeah – a tattle tale!

Picking the hoof out should be a part of daily hoof care. This hoof is 4 weeks since the last trim.

Q: How do you pick up a front foot safely?

A: Stand beside shoulder, facing rear. Run your hand down the back of the leg to just above fetlock, many people grasp fetlock area and pick up the foot (you can lightly pinch tendon or push shoulder away to help). I find a lot of horses do not like it when you grasp the leg and they want to pull away. You can pinch or turn that horse chestnut slightly and as they pick up their leg just cradle the hoof in your hand. Few horses feel threatened by this manner.

This is your horse’s “chestnut”, give it a mild squeeze and he will quickly pick up his foot.

Q: How do you pick up a hind foot safely?

A: Stand to the side facing tail. Stand well out of kicking range. Lean forward and put hand on hindquarters and run down the leg to the fetlock. Ask horse to pick up foot (can pinch tendon/fetlock to help). Some horses are quite compliant and just a tap on the hock and they lift up the hoof. Again I prefer to cradle it in my hand, I find some horses feel threatened if you grasp the fetlock or pastern. 

Hold the hoof lightly with your hand rather than grasping the fetlock or pastern joint. Horses will just let their hoof cradle in your hand.

Q: Name an important point in the care of a horse's foot.

A: Keep it clean and not standing in manure and filth, prevent it from drying out, trim properly and regularly, trim to keep proper shape/length.

 

Q: Why might a horse’s hoof need protection?

A: To protect the hoof from excessive wear, protect from concussion and/or bruising, provide traction, help correct defects in stance or gait, help cure disease or defective hoof, ease pain of injured hoof. There are many choices available within Easy Care products to help with all of these.

 

Q: If the hoof is not trimmed & grows too long, what may happen?

A: Hoof wall cracks, quarter cracks, the hoof chips or breaks off, it may wear or grow unevenly causing stress to the joints and that’s just for starters.

 

Q: What do you know about a horse’s toe?

A: It is often the greatest point of wear, it usually has the thickest wall and on many horses it is the fastest growing part of the hoof.

 

Q: Two part question: When holding a horse for the trimmer, on which side should you stand & why?

A: Same side as your trimmer -- if horse acts up, you can pull his head toward you & horse's body will move away from your trimmer.

 

Q: What is the most elastic part of the hoof?

A: Frog, it should never be over trimmed as this can lead to bruising.

 

Q: What is the least elastic part of the hoof?

A: Wall, its toughness creates the horse’s base of strength.

 

I hope that you got them all correct. If not, go out and clean some hooves and marvel at the amazing structure of your horse’s hoof!

 

Easyboots for the Treatment of Sub-Solar Abscesses

Submitted by Tim Carnes

I want to make clear that my views and treatments here are my own and may not agree with that of many veterinarians and or other hoof care practitioners. I have, however, had good results and feel compelled to share the following story. 

A long time client asked me to take a Quarter Horse mare named Sugar in for boarding and daily hoof care. She had been working in Alaska and the mare, back here in southeast Texas had not received proper care after being treated by a local vet for an abscess. In fact, the mare had been left in a soaker boot for eight consecutive days. Once I removed the boot, what most likely began as a small hole in the bottom of the hoof at the white line near the toe, had grown to an out of control infection over what turned out to be a very large part of the white line and a large portion of the sole.

When I got Sugar home I decided to resect all the infected tissue on the bottom of the hoof, realizing as I went that she would need constant protection from the environment and terrain. By the way, this is where most would say, don’t clean out all that sole as it leaves the hoof vulnerable to injury. I agree, and if you’re not willing to boot the horse in the manner described here, stick with daily soaking or medicating and wrapping the hoof. I just think it is more logical to remove all infected hoof when possible to improve the likelihood of timely success.

Sugar’s hoof, after the resection, treated with Durasole.

The infection had spread even farther than I had suspected, so she had to be kept booted until enough new sole had grown out to give her adequate comfort and protection.

I treated the resection with Durasole the first two days along with a product called No Thrush.  After a couple of days I continued with the No Thrush. This product is a powder with the consistency of flour, used for the natural treatment of thrush, usually in the frog. Once the resection is done, I want to make sure the hoof is clean and dry. I scrubbed the bottom of the hoof with anti-bacterial soap and water, then rinsed and dried. I prefer to dry with compressed air and a few more minutes on clean dry concrete. You could also use paper towels and a hairdryer.

Then, on this particular horse I opted for the Easyboot Glove, making sure to get a nice tight fit to keep debris out. I also added a 6mm comfort pad to keep the powder close to the sole and add additional comfort and support. I put a generous amount of powder inside the boot and on the sole of the hoof. I put the boot on and turned her out. At this point, all noticeable lameness was gone and the horse felt good. This is important for more than the obvious: it gets the horse moving, including riding in many cases, thus increasing blood flow through the hoof which speeds up the healing process.

I take the boot off every day and disinfect the hoof and the boot.  When everything is dry, I re-treat and reapply the boot. Before I discovered No Thrush, this was an everyday thing. Once I started to use the No Thrush, I found that as long as the horse was kept in a fairly dry pasture and it had not been raining, I could leave the boot on for as long as 48 hours and in some cases longer. The powder has two advantages: anti-thrush and moisture control. I touched up the trim every two weeks and after about four weeks, she no longer needed the boot.

 After 6 weeks, the hoof was practically back to normal and by 12 weeks there were no signs the infection ever existed.

At times I would take the boot off and find tiny amounts of thrush near the edge of the resection which I would remove and treat one day with Durasole and then continue with the powder.

Here are a few pointers if you want to try this. First, use two boots - that way you can alternate boots always having a clean boot ready when it’s time to remove and replace the boot. Be sure to clean the pad as well and dry each separately so you don’t trap any moisture under the pad. If the hoof is basically clean and dry, just clean with a wire brush, add more powder and put the other boot on and disinfect the one you just took off. This also comes in handy if you want to ride the horse during the treatment, because you have two front boots. I was lucky with Sugar: she didn’t mind the boot and never messed with it. Some horses may be less accommodating, so you may need to use some duct tape to protect the Velcro. Other boots like the Easyboot Rx and the Easyboot Transition work for this also.  I use a Dremel tool to do the last little bit of resections. It’s important to get all the infection out but not take more hoof than necessary.

I think that No Thrush and EasyCare make a great team, even for everyday booting. One final point, I have no relationship with the makers of any product named here, other than that of being a satisfied customer and an EasyCare dealer.

Horses Don't Have To Wait Anymore

Submitted by David Landreville, Hoof Care Practitioner

There's a Quote in the book No Foot, No Horse, by Martin Deacon FWCF and Gail Williams BA PhD.

"... and still the horse is putting up with the same old type of shoe that he has been putting up with for hundreds of years, perhaps it is time we start thinking about 'Nike Airs' for horses.

The horses don't have to wait anymore. 

This was probably the first book I read that got me thinking about the long term physiological effects that trimming and shoeing has on horses. At the time I was just learning to shoe horses, using steel, and had little knowledge of hoof form, function, or anatomy. Until then I had simply been repeating what my farrier had generously taught me without questioning it much. Two years later our 7 year old Quarter Horse, Santo, was diagnosed with late stages of navicular disease. He had severely broken back pastern axis' in both fronts but It was worse in his right one. 

He had extremely long toes, flat thin soles, contracted heels that were also under-run, and thin elongated frogs, and according to the vet our hoof care options were limited and he recommended corrective shoeing. We used the vet recommended farrier and after three cycles of this really expensive shoeing I was informed by another farrier that the method we were using would lead to a dead end. I had been so relieved that Santo was walking again that I had paid little thought to the long term. The uneasy feeling was back so I called the vet and asked him what I should have asked him in the beginning, "How long will these shoes work for my horse?" He replied "You'll probably get another two years out of him." That was the end of my relationship with that vet as well as my shoeing career. I realized that if this was where it was headed I wanted nothing to do with it. The next challenge that I faced was figuring out what to do next.

We called an alternative vet and she recommended pulling his shoes, changing his diet and buying a Pete Ramey book. I asked a lot of questions. I wasn't afraid to be annoying anymore. I took this vets advice and I found a different concept in hoof management: 180 degrees different. I read every book or article I could find. 

Santo was the reason I learned bare foot trimming, and his feet got better as my trimming got better. For the next ten years, Santo was the teacher. I developed my trimming techniques based on what I was learning that kept him sound. Prevention is much easier than rehabilitation. I was so proud of Santo and myself, for what we had accomplished, and at the same time I realized that while he would probably last at least into his twenties. I worried a little about what that might look like for him.

When he turned 16 he had a rough year. His hooves began to slowly distort back into their old shape. It seemed that everything I had learned to keep his hooves functional and formed properly was no longer working the same. To make matters worse, one of the mares in our track system kicked him in his good shoulder. This caused him to overload the weaker leg. Shortly after that, he developed an abscess in the foot that he was trying to keep weight off of. After the abscess ran its course I did everything I could to help him build his feet back. I saw minimal improvement. 

One day I was on the EasyCare Blog and I saw the new design for the EasyShoe. For days I couldn't stop turning it over and around in my head. I called EasyCare to order a pair but they informed me that they weren't even on the market yet. I bought a pair of Easyboot Glue-Ons and modified them to replicate this new shoe as best I could. I kept making them myself until they finally became available. I pulled them every 2-3 weeks so I could trim the excess growth and keep him balanced. I gave him up to a week off between shoeings. I figured that I'd keep applying them as long as I was seeing improvements in hoof form and development. I knew better than to judge on performance alone. 

Stoicism and willingness are a killing combination for horses. Within months, Santo became a new horse and his feet were looking better all the time. At 17, he was feeling better and more powerful than I'd ever seen him. I believe that it's possible that there is no limit to the hoof's ability to develop. We just need to better understand how the hoof/horse works and give them what they need to thrive.

I'm finding that EasyShoes are just as useful for rehabilitation as they are for performance.