Thinking Glue - Outside the Box of Equine Podiatry

Submitted by Chris Niclas CJF, CLS and owner of Chris’ Farrier Service Inc.

There have been many changes in the hoof-care industry over the last 25 years. One of the changes I have come to appreciate is the use of adhesives and glue-on shoes. From being intimidated by the failures of using glue in the beginning, to becoming comfortable using it in my daily practice, it has been a journey. As a teenager I became interested in hoof-care out of necessity. Almost 25 years later, I still have a passion for the horse and am driven to continue learning new skills as a farrier. 

I met Mark Plumlee, owner and instructor of Mission Farrier School, at an International hoof-care clinic he hosted in the late 1990’s. Mark is a Certified Journeyman Farrier, a Registered Journeyman Farrier, and a Certified Lameness Specialist. Knowing that Mark has been on the leading edge of farrier science, when it comes to farrier education, I approached him last fall and asked if I could attend Mission Farrier School. After 20 years as a professional farrier, I was excited to learn how much information is available in both the art and science of hoof-care. 

During my time at MFS, Mark asked me if I would be willing to partner with his school to go deeper into the emerging market of gluing on shoes in a way that was meaningful for the horse. Since I am currently working on my own certifications for becoming an Instructor and Examiner for the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (ELPO), I realized this would be a good opportunity for me to thoroughly investigate the Glue-On protocol, as part of my “homework” for the ELPO certification. 

In teaching a glue clinic, I knew I needed to investigate and confirm what the general Glue-On protocol was currently. So last November, after attending a level 5 clinic with the ELPO in Loveland, CO, I drove down to Durango, CO and had the privilege of spending a day with Garrett Ford, CEO of EasyCare Inc. We spent most of the day gluing on shoes, as well as sharing our ideas, inventions, and prototypes. Becoming familiar with using glue and synthetic shoes has given me multiple options to protect and support the equine foot in both performance and therapeutic applications.

I knew I did not want to work with cadaver feet when teaching the glue clinic at Mission Farrier School. I also wanted an easy and simple way students could learn to work with the glue without the added stress of being under a horse. This led me to create a wooden foot that attached to a hoof stand and simulated the working positions needed to both glue on a shoe and remove it, since both are important when working with a glue-on equine clientele.

Garrett Ford and EasyCare Inc. were very generous in donating shoes and glue for the clinic. Additionally, Larkin Greene the Western Regional Sales Manager for Vettec, also donated glue and came up from California to attend the clinic. Larkin was instrumental in sharing his knowledge of chemistry and the structures of how the different adhesives work. His 35 years of experience gave us all many valuable tips in using glue successfully.

The Glue clinic was attended by farriers and students from across the United States. The state that were represented included Alaska, Washington, California, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Massachusetts and even the Netherlands. Everyone at the clinic had an opportunity to glue on 3 different shoes the EasyShoe Performance N/G, EasyBoot Glue-On and the EasyShoe Sport.

After each gluing exercise we would gather as a group and the class would share what they learned. This created a positive learning environment and allowed everyone to learn from others mistakes and successes. For most of the people attending the clinic, this was their first experience using glue. The learning curve often leaves a person discouraged or overwhelmed, which can lead to not using adhesives as a tool in their trade. My goal was to teach the steps of how to clean and dry the foot, so it is prepared for the process of gluing on a shoe and is the key to a successful gluing job. Providing a hands-on experience, students were able to learn firsthand what it looked like if they applied too much or too little glue. Being able to practice both gluing on a shoe and taking it off multiple times, created an environment where each participant could gain confidence in the process.

It is important to remember that each horse is an individual and each foot may have its own special needs. Throughout the two days there were brain puzzles on a dry erase board that challenged all attending to think outside the box. This became an exercise to stretch our minds in creativity and problem solving. For the third project everyone was able to create a problem and a solution for their wooden horse's foot. I really enjoyed watching how creative each team was at putting into practice “thinking outside the box”. Some teams made hoof wall extensions, others created a shoe with a hospital plate that could be glued on and others created ways of doing a hoof wall repair. At the end of the day I did a live demonstration putting all the pieces into practice on a special needs horse.

If you are curious and find yourself inspired to explore the world of adhesives and all the possibilities with gluing on a shoe, checkout the webinars that EasyCare has put together. They are well worth taking the time to watch and study.

Mission Farrier School has been teaching leading edge farrier science for 25 years, and offers a quality Farrier education. Most of their students come with little to no horseshoeing experience, but occasionally you’ll find a few seasoned professionals like myself learning the new science and advancing our own skills, right along-side the newbies.

The Equine Lameness Prevention Organization offers clinics and classes throughout the year teaching Hoof Mapping, proper Barefoot Trimming and advanced classes for becoming a Certified Lameness Specialist or Certified Farrier Glue Practitioner.

Vettec has countless clinics throughout the year and many helpful webinars and videos available on the internet. Take the time to check them out.

If anyone wants to practice on their own with a wooden horse hoof adapted to fit a hoof jack, mine will be available for sale by special order. I have found the horse is the best teacher of all. At the end of each day, it is the opinion of the horse that guides us to becoming the best hoof care providers we can be.

A big thank you to Mark & Karen Plumlee, Steve Foxworth, Garrett Ford, Larkin Greene, James Klund and my wife Kristi in helping and equipping me to help others.

 

Setting Your Therapy Boots Up for Extended Wear

Submitted by Jean Welch, Hoof Care Practitioner

As a Hoofcare Practitioner, I take great pride in knowing that I help provide comfort to horses on a daily basis. Most of us HCP's have horses of our own, and we have first- hand experience when it comes to successful booting techniques.
This has been a banner year for laminitic symptoms, and I’d like to share a few tips that will help extend the wear time for therapeutic boots such as the Easyboot Cloud and the Easyboot RX.

Maintaining comfortable booted hooves for extended wear (two to four days max. in dry conditions) is easier if you invest in a second set of boots so they can be rotated. They don’t have to be the same kind, as long as they fit well and offer comfort and support, and are appropriate for the task. This, along with diligent cleaning habits of both horse and equipment is a recipe for success. While one set of boots is being worn, the other set is cleaned and staged, ready for the next booting. To clean the boots simply drop them in a bucket of water with a few drops of mild detergent. Let them soak a while, then use a soft brush to scrub them out. Rinse and squeeze out as much water as possible, then hang to dry (not in direct sunlight).

Keeping the hooves dry and clean for extended boot wear is easier if you use liberal amounts of a medicated powder such as Gold Bond or a generic equivalent.  I also like to line the boot with an absorbent adult pad such as the Walgreens brand “Certainty”.

These pads are long, thick and absorbent. They are great for drawing out and locking away excess moisture from the frog area. I use them whole so that it cradles the pastern and heel bulbs.

Before.

After three days.

Depending on the boot style I’m using, sometimes I cut them into thirds, so I can get three hoof boot liners out of one pad.

The pad does not have to cover the entire sole to be effective. As long as it is centered under the frog,  it will work well. ‚Äč

The adhesive strip on the back secures the pad very nicely to the inside bottom of the boot. Remove only 1/3 of the adhesive backing so it only sticks to the comfort pad.

I stick the absorbent pad only to the comfort pad so that the rest of it cradle the heel bulbs, allowing it to move with the pastern, and provides extra cushioning and protection. Again here, I use powder to reduce friction and to keep things clean and dry. Be sure to clean the hoof,  hairline and pastern thoroughly with a soft brush before each booting.

No rubs aftwer 4 days.

No rubs even after 3 days.

There are lots different booting techniques out there. I hope this method offers some relief for your unique situation. 

Freedom Movement

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Someone recently asked me how to convince their clients to schedule their horse(s) on a shorter trim cycle. One of my clients had this horse's leg bone and I haven't been able to get the shape and function of the fetlock joint out of my head. Talk about no margin of error. There is no room for error. Trimming  is meant to be done daily in nature. Horse's feet grow 1/16th of an inch every four to five days (3/8" - 1/2" per month). If they are naturally a little crooked due to conformation flaws (which every horse has to some degree)  then the longer their walls get, and the more crooked the foot gets. Their feet are their foundation. If they are crooked the horse must compensate in their body. This is typically where leg, shoulder, neck, back, hip, hock, stifle, knee and jaw pain comes from. The horse is a living kinetic structure. Any imbalance in any joint affects every other joint. 
 
I think the biggest thing that is overlooked in horse's hooves is how much the horse is affected by minute imbalances in the hoof. Here is an example: take a four foot builders level. Fix it vertically to the jamb of a door. Check it for plumb. The bubble should be centered between the lines at the center of the level. Slide a penny between the bottom of the level and the floor, on the jamb side of the level. You should notice the top of the level come away from the jamb about an inch and half. 

A penny is about 1/16 of an inch thick. That's how much the hoof walls grow in about five days. If the leg of a horse isn't plumb then one side of the hoof gets longer than the other from lack of wear. The weight of the horse gets distributed more to the short side of the hoof. The longer this condition persists the more the short side of the hoof gets excessive wear and crushed, the more crushing, the less circulation, the less circulation the less growth, etc. Horses can compensate for years, silently, until their lameness becomes obvious. Most often this appears as a "mystery" lameness or gets diagnosed as a neurological issue, or even disease. The cure is the same as the prevention; keep the heels level, don't just eye ball it. Use a gauge. Remember that a 1/16 inch off at the ground equals an inch and a half at the shoulder. This is pretty significant to the horse when they are trying to keep 300 lbs (per leg) balanced four feet above a four inch diameter circle. Problems are compounded with the addition of a rider.

The cadaver leg in the photo below is crooked and shows uneven wear.  The live foot is properly balanced. 

Horses feet can't be left to go to hell for several weeks and then brought back for a few days. They're designed to be perfectly balanced, always.
People still don't want to admit that this is supposed to be done daily by nature. Domesticated horses rely on humans for this and the real problem is that too many people set trim schedules according to their pocket book instead of the rate of growth, or empathy for the horse. 

Positive Changes

Submitted by Sossity Gargiulo, Wild Hearts Hoof Care

I was recently asked by EasyCare to write up a few words about our trimming theory and approach. This always ends up being quite difficult to be succinct with, as there are so many ways depending on the horse. But, at our foundation we believe that the hoof is a highly adaptable “smart structure” as said by Dr. Taylor of Auburn University. The hoof is capable of positive change given the opportunity with supportive trims, diet and lifestyle. We have seen it over and over and over again in our hoof care practice.

This left front hoof made the visual changes above, as well as an internal coffin bone angle change from negative to positive angles (-2.45 degrees to positive 3.25 degrees) in 6 months

We have found that if you help the hoof a little bit with your trim, by setting it up to grow better between cycles, making sure the horse is comfortable to move properly with minimal or no compensative movement, and then get out of their way, they can develop a pretty awesome hoof. It may not be the picture in some people’s mind of The Perfect Hoof, but it can be a pretty awesome, functional, sound and improving hoof for that horse.

This right hind hoof made a positive change (literally) to the angle of his coffin bone, which we can see by observing the angle of the hoof wall and the hairline. In the October image, the hairline is much steeper, the heel is lower and forward and the dorsal wall is bulging in a bull nosed shape. By January, his hairline is more shallow and relaxed down, the heel is in a more supportive position under the bulbs and his dorsal wall is straight. (Please note that this was not straightened with the hoof buffer, which we used to only very lightly scuff the walls.) 

 The yellow and green line overlays were copied and pasted unchanged from each of the images to show the shape changes that took place over 11 weeks.

The owner may have to make some changes for the horse’s sake, and in fact, it is pretty much guaranteed.Often this involves things like changing the footing in the horse’s pen to be cleaner or more dry, perhaps treating for thrush, changing from sweet feeds to a lower carb vitamin/mineral supplement and almost always learning how and when to use hoof boots

It also often involves educating owners as to what a healthy hoof looks like. When an owner learns to recognize signs of hoof distortion they can, for the rest of their horse owning life, step in and know when to make necessary changes before things get too out of whack.    

You could say that the frog’s change in width, in this right hind hoof, over 11 weeks was simply due to a style change of trimming less from the sides, but how to explain the change in the heel bulb shape? This cannot be cut to shape, the horse makes this change.  

We tell our clients that it takes around eight months to one year to grow a whole new hoof. Some horses need to grow two or more hoof cycles to really develop into more like what we like to see, but I think it is important to be aware that the horse, and his feet, are always in motion. They are always growing, and they can be growing for the better every moment. Sometimes we are gifted with quick visual changes, the heels open up, or maybe the wall quality improves right away.  But even if we don’t see huge changes externally, we can know that the horse is moving better, perhaps a longer stride, more confident loading their heels. This tells us that internally, things are improving, realigning, developing and strengthening.

Finally, we feel strongly that you need to look holistically at the situation. The horse’s feet may be better aligned with some modifications to their trim, and that is wonderful, but that’s not all. That change then impacts the way he stands and moves, which impacts the angles of his joints and the way he uses his soft tissues.  It is a whole horse change.

Left front, 11 weeks between images.

What does your horse have going on that could be improved upon?  Could he benefit from a change?  How much more could you see from your beloved partner in terms of comfort and performance? 

Sossity and Mario of Wild Hearts Hoof Care.

 

Clouds in the Rain: The Water Wicking Properties of a Thick, Concave Sole

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

When I was a landscape designer/contractor I loved the rain. I prayed that it would come and water my newly created landscapes because the water from the hose never had the same effect as a good rain. The plants would grow a few more inches, foliage filled in and greened up, and the dust was washed off of the boulders and stones in a way that softened the look of the landscape and heightened the subtle colors of the desert. The rain would freshen everything it touched. My love for rain quickly went away when I started trying to rehab horses feet. 

In the beginning, just when I felt like I was making progress with a horse, the rains would come and I'd have horse owner's calling me worried about their horse being sore. I'd do my best to convince the owner that their horse was just temporarily rain sore and to help them keep their horses as comfortable as possible until it dried out, often driving out to see if there was something else I could do. Many times the drive wasn't wasted and all I needed to do was clean the hard packed mud clod off of their soles. This usually provided immediate relief, however mud would accumulate again and the owner would have to keep their feet clean. Over the years I tried everything to prevent rain soreness:

  • Leaving the walls a little longer
  • Boots and pads
  • Creating positive drainage
  • Adding pea gravel

I did everything I could think of, including warning the owner up front that they would likely experience soreness during the rains for the first year or two.

After about 10 years of dreading the rains, and just when I was starting to get used to warning the owners before we started the rehabilitation process, I started having much better results. At first I attributed that to being prepared with boots and managing the environment, but some horses were still having trouble even when their owners were being proactive. After a long time of trying to figure out how to predict and prevent this problem I realized that some of the horses were getting along fine with big old mud clods on their soles while others were lame and the horses that were getting along fine had better feet at the end of the rainy season while the lame horses feet looked worse. I really wanted to understand what the difference was.

Over time I became aware of a pattern. After things dried out, the improved feet had a tremendous amount of crumbly sole that easily exfoliated, revealing even more concavity than they went into the wet season with, while the the horses that went in with flatter feet had even flatter feet by the end of the season. This realization caused me to try to help horses build as much sole as possible during the dry seasons. Convincing the owners to do their part was a challenge but I had a much better success rate with the ones that cooperated. 

First I had to get the owners to see and understand when the feet were improving and when they were declining instead of just riding their horse until they broke down, and then freaking out. Next I had to get them involved in the process so they felt more like it was a collaboration. After they knew what progress looked like and they realized that the changes were happening after they improved the footing and/or started using boots and pads they began to take even more ownership of the rehab process. Once it started feeling like team work, their horse's feet started getting even better.

I know 2016 was a bad year for a lot of folks but I had some of the toughest founder cases with the quickest and best turnarounds that I've ever seen. One of the biggest reasons for this was the arrival of the EasyCare Cloud boot. I used this boot extensively to get foundered and rain sore horses through the wet weather. I went through more than one pair in a few months time with several horses. In many of the extreme cases the boots were left on until the sun was shining. Sometimes they only had them off for an hour or two for the feet and the boots to dry out. I was able to trim frequently enough to keep the dead tissue to a minimum. This kept the feet from getting infected and allowed extra comfort after a trim. I taught the owners to use the boots as much as needed, but as little as possible, and to gently graduate their horses out of them until their horses were moving around comfortably totally bare. 

Over the last few years I've learned to love the rain again. I've also learned some interesting things about horse's feet. In wet weather the mud that collects in a concave sole works somewhat like a sponge. When a healthy concave hoof with thick live sole gets packed with mud, the weight of the horse squeezes the moisture out of the mud and keeps the sole dry. An old fashioned orange juice squeezer might be a better analogy. The mud ball elevates the foot off of the  ground just enough to let the weight of the horse squeeze the water out. They can go for weeks and maybe months like this if they have adequate concavity in the beginning. Once a horse is acclimated to their weight bearing being distributed between their heels and the peripheral edge of their sole at the toe, the sole will thicken and form a bowl (concavity). Achieving this is possible for most horses if they have the right owner/trimmer team. These horses are the ones that benefit from the rain. For the horses that go into the wet season with thin, flat, or even prolapsed soles, Easyboot Clouds used responsibly in conjunction with well timed and properly balanced trimming, should at the very least get a horse comfortably through the wet weather.

 An added benefit is that the rocker effect of the mud clod on a properly balanced, thick, concave sole helps to develop the digital cushion and lateral cartilages because the weight bearing is over the back of the foot where it belongs. This puts the center of the mud ball directly under the soft regenerative tissue in the back half of the foot, and increases flexion in the hoof capsule, while the rocker effect on a thin flat sole caused by excessive weight bearing on the toe puts the center of the mud ball directly under the coffin bone in the front half of the foot. This causes excruciating pain and magnifies the strain on the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon along with the ligaments and joints in the leg. Flexion of the hoof capsule is increased this way too, but in a harmful way.

I believe some of the founder cases from this year (pictured above) may not have been as successful without the Easyboot Cloud

Indicted

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

I started studying the mustang model about 11 years ago after one of our young geldings was diagnosed with late stages of navicular disease. We got him when he was five from a guy who had bred him and was training him to rope off of. He'd been shod since he was two or three, had already sustained some leg injuries, and wasn't performing at the desired level. After we acquired him I continued shoeing him. By the time he was seven his pasterns and heels were collapsed, his toe angles were very low, his soles were thin, and there seemed to be no way to correct the angles with trimming alone because there was no wall growing beyond the peripheral edge of his soles. The vet blamed it on poor conformation and recommended EDSS shoes with medium rails and wedge pads. For those who aren't familiar with these terms it basically boils down to about as much artificial wedging as you can get away with. Typically, it doesn't get better from there. We gave it a try for three shoeing cycles but realized quickly that Santo was just a different kind of uncomfortable and artificial wedging was giving us the illusion of artificial soundness. After I asked the vet directly what we were to expect he finally admitted that our horse's future was grim and we would be lucky if we got two more years out of him. 

This is when I started asking more questions. We found an alternative vet that recommended taking him barefoot and following Jamie Jackson's and Pete Ramey's work. I bought their books and jumped into the void. I took Ramey's advice and burned Jackson's wild horse hoof model in my brain. It payed off more than I could have imagined. Santo immediately started growing healthier feet and his soundness was improving daily. By providing ample movement, managing his feet with physiologically correct trimming, and with the help of EasyCare products, Santo has been ridden comfortably to this day, over 10 years later.

I started applying my lessons to other horses and getting the same results. After I'd been rehabbing hundreds of horses for eight years, Pete Ramey came out with his second book, Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot. I'd already been to a Ramey/Bowker clinic and read as much material as I could get a hold of. I labored through Bowker's chapter, rereading sentences, paragraphs, and pages over and over until I felt like I was comprehending what I was reading. Being under horses full time for the past eight years really contributed to my understanding of the information I was reading and most of it was confirming many of my own realizations.  I was really excited to be able to trim during the day and be learning the science of it by night. 

I'd heard about Brian Hampson's work with the Australian Brumbies and couldn't wait to consume the next chapter but as I read his research I slowly started feeling uncomfortable and rereading it to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding it. The more I reread it, the sicker I got. "Everything I'd been doing for the last eight years was wrong!" This was the predominant voice in my head. He made such a strong case that "high mileage, hard substrate feet" better known as the "Mustang Model" wasn't the model we should be following because there was a high incidence of laminitis found in this type of hoof according to his research. He compared them to low mileage soft substrate feet and found more wall flare but less laminitis. "Laminitis!" was now the predominant voice in my head. I was silently living out the scene in Fun With Dick and Jane, where Jim Carey is running around his house yelling, "Indicted! Indicted! I'm going to be Indicted!"

 

After explaining my new findings and fears to my wife, she paused for a few seconds and very calmly said, "Ok, but you tell all your clients to board on sand, trim frequently, and to use hoof boots when they ride. You've been doing that with all of our horses for years and their feet are beautiful and they move beautifully." I thought about what she was saying for a few minutes until it sunk in. I realized in that moment that our horses and my clients horses had the best of both worlds. I was relieved and returned to my old mantra that I learned years ago from the same source, "Question Everything." I continue to have a lot of faith in the healing powers of the Mustang Model and continue to question it, simultaneously, every time I pick up a foot. I also continue to realize more and more, since I started teaching it, that different results come from different perceptions. I also know from experience, that perceptions can change when they merge with other perceptions and that is precisely what keeps us moving forward.

Bringing the Foot Back to Life

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Many horse owners find themselves in a situation where their horse isn't necessarily lame but they know that their horse's feet could be healthier. They find themselves in the uncomfortable state of not wanting to settle for "what is" and not knowing how to achieve "what can be". In my own opinion this is where change often starts and where I suggest:

  • A change of footing.
  • Then a change in trim protocol and diet.
  • And finally to give the horse room to move because that's where the real change occurs.

I recently had someone ask me what my take on frog contact with ground surface is. In my opinion, frog contact is the heart of hoof development and the key to bringing a foot back to life. One thing I will say to begin with is that it all depends on:

1. The stage of development of the foot

2. The type of footing that the horse lives on

Success will be limited unless you can control these two factors. The footing needs to be brought up to the frog or the frog needs to be lowered to the footing. One way or the other, or both.  Sand/chat/pea gravel and/or boots with appropriate pads can be used to accomplish this.

I consider this ( photo above ) to be a well developed foot (eight years in a small track system and micro managed on a 1-3 week trim cycle).  You can see that there is less heel height (ends of collateral grooves to ground contact points) and more heel depth (ends of collateral grooves to hairline).  The frog is fully alive and in the same plane as the heels (blue line). This relationship doesn't change much when the foot is weight bearing due to the strength of the back of this foot.  This frog and digital cushion are well developed and they can take a lot of weight bearing. This, in turn leads to further development.

I believe the frog needs to make contact with the ground but it's actually a very specific area of the frog and a very specific percentage of the horse's body weight that it is supposed to support. It's slightly different for every horse, in every environment, and for various stages of development. Proper frog contact provides proper stimulation to the digital cushion and lateral cartilages. These tissues are regenerative. In my experience this is true even in older horses, although this can be limited by the extent of the damage done over time. Once the proper frog/heel/back of sole relationship is achieved, development can begin and the frog can begin to gradually take a heavier load. When a foot gets to this point, development can be continual. The key to frog development is pressure. The frog thrives on pressure.  It is like a muscle in that way.  It can be developed at any age, just like an old man who decides to get fit in his 70's. It's not easy but it's possible.  Needless to say, starting younger is better, but better late than never. 

 The key to success here is in controlling the environment, movement, diet, hoof shape (trimming/wear) and especially movement.  The horse should always be kept as comfortable as possible because it's the proper weight bearing over the hoof structures while standing and during movement that build the foot.

Above is the progress on a hoof made over 5 months of trimming on a 2-3 week cycle. The heels have been properly lowered and shaped (for the stage of development) and brought closer to the level of live horn, following the contour of the growth corium. The goal here is to keep the horse comfortable while gradually getting the frog reactivated by making proper ground contact; bringing the living tissues that thrive on stimulation closer to the ground. This horse was living part time in a grass pasture and part time in a 12'X12' stall bedded with shavings. The black arrow shows an abscess eruption that I used as a land mark to track the progress.

Here's another photo showing the foot before, and directly after, a trim. Here, I set the heels according to the horse's poor stage of development and the terrain she lives on, which is a 10 acre natural desert, grass pasture (dry and hard footing). My decision to "set the heel height" comes from carefully listening to the horse. By that I mean that she is untied and not being held when I trim her so she is free to leave if she doesn't like what I'm doing. 

I almost always trim to just above the live sole in the seat of corn (back of sole forward of the heel purchase) and use this as a gauge for heel height. I've learned to respect the live sole plane and wait for change. This is the horse's response to readiness for change. The dead sole will exfoliate more easily when the horse is weighting the heels properly. Then I just remove the dead tissue and follow the same protocol for the frog. Removing the dead tissue on the frog exposes the live tissue that has feeling. When the toughened surface areas of the living heel walls, seat of corn, and frog are all in a proper tight relationship the back of the foot will become naturally more stabilized. This allows the horse to willingly set their weight into the back of their feet. When this is done correctly the horse will typically show signs of relaxation like licking, chewing, yawning, eye rolling, lowering their head, engaging with the trimmer, etc. 

I work over time to close the gap between the ground and the frog until the frog is taking its fair share of the weight bearing. This can take a few years. These same techniques can be applied to horses that are being transitioned out of steel shoes with distended frogs.


Left: just out of steel shoes. Right: two years later after making all the changes mentioned above.

Understanding Bio-Mechanics

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

 A broad, well defined, true frog tip is an indication of a properly suspended coffin bone.  When the live sole is thick it forms a bowl, referred to as concavity.  When the bowl is symmetrically shaped and deep, (at least a 1/2 inch measuring from the bottom of the collateral grooves at the tip of the frog to the peripheral edge of the sole in the quarters) the coffin bone is not only suspended off the ground by a thick flexible dome (the sole) but due to the highly vascular venous plexus at the corium, and valve like nature of the hoof capsule, P3 is also floating on a cushion of blood.  In well developed feet, added support from the digital cushion and lateral cartilages that form the internal arch make the hoof capsule a super structure that's not only capable of withstanding years of almost constant concussive forces but having the ability to convert these forces into beneficial vibrations that result in stored energy like a power pack.  The back 2/3 of the foot has the ability to develop like a muscle when the weight bearing is correctly placed over the soft tissues.  Add boots or rubber shoes to this equation and you begin to wonder...what's the limit of strength and endurance?  
This isn't a new revelation.  We read and hear about the bio-mechanics of bare feet all the time in books, videos, and on the internet but we rarely see photos of really healthy, high functioning feet. 
This video has three parts:

  • In part 1...I talk about the importance of the back of the foot being properly shaped for efficient movement.
  • In part 2...I talk about the importance of knowing the relationships of the major structural  landmarks of the sole in order to assess and mitigate structural migration. 
  • In part 3...I show some techniques to safely and effectively use a sharp hoof knife because I feel that application is more important than theory. 

Sound or Insensitive?

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

When I first started trimming I thought the goal was to have horses that could travel barefoot all day over rocks.  Since then I've realized that this is where ego comes in, and compassion goes out.

Another problem is that horse's hooves are adaptable to their environment, however, this can get them into trouble if they don't get enough daily movement and the environment they are in is not conducive to good feet.

Something that should be constantly considered about horses is that their feet grow at a rapid rate (roughly 1/16 inch every 4-5 days).  This isn't just the walls. The sole, bars (which are just continuations of the wall), and frog try to keep up with the rate of the wall.  Just like human fingernails and toenails, hoof walls are only live tissue until they grow past the peripheral edge of the sole (the specialized equivalent of human skin) where they lose moisture and feeling.  Rock hard hooves aren't necessarily a good sign.  A healthy sole is at least a half inch thick and relies on constant movement or simulated natural wear (proper trimming) to keep the wall and frog very close to the live sole plane.  A thick, healthy, live sole  can be identified by it's quality and appearance.  There will be concavity that measures at least a half inch deep from the peripheral edge of the sole at the quarters to the bottom of the collateral groves at the tip of a well defined frog.  The surface of the sole will be smooth like leather but not necessarily shiny like stone.  It will be void of lumps and bumps.  There may be a crackly texture directly under the coffin bone forward of the bars and surrounding the frog.  This is retained sole and can be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.  This is a good thing that adds comfort when it's managed properly.  It should feather out to nothing about half way from the bottom of the collateral grooves to the peripheral edge of the sole.  This should be a result of high mileage, proper trimming, or a combination of the two.  

Because of the conical shape of the hoof capsule, when the walls are are allowed to grow past the peripheral edge of the sole for long periods of time, the sole tries to migrate with it.  The problem is that the sole has a border and the wall doesn't.  This causes the sole to stretch and flatten under the horses weight.  This would draw more attention if the horse would just go lame every time this happened so we could all recognize a pattern and agree on the cause.  Horses have adapted to this problem over millions of years of evolution by accumulating, retaining, and producing an excess of the retained insensitive sole that I mentioned earlier.   In nature this would happen during the wet season when grass is abundant and the ground is softer.  It quickly gets worn away as it dries out and horses have to move more miles over more abrasive terrain in search of grass and water as it become more scarce.  This accumulation of retained sole keeps them sound enough to survive until it's worn back down.  If over-growth persists and is not managed naturally through wear or mechanically through proper trimming then the retained sole gets thicker as the live sole gets thinner.  Eventually there will be nothing but thick retained sole that the horse becomes reliant upon for soundness.  At this point if an attempt is made to rectify the hooves, the retained sole can exfoliate all at once exposing the true, thin, live sole.  Exfoliation is a natural response to growth equilibrium of the hoof structures...out with the old, in with the new.  It's just not meant to happen all at once after an extended period of overgrowth. 

Miles of daily wear, frequent proper trimming, or a combination can develop any foot to its true potential.  I believe that the horse's true potential hasn't even been seen yet.  I do know that with the recent advancements in rubber boots and shoes the standard has been raised considerably.  Rubber hoof wear not only protects, but it helps build the horse (and saves the legs) and the highly regenerative structures of their hooves.

When people see photos of the feet that I've developed over years of simulated wear,  they often ask, "yeah, but is she sound all day on rocks?" My answer is, " I ride in boots so they are improving with every step."

A Tool for Everything

Submitted by Rusty Toth 

Meet Delilah, she is a 16.1 h former race horse I was introduced to to help her become sound again. She is a sweet and kind mare with some issues from less than stellar shoeing practices in her past. She has a low heel, long toe and very flat thin soles.

After a discussion with the owner, we decided to try the EasyShoe Performance. The frog stimulation, I believe, will help grow sole while getting her off the rough hard decomposed granite that is our ground in the Phoenix area. She was so tender standing on a mat she could not load one foot long enough to either directly or indirectly glue on the shoes. Poor girl gave it an honest try, but she just couldn't do it. Now what?

In trying to problem solve the situation, I remembered a blog from Christoph some time ago about modifying a shell into a shoe. Bingo! With the Adhere being so quick to set, the shell encompassing her hoof wall, she could set the bugger down quickly and with gusto, and I knew the boot would remain in place.

We truly have an excellent group of people collected with EasyCare. A quick call to Christoph to ascertain the size of hole required for the size of shell and we were off and running. I used a three and a half inch hole in a size #2 Glue-On shell. She needed the support of the base and frog.

Knowing how sore she was, I did not apply any glue to the sole surface, and applied Adhere to the wall of the shell only. Using a duct tape damn, I applied Vettec Soft to make her immediately comfortable. Knowing this product has zero sticking quality we will remove the packing in two weeks time to allow the sole to breath.

The owner reported the next day that Delilah was walking sound, landing flat and even heel first for the first time in a long time.  Problem solving at its best. I am grateful to be part of such an incredible team of people collected, using amazing products with an infinite ability to be used to solve any problem. Thank you EasyCare.