Team Easyboot 2013 Members Announced

Thank you to everyone who applied for Team Easyboot 2013. The panel of EasyCare staff members selected this year's team based on diversity of representation in geography, discipline, age and skill set. Our goal for TE13 is to have engaging members who are enthusiastic and communicative both online and in person. Team Easyboot 2013 members are listed below.

Kim Abbott
Amy Allen
Sharon Ballard
Ashlee Bennett
Daisy Bicking
Laurie Birch
Karen Bumgarner
Mikayla Copenhaver
TJ Corgill
Angela Corner
Karen Corr
Carol Crisp
Q DeHart
Kandace French
Susan Gill
Natalie Herman
Nonee High
Leanna High
Kim Hudson
Brigit Huwyler
Christina Kramlich Bowie
Mary Lambert, DVM
Gene Limlaw
Sabrina Liska
Tennessee Mahoney
Stacey Maloney
Elaine McPherson
Lisa Morris
Martha Nicholas
Rachael Parks
Raina Paucar
Grace Pelous
Amanda Petersen
Buck Petersen

Heather Reynolds
Jeremy Reynolds
Carla Richardson
Vanessa Richardson
Renee Robinson
Tami Rougeau
Christoph Schork
Leslie Spitzer
Susan Summers
Steph Teeter
Lucy Trumbull
Mari Ural
Jennifer Waitte
Carol Warren
Amanda Washington
Kevin Waters
Kicki Westman

Congratulations! Team member photos and biographies will be posted on the Team Easyboot page. Team members are available to inform others about EasyCare products and assist in boot fitting. Keep an eye out for TE13 members at your next event.

Returning applicants were asked: "What do you feel was your greatest contribution to the team?" Tennessee Mahoney's humorous and inspirational response is below.

I feel like I help gal's like myself realize that "they can do it." I encounter a lot of people who have an, "it must be nice!" attitude. I guess they they think I have a Fabio, live-in, professional natural hoof care practitioner and booter. Spoiler alert - I trim, boot, and glue-on by myself. This industry is filled with women who love horses but their horse's hooves are akin to their truck's engines, a "black-box" area. Sure, every now and then you come across a gal who can change her own oil...or at least check the oil. Your horse's hooves and his hoof care and protection should not be a "black box" area. Yes, I do in fact have a wonderful husband (Sean) who helps me immeasurably but he has never trimmed a hoof. With some basic education and some experience, the women of this industry can take their horses' hooves into their own hands. Let's just say, you can get as involved as you want and do a good job.

Tennesse Mahoney returns to Team Easyboot for 2013!

Alayna Wiley

Alayna Wiley, EasyCare CSR

Marketing and Sales

I assist the marketing and sales departments at EasyCare with a special interest in hoof care practitioner and veterinarian dealer accounts. My horses have been barefoot and booted since 2003.

 

Free With Every Horse - New Zealand Trek Part I

One man, two horses, 3,000 km.

On November 1, 2012 Pete Langford embarked on a 3,000 km (1,800 mile) trek across the length of New Zealand. What inspired Pete to undertake such a challenging journey? His love of horses and nature were the main catalysts, along with a desire to raise money for Air Rescue Services in New Zealand. EasyCare and our New Zealand distributor, the Institute for Barefoot Equine Management (IBEM), are proud to sponsor Pete on this journey. Pete's horses, Two-Shoes and Cloud, are barefoot off the track standardbreds and they are traveling over the varied New Zealand terrain wearing Easyboot Gloves. The trip started at the bottom of the South Island in Bluff and will end at Cape Reinga on the North Island (you can follow their progress on this SPOT Adventure page). Pete and his horses are just finishing their route on the South Island and are currently near Picton.

How are the Easyboot Gloves holding up to such a demanding journey? Below, Pete describes his initial experiences using hoof boots:

Time for some words about hoof boots, specifically, boots used in place of steel shoes. Now this always seems to raise the emotions of some of those who sit on either side of that particular fence. Some seven odd years ago I got off the fence and opted to go down the barefoot route, using boots when the terrain demanded it and neither I nor my horses have looked back. The boots I used were Old Mac's from US manufacturer EasyCare and they did me well on the limited distance riding I did as a "weekend rider". When preparing for this trip I looked to see if they had a boot that could cope with all that my "long ride" could throw at it. After a couple of emails, EasyCare gave me various options and after a discussion with Thorsten at IBEM it was determined that the Easyboot Glove would be the most suitable boot.

Ready to ride! All photos by Pete Langford.

The first thing I had to do to use these boots was to get a good barefoot trim and then measure the hooves. Getting a perfect fit was a bit challenging since neither Cloud nor Two-Shoes had symmetrical hoofs - both had flare and Two-Shoes is a little pigeon toed on the forehand. With corrective trimming, their hoof shape should improve which will make fitting easier. In the meantime, I have been persuaded to use a couple of tricks to ensure boot retention. I had initially ignored the advice to use these tricks and as a result had boots come off when scampering up the sides of mountains or having a run down the occasional suitable tracks...live and learn.

On top of the world, the saddle crossing the Dampiers.

Now these boots are good, there's no doubt about it, having covered nearly 1200 km (750 miles) so far I reckon I'm well placed to comment on them! The sizing/fitting must be as close to perfect as possible for reliable performance and for staying put on the hoof, anything less will see boots being discarded in really demanding terrain. Having said that, there are a couple of tricks to ensure boot retention which are particularly useful if your four legged friends hoof walls are not symmetrical (most aren't). Trick one, power straps, these little gadgets are used to close the slot at the front of the boot which really helps with getting a nice snug fit around the hoof wall. Trick two, using some sports tape around the hoof to get extra grip between hoof and boot. Since I have used these two tricks, I haven't lost a single boot - they have stayed put crossing rivers, scampering up mountains, running along tracks and they even stayed on in quicksand...yes I did just say that! Whilst crossing the Rakaia River we hit a patch of this deadly stuff and were very lucky to get out. If we had been a meter more to one side then there's a good chance I wouldn't be around to write this. Happily I am and can report that even in that instance, the boots stayed firmly put and let's face it, that's important as no one would be keen to start fishing around in quicksand to recover a lost boot!

Rakaia River quicksand.

If you want to know more about what myself, Two-Shoes and Cloud are up to, visit us at www.freewitheveryhorse.com, on facebook (Free With Every Horse) and twitter (@3witheveryhorse). Hopefully we are done the quicksand - once was enough!

Pete Langford

4-H Goes Bare and Booted

4-H has been a big part of my horse life. We have always had horses at home but 4-H introduced me to other kids that rode horses.

Randolph County Fair Education Day.

I still remember one of my first 4-H meetings, the topic was trail riding. The club member presenting had a very nice power point presentation - one of the slides showed a rocky trail and she said you must shoe your horse to protect the hooves. I remember looking over to my mom in confusion, our horses were barefoot so this made no sense to me. Attitudes about shoeing have changed a lot since then. People have become more educated on the subject and are more open to barefoot horses and hoof boots. Today, almost all of the members in my 4-H group keep their horses barefoot - some members stopped shoeing and transitioned to barefoot and there are new members whose horses were already barefoot. It’s been fun talking about hoof care and hoof boots (seeing who wears what kind and arguing about which one the favorite is). The best part of 4-H is getting to ride with the other kids.

Ashlee and me riding Nanny and Maggie, Spring Break 2012.

4-H does not just focus on riding or showing, it teaches all aspects of keeping horses healthy. Last year at summer camp our club learned “All About Balance”. During this camp, we learned about the whole horse - how the teeth, body and hooves interact with one another to help or hurt a horse’s balance. We also learned how we, as riders, affect our horse’s balance. You can read more about our camp in Volume 15 Issue 1 of Natural Horse Magazine.

Inez Donmoyer, CEMT, CCMT, CSAMT,  IARP, Unicorn Dream
Wholistic Touch, teaching us about anatomy and massage.

This coming summer, our camp will focus on healthy horses and healthy riders. We are very excited that Dr. Juliet Getty, PhD, author of Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, has agreed to join us for an afternoon to talk about equine nutrition (Getty Equine Nutrition). In addition, we will be learning about first aid, anatomy, stretching and more, for both horses and riders. We have two riding instructors lined up and will learn more about saddle fitting and bridle/bit fit. We even have a chef coming. Chef Megan will be donating her time to teach about human nutrition and cook for us.  It is going to be another good time!

Left: Feed Your Horse Like a Horse by Dr. Juliet Getty, PhD.
Right: Chef Megan, Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden Chef.

In my previous blog, you met some of my fellow 4-Hers who are learning to trim. We hope to show you how we are doing in a few months with a little more practice.

High Riders learn to trim their own horses.

Thanks EasyCare, for supporting the High Riders 4-H Club on our learning journey and for selecting me as a member of Team Easyboot 2012!

Nonee High

Balanced Horse, Balanced Hoof

Lateral or medial imbalances are fairly common and a symptom of uneven hoof loading. The load is dependent on a horse's conformation and muscle influence and results tend to be rather predictable. Legs that toe in tend to flare more to the medial sides, while toeing out creates hooves that flare more to the lateral sides. Exceptions to the common trends are usually horses that experienced some trauma in the past that affected conformation and/or muscle health and thereby hoof load. Although flaring is often identified from the front or back of the hooves with the horse standing on level ground, it can also be seen in the angles of the collateral grooves. One collateral groove usually has a steeper angle than the other and the one with the shallower angle is the side that normally flares.

Caudal view of the left front before the trim shows a medial-lateral imbalance.

Hoof form responds primarily to load from above and hooves are rarely (if ever) loaded evenly. Typically one side makes ground contact first before the other side "touches down" - the side that is loaded last is the side that tends to flare more. This is easily observed by walking a horse on a level surface. Closely watch how the hooves become loaded as the horse walks towards you. The more flared side is usually the side that needs additional trimming, while the first loaded side is often close to the right height. Frequent trimming is crucial to keeping these imbalances to a minimum - balanced hooves are beneficial to the horse and allow for proper hoof boot fit. It's even more critical with hooves that naturally flare more or unhealthy hooves that have disconnected wall growth, which leads to excessive flaring. Hoof shapes/flares can vary widely depending on individual hoof load tendencies. Unhealthy hooves, with disconnected wall growth, will also have generally more wall/white line separation on the primary loaded side.

White line separation on the lateral, more loaded side of the left front.

Equine side dominance with conformational traits like chest or pelvis width and leg length influence hoof load too. The non-dominant leg tends to get pulled in more toward the midline, thanks to stronger adductor (chest) muscles and weaker abductor (lateral shoulder/upper arm) muscles. This is very common in horses, especially in undeveloped horses. The wider the chest and shorter the leg, the more the lateral edge of the hoof becomes loaded. In extreme cases, this can cause rolling under (collapsing) of the primary loaded hoof side. It can also be seen in horses whose hind legs are wide in the hocks and narrow at the hooves (base narrow). I see this particular issue more frequently in minis and halter type Quarter Horses due to their conformational tendencies. Proper muscle development that results in even strength on both sides of the body is the only way to effectively address this issue as it encourages more even hoof load. Most horses seem to be right sided, some are left sided and some are more ambidextrous, just like humans are. The ambidextrous horses tend to naturally have more evenly sized front hooves and a dressage rider once confirmed this connection - as her horse moved up the levels in dressage his hooves became more even in size and shape. Fortunately EasyCare offers several hoof boot options in several sizes to ensure a custom fit even if hooves vary in size and shape.

Before the trim.

An equine's stance can make the hooves look more uneven than they actually are. I have frequently taken legs that are base narrow on horses with wide chests and set them so the horse is standing more squarely. It will make the hooves look comparatively normal and shows what even load looks like. If such a horse would consistently travel correctly, the hoof form would also be more balanced side to side with less flaring tendencies. In general, small hoof imbalances should not be cause for great concern if they are managed in a timely and consistent manner.

After the trim and with legs placed in an aligned position in relation to the body.
 

Submitted by Ute Philippi, Balanced Step

March 2013: Asa Stephens - Bright Lights, Big City

Our March dealer of the month is hoof care professional, Asa Stephens who calls the city that never sleeps home. Not far from the hustle and bustle of the strip Asa makes her way across the desert helping horses excel with a barefoot lifestyle.

Asa started her career in hoof care first as a farrier, graduating from Western's School of Horseshoeing, shoeing horses for three years in the Las Vegas area. A client's request for a barefoot trim started it all and nudged her into looking at natural hoof care. Asa says, "It just made so much sense. I was quickly sold on the philosophy." She enrolled in AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices) program where she not only graduated but was also a field instructor. While going through the program she was fortunate to have be able to spend three days with Pete Ramey. At that time students were able to mentor with Pete and she considers that opportunity a highlight in her career.

In 2005 she became a part of the EasyCare dealer network and remembers when the Boa Horse Boot was all the rage. These days the Easyboot Glove is her go-to boot for the healthiest of hooves and the toughest of riders. She chooses the Easyboot Glove Back Country for the horse that may be a bit harder to fit and yet is still able to meet the demands of a challenging trail. When it comes to rehab the Easyboot Trail is her favorite because the boot accommodates many padding scenarios and works well for light turnout and light riding. She also notes the Easyboot Trail is perfect for those clients who struggle with boot application due to physical limitations such as arthritic hands or bad backs.

What is her recipe for success? Two key elements, show up on time and be fully prepared for ANYTHING. Her approach is proactive rather than reactive. Asa is diligent in keeping up with the latest research and methodologies in hoof care which results in her services being in constant demand. She recalls when she first started natural hoof care it was easy to focus solely on the trim. Asa quickly realized much like layers of an onion, there is usually so much more to the picture - nutrition, the horse’s living conditions, and saddle fit also play a role. Asa stocks a range of EasyCare hoof boots, pads, accessories, thrush remedies and hay nets. "For me it's about doing a job well. Telling a customer, "I'm sorry, I'm not prepared and I don' have the right  tools" (i.e. hoof boots) is just not an option. Worse yet is to send them to figure it out on their own. What kind of service is that? Ultimately not being prepared costs you. It will cost you in time, money and customer satisfaction. It’s something I do my best to avoid. If I don't take my business seriously who will?"

Asa hits the Nevada trails every chance she gets on her horse Sirocco booted up in Gloves. She is a founding member of the Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners and a member of the American Hoof Association. She conducts booting clinics through PHCP helping to educate other hoof care professionals and the public. She is considered one the best in the business and readily sought after for mentorships.

               

Asa enjoys all aspects of her job but really enjoys transitioning horses out of horseshoes. "Every horse I take out of shoes show so much improvement, how can I not get excited?"

Debate? What Debate?

Rumor has it that there is still a debate going on about what’s best for horses: steel shoes or barefoot?

Years ago I came across the writings of Dr. Tomas Teskey, D.V.M.. The unfettered foot: a paradigm change for equine podiatry is an excellent essay written by the good doctor, go ahead and go there first, read it attentively, let it sink in, digest it, reflect upon it, then come back here. There are many excellent websites and videos that discuss natural hoof care. Some research, self-education and due diligence is all one has to do. If a horse transitioning from steel shoes needs protection, EasyCare has several hoof boot options for you. There are some farriers who believe they will lose revenue when switching to natural hoof care. The truth is, you can do more volume trimming barefoot horses than nailing steel shoes. You can do more, physically as well, since a barefoot trim is much less taxing on the body, for human and equine both. If you are in it solely for the money then you need to revise your priorities and occupation. Let’s face it: we don’t this for our health or to get rich, we do this because we genuinely care about horses.

Before first barefoot trim.

So how does a hoof care practitioner go about switching horses under his/her care to a barefoot trim? First they need to become intimately familiar with some of the tenets of natural hoof care. I recommend you study the work of Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey, kudos to both gentlemen for enlightening and teaching all of us. You should carry copies of the above essay by Dr. Tomas Teskey, D.V.M. to hand out to both new and existing clients, it’s all about education and awareness. A camera is an excellent tool - before and after pictures, that can be studied after the day’s work is done, go a long way towards “getting it right”. Pictures are a priceless testament to the progress the horse is making, warming the hearts of owners and practitioners.


Eight weeks after first trim.

It is important to understand that the following never fails: the horse’s feet will adapt to the terrain it lives and works on, as well as the workload they’re being subjected to. From pasture pets to working ranch horses, barrel racing/roping/reining/rodeo horses, endurance/trail/dressage/show jumping horses: no two sets of feet will look alike but one will see those bare hooves adapt and transform into optimal tools conditioned for the work at hand. Nature provides: all we really need to do is help out every so often. We know so much can be done and remedied through natural hoof care. As for me, there simply is no debate. Be diligent, be caring and you will end each day with a sense of satisfaction.

Submitted by Kris Goris, Kris Natural Trim

Got Iron?

Submitted by Natalie Herman

A good example of a horse that should be black, but has the typical 'bleached' look to the coat and mane. The coat is very rough looking and shedding in patches instead of smoothly. This to me would be a fairly extreme bleaching, indicating the horse is really deficient (as an auction horse, not surprising). Many well cared for horses have much subtler signs of bleaching or coat issues, or no coat issues at all and the hooves show issues instead.

While milk may or may not do your horse's body good, iron for sure does it no good. At least in excessive amounts. The problem is, that many horses are getting excess iron, and the side effects are numerous (most easily seen in barefoot horses, as the hooves are one of the first things to suffer under excessive iron and the resultant imbalance in other minerals). From bad hair coats and hooves, to insulin resistance and immune/allergy issues, iron overload is a major problem, that I think is being majorly overlooked. Iron is being added to almost all processed feeds and vitamin/mineral supplements, when our horses get too much naturally already. The following is a kind of cliff notes version about the importance of mineral balancing. There are many articles out there if you google "equine iron overload" and "equine mineral balancing".

A horse's daily need for iron is estimated to be around 40ppm of their entire ration (hay, grain, grass, water, whatever..and don't forget, many lick and eat dirt, or pick it up while grazing. This also adds some. Most horses get many more times that.

A great place to start, is to figure out your iron levels in your area. This link: mrdata.usgs.gov/geochem/doc/averages/countydata lets you check up on most of the important minerals by each county in the US (likely if you are outside the US, there will be an equivalent to the USGS in your country, or even a county/state agricultural extension office, that might have this info for you). My county (Humboldt, on the far northern California coast) comes up fairly high, at 4.197. mrdata.usgs.gov/geochem/county.php?place=f06023&el=Fe&rf=northwestern. This then transfers into the grass, hay, and water your horse consumes (and even our import hay from Oregon and inland CA is fairly high).

In our coastal area, it is even worse. Iron uptake into plants is higher in a) water saturated soils (we can get 6-8 months where it rains, and fog the rest of the year) and b) soils with higher acidity (our soil is definitely acidic). Ok, double doom. If you want a truly accurate count of what your horse takes in, you would have to take samples of your pasture (if they have pasture), soil (remember, they often lick or even eat dirt, and at least pick it up while grazing or eating hay off the ground), water, and anything else you feed (like I feed beetpulp, which is supposedly very high in iron, as well as a hay-based pelleted feed, and rice bran). This is the only sure way of determining the iron and other mineral content your horse is getting. There are hair and blood tests you can do, but iron storage in the horse is fairly complex, and these tests are not always an accurate picture of what is going on in the horse. This of course could get expensive, particularly if you can not get large loads of hay that will last most the year, or change pastures a lot.

What is a horse owner to do? First off, do not add iron. As much as possible, do not feed extra iron. It is almost unavoidable if you are feeding a bagged feed of any kind, but stay away from mineral/vitamin supplements that have added iron. Read the ingredients lists: both the nutritional breakdown and the ingredient list, and never feed high iron supplements like Red Cell unless your horse suffered a lot of blood loss or otherwise had a vet prescribe it for a good reason. Severe iron overload will actually mimic anemia, and thus make it look like a horse needs more iron. Feeding more iron will thus just worsen the issue. Also, get rid of all salt/mineral blocks that are not pure salt. All those red streaked/colored rocks and blocks? Guess what color iron turns when it oxidizes? The same goes for selenium, sulphr, and other mineral blocks. Horses can not get enough salt out of a lick that was designed for a cow tongue anyway. Best to top-dress their feed (or even hay) with salt, then feed a mineral mix.

If you must put a lick in their pen/stall to play with, just toss in a white block please.  What else? Again, read labels. If you are buying bagged feed, many of the brands now all make mixes that are fairly similar to one another: senior mixes, performance, low sugar, or whatever it is you want. Compare labels and see what has a lower iron level for what you need to feed. Call the companies! Maybe if more of us ask why they all are adding iron when it is not needed, they will stop doing so. We now have low sugar/starch feeds, because owners demanded it. We can also demand low iron and higher copper/zinc contents. And when that fails, find a good mineral supplement that adds a lot of extra zinc and copper. Living in California, I use California Trace, which also has added selenium that is lacking in the West, as well as other good things like Vitamin E. There are some other good, regional products like AZ Copper Complete. If you can not find one in your area, both these have done fairly well in many other areas of the country as well, though you should talk to an equine nutritionist to make sure it is appropriate for yours. CA trace may contain too much selenium for high selenium areas for example.

This horse shows bleaching in the face hair, as well as the forelock, and the 'hooked/split end' look to the forelock hair. Often, even if you don't see bleaching, like in a chestnut or lighter colored horse, you will see this fraying to a horse's hair. If you look really closely at the coat hairs, you can see them 'hook' up and not be smooth. This is often what gives a horse that dull coated or rougher coated look.

A sun bleached tail on a dark horse, hair also looks rough.

Hoof wall cracks are not in the white line itself usually, alhough they can transfer into it. You can see the white (yellow) line on the inside of the cracks, and from the outside, the walls on these horses will look relatively normal, with no external cracks. Most times the problem is not this severe, but many horses have some cracks like this, that just will not go away with trimming.

Now, why is all this important do you ask? "My horse seems healthy and happy" you say. Here are some questions then:                      

  • Does you horse have thrush and/or white line issues that will go away, even with great hoof care and topical thrush treatments?
  • Does your horse suffer from sensitive hooves, even though they look great from the outside and have good trims on them?
  • Does your horse have issues tolerating sugars (but does not test for insulin resistance) or is even insulin resistant?
  • Does your horse have scruffing/flakey skin and is itchy all the time, even when not sweating and with feeding flax and good grooming?
  • Does your horse eat a lot of dirt, eat tree bark, branches, bushes, other 'odd' plants, even though it has tons of food and isn't bored?
  • Does your dark colored horse bleach out every summer, does your horse have a 'dull' colored coat, have frizzy ended hair, etc?
  • Does your horse suffer from allergies or other immune issues?
  • Does it suffer from unexplained laminitis (or has sugar sensitivity related laminitis), blow abscesses for no reason, has thin soles, etc?
  • Does your horse have cracks in the outer hoof wall, cracks in the inner wall between the white line and sole, bad hoof quality in general?

All these things can be, and often are, related to a mineral imbalance. Most often this is from excess iron, as it causes a copper deficiency and other issues in the mineral balance. Balance the minerals back out, add extra copper (needed for good hoof an coat development for one) and extra zinc. They sell zinc lozenges in the drug store for a reason: they are a great immune booster and you and your horse need zinc for good health. Iron overload has been directly linked to insulin resistance in some studies. It is also a known cause of inflammatory  and immune issues. Sure, you won't magically make a serious condition in your horse go away by balancing minerals. But it often clears up all those small, nagging things that drive horse owners nuts. That dull and itchy coat, the thrushy hooves, the sensitive feet. if sugar levels are watched of course, minerals will not miraculously let your horse pig out on pasture or grain.

Natalie Herman

Why the Anger Toward Shod Owners? Why the Hatred Directed at Barefoot Owners?

I've seen many conflicts over the last couple of months between well-meaning horse owners who believe either in the shod horse or barefoot horse, but not both.  The conflicts often escalate and end in heated debate.  Barefoot-Shod, Guns-Anti Gun, Rich-Poor, Old-Young, Liberal-Conservative, Minority-Majority.  The list goes on and on.  Doesn't it seem like the world is becoming more polarized?

I personally find it disconcerting that the barefoot/shod debate often ends with the same red faced, opinionated arguments brought on by religion and politics.  Are the people with barefoot horses really tree-hugging freaks?  Are people that spend years learning to shoe a horse properly really abusive to horses and ignorant?  What about a horse owner who uses hoof protection during the competitive season and then allows the horse to be barefoot during the winter?  What about the horse owner that keeps a horse barefoot and uses hoof protection only when needed? "

"Human beings now face many complex and difficult problems that urgently require solutions.  To deal with issues like global warming, nuclear proliferation and the international terrorist threat we must work together, but we cannot do this if polarizing conflict poisons our discussions.  In polarized conflicts, combatants state and restate their own views while distorting and ridiculing those of their opponents.  As the conflicts get more heated, partisans argue more loudly and their distortions of their opponents' assumptions get more entrenched in their own minds.  We tend to think that the more people discuss their differing views the better they will understand each other.  But when polarizing conflict is involved, the more people talk the less they understand each other." From http://polarizingconflict.buddhismandwork.com/.

There are many farriers that I respect greatly.  At the same time there are barefoot trimmers that I believe have changed the way we think about the hoof.  I believe the better farriers and trimmers share a respect for each other.  Is there common ground, and if so where is that common ground?  Looking at the horse world objectively, I believe the majority of people on both sides of the argument agree that horses should spend time barefoot.  In addition, both sides believe horses need protection for many of the activities that their human partners put them through.  Most owners stall horses in man-made environments; many feed them two meals per day, and the majority of us ask our horses to carry 25% of their body weight in grueling events.  We ask unnatural things of our equine partners.  As events become longer, speeds become greater and the footing becomes rougher we can't expect our equine partners to perform without man made protection?

Photo of my best barefoot horse.  He has great feet and great hoof development but he sure goes better with hoof protection.

Would you agree or disagree with the following statements? 

  1. Both farriers and barefoot trimmers have the horse's best interest at heart.
  2. People that believe all horses should be barefoot all the time are wrong.
  3. People who believe all horses should be shod all the time are wrong.
  4. Educated farriers believe in hoof protection and allowing barefoot time.
  5. Good barefoot trimmers believe hoof protection is needed as horses increase less natural activities. 

Yes, I believe a horse should be well trimmed and barefoot as much as possible.  I believe hoof protection should be used to keep a horse comfortable and used more as we ask our horses to perform athletic events that are outside of their wild horse environment.  I've seen well shod horses compete in the sport of endurance year after year.  I've also seen barefoot/booted horses win the most difficult 100 mile endurance events in the world. 

I've personally found a direction that is working for my horses and I will continue to learn and search for answers.  I also understand what works for me may not be the best solution for others.  I don't believe the answers are black and white and most often there are some ideas or products in the middle. 

I urge you to take some time and listen to the farrier that has been in the business since he was a kid.  At the same time, the trimmer that lives down the street may actually be able to help you with a trick or two. 

The polarized arguments don't help the horse and they don't help you or me.

Garrett Ford

easycare-president-ceo-garrett-ford

President & CEO

I have been President and CEO of EasyCare since 1993. My first area of focus for the company is in product development, and my goal is to design the perfect hoof boot for the barefoot horse.

 

Laminitis, with a wild slant

How would you define "normal"? And how would you define "average"? And are they both the same or at least similar in meaning? Who is defining the meaning of these words, let's say, for example,  when describing hooves or gaits of horses?

Webster and Wikipedia defining 'normal' as 'commonly observed', and 'average' as the middle of set values.

And what about the definition of "pathology"? Often referred to as a 'diagnosis of disease'. But what is a 'disease'?  And is a condition that is 'commonly observed' and 'average' still a pathology or is it then just 'normal'?

These kind of questions occurred to me when reading up on Brian Hampson's Australian Brumby Studies.

Brumbies in the Australian Outback

67% of all the desert brumbies examined by Brian Hampson suffered from chronic laminitis. Yet, the external appearance of these hooves was not at all indicative of laminitis. In fact, they all showed the typical "ideal" appearance of desert hooves: short and rounded hoof walls, worn mustang roll, minimal flaring and few , if any, hoof wall rings.

While the wild horse mustang hoof has been proposed by some, e.g. Jamie Jackson, as the ideal model of an equine hoof, little, if any, research had been done by looking inside these hooves. And once again the saying: there is more to it than meets the eye, is proven true yet again.

There is plenty of evidence now that feral horses from hard substrate environment suffer from traumatic laminitis comparable to the well-known road founder of our domesticated horses.

Already in 1993, Robert L. Linford induced traumatic laminitis simply by trimming the hoof wall to the same level of the sole and placing the horses for four month on hard substrate. This procedure caused coffin bone remodeling and sole bruising with lamellar stretching and bruising. It also calcified the ungual cartilages of the navicular bone.

Now, these high incidences of laminitis are probably not only because of the concussion. It can be assumed that a lot of the feral horses are also insulin resistant and might have fed excessively on high sugar content grass, which is abundant in the wild after the first few freezing nights in the season.

Brian Hampson found only 3% of the feral front hooves to be free of abnormality and pathology.

Is this Brumby hoof suffering from laminitis?

This does raise the question whether we always should adopt the feral hoof model  as an ideal and mimic it in our barefoot trimming and natural hoof trimming within our domestic herds. Especially  the feral hard substrate model as pictured above.

Specifically I'm asking myself whether I round the hoof walls too much and whether the sole of the hoof is bearing too much weight. Considering that the often revered mustang roll is only distinctly observable on feral horses that are forced to travel excessively over hard substrate, rocks and mountains and often have to dig for food and water and in the process wearing down their dorsal hoof wall to the extreme of suffering from laminitis. If then the feral hoof is a result of excessive unnatural wear and tear, do I want to imitate that model  on our domesticated horses hooves? Should I maybe allow the hoof wall to bear a little more weight, using that dreaded word 'Peripheral loading'? After all, just like the caudal foot is designed to absorb shock, so is the front part of the hoof, being more rigid, designed to bear weight. The hoof wall tubules are designed to dampen the load before transmitting it to the joints and skeleton. (Compare to my last month post "The Caudal Foot")

This feral horse hoof shown above traveled mostly over sandy soil. Underrun heels, long toe and barely a mustang roll observable. Relative small frog, possibly suffering from thrush. This is a 'normal' hoof among the horses living on mostly sandy soil.

The mustangs in the Nevada desert, the brumbies in the Australian interior, the Taikh horses from Mongolia and the donkeys of the Asiatic interior have to travel excessive large distances to find food and water. When both are abundant, feral horses only travel voluntarily between 3 and 6 miles a day. Needless to say, their hooves look a lot differently and much more similar to our domesticated hooves as the two photos below indicate:

These two photos, same hoof seen from dorsal and plantar aspects, look a lot like many of our domesticated horse hooves. Yet, it is from a feral horse, living in Australia on softer and more fertile ground. This horse does not need to travel long distances for food and water: hoofwall long (peripheral loading?), laminar stretching, no mustang roll, heels underrun, starting to collapse, crack on left heel.

So, what is normal, what is average, what is a pathology? If only 3% of the feral horse populations have ideal healthy hooves, is it fair to say that 97% of all horses hooves are suffering from pathology or do we need to redefine that word 'pathology'?

Hampson also discovered that high incidence of laminitis in four other studies around Australia.

Of his radiographed horses hooves

  • 67% of the 15 rocky terrain horses were laminitic
  • 40% of 15 sandy desert horses were laminitic
  • 93% of 15 prime grazing terrain horses were laminitic
  • 40% of 56 Kamanawa region (New Zealand) were laminitic.

I might add that these horses are the survivors of the fittest. The ones with even more hoof problems already had perished. Putting this thought in the equation, the domesticated brethren are not doing too bad.

Professor Bruce Nock, however, a scientist in its own right with an impressive record of accomplishments, questions the research and findings of Hampson and Chris Pollitt. In fact, he wants the inner pathology disregarded, because it is not obvious to the naked eye and thus it should not matter. True, when a horse is lame on all 4, it is sometimes hard to detect lameness. That is where science comes into place. Hard to understand how a scientist can question science. Come to think of the old question, if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it still makes a noise? If a horse is lame on all 4 and one cannot observe it, is it still lame? Is there then a pathology or not? And is it just normal and average?

Nevertheless, there is a verbal cyberspace war ongoing between high caliber scientists. Fascinating to read up on it. Providing a great learning opportunity for us lesser scientific hoof care students and hoof care providers.

Barefoot Trimming and Natural Hoof Trimming, yes, they are good things. But who is setting the standard, which model are we following? There are many options available for choosing, the feral hooves come in all kind of shapes and forms. The environment is mostly responsible for modeling the feral hoof. So, might the answer be again: it depends?

Horse Hoof Trimming should provide the best outcome for our horses, I, for my part, constantly question what I'm doing. Only through critical reevaluation can I make sure that I do not get stuck. Sofar I have never seen anywhere that following an ideology  to be in the best interest of our equine friends.

What do you think?  I would love to hear and read your comments.

Your Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

Gift Ideas for the Hoofoholic

Have you finished your holiday shopping? EasyCare has several wonderful gift options for all the hoofoholics out there. If you are a last minute shopper like me, make sure to place your order with EasyCare by 12:00 pm MST Friday, December 21, 2012. Our offices will be closed for the holidays from December, 24th 2012 to January 6th, 2013. Our president and CEO, Garrett Ford, recently blogged that he believes the ability for horse owners to do their own trimming or maintenance trimming is the best gift they can give themselves and their equines. EasyCare offers a variety of Natural Hoof Care products to assist you with that gift.

Hoof Trimming Gifts

Wouldn't you be thrilled to receive this gift?

You can start by curling up next to the fire with Lucy Nicholas' book, The Barefoot Horse: An Introduction to Barefoot Hoof Care and Hoof Boots. For the more advanced hoofoholics, we also offer Pete Ramey's Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Hoof. When you are ready to start with hoof maintenance, the Save Edge 14" rasp is the way to go; I use it for my horses and I highly recommend it. We also have Save Edge rasp handles in red, white, blue and black. The Hoofjack is another essential hoof trimming accessory; order one of these and your back and knees will thank you.

Bargain Bin Gift

Half off hoof boots!

If you are looking for a great holiday deal on hoof boots, check out our Bargain Bin. We have several new, discontinued models of boots available including Original Easyboots, Easyboot Epics and Easyboot Gloves. All boots in the Bargain Bin are discounted 50% off MSRP. The fine print: valid only while supplies last, all sales are final: no returns or warranties. Bargain Bin items are available through the EasyCare website only. If the Bargain Bin does not have the boots you are looking for, take advantage of our quantity discount. If you purchase four or more boots at the same time from EasyCare, you will receive a quantity discount (excludes Easyboot Glue-Ons and Bargain Bin boots). You can mix and match your boot styles and sizes and still receive this quantity discount. Styles that are sold as a pair are considered one boot.

Stocking stuffers for the hoofoholic.

Last but not least, if you are looking for some stocking stuffers for your barn buddies, we have you covered. Nitrile Tough EasyCare Gloves provide the necessary protection when hoof trimming. These gloves will save you from countless rasp nicks and the form fitting design does not hinder dexterity. They are also great for general work around the farm. The EasyCare Magnetic Hoof Pick will always be close at hand since it sticks to any metal surface. Happy Holidays!

Alayna Wiley

Alayna Wiley, EasyCare CSR

Customer Service

As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I have plenty of hands on experience since my horses have been barefoot and booted since 2003.