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?"

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.

 

The Caudal Foot

A big and healthy frog is desirable, but why? What is hiding above it and what makes it so important?

This nice specimen of a big frog on this Irish Cobb stands in stark contrast to the narrow and underdeveloped frog below:

 

The caudal or plantar foot (back half) is designed to not only support the weight of the horse and distribute it within the foot, but also absorb the landing force of the moving horse which can be 10 greater than the mere weight of the animal.

To understand the importance of form and function of the frog, let's have a look inside the hoof capsule, more specific, the inside just above the frog.

Rear view of the interior of the horse hoof (From the Glass Horse).

The collateral cartilages are composed of hyaline cartilage with vascular channels inside for energy dissipation, while the digital cushion consists mostly of fibrocartilage.

With continuous stimulation (through the frog's ground contact) and exercise, these tissues will adapt and become bigger and thicker, as more collagen is deposited within them, thus developing a fibrocartilaginous tissue of glycoproteins and proteoglycans.

In strong hooves, the thickness of the lateral cartilage is up to 1/3 of the width of the hoof, in weaker hooves a  lot less. So by palpating the lateral cartilage, one can determine if a hoof is strong or weak, fully developed or pathologically atrophied. Furthermore, the collateral cartilages themselves should be connected with each other by a strong floor upon which the digital cushion sits. The stronger and thicker this floor becomes, the more it can protect the navicular bone and its two ligaments which connect it to the third and second phalanx. So we can see a direct correlation between the navicular syndrome and a thin and underdeveloped collateral cartilage.

The images below  of a cut section through the hoof just above the frog, parallel to the ground reveal  the difference between thin and thick cartilages clearly:

Above fotos and script by courtesy of Dr. Robert Bowker (Bowker files)

A schematic three dimensional drawing of a strong foot vs a weak (underdeveloped) foot helps visualizing the interior of the hoof capsule:

Drawing by Dr. Robert Bowker (Bowker files).

 

X-rays do not show the non bony interior of the hoof capsule  very well. So how can we simply and easily determine, by observation and palpation, what kind of hoof we are dealing with?

First we can observe and feel the lateral cartilage with our fingers:

Large and well developed lateral cartilage on this hoof, feeling firm and thick, not mushy.

Compare the above to this underdeveloped hoof of a 4 year old mare with a small and thin lateral cartilage:

Next we compare the length of the collateral cartilage to the length of the coffin bone. In a strong hoof, the cartilage should be longer than the coffin bone. Judge for yourself in the foto below how this hoof stacks up. Red line indicates the length of the cartilage, green arrow the approximate length of the coffin bone.

Next, we feel for the thickness and denseness of the digital cushion:

Medium density and thickness observed in this hoof.

Compare again to the underdeveloped hoof of the 4 year old mare:

The digital cushion feels soft and mushy.

The digital cushion is also very thin. Observe how easily my thumb can press into it. This foot lacks sufficient structure in supporting the forces and loads when traveling and standing.

Next we check for the strength of the connectivity (the floor) between both lateral cartilages. For this test, we place thumbs of both hands on the heel bulbs and index fingers on the heel. Then we try to move the medial and lateral heel sections in opposite directions. We want to feel and observe very little, if any, movement whatsoever, an indication of a well developed and thick connection (floor) and corium. Both heel halves should feel solidly and firmly connected. Best is if no movement is felt.

Blue arrows indicate direction of push.

Natural Hoof Trimming considerations: It is advisable to refrain from any frog trimming (There are exceptions). Professor Robert Bowker found in his research that  the front 1/3 of the frog is activating fibrocytes to produce this important fibrocartilage in these ligaments. This fibrocartilage is essential for strength, protection and shock absorption as well as shock dissipation. He calls it the 'swollen' part of the frog, which begins about 1 cm behind the apex.

He also believes that the foot should get more centrally loaded by carrying about 80% of the load, while the actual hoof wall should carry only about 20%. Trimming should reflect this percentage.

We can determine the probability of long term soundness in large part by evaluating the digital cushion and collateral ligaments. A young untrained horse (3-5 years) with underdeveloped caudal foot needs to be judged differently than an older one displaying the same weakness. The younger horse has a lot of potential to develop a robust caudal foot, while there might be inherently less of a chance with an older horse that does not sport a thick and large collateral ligament and digital cushion.

Exercise, palmar hoof and sole stimulation, and proper diet are essential for hoof development. It will be interesting to see how the hoof of that 4 year old will look in 2 years from now.

For hoof stimulation, best surface is still pea gravel.

When placed in areas the horses like to hang out the most, for example at their feeding places, the constant stimulation will not only toughen the sole and frog, but greatly help develop this important fibrocartilage in the palmar foot.

With this last blog of the 2012 season, I hope to give some more insights and food for thought in Natural Horse and Hoof Care, so that our horses can benefit from it through soundness and longevity.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Your Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

Global Endurance Training Center

 

The Barefoot Horse

EasyCare has a new addition to our educational materials, The Barefoot Horse: An Introduction to Barefoot Hoof Care and Hoof Boots by Lucy Nicholas. Lucy is the co-proprietor of Trelawne Equine, the UK distributor for EasyCare Hoof Boots. With 94 color pages, it is an easy read and covers a considerable amount of information including: the history of hoof protection, hoof anatomy, various trimming methods, what to expect while a horse is transitioning out of shoes, and the key components that lead to successful management of a barefoot horse. One thing that sets this book apart from the others on my bookshelf is the detail it goes into regarding hoof boots. It begins by discussing the benefits of hoof boots, then outlines how to choose the right boots for your horse, and concludes by discussing common booting problems and their solutions.

The Barefoot Horse

This book is an excellent resource for all owners with barefoot horses as well as those contemplating removing their horse's shoes. I have long believed that barefoot and boots is the way to go but I am careful not to push my opinions on friends with shod horses. Instead, my goal is to be a barefoot ambassador and let the actions of my horse and his ability to thrive barefoot speak louder than my words. Without fail, these friends often begin to get curious about keeping a horse barefoot and when they do I am happy to answer their questions. Over the years I have accumulated several books on the subject and gladly lend them out to anyone interested. I'm thrilled to add The Barefoot Horse to my collection.

From the publisher: "An easy to read book that will enlighten novice and experienced horse owners about keeping a horse barefoot, and the use of hoof boots as a highly successful, healthier and modern alternative to metal shoes. The author, a natural hoof-care exponent, provides straightforward, impartial advice on making the transition from shod to barefoot, and discusses the importance of diet and exercise in the maintenance of healthy hooves. She describes the main different schools of trimming and offers guidance on choosing a hoof-care professional. Barefoot boots are discussed in detail, along with how to choose and fit them. A number of case studies are included and there are helpful notes on troubleshooting."

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.

 

Report from Europe

Another European Hoof Care Clinic Tour came to a close last week. This brings the number of these workshops and seminars in Europe up to 12 since starting this program over three years ago. During these trips I have seen remarkable horses, visited great places and met so many interesting people, with most of them I have been in contact ever since.

Although I'm conducting the seminars, teaching and demonstrating various barefoot trimming methods and protective horse boot applications, I feel like it is me who is learning the most. To be able to see and work on a wide variety of horses of all kind of  breeds and to learn new ways to address hoof problems and pathologies in other parts of the world has been an incredible experience.

During these clinics I often start with PowerPoint presentations on anatomy, followed by conformation evaluations and how conformation influences hoof growth. I'm also discussing various pathologies, causes and consequences.

Hoofcare does not stand alone and by itself.  I always emphasize the fact that healthy hooves grow from a healthy environment which encompasses proper nutrition, movement, turnout, exercise, adequate substrate and timely trimming. A hoof, as it presents itself to our eyes, mirrors the horse for better or for worse. The holistic principle is essential and central to all Natural Hoof Care and must never be left out of the equation.

Following the theoretical indoor session, we then move outside to work with horses. Before we  even pick up a hoof, we evaluate the whole horse, teeth, hair coat, muscle development, conformation, overall health and how the horse is standing while being observed. Is it standing quietly and square (a rarity), or with one foot forward or camped under, post legged, shifting constantly from one leg to the other? We then can draw conclusions and  already know how the hooves are going to look like. We understand easier why a hoof grows a certain way and displays certain characteristics. When looking at the actual hooves afterwards, we are then merely confirming our conclusions from our observations.

Participants often bring their own horses to learn with them. Many have been trimming their own horses already and want their job being evaluated and possibly improved. Others want to learn how to trim their horses hooves and will then be given opportunity to practice.

I avoid passing judgment. Instead I try to guide them to look at their trimming from different angles and to open new avenues to help their horses. There are very few absolutes, if any. Every hoof is different, therefore we should treat each hoof as an individual.

Day two starts again with theory and  a detailed presentation about various hoof protection applications. I introduce the different EasyCare Hoof boots together with all the Vettec Glues and their respective application. We then practice together to fit Easyboot Gloves, Trail, Backcountry Gloves, and others like Epic and Glue ons. A presentation of  gluing Glue on shells follows.  Participants often have the opportunity to glue their first boots themselves and even learn how to build a hoof shoe with Vettec Superfast.

This past tour was especially interesting.  Zuerich, Switzerland, was the first stop. Nina Good and Marina Huber, who had just completed a 3 months internship at Global Endurance Training Center in Moab organized the seminar with about 20 participants.  The group consisted of professional trimmers and farriers, beginning trimmers, drivers and riders  in various equestrian disciplines. A great mixture of prior knowledge and skills and horses of all kind of statue and shape. 

Zuerich Group.

 The Bootmeister is demonstrating the application of Easyboot Gloves.

The enthusiasm and participation  was amazing. Everybody was learning and also sharing.

Onward to the Bretagne (or Brittany), the most western part of France. This time I was guest of Christophe and Carole Bogrand, who own and operate Chateau du Launay near Ploerdut. www.chateaudulaunay.com.

This 300 year old castle was our place for the clinic. Again, like in Zuerich,  the organization was superb, Christophe and Carole  were the most wonderful hosts one can wish for.

The group was smaller, which gave everybody more opportunity to practice trimming and gluing Easyboot Glue on horse shoes. We even had two American participants, friends and clients of GETC, who flew in from NY to participate in the clinic and enjoy the castle and the outstanding cuisine by Carole Bogrand.

It is awkward to take a Hoof Jack by airplane. So when no hoof stand could be found anywhere, we had to be creative.

We ended up gluing 4 boots.

I have to admit that their first glued boot did not quite look like that, but somewhat close.

On a cultural note, after the clinic we went riding for a day through some magnificent country and rode by a 7,000 year old Druid tomb. I'm always fascinated by history and their remnants. So much we can learn from it.

Last stop was Duesseldorf, Germany. Claudia Bockerman, who undertook a two week hoof trimming and hoof protection internship with me at GETC's facility in Moab a couple of years ago did the onsite organization. Again, we had a mixed group with various background levels and experience in hoof care and trimming. This made it again a learning and sharing experience for everyone.

The riders of the world are very eager to learn about Natural Hoof Trimming and EasyCare boots. And this is just the beginning, I'm convinced of it. More clinics are already being set up in Europe for next year. I will keep you posted.

Your Bootmeister,

Christoph Schork

Horse Sports, Why Participate If You Can't Influence The Results?

What we are all really looking for is an experience that lets us feel the rapture of being alive” - Joseph Campbell

Nouveau Rich getting ready for The Delaware Park Arabian ClassicWow, was I nervous!

In sport, there is nothing that compares to the feeling you get before, during and after your horse competes on the race track.  The adrenaline, the nervous energy and the sense of hope is like few feelings in life.  Flat track racing definitely makes you feel alive!

I got involved with the sport of racing flat track Arabians for several reasons.  First, many of the best endurance horses come from the track and I wanted to be able to select some of my future endurance horses early and personally be involved in their progress and early training at the track.  Second, I wanted to develop and shoe/boot option that would both conform to track traction rules and still allow the hoof to expand and contract as nature intended.  Having my own horses at the track would be the quickest way to test these new designs and make modifications.  Finally, I wanted to see the inside of a new industry and learn as a horseman. 

Pass Play in a new prototype design before heading to Lone Star to race. 

I've grown up with endurance horses and the sport of endurance gives riders and participants the opportunity to be involved with horse selection, conditioning, feeding, tack selection, hoof protection, hoof trimming, race pacing, race selection, etc.  If you are unhappy with your results in an endurance race, the person in the mirror is the only place to point blame.  If you are unhappy with your horse's feet or your horse's body condition, there is no one to fault but yourself. 

EasyCare horses definitely had some success at the track in our first year but I guess my biggest take away from the first year with horses on the track is the lack of control.  The biggest question I continue to ask myself is, as an out-of-state owner how can EasyCare participate and improve the chances of our personal horses and at the same time insure they have a life after racing?  I don't have all the answers but my thoughts as a new owner are listed below. 

1.  Start with the best racing stock you can afford.  In the Arabian track game there are many great breeders.  I personally hit it off early with Dianne Waldron and Leah Bates of Rosebrook Farm.  I purchased several horses from Rosebrook and I've been very happy with the quality and advice.

2.  Pick a trainer that you trust, a trainer that has the horses best interest at heart and communicates well with you.  In the first year I had the opportunity to learn from three trainers and see the differences in each. 

3.  Demand good hoof care and don't settle for hoof shape or length that your don't agree with. 

4.  Base training: do some of the base training at home.  Get them legged up so they can go to the track or your trainer with base.  This base will keep them more sound and cut your training bills.

After a year racing Arabians at Delaware Park, Arapahoe Park and Lone Star Park, EasyCare has learned a great deal and only scratched the surface.  We have followed the rules and raced at each track in the the new EasyCare shoe/boot.  If our new shoe/boot can be part of extending the careers and soundness of a handful of these horses the project and time at the races will be a success. 

What are your suggestions that would give an out of state owner the ability to participate more in the results?

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.

 

Expanding on a Growing Theme

November can be grey and dark, but never when working with hooves. For part of the month, I will be traveling to Europe to continue the program of conducting clinics on Natural Hoof Care, Barefoot trimming, application of  Easyboot Glue-Ons and Easyboot Gloves.

Glue on Easyboot  (This boot will be covering 155 miles during the Moab Canyon Endurance Race).

For the last few years, I have been traveling 2 to 3 times a year to Europe to hold these workshops. Now, one might reckon that Europeans had horses for thousands of years and long before Americans even worked with horses. And one might conclude that it would not take a hoof care professional from the USA to teach Europeans how to shoe a horse or how to handle horse hoof problems.

All true. But Europeans are also more traditionalists and conservative in their approach. For the most part, they had been content with their various metal shoes. After all, they served them well for thousands of years. It was mainly here in the USA where the hoof boot revolution started. German and Austrian companies have been paving the way somewhat with their research and development of polyurethane shoes. Cera and Equiflex stand out and were more progressive in their approach of inventing and using alternate hoof protection methods. Hildrud Strasser started a bare foot trim program in Germany. Yet, most horse owners stayed with metal shoes.

Medieval horse rider in Europe.

It was not till forwar- thinking people like Pete Ramey brought Natural Horse Care into the awareness of the general equestrian community and EasyCare developed an encompassing Protective Horse Boot program that horse communities outside the Northamerican continent took notice.

What makes this trip even more worth mentioning is the fact  that it will lead me to France (Brest) and Switzerland (Zurich). Both countries have mostly been using steel shoes in their equestrian disciplines and pursuits. Even at the highest FEI level, French riders preferred steel shoes on their horses. Now we see that French and Swiss endurance riders want to expand their horizons and learn and study more about protective horse boots.

All the combined efforts by the EasyCare staff and the professional trimmers as well as the Team Easyboot members in educating about the benefits of the EasyCare boots bear fruit worldwide and this expansion is ever continuing.

These boots were applied at the GETC facility in Moab. GETC (Global Endurance Training Center) is also providing funding for this trip.

While Easyboot Gloves, Easyboot Glove Back Country and Trail as well as Epic, Easyboot Bare and Grip and Easyboot have been more popular overseas, the work with hoof glue is not as common yet. My intentions are to make the clinic participants more comfortable with using Vettec Glues and Easyboot Glue-Ons. The demand is there and jointly we will make it happen.

Vettec Glues have proven to work very well with gluing not only Easyboot Glue-Ons, but also to protect bare footed horses with the Soleguard and shaping hoof shoes with the Vettec Superfast. All these glues are going to be used and demonstrated during these clinics.

How will these clinics turn out? How will they get accepted? Watch for the follow up report after my return.

Your Bootmeister,

Christoph Schork