Introducing Daisy Bicking, "The Millenium Farrier"

Like many hoof care providers I know, I too got my start in hoof care because my own horse had hoof problems. In my case, I was dealing with a metabolic problem child who had laminitis and rotation of the coffin bone. A fantastic farrier put the rasp in my hand and empowered me to care for my own horse’s feet. She encouraged me to go out and conquer the often tumultuous world of hoof care knowledge. So my addiction was born: I AM a hoof educational junkie (say this 3x fast, it’s quite empowering).



After fixing my horse and by fixing I mean getting him back to his previous level of performance as my Dressage schoolmaster and winning multiple Championships at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals, I realized that everyone had or knew of someone who had a horse like him! I was passionate about helping these horses and began offering my knowledge to others.

In 2004 I founded Daisy Haven Farm, Inc. where we specialize in Hoof Rehabilitation using dry lots, specific diet balancing, and meticulous hoof care. I work with two other amazing hoof care providers, Terry Boswell and Molly Vlk, who work side by side with me on and off the farm. We specialize in solving horse’s hoof problems using barefoot methods and “Alternative Support Devices” which include hoof boots, hoof pads, composite shoes, hoof casts, etc.  

I was given the title "Millenium Farrier" by a group of great farriers due to my progressive thinking and use of glues and composite materials. I have respect for all aspects of hoof care, and have studied with a wide variety of practitioners in our industry. In order to navigate the wide variety of hoof care philosophies, available today, we are meticulous in digitital documentation of every horse we work on and have built a database of over 200,000 hoof pictures and radiographs. This has proven to be an invaluable resource of the hoof over time, and one which I hope to share with you here.

Bowker Master Class in Australia

Traveling to the other side of the world to Australia is a surreal experience, 24 hours of air travel to land in a beautiful place full of completely different flora and fauna, let alone tremendously entertaining accents.

I recently had the opportunity to go to the Melbourne area of 'Straya, as it's often locally called (try saying this with an Australian accent), and attend Dr. Robert Bowker's master class at the Equine College of Podiotherapy.  The College is located at a fantastic facility, Mayfield, in Yarck, Victoria, and is a nationally accredited educational program run by "The Barefoot Blacksmith", Andrew Bowe.  

The master class is an advanced hoof course offered to students at the school. And while Dr. Bowker is from the USA, nothing like this 3-day master class with him is currently offered here in the US. It was an incredible opportunity to attend this class as it is not usually open to those not enrolled in the school. I was traveling to Australia to teach a Daisy Haven Farm Hoof Distortion and Glue/Composite Shoe Workshop and was invited to guest lecture on glue and composite shoe work at the Masterclass. Of course, I extended my trip to attend the entire program.  

Sitting and listening to Dr. Bowker at such a concentrated level helped me further understand the theories and anatomy he has been sharing with us for years. Dr. Bowker has always been a great influence in my approach to my work with the horse's foot and this master class just reinforced and enhanced my understanding of the function of the foot. Here are a few key thoughts that stood out to me from the course:

1. Most of the blood flow to the foot is going to the back part of the foot. 

It is commonly thought that the digital cushion does not have significant blood supply as the large vessels of the foot lead to the front of the foot, and the sensitive frog and digital cushion are pale in a dead foot. However the digital cushion is made up of mixoid tissue which has bazillions of micro vessels: like watering your garden, using a fire hose would eliminate top soil, however if you use the fire hose to feed many small sprinklers it will work to water the garden without damage. So the digital cushion actually has immense blood supply.  

This previous blog highlights some of Dr. Bowker's research on the circulation of the back of the horse's foot: How to Develop a Healthy Foot: Circulation Is It!.

2. Navicular syndrome is a whole foot problem, as opposed to being contained to just the back half of the foot.  

In comparison to a healthy foot, a horse with navicular syndrome will have:

  1. Lateral cartilages with greater size micro vessels indicating chronic inflammation.
  2. Digital cushion with less fibrocartilage and mass, the fibrocartilage is a key component in energy dissipation.
  3. Impar ligament and deep digital flexor tendon lesions associated with "navicular disease".
  4. Coffin Bone will have 1/3 less bone than all other horses age 2-31 when navicular syndrome is present, i.e. osteoporotic.
  5. Primary Epidermal Laminae are closer together indicating increased stress.

The newest information Dr. Bowker presented at the class was on fascia. Dr. Bowker has been doing dissections from the carpus down the distal limb examining the fascial sheets. So far no two horses are the same.

He has been able to draw preliminary conclusions from the dissections that indicate horses are not born with developed fascial bands. They develop over time in response to how the foot interacts with the ground and manages vibration.  

Key points:

  1. Fascia is an integrated binding fabric between and around muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments.  
  2. These structures “float” or are meshed within fascial layers and bands and develop and change over time.
  3. Many structures are connected through fascia where no other apparent connection exists. For example, the common digital extensor tendon connects all the way to the frog through fascia.  
  4. Dr. Bowker has observed that managing vibrations, especially at high frequencies has a negative impact on the fascia.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of valuable information presented. My book of handouts is 3" thick and my notes are pages and pages long.

My favorite quote of the whole course:

"The unanswered questions aren't nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers."  Dr. Bob Bowker.

​Huge thanks to Sarah Kuyken of Innovative Hoofcare Australia for hosting me in Melbourne and Andrew Bowe of the Australian College of Podiotherapy for allowing me to present some of my work with composite shoes and attend the master class.

For more information: and

Spring Laminitis: The Not-So-Silent Killer

This year we’ve seen more horses in our area developing spring laminitis than ever before. Many apparently healthy, stable, sound horses becoming foot sore with heat and digital pulses seemingly out of the blue.

We often stop and ask why? Is it the unseasonably warm winter we’ve had causing higher carbohydrate levels in the grass? Is it the increased incidence of Lyme Disease compared to other years? Or maybe it’s the stress on the horse of extreme temperature changes in the last month, with freezing temperatures changing to sunny and 70 degrees back and forth several times over the past month?

The reality is that most times it’s not just one factor that causes a horse to tip over into active laminitis, but many different factors that unfortunately come together at the same time. And some horses are more at risk than others. Common risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • History of previous laminitis
  • History of metabolic disorders
  • Access to spring grass without restriction or management 
  • Administering multiple vaccines at one time  
  • Administering heavy duty wormers
  • Administering Corticosteroids
  • Emotional stress
  • Underlying systemic illness
  • Mechanical stresses on the feet
  • Current dietary protocols
  • Overworking or under working your horse
  • Genetic pre-disposition

Individually, the items on this list may not be too concerning. Put several of them together, though, and it can be enough to push the horse over into active laminitis.

Another factor to consider is many times laminitis is there long before we see acute symptoms. Subclinical laminitis is inflammation in the laminae without evidence of pain, heat or digital pulses. Yet we can often see evidence of laminar inflammation before active laminitis is noted.  

Signs the horse may be having subclinical laminitis:

  • The horse’s gait shortens on hard ground
  • The horse’s soles have become thinner
  • The horse’s feet have bruising in the toe/white line area
  • Your horse’s feet develop significant flares and dishing at the toe 
  • The horse’s neck gets bigger (cresty) and is hard or firm on palpation 
  • The horse exhibits post-trimming/shoeing sensitivity where there had been none in the past

This is an example of a horse who had many of the signs of sub-clinical laminitis before unfortunately rolling over into active laminitis: 


If you suspect a horse has laminitis:

  • Take the horse off of any pasture 
  • Put the horse somewhere they will stand quietly and provide some foot protection:
  • Call the Veterinarian:
    • The vet may do some blood work to determine risk status for metabolic disorders
    • The vet may recommend some anti-inflammatory support like Bute or Banamine
    • The vet may recommend icing the horse’s feet to reduce inflammation and ease pain
    • The vet may also want to do baseline radiographs so any further laminar changes can be assess as needed in the future.
  • Implement an emergency diet to reduce potential insulin spikes like Dr Kellon’s: ECIR Emergency Diet

To help prevent these types of laminitis:  

  • Have a dry lot  to get your horse off of grass at high risk times.  
  • Monitor your horse’s weight so they stay in an ideal range without obesity, and if you see them gaining weight take action so they lose weight. 
  • Educate yourself about diets that help horses maintain level insulin
  • Space out vaccines and worming to reduce stressing your horse during high risk times, especially spring and fall.  
  • Maintain a strict hoof care schedule all year long to keep the horse's feet healthy

PHCP Conference 2016: Packed Full of Gold

Several months ago I saw an event post on Facebook regarding the 2016 Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners Conference in San Diego, CA. When the event information came across my news feed, I felt compelled to attend. The lineup of speakers looked phenomenal featuring Dr. Deb Taylor, Dr. Hilary Clayton, nutritionist Carol Layton, Garrett Ford of EasyCare, and more.  The venue was set to be top notch, in sunny San Diego and located in large part at the beautiful Arroyo Del Mar, training facility of Shannon and Steffen Peters.  

Top that off with the opportunity to visit with friends and colleagues, this conference was too good to pass up.

This educational event was a hoof care provider's dream. I was incredibly impressed with how smoothly the conference ran, and how lovely San Diego is this time of year.

I was also impressed with the diversity of attendees. Veterinarians, barefoot trimmers, farriers, body workers and more. The information presented was diverse in subject matter, and valuable not only for my own personal knowledge, but also gave me a broader understanding on several topics that will directly help me help my clients' horses as well. Here are a few of the gold nuggets I took home.

Among many wonderful topics, Dr. Deb Taylor discussed negative palmar P3 angles and brought with her 3D-printed digital cushions. Note the difference between the digital cushion on the left, lacking mass and substance, and the digital cushion on the right, which is more robust. It was a fantastic way to fully visualize how important the mass of the digital cushion is to the foot of the horse. If my horse's foot had the digital cushion of the model on the left I'd have a lot to worry about. A robust digital cushion is critical to a healthy palmar P3 angle and straight hoof pastern axis.

Dr. Hilary Clayton discussed several interesting topics, one of which was "Biomechanics of the Hoof-Ground Interaction". There were two statements she made that stood out to me in particular.

If the Reaction Force vector does not pass through the center of rotation of the joint it creates a torque around the joint that the soft tissue has to oppose'. Dr Hillary Clayton, PHCP Conference 2016.

This statement brings home the importance of a balanced trim and how a thorough understanding of anatomy and locomotion for the hoof care provider is critical to the health and soundness of the horse. 

'The Distal Interphalangeal Joint is largely responsible for accommodating irregularities in terrain or farriery but not day after day, step after step'. Dr. Hillary Clayton, PHCP Conference 2016. 

This statement by Dr. Clayton highlights our responsibility as hoof care providers to respect the living tissue of the horse, and to remember how our work significantly impacts not only the soundness of our animals today, but long into the future.

Garrett Ford's demonstration of some of the latest and greatest glue-on composite shoe options for horses was enlightening. Any one of us can take a boot or shoe and apply it with success to the foot, but the benefit of watching an expert like Garrett apply a specific product can take a good application by any one of us and make it great. It's the small details that make the difference. I appreciated watching his shoe selection when applying the new Flip Flop, especially how he adjusted the back of the shoe for appropriate fit with a buffy. It was also helpful to watch how he applied the Glu-U Shufill packing to the front half of the foot, leaving the back half open so dirt and debris wouldn't get under the front of the shoe, but could still easily fall out of the back.  

Carol Layton discussed nutrition for the horse and diet, especially as it relates to Insulin Resistance and PPID.  

'Horses are designed to be trickle feeders, the worst thing we can do is feed them sporadically' Carol Layton, PHCP Conference 2016.

She showed us photos and video of the micro-organisms with their anatomical parts, searching and eating, living their life in the horse's gut. It was fascinating, and highlighted the importance of having the right micro-organisms in the digestive tract of the horse. Especially as it relates to the insulin resistant horse being on a "diet". Commonly, these horses are on calorie-restricted diets, which means they don't eat all day long. She emphasized the importance of using an appropriately low ESC + starch forage fed at a rate of 1.5% of the horse's body weight per day in a slow feeder net so they nibble constantly. 

There are too many gold nuggets of information to highlight them all here. I encourage you to consider attending the next PHCP Conference in 2018.

Glue Timing: Wrestling With Temperature Control

Glue work is messy!  It's fraught with opportunity to get glue on yourself, on the horse, and all over your clothes.  

Now let's make it even more complicated when we consider that glue is temperature sensitive.  It cures faster in when it's warm and slower when it's cold...which means we have to constantly adjust our working speed for a variable we cannot control, or completely predict: THE WEATHER.    

Here in the Northeast we are feeling the cold temperatures acutely given the most recently Blizzard Jonas that just dumped 30" of snow on us in 24 hours here in Pennsylvania!  

This has made me acutely aware of the difficulties of using glue in extreme temperatures.  Keep in mind I use primarily fast set acrylic glue: Equilox II, EasyShoeBond Fast Set, or Hoof Life Swift Set, etc.  I want to share with you the guide I use for applying EasyShoes with acrylic glue in different temperatures. Given the snow I see when I look outside, I'm going to focus on tips for heating the glue and shoe.  

There are various ways of heating glue in the cold weather.  In addition to keeping my glue in the house overnight so it doesn't get chilled, I use a heating pad, like you'd find at the pharmacy for your back, to heat my glue.  Depending on how cold it is, I would also keep the glue near the heat vents in my truck in between stops. And when it gets REALLY cold, I also use a heat gun to heat my shoe:  

And the heat gun to heat the foot:

And to heat the glue once the shoe is applied:

With the kind of horses I work on, holding the foot up when the glue is curing is critical to success, as is building height and mechanics with the glue and the shoe. So I tend to like my glue just starting to get thicker when I put the shoe on the foot.  

Here is a video of the difference in glue consistency.  The glue on the left is too thin unless you're doing a weight-bearing application.  The three glues on the right are too stiff and have set up too much to use to attach a shoe to a foot, but the glue in the middle, second from the left, got it...JUST RIGHT!


Here is a chart for how I break down my heating and cooling strategies by ambient temperature:

85-95°F and above: 

  • Consider slow set glue  -or-
  • Chill fast set glue with an ice pack in cooler or fridge


  • Keep glue out of sun
  • Fast set glue consider cooling with an ice pack in cooler or fridge


  • Put glue in sun to take any chill off


  • Heat glue in heating pad on LOW to take chill off


  • Heat glue in heating pad on MED-HIGH
  • May need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot.


  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • Heat shoe before applying glue
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot
  • Consider heating the horse’s foot with heat gun right before application


  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • Heat shoe before applying glue
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on the horse's foot
  • Heat the horse’s foot with heat gun right before application

25°F and below: 

  • Heat glue in heating pad on HIGH
  • WILL need heat gun on shoe once on horse's foot
  • WILL also need to heat shoe before glue application, and foot before applying shoe
  • May also need to keep packing, tips, and other supplies in a warm room especially at temps below 20°F
  • Consider heating work space with torpedo heaters, etc.  

This is based on a horse that stands well, working in a protected space without wind or direct sun, and your desire to have the glue set up as fast as possible, approximately two minutes.

Temperature ranges need to be adjusted for wind (down 10 degrees from ambient temperature) or working in direct sun (up 10 degrees from ambient temperature).   Of course direct sun out of the wind can also help you if it's a slightly chilly day!

You can also adjust this chart down 10°F if you want the glue to be more liquid when you apply your shoe to the foot like in a weight bearing application, or a horse who doesn't need so much height or mechanics built into the shoe.  

I hope this information helps you be more successful in getting your glue to behave in all sorts of weather!  With any questions or for information on glue and composite shoe hands-on clinics, please see:

Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision Part 3

In Part 1 of this series on hoof radiographs, I discussed how to get accurately acquired and measurable radiographs for hoof care decisions. In Part 2 of the series, I discussed some things you can look at to get the most out of your accurately acquired hoof radiographs. In this last part of the series, I'm going to show you examples of how assessing the foot in front of you with the benefit of radiographs can greatly enhance your ability to help the horse.

This is a horse who was lame in both front feet with significant hoof capsule distortion when I was called in to help. There are several external characteristics we can use to identify the distortions in this capsule: the steep coronary band angle, shallow dorsal wall angle, under-run heels, pointy heel bulbs, etc all lead us to reliably conclude this is a long toe/low heel foot. Most of us would probably want to shorten the toe, develop heel height, and move the foot print back in some way shape or form. 

Here is the sole view of this foot. Note the location of the white line marked with the red dotted line. One trim option would be to bring in the length of this foot by applying a hard roll on the wall from heel to heel. That would certainly make this foot more compact and given the right diet, environment and exercise the feet would certainly improve.  

Another option would be to map the sole of this foot. Given the hoof guidelines I like to follow when trimming and shoeing, it would certainly give me more information about how I could get this foot back,but the 50/50 line is in the middle of the sole. We can see that this foot has a long toe, and maybe even a lot of toe, but can the map be right? 

A radiograph in this situation would give us valuable objective information about where the bones and soft tissue are located inside this distorted foot. The radiograph here confirms the long toe/low heels assessment and accuracy of the hoof map, but also gives us specific and measurable information about the foot we have to work with in front of us:

We all have different trim styles, and some of us like to do things faster or slower for the horse and the specific situation in front of us. Because of my experience with rehabilitation and specifically using radiographs as an objective reference, in most instances I like to gain as much ground in my rehabilitation each visit as possible. Given this horse's situation, and the information the radiographs gave me, here is what I did at the first trim:

I would not have done this aggressive of a trim without the radiograph to guide me.

Here is the lateral view, showing signifiant improvements to Hoof-Pastern Axis, Palmar P3 Angle, and the balance around the Center of Rotation being closer to my goal or 50/50. I would apply a hoof boot therapeutically or composite shoe to this foot during the rehabilitation process.  

Another example of how accurately aquired hoof radiographs, and specifically Dorso-Palmar (DP) radiographs, can help you in your decision-making for the foot in front of you is this foot here:

This horse was very lame with digital pulses in both front feet when I was called in to help. Externally he was lacking vertical depth, with low heel angle. What was also interesting about this horse is how crooked his leg and hoof capsule appeared. 

The lateral radiograph confirmed how little foot we really had to work with, which the horse's pain level and hoof inflammation was certainly telling us. What was also very interesting was the DP radiograph, since it also indicated significant medial lateral hoof imbalances that we could help this horse with at the time.   

This horse would definitely benefit from composite shoes like the EasyShoe, to facilitate building vertical depth until the horse can grow it. With the added information from the DP x-ray I would also look to build up the medial side of this foot in my shoe and glue. Without the radiograph we might not have been able to make as quantitative a balancing decision.  

Working with hoof radiographs can greatly increase your ability for accuracy and effectiveness for the horses you work on. I encourage you to request radiographs on your horses as much as possible. The information you gain is invaluable. For more information on using radiographs in your work, please see and

Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision - Part Two

In my EasyCare blog last month I discussed how to get accurately acquired, measurable radiographs (X-rays). So now that you have your fabulous radiographs what do you do with them? Many veterinarians don't think to offer radiographs for hoof balancing to the farrier because they believe the farrier doesn't know what to do with them, and they might be right. You probably don't need radiographs for all of your horses, but you'd be surprised how much radiographs can help you be more effective for many of the feet you work on. Sometimes you just don't know what you don't know. Radiographs give you objective information about the relationship of the internal and external structures.  

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your radiographs. Remember a radiograph takes a three-dimensional form and turns it into a two-dimensional image:

It's often helpful to have more than one view of the foot you're looking at in order to be able to orient yourself three-dimensionally especially for hoof balancing radiographs. As discussed in the previous blog, typically lateral and dorso-palmar (DP) radiographs are most helpful. Wrapping your brain around the three-dimensional anatomy and how it relates to a two-dimensional image can be tricky. With practice it gets easier, so look at lots of radiographs and ask lots of questions to those that know how to read them. Here is an explanation of some of the relative anatomy on those two views to help you orient yourself. Keep in mind the cadaver bones pictured are not from the radiographs next to them:  

In the lateral view, it's important to remember that you can only assess dorsal-palmar and distal-proximal balance, not medial-lateral balance. The medial-lateral dimension is flattened in the image.

In the DP view, it's important to remember that you can only assess medial-lateral and distal-proximal balance, not dorsal-palmar balance. The dorsal-palmar dimension is flattened in the image.  

My hoof balancing guidelines as I've described in previous blogs are based on four criteria as a starting point:  

Of course there are always exceptions to those guidelines due to movement considerations and needs of the individual animal. These hoof balancing guidelines are easy to assess in the radiograph and compare to the foot in front of you.  

For hoof balancing and shoe placement purposes there are many things you might look at on the x-ray in front of you. On the lateral radiograph I look at these parameters when judging how to trim and where I want to place any shoe I might be applying:

  • Palmar P3 Angle: Bottom of P3 in relation to the ground
  • P1/P2 Joint Angle, P2/P3 Joint Angle, and Dorsal Wall Deviation/Flare to judge capsular and phalangeal alignment.
  • Judging sole depth and corium location if you can see it helps keep you safe.
  • Palmar curve gives you some information about the potential for concavity for the foot, and helps me decide if a horse can be sound barefoot or might need a composite shoe.  

On the DP radiograph I consider the following parameters:

  • Comparing joint space from one side to another: is one side closer together than another?
  • Comparing the midline of each bone and the tilt of the joint compared to the plane of vascular channels of P3: while no horse is straight, the AVERAGE sum of those planes should be flat landing.
  • Compare the relative sole depth on each side of P3: this parameter can be problematic as the bottom of P3 can model.
  • Consider the location of the frog and central sulcus and shape and size of the collateral grooves, this can provide valuable information as to the yaw and roll of the limb. 

Whether you're the kind of person who likes to look at measurements, angles, and ratios or the kind of person who prefers a more organic assessment of symmetry and form, radiographs will do a lot to help you with your work. In Part Three of this series on radiographs, I will use a case study to demonstrate where radiographs gave me surprising, yet critical information which helped make the decisions to help the horse.

Hoof Radiographs: They Give You X-Ray Vision - Part One

There is so much about the foot we are expected to interpret from external landmarks: sole depth, toe length, heel height, position of the bones, soft tissue inside the capsule, and more! Most of us hoof care providers can get really close in our assessment of the feet we work on, however, we all have some percentage of our horses that we feel a little less certain about. It might be a horse with very distorted feet, or a specific pathology that muddies the waters a bit.  

In these cases, hoof radiographs (x-rays) can be quite enlightening. The information a well taken hoof radiograph can give you is tremendous, especially with pathology or severely distorted feet. Although I'm also surprised at how helpful radiographs of my healthier feet can be - just a slight adjustment made from seeing a radiograph can make a big difference to the horse.  

So what do you need to get good information out of radiographs to help you in your hoof care work? There are two main views that are most helpful to the hoof care provider:  

  • Lateral-Medial, from the side of the foot, also known as a Lateral Radiograph
  • Dorso-Palmar, from the front of the foot, also known as a DP or AP Radiograph


 Here are several key elements that will help you be successful assessing Lateral and DP radiographs for your hoof care work:

1. Be present when the radiographs are taken. You're going to want to ensure the radiographs are taken with technique that makes them accurate and usable for hoof assessment. If you cannot be present, you'll want to have a conversation with the veterinarian as to what you're looking for and how you want the foot marked or labeled.  

2. The horse's feet need to be picked out and wire brushed clean, including the hoof wall from ground surface to the coronary band, around the heels, into the collateral groves, central sulcus, and any other separations and pockets, for clear visibility of all structures in the radiograph. Many of the tips and tricks in my previous blog on taking hoof photographs also apply to taking good radiographs.

3. The horse needs to be standing on level ground, with cannon bones perpendicular to the ground, a leg at each corner. Both feet, whether front or hind, need to be on blocks of equal height, and the horse's head should be facing straight ahead. This prevents body positioning and weight bearing imbalances from skewing your radiographs.  

While good setup and technique for acquiring the radiographs is critical for any assessment of the horse's foot, it is equally important they are taken with a scale marker for calibration so physical measurements can be achieved that are accurate.  

There are several options for calibrating radiographs, three of which are shown here:  EPC Solutions Scale Marker, a wire on the dorsal wall of known length, and the Metron Imaging Blocks. Scale markers need to be in the "plane of interest" which would be the area of the subject that is most important to scale to.  In this case, that would be the mid-line of the limb.

There are also other markers that can be helpful like a thumb tack at the true frog apex, or at the widest part of the foot on the frog. Barium radio-opaque paste showing the true dorsal wall and heel on lateral radiographs is often helpful as well.  

Here are some examples of radiographs with common problems that make it challenging to assess hoof parameters. 

In this image, there are no scale markers, and the foot is not entirely included in the radiograph:

This radiograph is not a true lateral view, it was taken off-axis and without scale markers: 

Well taken hoof radiographs can be so helpful to the hoof care provider in providing accurate information for helping the horse. To appreciate how powerful this information can be, EPC Solutions, a leading innovator in Equine Podiatry Consulting, utilizes Equine Podiatry X-rays as an integral tool in their practice. They assess the distal limb and develop farrier plans that optimize recovery in cases with difficult hoof pathology. Here is what they have to say about taking hoof radiographs for the farrier:  

“There are significant differences between diagnostic radiograph views compared to podiatry views. Diagnostic radiographs are usually aimed at an angle to the sagittal plane, investigating into a joint or at oblique views to "see around the corner". They are shot with a harder exposure that burns out edge definition and soft tissue detail. Diagnostic views incur magnification and image distortion but are not usually an issue for intended purpose.  

For podiatry radiographs the x-ray beam should be aimed straight-on, perpendicular, to the distal limb and the crosshairs centered strategically at or near the bottom edge of the coffin bone. It is important to shoot the image with a level beam- running on a horizontal plane to the ground surface/palmar rim of the hoof. Generally, due to the height of the x-ray unit body, this is not possible unless we raise the hooves - typically placing them on wooden blocks to align the bottom of the coffin bone level to the height of the beam.  

Combined with a thorough understanding of hoof bio-mechanics, distal limb pathology, farriery, nutrition and body therapy support, podiatry x-rays provide very useful information for veterinarians and hoof care providers towards a complete distal limb solution."  

Here is an example of what good podiatry radiographs can do for you, as marked up by EPC Solutions. 

"Podiatry x-ray hard and soft tissue parameters provide useful insights into distal limb health and static balance. While externally this hoof may appear relatively healthy and even nicely aligned with hoof pastern axis, many internal data markers highlight the need to optimize the hoof balance and address possible underlying metabolic changes in the hoof before long-term pathology affects soundness levels". EPC Solutions

Ideally, we would all get baseline podiatry radiographs of our horse's feet for assessment once a year to have a greater chance of preventing lameness issues before they occur. However, even if you just get well-taken, measurable radiographs of your difficult cases, the horses will benefit immensely. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month, which will discuss how to read your accurately acquired, measurable radiographs.

On Cloud 9 About Easyboot Clouds

Doing hoof rehabilitation work every day, I'm always interested in anything that will help me keep the horses I work on more comfortable.  When I learned EasyCare was coming out with the Cloud I was hoping the boot would be a good option for my clients, and I have not been disappointed!  

There are many different uses we have found for the Cloud in our daily work, the most common are:

  1. Use on sore footed horses as daily protection as part of their hoof rehabilitation
  2. Applied to a support limb during trimming or shoeing to help keep the horse comfortable
  3. Protection for a bandage or wrap when treating an abscess or foot wound

I love the Easyboot Cloud for laminitic and foundered horses.  We now have the boots on many different horses for daily use as part of their hoof rehabilitation.   One of the most impressive is this DraftX mare:

​A boot has to be pretty substantial to hold up to a 1400 lbs chronically foundered DraftX.  Especially one with twisty feet like hers.  Here is her left front when we first met her:  

Booting this mare is really challenging.  Her conformation is quite twisty, and was compounded by foundering with medial sinking causing her foot to twist even more.  The Cloud boots turn toe-in to match her feet, however, they don't spin or twist beyond that.   

We also really like how easy the Cloud is to apply to sore footed horses.  Because the back of the boot folds down flat, the toe slides right in and the foot can be put down immediately to finish closing up the boot, minimizing the amount of time the horse has to be standing on one leg.  

In our humid environment, we like to apply Gold Bond powder to the inside of the boot to help prevent moisture from building up when the boots are worn by the horse 24/7.  This also prevents any fungus/bacteria from taking hold and keeps the feet hard and dry.  


The pad inside the boot has also been holding up beautifully even with the weight of this big mare.  They pads are compressing enough to conform to the shape of her foot, but don't over compress, which keep them squishy enough to provide continual comfort without over wear.  These pads have been in her boots that she has worn 24/7 for the past four weeks.  We have boots on many horses who have been in them for months and have yet to need to replace a pad.  

Another great use of the Cloud Boot is when we're pulling shoes and want to keep the horse as comfortable as possible, especially when the footing we're standing on is less than desirable for a newly barefoot horse, like this lumpy concrete:

Once the first shoe is pulled and foot trimmed, the Cloud is applied to help the horse stand for the second foot to be worked on without discomfort.  This helps the horse stand quietly without fussing or fighting to get off the weight bearing leg.  In the above scenario we could have just worked on the grass being softer than the concrete, but I wouldn't have good visibility of the foot making assessment more challenging.  Those of you who know my obsession with hoof documentation also know that taking photos in the grass is not a good way to get accurate images!  

In this photo the left foot with the Cloud boot on has already been trimmed, and the boot is facilitating our work on the right foot:

  This horse doesn't need Cloud Boots permanently, yet they were a big asset in working on the rocky concrete.

The Clouds are also a great tool when we have a horse with an acute abscess or hoof wound, and we need to protect the foot with a wrap for a period of time. We are able to apply the wrap and then put the boot over top.  The wrap can get changed as often as needed and the boot minimizes the amount of bandage materials necessary while also keeping the horse comfortable.

Not only are we keeping an inventory of Cloud Boots for sale, we're also keeping an inventory of boots of each size for RENT for those who need them short term. This is another valuable service we can offer our clients.  The EasyBoot Cloud has quickly become a valuable tool in our daily work!  I encourage you to find where they will help you in your work as well!  


DHF Addressing Hoof Distortion: Slippering Heels

There are many ideas surrounding how to address the back of the foot with our trim. Heels, bars, frog...some trimming techniques are more aggressive than others, recommending more or less removal of material.

I was taught a trimming technique to address distortion in the heels by Dr. Judith Shoemaker, a stellar veterinarian who practices complimentary medicine in Nottingham, PA. Heel slippering!

In trimming the heels, most methods recommend bringing the heels back to the widest part of the frog. Anytime the heels are brought back they are also lowered since the foot is a cone. In some situations, lowering the heel height is not desirable, especially if the horse is being kept barefoot and adding heel height back in is not an option with a prosthetic device. This is where heel slippering can be especially helpful!  

Here is an example of a horse who benefited from using heel slippering as part of his hoof rehabilitation.  He was experiencing heel pain, and also suffered from kissing spines. The owner asked if I'd help her horse become pasture sound, and through the process of rehabilitation and working with Dr Shoemaker, he became sound and could be ridden again! 

Here is his Right Front foot when I first started with him. The back of his foot at this time is quite distorted:

In applying my guidelines for hoof rehabilitation as I've discussed in previous blogs, I wanted to get his heels back, but couldn't without lowering his already too low palmar P3 angle. Heel slippering gives me a way to straighten the distortion in his heels without overly lowering the height.  

Here are the Right Front heels from our first trim to the third trim over a three month period of time using heel slippering as part of our trim protocol. Note the contracted under-run heels and uneven bars before, to straighter bars and wider heel and frog after those three trims:  


The radiographs and photos here are during that same three month period. Note the higher palmar P3 angle and increased angle of hoof growth coming in below the coronary band after three trims. At this point he is hardly finished his rehabilitation, but off to a good start! Heel slippering helped straighten the distortion in the heels while facilitating increasing his palmar P3 angle.

Here he is being ridden after hoof rehabilitation and complimentary therapies with Dr. Shoemaker:

Heel slippering works by removing the distorted heel and bar from the ground, without lowering the height of the heels overall. The heels can be mapped to determine what material needs to be relieved to straighten the affected tubules. Dr Shoemaker observed that each curled heel seems to have a stress line, a 'fulcrum' that occurs on the back of the heel, at the point of folding of the heel. In heels that are quite folded, there can even be more than one fulcrum line as well.  

The red arrows and the black sharpie lines mark where the fulcrum points are located on the heels of this different horse's distorted foot. This is the first time I worked on this horse:

In mapping for slippering heels I like to mark the fulcrum points first, then I draw a line from the end of the white line of the bar, at the bar swell, to the fulcrum point.  When you have multiple fulcrum points, you can use your discretion as to which fulcrum point you map based on how much of the turn of the heel you want to straighten:

The goal is to relieve the curled tubules from the ground so the new tubules will be stimulated to grow in a better direction. Similar to removing a flare so the new growth can come in straighter. The next step in mapping the heels is to draw a line from where the fulcrum point and bar line meet, down to the bottom of the collateral groove:
  Everything above the slipper line needs to be SAFELY and CAREFULLY removed from the ground as marked here:

Actually trimming the heel slipper can be done with a knife, rasp or nippers. The key is to have the transition between bar and heel smooth and on a flat plane (not scooped!) so the tubules are stimulated in a straighter direction:

Here is the medial heel on this Right Front foot slippered. Notice how the bar and heel tubules are much straighter, however, the overall heel height has not been lowered. 


The added benefit of this technique is when the foot fills with hoof pack, the heel support is now back at the widest part of the frog, without lowering the heel height, and therefor the palmar P3 angle.  

When I have a foot that has a good bit of distortion in the heels and bars, yet a low palmar P3 angle, heel slippering is a useful tool in my toolbox to address the distortion and yet avoid overly lowering the heel height in the process. For more information on heel slippering and other ways to identify and correct hoof capsule distortion, consider attending one of our hands-on hoof clinics. See our calendar for details on clinic dates:


Body Condition: It's a Weighty Question

As farriers, we are often asked general questions about the horses we see on a daily basis. What fly spray do we like, or what feed would we recommend? We also get questions about the horse's body condition and weight, which can be a very touchy subject. No one wants to hear their horse is obese. Because I deal with so many horses who founder from metabolic disease, I see many obese horses. If your horse is fat, I'm going to tell you he's fat, and expect you to help him lose weight. Tough love.

So how do you know if your horse is too fat, too thin, or just right?   

The Henneke Scoring System is a scientific method of evaluating a horse’s body condition regardless of breed, body type, sex or age. It was developed in 1983 by Don Henneke, PhD, during his graduate study at Texas A & M University. It is based on both visual appraisal and palpable fat cover of the six major points of the horse that are most responsive to changes in body fat.

The Henneke Chart is a standardized scoring system, whereas the terms, “skinny”, “thin”, “emaciated” or “fat” are all subjective terms that have different meanings to different people. It is widely used by law enforcement and is accepted in a court of law.

I think if we're honest with ourselves we tend to like our horses a bit rounder. Here is my horse right before he foundered and led me to become a farrier. I had no idea he was obese. He was in full dressage training, and I assumed he had a stocky build and good muscle. His Henneke Body Condition Score (BCS) here is actually an 8.  

I wish I had known at that time that one of the largest risk factors for laminitis is obesity. After my poor guy foundered due to insulin resistance, I worked diligently to get the weight off of him. After two years, his BCS had dropped to a 4 and once back into work he looked like this:

Would you guess this is the same horse? My horse was not stocky in the first photo. He was fat. 

Here he is two years later, finally well muscled again, this time with BSC 5:

Again looking like a very different horse. Be careful not to think your horse is "big boned" and in reality have an overweight animal. I learned a lot about my assumptions regarding body condition from using the Henneke Body Scoring System and objectively assessing his weight.  

Many times I see owners give up too early and get complacent with weight loss for their obese horses. This halflinger was on 24/7 turnout and the owner diligently muzzled her and dropped 150 lbs off her, even after dropping 150 pounds she still foundered. Amazingly, the owner was able to get another 150 lbs off of her to help her feet and control her insulin resistance by putting her on a dry lot.

In the first photo, she is about a 9 on the Body Condition Scale. After huge improvements in her weight in the second photo she's still about a 6-7 BCS. Finally in the third photo, she's a 5 BCS and her feet are stable. Note the cresty neck, fat pads over her shoulders, back, ribs and tail head finally disappearing in the last photo.

I often hear "Oh they've always had that crest, it won't go away". In my experience, it will if the metabolic condition is really controlled. Here is a horse we rehabilitated at Daisy Haven Farm after foundering due to Insulin Resistance. She was with me for four months. In that time, we worked diligently on her feet, while she lived in a dry lot with a controlled diet designed to help her get to an ideal weight. As you can see from the photos here, her body condition greatly improved, going from a BSC of 8 to BCS of 3.5-4 when she was ready to go home. She is now ready to get back into work and build back muscle.   

For more information about this horse and her feet, please see this article written on The Horse: Rehabilitating Horses with EMS-Associated Laminitis.

When observing body condition with the Henneke Scale, it is recommended to use your hands and with firm pressure investigate all 6 points on the horse's body. Here is an example of a horse who has his ribs showing but actually quite obese. Note the cresty neck, fat behind his shoulder and withers, and at his tail head. Do not be complacent in helping a horse like this lose weight. The visible ribs yet having prominent fat pads actually makes this horse a higher risk for laminitis than a horse who is generally obese with fat evenly distributed over the entire body.

We see thin horses and we think the horse is being neglected or abused. In my mind, obese horses are also neglected or even abused, admittedly often due to lack of knowledge. We are literally "killing them with kindness". Please objectively assess your horse's body condition on a regular basis. Keeping your horse about a BCS of 5 on the Henneke scale is one of the most important factors in preventing metabolic laminitis.  

For more information about Daisy and the work we do at Daisy Haven Farm, Inc. please see and