The Challenges of Spring Grass: Laminitis and Founder

Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Dawn Willoughby

Original Post June 2, 2011

In most cases, owners can prevent the ravages of laminitis (inflammation of the laminae between hoof wall and coffin bone) and founder (pulling away of wall from coffin bone due to a broken laminae). During my six years as a professional trimmer, I tried to educate owners about preventing this painful situation. Here is a review of what I shared with them every spring.

I live in Delaware where we have a spring that challenges most horses. Beginning in late March, early April, our sugary spring grass starts to grow. Our worst days are cool and sunny. This combination has the effect of creating a surge of sugar in the grass. When the sun goes down, the spring night temperatures are cool, keeping the sugar in the grass, not allowing it to return to the roots. That's a double whammy for the natural herd that is out 24/7. It isn't until July that we reliably dry out and warm up every day and night. When this happens the sugar returns to the roots. I learned about forage growth and pasture management from studying materials and attending clinics by Katy Watts, www.safergrass.org, an agricultural expert and owner of founder-prone horses. She offers wonderful lectures on her site as well.
 

Sunny & Doc

Sunny and Doc, “the bay thoroughbred twins” at Tory Hill Farm in Glen Mills, Pa. Up to their eyeballs in spring grass, these former athletics are not markedly affected.

When I had a trimming practice, I encouraged owners to mark April 1st to July 1st on their calendars and prepare for spring grass for their easy keepers.
  1. First and foremost, adjust the diet. Lower dietary sugar anyway you can. You will need to be especially aggressive if you have a horse prone to laminitis and founder, usually known as an “easy keeper”. Examples: draft horses, native horses and ponies and donkeys. Eliminate grain, molasses, most treats and, if necessary, add a muzzle or put the horse in a dirt pasture or on a dirt path system such as Paddock Paradise. Hay should have 10% or less sugar. Correctly soaking hay can reduce sugar by 30%; leave the sugar water on the bottom of the tub. Most horses do very well on forage diets.
  2. Maintain or increase exercise. I have a friend who ponys her mini off her warmblood mare! This year she is teaching the mini to drive.
  3. A distant third, the trim. Apply a steeper bevel to outer and inner wall in order to avoid any wall pressure on the laminae of a normally well trimmed horse. In other words, apply the “rehab” trim (more info below).
  4. Involve the veterinarian as needed.
In the spring, the grass is nourishing seeds in order to survive. Even if you have an over-grazed area, you can assume it's high in sugar if there is grass. Stressed grass is high in sugar. I use Equi Analytical Laboratories to test hay and pasture. The test costs $26. Then I know the exact sugar content as well as the amount and proportion of minerals in my horse's diet. I have learned to supplement my horse's meals by balancing the minerals in his diet. Dr. Eleanor Kellon, www.drkellon.com, will help you create a plan for your horse or you can take her basic course on-line and learn to balance the diet yourself. Dr. Kellon is an expert in this area, especially working with foundered horses and will help owners with medicinal supplements, as well. She is well educated in homeopathy and herbal treatments.

As for the trim, I put a steeper angle (55 degrees) on the walls and switch from a “maintenance” trim to a “rehabilitation” trim in April, on all horses, founder-prone or not. That means I apply the mustang roll to the outer and inner wall, right to the laminae. I return to the maintenance trim in July when the sugar reliably declines, just beveling the outer wall. By relieving any pressure on the laminae (aka white line) via the wall, I am able to minimize wall flare due to laminitis. I have noticed that in May, my OTTB, Sunny. becomes a bit ouchy on the gravel driveway so clearly he has lamintis. There are other telltale symptoms. He may lose a little bit of concavity, about a half inch from the laminae. If he experiences any wall flare, it is limited to about an inch from the ground. In our 6 years together, he has never gone lame. Another telltale sign is one or more horizontal rings on the outer wall, laminitic rings where the laminae detached, and reattached. When I ride out in rocky areas, I simply boot the front. Padded Epics, Gloves and Generation 2 Old Mac all do a nice job.

Example 1
Tessa is an 8 year old, warmblood mare. She has been barefoot her entire life and has had what I consider a good trim for the past 4 years. Her owner trims her every week or two. She is turned out with a babysitter, Frisco the mini, on 3 acres that wrap around the house. Their diet is mostly low sugar hay. The pair moves a lot, checking on their people. This year Tessa's owner reduced her grain from a couple quarts to a handful. This is the first spring Tessa has not needed boots for cross country rides. I have seen her walk over rocky paths with no problem, just as she does the rest of the year. Tessa maintained full concavity on the bottom of her feet. Her weight has gone down to a healthier level too: you can feel but not see her ribs. Before hand she looked like a “typical” chunky warmblood. She is ridden daily.
 
Tessa & Frisco

Tessa and Frisco, both easy keepers, look great this spring. More importantly, they feel great.

Example 2
Martha learned to trim her two Percheron crosses a few years ago. This is the first spring at her own farm and she can finally control their environment. The horses are on a pasture with no grass. They eat nothing with grain or molasses and have low sugar hay strewn about the pasture. They are ridden most days. Here is the note I received from Martha this past April, 2011:

In that we are trying to save the pasture and have them on only a third of it (with no grass, just hay), we are also doing the boys a huge favor...they have absolutely NO laminitic rings, NO sore feet, NO hardish neck on Squire, etc. wow, all those times you said to keep them OFF the grass in spring and fall and other high sugar times, this really proves that point. Tell all those sorts of non believers who think their laminitic prone horses who are eating little bits of "stressed" grass, aren't getting enough to matter, that they are DEAD wrong and can get in touch with me it they want proof!!!  Bravo Dawn!!!
 
Shawn & Squire

Percheron Crosses, Shawn and Squire, have happy, working feet this spring.

Example 3
Early in my career, I worked on a chronically foundered Friesan who lived on a pasture with short, sad-looking vegetation (I hesitate to call it grass), growing in sandy soil. I couldn't believe it could make any horse sick but I was wrong. The only solution for a sensitive horse like that is to get him off the grass and feed the correct amount, by weight, of low sugar hay (Dr. Kellon can help you with the amount of hay). Although his owner didn't agree, I still believe the horse had been chronically foundered for most of his life. This explained his reluctance to work under saddle at the trot or canter. When I saw him, it was the first time he had gone lame. But I am sure he didn't “suddenly” get sore; he simply couldn't hide it anymore. His body had the telltale fat pad pattern of a lamintic horse: convex, filled in area above the eyes, cresty neck and fat pads on his shoulders and on either side of the tail.
 
Fat pad distribution After

Common fat pad distribution on founder-prone horse, a pure Friesan, and several months later after his diet had been corrected.

It's easy to tell on most horses if the wall is well connected to the coffin bone. Just put your fingers on the hairline of the coronary band and run them down the wall. Begin on one side and work your way around the entire foot. If you feel a flare, the wall isn't connected. This has been the case with almost every horse I have worked on. By correcting the diet, exercise and trim, I routinely grew out well connected feet. The only exception is a horse who has been chronically foundered and the laminae became scarred. There is nothing for the wall to attach to. Typically the wall is well connected for about half the foot and then flares out, even after a year of good care. Some horses do flare right out of the hairline but as you apply the correct trim, you will see the well connected foot at the top of the hoof capsule.
 
Bugsy After

Right off the track, Bugsy, shows off his original shod foot and four months later, half of the great foot he grew in 4 months. His is an example of flaring right out of the hairline, all around. He remained sound throughout. Long toes and underrun heels may be common on racehorses but don't confuse that with the excellent feet we can grow on thoroughbreds!

On sensitive, easy-keepers, owners must go into over drive in the spring and any time the weather is sunny in the day and cool at night, with adequate rain to grow grass. For some horses, I suspect Cushings Disease if they present with founder in the fall. The vet can test for this disease; long body hair is a late stage symptom.

Charlie, a Holsteiner gelding, came to the farm where I boarded in 2010. He had not been at the farm long enough to have well trimmed feet and the owner didn't have any “spring grass” experience with him. She was told he “rotated” in the previous spring. In May 2010, he developed massive abscesses along the hairline and in late May the wall pulled away from the coffin bone, founder. In a typical founder stance, Charlie “sat back” on his haunches to relieve pressure on his front feet where the coffin bone was threatening to push through the sole. When we could pick up a foot, we put him in padded Old Mac's G2. I showed the owner how to “peel” away part of the outer wall on the ground with nippers. We took the toe back to where it should be, giving him some relief. It took 12 months for his owner-trimmer to grow out a good foot.
 
Charlie

Charlie has almost grown out one of the large abscess, the horizontal line near the bottom of the foot from last years bout with founder.

Going into the spring of 2011, the owner decided to see how Charlie tolerated the grass, now with good feet. He did not (it really is about the diet). Abscesses appeared in April. He was put on a sacrifice lot with a friend, full time, with access to two stalls. In mid May, after the abscesses popped, (no one touched him with a knife of course), the owner experiment with muzzled turnout because Charlie moves so much more when he is with the herd of eight retired racehorses. She finally settled on a routine of muzzled turnout by day and sacrifice lot and two open stalls with a friend at night.

Don't tell me you can't keep a muzzle on your horse! Figure it out. Add a leather halter over the muzzle. Vet tape the two together. Add a brow band to the halter. Braid the crown piece into the mane at the pole. Add halter fuzzies everywhere to avoid rubs. I recommend removing the muzzle twice a day to check for rubs. If the horse has “an accomplice”, put that horse in a muzzle too; if he doesn't need it, just make the hole bigger so he can eat grass but not pull off the muzzle.

There is a misconception that once the horse has “rotated”, he can't go sound. This is untrue. In the vastly over-simplified version, the wall disconnects from the coffin bone when the laminae breaks due to a sugar overdose. If anything “rotates”, it's the wall away from the horse. The coffin bone is right where it should be, under the horse. According to Dr. Tomas Teskey, many horses feel better within days of a dietary correction. On most horses you can grow out a good foot in 7-12 months depending on how bad the situation is. Dead lame horses may recover more slowly. Please check Pete Ramey's site, www.hoofrehab.com, for many useful articles written by this well known “founder junkie”. His DVD series, Under the Horse, is excellent. Within that series are a couple of DVDs focusing on laminitis and founder. Shoes and stalling are never a good idea in my view.

The ultimate test? I was able to keep two miniature donkeys healthy in a grassy, 35 acre Pennsylvania pasture by putting Best Friend muzzles on them in mid-March and leaving them on until the first freeze, in December. They never even developed fat pads on their necks, shoulders and rumps. I did take off their muzzles for a half hour at breakfast and dinner to check for rubs. They shared a half cup of “safe” food. They were not fed apples or carrots because the glycemic index, although low for humans, is too high for super easy-keepers like donkeys. This advice came from Dr. Eleanor Kellon, my favorite equine nutritionist.

Clearly it is possible for owners to manage diet and lifestyle for their founder prone horses. I hope this introductory article is just the beginning of your research into learning all you can about preventing laminitis and founder for your best friend.

Good Luck and Happy Trails!

Dawn

My Favorite Resources
  • Equi Analytical Laboratories http://www.equi-analytical.com. The sister laboratory, Dairy One, has additional educational information.
  • Dr. Eleanor Kellon's www.drkellon.com offers reasonably priced consults and great on-line courses. The first course to take is “National Research Foundation (NRC) Plus”. The NRC 2007 recommendations books is available on-line.
  • Pete Ramey's www.hoofrehab.com has articles, DVD's and current research.
  • Katy Watt's http://www.safergrass.org/ offers consults, articles and excellent Power Point lectures on CDs and clinic schedule.

Dawn Willoughby lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her husband, Drew Knox, Annie the Rottweiler and Sunny, OTTB. During her professional trimming career (2004-2010) she focused on teaching owners to trim their horses. She will work with owners online who have no access to trimmers and will conduct owner-focused trimming clinics internationally. She now focuses on equine bodywork along with in-hand and mounted training as physical therapy for the horse. Dawn maintains an educational site, http://4sweetfeet.com/, where you can find free trimming videos and articles on all aspects of natural horse care. The videos and more are also on http://youtube.com/4sweetfeet.

Under Pressure - Discovering A Hoof Abscess (Part One)

Submitted by EasyCare Product Specialist, Kelsey Lobato.

An abscess is a bacterial infection of the connective tissues between the hoof wall and the sole of the hoof. Abscesses can be triggered from a number of causes, such as a bruised sole, poor trim job from your farrier, or even a change in weather, such as going from extreme heat to damp conditions. Once the abscess has established itself in the hoof, the horse begins to show signs of mild to severe lameness. Each horse can react differently when dealing with the abscess and each abscess case can be different.

Since it is impossible for a horse to move without bearing weight on each leg, the constant pressure on an infected hoof causes mild to harsh pain and can advance the infection. As the horse bears weight on the exposed area, the bacteria travels up into the hoof cavity. The immune system sets off an inflammatory reaction in the area, causing a strong digital pulse and hot spot. White blood cells begin to surround and kill the bacteria in the surrounding tissue. These white blood cells produce the discharge that generally accompanies abscesses.

This exact scenario has been plaguing my horse, Summer Flame, for the last 6 months. It never fails, you think you have conquered the abscess and another one blows a week or two later. In my case, in different hooves. I continued to try and figure out why my surefooted barefoot horse was dealing with re-occurring abscesses this year. Was it the weather? Does she have mild laminitis? Is she constantly bruising on her sole? Is it her feed?

To the inexperienced eye, abscesses can look like shoulder injuries, hock injuries, hip or back injuries. Horses can limp lightly or be dead lame. They can pop suddenly then go away without notice or they can gradually increase in pressure creating a panicky situation.

I have experienced all of the above. The most recent occurrence happened gradually, creating a swollen front leg, a strong digital pulse, drainage in the heel bulb and a solar surface abscess, which I found after she let me clean her hoof out. My first reaction was "oh she got kicked" because she had never had leg swelling while fighting an abscess and then I saw the drainage from her heal bulb. Face palm to the forehead "Great another abscess!" (Well, I am getting good at these). I was worried about the swelling though, as a colleague stated it might be cellulitis, which is scary! I called the vet explained to him the symptoms and more. He did not think it was cellulitis; gave me antibiotics and Bute to hopefully take care of the re-occurring abscesses in her system.

Just as a side note, the only reason my vet gave me antibiotics was because she was actively draining from the abscess and the previous abscesses have drained and started healing. I recommend to only give your horse antibiotics and Bute if the abscess has blown. Giving antibiotics or painkillers to a horse that has not had release from an abscess will slow down the process, make the issue more painful and prolong the issue.

Below is a picture of what she looked like when I first found the abscess. As you review the picture, you can see the forearm and the knee are both swollen, making it hard for her to bend her leg and walk.

These next two pictures show the solar surface abscess and then the heel bulb abscess. You can see where the abscess started in the white line of the bars and tracked up to the heel bulb where the pressure was released.

This is the same scenario as the previous abscess she had in her right hind leg. The only difference is that there is major swelling and the previous solar surface abscess was small and healed pretty quickly after the farrier trimmed the dead sole away. I asked my farrier if he was concerned that she was having so many abscesses. He did not have an answer for me nor did he return any of my phone calls. He continually tells my friend, who I board with, that the horses all have great feet and not to worry.

After discussions with my vet and feedback from my farrier, I started doing more research on abscesses and why they might be re-occurring in Summer. Every page I turned and every article I read came up with the same answers. The answers being: diet, mild cases of laminitis, environment, sole bruising and poor trimming. Poor trimming is what got my attention. I have been noticing that my farrier leaves on quite a bit more sole and frog than usual. I thought nothing of it as she has had the same farrier for over 5 years and has never had previous hoof issues. Well, when your horse is constantly receiving incorrect trims over and over again, the hoof wall and bars can become overgrown and weight bearing, creating them to fold over and capture bacteria on the whiteline, creating a perfect environment for abscesses. Especially, if the horse is unable to wear the extra sole and frog down in its environment.

This was an "ah-ha!" moment for me and had my vet come out to verify. He and I came to the conclusion that my farrier has continually not been trimming her correctly and now it was showing. As well as other factors including a dry winter and stone bruising from the new dirt that was added to the paddock this year that contained rocks.

In conclusion, I am thankful that the abscess cause has been found and my horse is on the mend. I found that knowing your horse’s feet and making sure your farrier is doing his job right is key. Generally speaking, correct and frequent trimming, not allowing the bars to be weight bearing will keep your horse from abscessing. It’s just that simple!

In my next blog, I will touch on the topic of what treatments work for me along with what EasyCare products I use to help with the healing process.

EasyShoe Performance NGs: Another Tool on the Belt

Submitted by EasyCare Dealer, Timothy Prindle of Barefoot Equine.

Atlas, a mustang came into my care about 7 years ago. His owner, Megan, moved to Los Angeles from Seattle and brought Atlas to an eventing barn. What makes Atlas an interesting case is that even with strong mustang hoof walls and soles, he grows ferociously straight forward with long toe/under run heels if not kept in check. So steady, consistent trimming has always been a vital part of his hoof care.

When I began with him, his heels were fairly contracted with a narrow frog that protruded significantly higher than his hoof wall, which I wasn’t thrilled about because I could not reduce heel height safely without risking sensitivity. An on again off again soundness issue was diagnosed as degenerative joint disease within the coffin joint. To reduce stress on that joint, the veterinarian recommended we use shoes in order to cut back toe and enhance breakover.

These were the days before I had given up steel, so I outfitted him with a set (which, of course, I had to grind the heck out of so as not to create excessive pressure on those protruding frog heights). He still struggled with some lameness even after the metal shoes were put on and we found that by keeping the toe back with 4-6 week shoeings was imperative to keeping him sound. Additionally, since his diagnosis, the vet would come out to give injections to his joint every 6 to 8 months. In time, however, I could tell the steel shoes were doing nothing to help a narrow frog and contracted heels. 

As a farrier out of Cornell Farrier School, it seemed natural to progress to the EasyShoe Performance NG for those horses needing a little help beyond barefoot—and to also have another tool in my belt aside from booting. Barefoot was my specialty, so EasyShoes made sense from a natural hoof care prospective and they were slowly beginning to replace steel in my work. Atlas was the last of my horses still in iron.

I mentioned to Megan that the EasyShoe Performance N/G shoes could be a perfect compliment to the veterinarian's prescription, which would allow for better expansion of his foot and provide the freedom for his heels to spread. So we pulled the metal shoes and started with EasyShoes. 

That was 3 years ago, and now Atlas is a much happier horse. His heels have spread astonishingly, more than I had anticipated, and he has a wide frog to match his thick, mustang hoof walls and sole. His injections last almost twice as long and he doesn’t miss a step on the jumping course with the EasyShoe’s tread. As his owner says, "Atlas lives for the cross country portion of the eventing discipline. And he’s now becoming proficient in stadium jumping as well—novice level (3’3’’  jumps)."

As for me, I put my last steel shoe on 3 years ago and now use the EasyShoe Performance N/G’s regularly in my craft. They have proven to be an excellent tool for rehabbing as well as providing support within specific equine disciplines that typically require steel shoes. 

Share Your Adventure March Winner: 2017 Division One Trail Rider and the Easyboot Epics.

Submitted by Easyboot Customer, Robin Morris.

My partner’s name is Beau. He is an eleven-year-old Quarter Horse Saddle Mule. I absolutely adore him and ride a lot which is probably an understatement. I have logged every mile since the day we became partners on June 16, 2014. To date we have logged just under 7,800 miles. 

As an active member of our local Back Country Horsemen, many of our rides are in the mountains in Montana and Wyoming wilderness areas. We often travel on sharp rocks to elevations exceeding 11,000’. The terrain is tough on steel shoes. I was wearing through a pair of shoes in under 6 weeks. 

Through trial-and-error with my farrier, we went from standard steel shoes, to toes and heels, to tapped tungsten rods, and to finally tungsten forged to his steel shoes at the toe and heels. The tungsten shoes are good for about 900 miles, which includes several resets. 

While we have figured out what shoes work best for the trails that Beau and I travel and the miles we put in, his hoof health is important. He is trimmed every 6 weeks year-round. Both my farrier and I strongly believe that an equine’s hooves need a break from steel shoes. Last winter, during his barefoot break, he got a rock stuck in the collateral groove surrounding the frog, mis-stepped and incurred a minor suspensory branch injury. Wearing a “000” shoe, you can imagine how small his frog and groove are. He was initially on stall rest and then restricted for two months. It was a long two months for both of us. Wanting to still give him a break this year, I was very nervous about going barefoot.

On several trips in the Wilderness, several of my riding partners lost a shoe. Having a boot as back-up allowed several of them to “keep riding” while others had to walk their horses out and opt out of following rides. So, this year, I set out to kill two birds with one stone. I researched boots until I was completely confused. Evidently mules are harder to fit as they typically have hooves that are longer than they are wide. Beau’s feet are no exception. After several failed attempts, I contacted Product Specialist, Regan, with EasyCare. I spoke to her about the Easyboot Epics based on several reviews by other mule owners. As soon as they arrived I put them on, took pictures, and I emailed them to Regan. Between her and another Product Specialist they confirmed that the fit was spot on. I was so excited!

Knowing that I should break them in on a short ride, I saddled up and rode three miles through deep crusty snow, slick mud and gravel. Beau was short strided for about a quarter of a mile and then fell into his normal stride. After the ride, I completely checked out his pasterns, there was nothing. No heat, no elevated pulse, no rubbing, all was normal. I was stoked! I already had a longer ride planned for the next day with a buddy and felt comfortable going with his new Easyboot Epics. It was amazing how much easier they were to put on the second time! I trailered 38 miles where I met up with my riding partner, Jody, and her Quarter Horse mare, Win-E. The trail chosen was a county road. In Montana, in the winter, you have to get creative about where you can ride. I only bought boots for his front hooves and after 5 miles or so he was getting a little ouchy on the back hooves, so we headed off-road, where I really got to try out the security of the boots on bentonite. 

Bentonite is a mud that is mined for its sealant properties. Since it provides a self-sealing, low permeability barrier, it is often used for holding ponds. When it rains, you avoid bentonite roads as it takes on a “snot-like” quality that is impossible to drive on, you will get stuck, and is tough to get off any surface if allowed to dry. I was absolutely tickled and impressed that after logging 21 ½ miles not only did the boots stay on, but Beau’s pasterns were absolutely normal upon removing the boots. However, it did take a lot of soaking, brushing and scrubbing to clean the boots. I am so thankful that Beau’s new boots solved two issues: they will carry him through his barefoot break and serve as spares for all of my miles with shoes.

Glue-On Without Glue: Part Two

Submitted by Product Specialist, Jordan Junkermann.

This is an extension and follow up from my blog, “Glue-Ons Without Glue.”

In February, I experimented a few different times with the Glue-On shell and Mueller tape. I took Pistol, my 6-year-old half Arabian, out on two trail rides with front boots on and ran my barrel horse Billie, a 19-year-old Quarter Horse, in a race also with front boots. The Monday after the barrel race, when I had shells still on both horses, there was our first big snow storm. Better late then never right? It provided an opportunity to see how the shells would stay on in the snow and mud.

The horses are on full turn out to pasture and have access to the paddock and run in shed. The total they have access to is about 3 acres. Generally, this would be a situation were boots see a lot of wear and tear. Some of our riding boots such as the Easyboot TrailOld Mac G2 , or Epic have shown success in turn out situations. Our therapy boots like the Easyboot Cloud and Rx have a harder time withstanding the pressures of a frolicking horse. However, many people do see success in small pastures or large paddock areas. Our newest release, the Easyboot Stratus, may be a game changer in the Therapy aspect. But a boot like the Glue-On is durable, low profile, and below the hairline so it shouldn’t face the challenges that full coverage boots face. Keeping them on is definitely a concern.

What I found was that the Mueller tape with the Glue-On shells held up to snow, mud, full turn out, and stayed on for multiple days. I am pretty happy with this experiment. They stayed on for four days through a variety of weather changes. Of course, the Glue-On shell has the same restriction it has always had of not being able to be on for a longer trimming cycle. That shell fits best on a four week trimming cycle, which my horse's are not currently on. It should not be left on, especially in moist environments, for longer then 10 days at a time. Using a packing material that has anti-fungal properties like EquiPak Copper Sulfate or Artimud will greatly reduce risk of thrush build up. Because the shell doesn't expand as the hoof grows, it will interfere with hoof growth if left on for too long.

I do recommend checking on the shells every day, especially with snowy, wet environments. I didn't check them very well after the first few days and once I did I noticed that after those initial four days of moisture having contact with the Mueller tape, the adhesive wore off. Only one shell after the fourth day stayed on. The other three boots (both of Billie's and one of Pistol's shells) fell off. Luckily I found two in the paddock and one in the pasture after searching for a while. Keeping that in mind, I think this application will be the most successful in drier environments. But as I said the shells did stay on with full pasture access and snow for four days.

At this point this type of application would work best for short periods of time when the horse needs added hoof protection. There has been some success in cutting a hole in the sole of the shell to provide airflow to the hoof and allowing the shell to stay on longer. However, this allows rocks access to the sole of the foot and other materials can get packed into that area. I don’t think it would be a good solution when using Mueller tape. I will definitely be using this type of application process again to continue testing the success rate in a variety of situations. Hopefully this gives some of you an alternative option to try out if your horse fits into the Glue-On shells! Happy booting!

Adventures of Winter Hoof Keeping: Challenges and Solutions in the Pacific Northwest

Submitted by Ruthie Thompson-Klein, Equine Balance Hoof Care

Here at 48 degrees North, off the coast of Washington, our winters are usually mild and temperate, with lots of wind, occasional brief snow, and plenty of sideways rain. This is a wimpy winter compared with many across the country. Best management strategy for healthy hooves is usually “a dry place to stand out of the wind.”

This 2018 out-of-character winter has brought multiple days of below freezing temps following epic rainfall. What we got was impromptu skating rinks, slippery slopes and nail-sharp footing. During a typical couple months of winter appointments I cataloged some of our challenging conditions and ways owners cope.

My clients are on 5 to 6 week trim rotations through winter and most feed high-quality forage supplemented with balanced minerals. High immunity and tight keratin bonds only go so far. Two places we fall short for healthy hooves are movement and moisture balance. When daily hoof care slips that adds to the problem. Despite best efforts, some horse owners are coping with thrush and abscesses by February. Clients with heavy-use tracks had other challenges: wind-thrown trees, flooding, mud slicks and ice rinks.

Here are some examples of hooves, environments, puzzles and solutions:

Heavy use track with mud and drainage issues.

This becomes a hazard when the temperatures drop.

Our islands are “piles of rock” with a clay layer and thin topsoil reaches saturation point early in winter. Though annual rainfall in this part of Washington averages 25 inches, rainfall either drains slowly or creates new pasture lakes. Hooves tend to be sponge-like unless owners invest in mud control or hard-scape footing.

Solution: scrape topsoil away and apply 5/8” gravel with fines. Horses will compact surface. Adding a Geotex fabric layer between soil and gravel would improvesurface durability.

January with 6 inches of gravel, snow and mud are no longer a hazard.

Heavy use track with serious mud and flooding.

Same heavy use track, now with drainage swale (right) and deep wood chips from trees removed.

Before making footing and diet improvements, this thoroughbred’s right front is unraveling despite routine hoofcare.

Same horse this February: left front before trim at 4 weeks, a much more resilient hoof on the improved footing shown above.

Arabian Belle lives on deep medium-size gravel withlimited pasture turnout.

Belle before trim at 6 weeks in February. She needs attention to that frog crevice, but this could be a poster hoof for successful winter hoofkeeping.

Quarter horse Lucy before January trim at 6 weeks. Check out those solid heels and bars.

Lucy shelters in pea gravel, and spends winter in a sand and rock chip sacrifice area.

Sandy sacrifice area is gently sloped and slow draining, but deformable surface encourages movement and gentle hoof abrasion.

Easily available wood chips make a forgiving, drainable surface as long as they don’t become saturated. Composting wood chips are acidic and may unravel hoof wall. Wood chips or “hog fuel” are a semi-permanant solution, as they degrade over a few seasons.

Before trim at 6 weeks. Two horses who get regular trims, but sporadic daily hoof care, no balanced minerals and no respite from saturated conditions. Bacterial and fungal opportunists have prevailed and we have problems.

What’s going on? Horses on abrasive footing maintained beautiful distal hoof wall, plump frogs, and many grew robust bars for extra support. Horses with no respite from the constant moisture developed deep central sulcii and white line voids. Horses with excellent diets housed 24/7 in large muddy pastures had amazingly healthy hooves. Horses kept in sacrifice areas without daily hoof care did okay until mid-winter when thrush took hold. Thin-soled horses did all right in soft conditions until the freeze, when they needed boot support. In all cases owners used Gloves or Back Country for trail riding. Sometimes they added Quick Studs for mud and slushy conditions.

A solution for frozen footing is temporary use of Cloud boots to prevent bruising. I found Clouds kept thin-soled horses moving all winter despite treacherous frost heave and rough going.

What I see is proof that the 3-pronged approach of diet-movement-trim makes a significant difference in how well hooves adapt to changing conditions. Whatever winter threw at you, Happy Spring!

February Share Your Adventure Blog Contest: If It Was Easy It Wouldn't Be An Adventure.

Submitted by Easyboot user Joe Ford.

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with boots. Basically, I love to hate them. Smiling, happy people and “ever so enthusiastic” manufacturers make them sound super-duper. However, for those of us out here plodding along on our own, the learning curve is a bit steep. Lots of trial and lots of error.

Due to issues with farriers I finally started taking matters into my own hands and trimming my own horse. I haven't gotten to nails yet but I am getting decent with trims. After more laps around sandy Broxton, SC AERC ride barefoot than I care to admit, I decided that if I was going to expand my ride venues I needed to give hoof boots another go. After some trial and error I settled on the Easyboot Gloves. Mine were getting a bit ‘long in the tooth’ so I figured it was time for an upgrade.

Easyboot has come out with a couple new designs that are worth looking at. For Skymont, TN AERC, I went with a combination of home, “pieced together” boots and the 2016 rubber Glove gaiters. If you are familiar with the older neoprene gaiters, the new gaiters are much sturdier. Although the same basic design, my boots were assembled with some basic T nuts and pieces of dog collars for Power Straps. New gaiters and a pair of complete Glove boots from Distance Depot. One of the boots was actually a Glue-On shell left over from earlier experiments that didn't go so well, I am not great at gluing. Have you ever seen a horse running around with a boot glued to his tail?

Placing holes in the Glue-On shell are easily made with a soldering iron. One dog leash is about $10 and can make a bunch of power straps.

I am about 12 hours away from this ride so I arrived Wednesday afternoon for the Friday ride. I think this worked very well for us and will be my plan from now on. Just so much less stressful not having to cram in camp setup, vet check in, ride meeting, ride preparation all in one evening. Plus it is better for the horse. Sunny was happy pigging out all day.

Although the shells are the same ones that come on the 2016 Glove, the new stiffer gaiters are quite a bit harder to get on. I learned my lesson at an earlier ride about putting the boots on the night before instead of the morning of the race. I discovered at 4 am that it was going to be more difficult to get the 2016 Glove on while my horse was dancing around excited and wondering what all the commotion was about. For Skymont, I decided to boot the night before the ride. People leave the Glue-On shells on for multiple days and these boots are about the same thing. So figured couldn't hurt anything. I have to say this worked way better, horse was relaxed, I was relaxed, it wasn't dark and I was able to take my time.

A technique I picked up from a neighbor at Leatherwood, NC AERC ride involves wrapping the hoof a few times with cotton sport tape, then putting the boots on with a big rubber mallet. The heat from the hooves bleed through the tape and basically glue the boots on. I had been using CVS and Target store brand tape, figuring tape was tape, and that brand had serrated edges making it easy for my nerve damaged fingers to tear. Nope, not tape is created equal. EasyCare recommends Mueller brand. I haven't tried it yet but did end up with a roll of Johnson's “Coach” Sports tape. I now have a case of it. After the ride it was all I could do to get the boots off. I had to use an 8-inch pry bar I fabricated from a tack puller for just this issue.

The ride itself, consisted of gentle hills, over all about 2k feet of up, 2k feet of down, four pretty even loops. There was only a trot by and no hold after the first loop. Trails were a mix of single track trails, cross country non-trails in the woods, a bit of dirt roads and some pipeline clearings. One area I was glad to be on a 14.2 hand horse as there were some tunnels of tree branches to traverse. Last couple miles of last loop had some really nice green grass we took advantage of. Having dialed in foot gear, an in shape horse (both mentally and physically), and non-brutal weather and trail conditions, all contributed to this being my most enjoyable, relaxed ride ever. Trails weren't brutally rocky but I don't think I’d want to do a 50 mile barefoot. Probably wouldn't stress over trail riding barefoot there though. We were just off the “midpack” time and all and all had a great time at a great ride. Thank you EasyCare for your hoof protection. See you next year Skymont.

February Share Your Adventure: Willa and the Easyboot Cloud.

Submitted by Nichole Kunze an Easyboot customer.

Horse hoof problems can be some of the most difficult to overcome. I worked for a veterinarian who specialized in equine podiatry so I understand the lengthy process of diagnostics, care and the struggles of trying to make an equine sound and comfortable for a pain free life.

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to have horses over my lifetime with sound feet. I am cautious with purchasing horses because with no hoof, there’s no horse. A trainer and close friend contacted me about a mare being given away that I had put time on years back.

Her name is Miss Camptown Bidder. She is a 19-year-old mare with Pedal Osteitis who has had past laminitis as a result of the condition. It’s basically demineralization of the coffin bone. So needless to say, it is NOT a condition anyone wants to experience, but I just couldn’t say no. I took the older mare with a serious condition that could put her in her grave in November of 2017.

After a lot of research, I determined that blood flow was a key element to helping this condition as well as providing comfort to the sole. How do you provide comfort to the sole while allowing the frog to continually make contact in the natural way to ensure blood flow? I did not feel shoes were the answer to this. I ran across EasyCare, then found out a friend of mine worked for them! If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what was.

After speaking with her, we decided on the Easyboot Cloud. By this point “Willa” wasn’t a happy mare. I had a farrier out to trim her because she was very long in the toe. It was looking like her laminae was compromised. Her radiology from May of 2017 had showed she had for sure struggled with laminitis, her toe wasn’t being kept back and now she would barely walk, laid down frequently, just did enough to get by day to day. 

The boots came in and she was walking 75% better immediately! I couldn’t believe it. Our long-term goals with her were to see if she could be a step-up barrel horse for my daughter. Needless to say, I was not optimistic, but more worried after the first couple weeks of having her of just making her comfortable enough to not be euthanized. 

Well I am blessed to say I have gotten to know the real Willa! She bucks, she is the dominant mare in her group, and she takes no flak from anyone! She trots around comfortably and is just the sweetest girl to handle. We are now working on measurements for the Easyboot Glove to start riding her this Spring. I couldn’t be more excited!!!! Thank you EasyCare Inc for helping this girl. She more than deserves it! 

Easyboot Stratus - The New Standard in Equine Therapy Boots!

The Easyboot Stratus is in the warehouse and ready to ship!  We are excited about this unique design and feel it will help many horses.  

What makes the Easyboot Stratus unique?

1. The TheraPad is a patent pending design that is intended for therapy situations. The pad is made in a medium range durometer, has a fabric layer to wick moisture from the hoof, and incorporates a pattern of holes on the underside. The holes reduce the weight of the pad and allow the insertion of TheraRods. Although the TheraPad is molded to fit into the Easyboot Stratus and Easyboot Cloud, it can be cut to fit into other EasyCare boots. In addition, a large pad can be used without a boot to provide cushioning and comfort while trimming a sore horse.

2. TheraRods are used to add additional density to regions of the TheraPad. Although the majority of horses will find the density of the TheraPad perfect without the TheraRods, the rods can be added to increase the stiffness of the pad. TheraRods allow each TheraPad to be customized.

3. The internal heel sling locks down the heel and prevents twisting.

4. We chose leather for the upper after testing many different materials. Leather held up the best and conforms to the hoof and lower leg better.  

Curtis Burns and Garrett Ford talk about why the Stratus is Unique.

Fitting the Stratus is easy. Measure for the correct size, fold the back of the boot out of the way, insert the hoof and tighten the strap system.  

 

Fitting the Stratus.  

EasyCare is excited to add the Stratus to our Therapy line. The Stratus is the premium counterpart to the Easyboot Cloud. Between the Stratus, the Cloud, the Easyboot Rx and the Easyboot Zip we have your therapy boot needs covered.

Garrett Ford

easycare-president-ceo-garrett-ford

President 

I have been President 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.

 

UC Davis 32nd Heumphreus Lecture and the EasyShoe Flex

Submitted by Daisy Bicking of Daisy Haven Farm Inc.

There are some moments in your life when you know you’re part of a very special, very unique opportunity. Some of those moments are personal, like graduating from high school, your wedding day, or even the birth of your child. Professionally, these moments are a little different but, in many ways, equally as special. For me, one of the most special opportunities I’ve been given is gluing for Team Easyboot at Tevis in 2016. I am fortunate to have many occasions like these so far in my life.

Recently I was given another incredible opportunity, when I was asked to present the 32nd Annual Heumphreus Memorial Lecture at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine alongside Dr. Nick Frank of Tufts University in MA.

The Heumphreus Memorial Lecture honors Charlies Heumphreus, a farrier at UC Davis for 19 years. Charlie’s legacy was the importance of the veterinarian-farrier relationship. The memorial lecture honors that legacy by choosing veterinarians and farriers to present on topics that follow that theme.

I was asked to do two lectures, followed by a live horse demo and hands-on for participants. The lectures were: “Hoof Mapping for Laminitis” and “Laminitis and Synthetics: Solving Old World Problems Using Modern Materials.” It was an honor to share my ideas and experience with veterinarians, students, and a broad range of hoof care providers.

I am always grateful to Garrett Ford and EasyCare Inc. for their support of educational events around the world. Providing free or discounted products like EasyShoesGlue-On boots, glue, tips, and more has helped me share the benefits of glue-on composite EasyShoes, Easyboots, etc with many over the years. And now, with the Heumphreus Memorial Lecture, EasyCare supported education again and generously provided the new EasyShoe Flex for my demo and hands-on for participants for this event, as well!  

This shoe, the EasyShoe Flex, is exciting to me for many reasons - maybe not the same reasons as other hoof care providers. Clearly, it is an easy choice as a nail-on application to help a lot of horses. I also see the wide web with heart bar frog support option and metal plate incredibly beneficial to horses in rehabilitation applications especially when glued with hoof packing and a hoof cast applied on top. While I use many EasyShoe Performance and Performance N/Gs, I see the Flex as another integral tool in my toolbox to help horses.

I was excited to get my hands on the Flex and see how it helps me help horses. I was not disappointed. 

By giving this 32nd Annual Heumphreus Memorial Lecture and the accompanying demo, I join a very short list of amazing farriers and veterinarians who have presented at this prestigious event. It truly is one of those incredible life moments when you realize the honor being given to you and the responsibility that goes with it. The live horse demo featured a foundered horse who had significantly distorted hoof capsules. The University was very supportive of our educational endeavors and provided progressive radiographs of the horse’s feet before trim, after trim, and after shoeing. There was fabulous discussion and everyone had an opportunity to examine and explore the EasyShoe Flex and the ideas I shared with the group. 

Thank you EasyCare Inc. for your continued support of education around the world! 

For more information about Daisy and the Continuing Education courses available about glue-on composite shoes please see:

www.daisyhavenfarm.com

www.integrativehoofschool.com