Debate? What Debate?

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

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

Before first barefoot trim.

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

Eight weeks after first trim.

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

Submitted by Kris Goris, Kris Natural Trim

Hoof Boots and Blue Jeans

I went shopping a few weeks ago for some new jeans, since all of mine from last year apparently shrunk hanging in the hot closet over the summer. While I was walking through the store, I could not believe the range of selection available now - you have the Curve ID, the 535, the 505, the 525, the 515 and on and on and that is just one brand. Whew! It is hard to know which style is right for you. Should you try on the boyfried cut, the skinny jean, the relaxed fit, the midrise, the low rise? The list is endless. I remember when I was a teenager and they had just invented blue jeans (just kidding), there were only a few styles to choose from.

So Many Choices

There are a lot of options when you are jean shopping, but lets face it, you have to look at certain facts to narrow down your decision. For example, I really love the way those skinny low rise jeans look on those 20 something, stick thin model type figures, but I know there is not a chance in heck that I am going to squeeze my 50 something booty into them and make them work! The same logic applies when looking for a hoof boot. For example, the Glove boot is designed for a barefoot, well maintained hoof with no hoof issues. This means if you just pulled the shoes for winter, your horse is on an 8 week trim cycle and your horse is ouchy and needs 12mm comfort pads, the Glove is not the best boot for your horse even if you do love the way it looks and everyone else is using them.

I thought it might be helpful to list some of our boot styles below to help make your choice easier.


Easyboot Glove 

As stated above the Easyboot Glove is designed for a barefoot trimmed, well maintained hoof that has no issues. The Glove boot is measured in millimeters and comes in half sizes. Because this boot has no hardware it has to be a good, snug fit on the hoof. This boot is great for all types of riding from trails to endurance and is the lightest and sleekest boot that we offer. This boot style does not work with hooves that have high heels or flare. A Fit Kit is definitely recommended to fit this boot. This boot comes in both regular and wide sizing. You can ride unlimited miles in the boot. It is sold individually.


Easyboot Glove Back Country

The Easyboot Glove Back Country is a combination of two of our best selling boots, the Easyboot Trail and the Easyboot Glove.  The Back Country is sized the same as the Easyboot Glove but because this boot has an upper for added stability, some horses whose hooves will not work with the Glove boot because of conformation issues can successfully use the Back Country. You can go up a 1/2 size and this boot will still work and will allow six weeks for growth. This boot comes in both regular and wide sizing. A Fit Kit is definitely recommended for sizing this boot. This is a medium milage boot good for 25-50 miles per ride. This boot is sold individually.


Easyboot Epic

The Easyboot Epic is a good all around boot for any type of riding or turn out. The Epic is the ideal boot for the barefoot horse, aggressive conditions or for the horse that is difficult to keep booted. This is one of our boot styles that can be worn over shoes although it will void the warranty. The Epic has been updated with new tread (same tread as the Easyboot Glove) and a new improved cable/buckle system. This is a good, go to boot for horse's whose hoof confirmation does not work with the Glove or the Back Country boot styles. You can ride unlimited miles in the boot. This boot is sold individually.


Easyboot Trail 

The Easyboot Trail was designed for the casual rider, less than 25 miles per week. It is our easiest boot to put on a take off and is great for first time booters. It has an aggressive traction and is very lightweight. It works well with a variety of hoof shapes and sizes. This boot is great for casual trails and can also be used as a temporary therapy boot. This boot is sold individually.


Other Options

We do have some other booting options available here at EasyCare, so feel free to call our Customer Service Department with any questions you may have about your booting needs.


Shari Murray

Customer Service

If you call the customer service help desk, you’ll probably get me on the phone! I process repairs, returns, credits and exchanges that come into EasyCare.


Spring Cleaning, Amateur Trimmer Style.

It's that time! The temperature is starting to warm up, the birds are chirping and the horses are beginning to shed. We are fortunate to have had a brief reprieve from the mud, which is sure to come back with the storm system in the forecast for the next week. For now, I'll take it! 

The New Year is always a time for me to reflect and redirect, and I am now caught up on all my trimming and all of the other things I wanted to catch up on. Now that we've crossed that bridge, it's time for a new one! Spring cleaning, but not the typical, scrub the house from top to bottom with the windows open, no, this is spring cleaning for the barefoot horse owner! 

First order of business is quite possibly one of the most important ones. A new rasp! Be sure to invest in a high-quality rasp, such as the Save Edge Hoof Rasp. I think people tend to forget how old their rasp is and exert a lot of unnecessary energy using a dull one. At only $22, this is something that should be replaced often. You won't regret it! 

While you're buying your new rasp, don't forget the handle. It always surprises me watching people trim without a handle on their rasp. Not only does this look uncomfortable, it seems somewhat dangerous and I frequently have visions of the pointy rasp-end plunging into my body should my horse spooks or jump or fall or something. Yes, I go there. Buy a handle, save yourself from uncertain death. 

When is the last time you've had your hoof knife sharpened? Now is a good time to have it done. A sharp knife requires less force and is much less likely to skip across the hoof and scalp the inside of your wrist. Again, save yourselves, people! 

Take stock of your boots. I haven't done this yet, but I think it would be a good idea to gather up all your boots, make a pile for repairs and a pile for good-to-gos. Organize accordingly. This would also be a good time to make sure you have a full-set for each horse, and the appropriate spares. I like to retire well-used boots to spares, and start the season with a new set. I know boots are expensive up-front, but they are no more than two sets of shoes and last a whole lot longer. For some it's easier on the wallet to buy in pairs. You just don't want to get caught without boots when you need them. 

Prepare a "hoof first aid kit." Coming from an equine vet's wife, we see many clients who are unprepared to deal with a hoof emergency. Unfortunately spring time is prime time for abscesses, laminitis and hoof bruises. Abscesses are common in horses standing in mud, which is unavoidable for some. Laminitis cases spike due to the lush, rich spring grass and hooves are more susceptible to hoof bruises going from soft pastures and pens to harder or rocky trails. Your hoof first aid kit can be stored in a bucket that may double for soaking. Add a bottle of antibacterial dish soap, a long-handled stiff scrub brush, an Easysoaker for more intense soaking, a couple diapers and some duct tape to handle abscesses, an iodine scrub and ichthamol if you're so inclined. If your horse is prone to laminitis, you may seriously consider keeping a pair of Easyboot RX boots in the mix, as they are great for a very sore-footed horse. I could probably go on for a while longer, so I'll stop now. 

Lastly, clipping the long hair at the back of the pasterns prevents the nasty mudballs from forming and has been the only way to keep scratches at bay for my thin-skinned, red-headed, princess mare. I realize this is probably as controversial as me previously saying I clean up the ragged edges of the frogs, but my horses are all live and well despite my propensity for cleaning things up. If it's the worst thing that ever happens to them, well they're doing OK. 

How do you clean-up for spring? 

Got Iron?

Submitted by Natalie Herman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalie Herman

Calling all Hoof Care Practitioners!

Would you like to help horses and horse owners worldwide by sharing your experiences from the field?  Now is your chance. Share your knowledge and win!  Enter our Insights from the Inside contest and if we use your story on our blog, we will send you a free pair of hoof boots (you choose the size and style). 

Blog Subject: Anything related to hooves or boots. Tell us about a recent clinic, review a case study or share the ins and outs of being a hoof care practitioner.

Specifics: The most successful blogs are those that are clear and concise (approximately 400-800 words) and identify solutions to challenges of booting or trimming. Each story must have at least two photos included. Stories without photos will not be eligible.

Contest:  The contest will run from February 14, 2013 through March 31, 2013. Email your story and photos to with Insights from the Inside as the subject.

Multiple Entries: Do you have a lot to say?  You may submit more than one story for the contest.

A panel of judges from the EasyCare staff will vote on the blogs submitted to determine the winners. Note: EasyCare reserves the right to not publish entries if they do not meet the requirements of the contest, or are not in keeping with the style and format of the regular published blogs by EasyCare.

Please contact  with any questions.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Debbie Schwiebert


Vet Dealer & Hoof Care Practitioner Accounts

I manage the hoof care practitioner and veterinarian dealer accounts at EasyCare. An integral part of my job is to stay current in all areas of barefoot hoof care, which enables me to serve this vital group of EasyCare dealers at the next level.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you agree or disagree with the following statements? 

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett Ford


President & CEO

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


Hoof Education IHCS Style

As a hoof care professional, I am always seeking to improve my knowledge and skills to better help the horses I work on.  One of the best venues I have found is The International Hoof Care Summit (IHCS), held annually in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The IHCS is one of the leading conferences for equine hoof-care professionals. Farriers and veterinarians come together to learn techniques and share ideas to address trimming and shoeing horses.  If you look closely at the following video you will catch me and a few others from the Daisy Haven Farm crew in attendance.

I have attended the IHCS each year since 2005, each year benefiting from the experience of the speakers, wide variety of content covered, networking opportunities and the extensive trade show.  This year over 950 farriers attended. 

Some of the broad range of topics covered at the IHCS included:

  • Hoof Morphology
  • Hoof Function
  • Hoof Trimming
  • Shoe Making and Placement
  • Using Glue and Plastics
  • Pathologies: Laminitis, Navicular, Ringbone, P3 Fractures, Flexural Deformities, etc.
  • Business Topics
  • Client Management
  • Body/Hoof Connection
  • Case Study Presentation
  • Locomotion/Gait Analysis
  • Conformation
  • Nutrition

I was honored to be a moderator and speaker at the 2013 IHCS.  I moderated a roundtable discussion on “When to use Barefoot Rehabilitation in Your Practice”, which turned out to be a lively discussion well-attended by a diverse crowd.  While the conversation became heated at times, everyone's opinions were heard and respected.  A lot of good information was exchanged.

I also presented a Hoof Care Classroom on “Maintenance vs. Rehabilitation Trimming and Shoeing and Gaining Your Clients Confidence” which was also well attended with a great Q & A session at the end.  I presented several case studies demonstrating the process by which we make our decisions when to safely apply maintenance work vs. rehabilitation work at Daisy Haven Farm.  Thank you to the American Farrier’s Journal for asking me to speak.  A wonderful group of our students and Team Members helped me rehearse my presentation the day before.

The International Hoof Care Summit has always challenged and expanded my thinking.  I highly encourage you to attend next year!   You may not always agree with every speaker, but there’s always something to take out of the experience to help the horse!  

Just a few among many of the amazing people and groups I’ve had the privilege to connect with by attending the International Hoof Care Summit:

For more information on the International Hoof Care Summit, please see:


Laminitis, with a wild slant

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

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

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

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

Brumbies in the Australian Outback

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this Brumby hoof suffering from laminitis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of his radiographed horses hooves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

The Dynamic Hoof Part II

The most enjoyable part of my job is educating owners and seeing them have those aha moments. This is a follow up email I received in regards to the boot fit analysis that was discussed in The Dynamic Hoof.

"Had a new farrier here today and he was surprised at how many things my other farrier had skipped – not just done wrong, skipped!  He was not only shaping the foot wrong, but he was not trimming the sole at all which led to one cavity on each front hoof that had dirt and some thrush in it. Had that not been caught, it would have easily become an abscess. Because of the cavities, he trimmed a bit more than he normally would have liked to. My old farrier was also not completely trimming the frog.  Bottom line is that I am very thankful that you saw the issues and politely pointed me in a better direction. It was so nice to have a farrier that eagerly answered all my questions as I watched him work – something I will be doing lots more of.  

We also discussed how I can keep the mustang roll on his hoofs between trims and he will be checking back on his progress in the coming weeks (he works on my neighbor's horses as well, so its easy for him to stop by)."

The owner wanted to verify what size he should use for the Easyboot Glove Back Country now that his horse had been properly trimmed. He sent some new photos with the same size boots on and it was amazing to see the difference in fit after only one trim. I did recommend that he purchase a half size larger boot for the right hoof (not shown) because there was still some bulging in the 2.5. The owner was glad that he only needed to purchase one new boot and was thrilled with the knowledge he gained through this experience.

Caudal before trimCaudal after trim

Caudal views before (left) and after (right) trim.

Dorsal before trimDorsal after trim

Dorsal views before (left) and after (right) trim.

Lateral before trimLateral after trim

Lateral views before (left) and after (right) trim.


Alayna Wiley

Alayna Wiley, EasyCare CSR

Customer Service

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


Rehabilitation of the Insulin Resistant Foundered Horse: DHF Style

We at Daisy Haven Farm, Inc, focus our practice on rehabilitation of the equine foot.  We do our best to be objective about the work we do on the horse’s foot and refrain from following trends or fads.  We are committed to continuous education and remain open minded for the good of the horse.  

One of the most influential tools we use to remain objective is our CR digital radiograph system.  Think of it as a fancy hoof gauge.  For the work we do in rehabilitation, it is invaluable in facilitating accuracy of the trim.  I am constantly amazed at how the external landmarks of the foot are misleading when I am able to check my evaluation of the foot with digital radiographs.  


We are usually referred to rehabilitation cases by the veterinarian directly.  The veterinarian has already done the diagnostic work and calls us to help with rehabilitation of the horse’s feet.  We work closely with the veterinarians while working on these cases.  It is very rewarding, great teamwork and is critical for success.


Here is an example of a case where progressive series of hoof radiographs played a key part in rehabilitation.  This is the case of an Arabian mare who had foundered initially five years ago.  She had been maintained well until two years ago when she fell apart again.  


I was called in to help in April of 2012.  The mare’s owner had worked diligently with the veterinarian to control her insulin resistance (IR).  She was acutely lame (Obel Grade 3), and while the previous farrier had been doing the best job he could, her feet were not improving over time.  Hoof boots were helping keep her somewhat comfortable day to day.  The veterinarian did not own a digital radiograph machine and asked me to use my radiograph system to assist with trimming decisions.  This was the horse's body condition in April.  Her weight here is 1057 lbs. 



Note her cresty neck, channel down her back, and fat pads at her shoulder and tail head.  She also has fat pads above her eyes, but you can't see them in this picture because of her beautiful forelock.


I have had abundant success in returning these horses to long term soundness: a 99% success rate over 10 years, working on 1,008 insulin resistant foundered horses to date.  


The protocol I have found the most beneficial comes from Dr Eleanor Kellon, Equine Nutritionist, and co-owner of the Yahoo Group: Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance.  Dr Kellon recommends a formula to help regulate the horse’s insulin resistance, and let the feet heal.  DDT/E:

  • Diagnosis: the veterinarian plays a critical role in providing an accurate diagnosis for the underlying cause of the laminitis and providing any measures required medically  
  • Diet:  reducing and eliminating insulin rising carbohydrates out of the horse’s diet is critical to healing the feet
  • Trim:  whether you leave the horse barefoot or apply a hoof boot or shoe, realigning the coffin bone with the hoof capsule is critical to healing
  • Exercise:  when appropriate, implementation of exercise will help keep the horse healthy long term.  One of the biggest failures I see in long term soundness of the insulin resistant horse is hesitation to get the horse back in work (when they’re ready!).  

Please see for more information on this protocol.


In this horse’s situation, the owner had only 1/4 of this 4 part equation:  


Diagnosis: the veterinarian provided an accurate diagnosis and supportive care.


However she was missing the other 3/4 of the equation:


Diet: her diet had room for improvement based on Dr Kellon’s protocol. 



Seeing all the grass available to this horse on the farm, even with the muzzle at times, it’s no wonder she was having problems.  Her owner created a small dry lot with this round pen until a bigger dry lot could be added.   She also began weighing the forage provided and switched to Triple Crown Safe Starch, a safe forage for IR horses.  


Trim: Here are her feet when I arrived. There was definite room for improvement here:  



Note the dish in her wall, and stretched white line.


Our goal with trimming a foundered horse is realigning the hoof capsule with the coffin bone.  There are two types of rotation that we feel are important to address with our trimming:

  • capsular rotation:  when the hoof capsule is not aligned with coffin bone, but the bones of the lower limb are in alignment (coffin bone, short and long pastern)
  • phalangeal rotation:  when the hoof capsule is centered around the coffin bone, but the bones of the distal limb are out of alignment.  

Most horses have some combination of the two types of rotation. This horse was one of those cases.  In order to correct both types of misalignment with our trimming, our goals are:

  • 3-8 degree palmar P3 angle: the angle of the bottom of the coffin bone in relation to the ground
  • a 50/50 base of support from toe to heel around the center of rotation of the hoof capsule
  • hoof wall in alignment with the dorsal surface of the coffin bone

The benefit of being able to take a progressive series of radiographs is accuracy in our trim with those goals in mind.   Many times I’ll come in and trim a foundered horse, re-take the lateral radiographs after the trim and realize even though I felt that I had removed a ton of distortion from the horse’s foot, there was still more room in the foot to improve the alignment.  We feel being able to be this accurate in our work shortens recovery time and facilitates the return to soundness of the foundered horse.  


Here are the mare’s feet with the progressive series of digital pictures and radiographs from April 2012 to Nov 2012.  Digital pictures were taken at every visit, however, digital radiographs were only taken in April and November.  





Radiographs are from April 18th 2012 before and after trimming and again on November 28th after trimming.  Hoof measurements as follows for those of you who love the numbers:




Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 0 degrees

P3 Palmar Angle 3-8 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 50% toe


Right Front

April 18th Before Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 15.15 degrees

P3 Palmar Angle 14.77 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 67.79% toe


April 18th After Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 5.38 degrees


P3 Palmar Angle 9.19 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 58.92% toe


November 28th After Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 0.60 degrees


P3 Palmar Angle 3.67 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 54.62% toe




Left Front

April 18th Before Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 17.60 degrees

P3 Palmar Angle 19.76 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 68.11% toe


April 18th After Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference 2.82 degrees

P3 Palmar Angle 10.90 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 55.38% toe


November 28th After Trim:

Hoof/P3 Angle Difference -1.08 degrees

P3 Palmar Angle 5.11 degrees

Toe Support % (50/50) 50.94% toe


On April 14th, upon seeing the After Trim radiographs, I was able to adjust the trim a little further in order to get closer to our goal.  I now had a more complete understanding of what my trim was specifically doing for this horse's feet, which enabled me to be more accurate and effective in future trims as well.  


Her white line even grew back tight as of October 2012:



Exercise:  Immediately after the first trim, this mare was much more comfortable.  After the first month she was able to be turned out in the field with a sealed muzzle for a period of time each day.  I believe the exercise facilitated her recovery.  She is currently 100% sound and has been since June 2012.


This past fall a larger dry lot was completed for her to have more consistent movement all day.



At the 2007 Laminitis Conference in West Palm Beach FL the predominant message was to monitor insulin resistant horses based on their body condition. 


This mare's weight is now 848 lbs as of January 2012.  Now that her body condition is more healthy, the horse owner can watch for any return of fat pads as a red flag to call the veterinarian before her feet act up again, hopefully preventing future laminitic episodes.  



If your horse has fat pads, please talk to your veterinarian about the risk of insulin resistance and be proactive to improve his body condition before laminitis occurs.  


The advantage of progressive series of hoof radiographs, meaning radiographs taken before the horse is trimmed, then right after the horse is trimmed, then potentially again after any changes are made, and again after any prosthetic device is added is immensly valuable to the farrier.  If you are dealing with a foundered horse, please talk to your farrier and veterinarian about utilizing radiographs this way.  We truly feel being able to be this accurate in our work not only shortens recovery time and facilitates the return to soundness of the foundered horse, but is also why we've been successful on some really difficult cases and have such success overall.  


For more information about other horses we have rehabilitated using this protocol, please see