For The Love of the Small (Often Foundered) Pony

I am often asked to trim a small pony or mini and many times the expectation is that the fee should be less for them than a normal sized horse. Whether that's because the feet are smaller, or the owners just don't want to spend the money on these companion animals, it is in no way easier to work on them! If you've ever seen the range of awkward positions the farrier has to get in to work on their feet, you'll know what I mean.

Combine that with how many of these small ponies and minis are foundered, the farrier definitely doesn't have an easy time of it.

In previous blogs I have written about two sets of guidelines I use to help me rehabilitate foundered horses.  It is no different with ponies:

1. Trim guidelines based on correcting phalangeal and capsular rotation, in other words realigning the hoof capsule with the bones:

  • Trimming for a 3-8 degree palmar P3 angle.
  • Creating a 50/50 base of support from toe to heel around the center of articulation, approx. Duckett's Bridge.
  • Minimizing flare and distortion.

2. From Dr Eleanor Kellon:  DDT & E:

  • Diet: providing an appropriate amount of forage and from safe sources.  Ponies can have ideal body condition too!
  • Diagnosis: working closely with the veterinarian to accurately diagnose the problem and create a management program as a team.
  • Trim: following the above guidelines.
  • Exercise: when appropriate, these ponies need exercise to stay healthy.

I've also found that having the right tools will greatly help you work on small ponies successfully! Smaller and specialized tools can often help. Also, as the foundered pony is often footsore, we rarely have as much time to work on them as we would like. I've found certain tools help make the work go much faster.  

Below is a 13 year old pony gelding I worked on recently who was getting a good trim from a good farrier, but they were just having trouble getting ahead of this pony's foot issues.

Following our formula:

  • Diet: This pony's diet was well controlled, note his excellend body condition and lack of fat pads
  • Diagnosis: Because this pony was still footsore, the veterinarian conducted a thorough exam and re-checked bloodwork for insulin resistance and cushings disease.  As bloodwork was normal, and body condition good, the recommendation was to be more aggressive in the hoof realignment process.
  • Trim: The internal and external hoof alignment was not within our parameters.
  • Exercise: Only exercise that was appropriate for this pony was moving around a small paddock under his own steam.  

Here are his feet when we started:

One of the most critical steps I've found in being successful with realigning the hoof capsule and the internal structures is to clip the hair away from the coronary band and pastern. Typically there is a lot of foot hiding up under their long leg hair! Look at how the appearance of the foot changes when the hair is clipped away:

To remove the hair you can use clippers or scissors.

Be careful not to put your head or hands anywhere they can accidentally kick or step on you. Especially watch the front knees - if they pick their leg up quickly they can easily knock you in the head. I highly recommend you stay to one side of their body when clipping at all times and place your hand or even your head directly on their knee.

In working to achieve my trim goals, I believe it is critical to realign the hoof capsule around the internal structures and establish alignment of the hoof pastern axis as quickly as possible. I am often able to achieve those goals in one trim.  Here are this pony's before and after radiographs on his front feet to give you an idea of the change of alignment possible in one trim:

Right Front Before and After Trim:

Right Front parameters Before and After Trimming:

Palmar P3 Angle: 11.30 degrees to 3.27 degrees (goal 3-8 degrees)
Toe Support %:  74.85% to 59.37% (goal 50%)
Minimize flare and distortion: Hoof/P3 Angle Difference:  14.27 degrees to -0.76 degrees (goal 0 degrees)
Hoof capsule is centered around P3 again, and Hoof/Pastern alignment is straighter.  

Here is the Left Front Before and After Trimming:

Left Front parameters Before and After Trimming:

 

Palmar P3 Angle:  11.05 degrees to 3.30 degrees (goal 3-8 degrees)

Toe Support %:   65.01% to 55.35% (goal 50%)

Minimize flare and distortion:  Hoof/P3 Angle Difference:  11.05 degrees to 0.66 degrees (goal 0 degrees)

Hoof capsule is centered around P3 again, and Hoof/Pastern alignment is straighter.

 

This realignment process is best accomplished with digital radiographs for accuracy.  

 

Removing the laminar wedge (dish in the wall at the toe), and lowering the heels in the realignment process can be very hard work!   Here are a few tools that can make the process faster and ease the pony's discomfort:

 

12" Half Round Nippers can be very helpful when lowering the heel and frog height in the back of the foot to lower the palmar P3 angle. It can be quite difficult to get into this area with straight nippers, and exhausting with a rasp. Especially when the pony is foundered, their feet often become referred to as "foot bound" or "blocks of wood" for a good reason! They are very tightly packed together and difficult to get into with our farrier tools. Half round nippers give a tremendous mechanical advantage.  

 

 

Using Half Round Nippers at the back of the foot to reduce the heel height, and also on the laminar wedge to create better capsular alignment.

 

12" Half Round Nippers are made by a number of tool manufacturers. Mine are made by MFC Tool, although GE also makes a nice pair.  

The other tool that I find extremely helpful is a Makita 1 1/8 x21"" hand held belt sander. This tool is fantastic for reducing the laminar wedge without having to pick the pony's foot up off the ground.

 

 

I like this tool better than an angle grinder or other similar powertools because it is similar in use to my rasp. I can feel the plane of the foot with the belt sander the same way I would use my rasp on a flare or other wall distortion. I also like that I can leave the pony's foot on the ground which is easier for them when footsore. As a side note, I also like to use this tool on draft horses with flare or bigger horses when addressing the laminar wedge. Saves me a lot of work, and the animal a lot of discomfort!

 

Fixing foundered ponies can be a frustrating process, full of hard work.  While these trimming tips and tricks alone won't fix the pony, they sure do make the job a lot easier on everyone involved. This pony documented here is just at the beginning of his rehabilitation here at Daisy Haven Farm, Inc., however in my experience trimming him to these parameters will help him become much more comfortable very quickly assuming the rest of our protocol: DDT & E is in line as well. Over the next few months his laminar wedge will continue to diminish until he regains a tight white line, and he will also regain concavity in his soles. He will be one very happy, sound pony!

 

 

 

March 2013: Asa Stephens - Bright Lights, Big City

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

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

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

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

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

               

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

Debate? What Debate?

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

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

Before first barefoot trim.

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


Eight weeks after first trim.

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

Submitted by Kris Goris, Kris Natural Trim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalie Herman

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 admin@easycareinc.com 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 admin@easycareinc.com  with any questions.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Debbie Schwiebert

easycare-vet-hcp-deaaler-accounts-manager-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 http://polarizingconflict.buddhismandwork.com/.

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

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

Would you agree or disagree with the following statements? 

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett Ford

easycare-president-ceo-garrett-ford

President & CEO

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

 

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: http://www.americanfarriers.com/pages/International-Hoof-Care-Summit-Homepage.php.

 

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