Modifications of Easyboot Gloves and Glue-On Shells: Part I

Submitted by Pete Ramey

Easyboot Glove hoof boots with optional Power Straps added to the top of the lower shell. 

Since they were only prototypes in 2008, the Easyboot Gloves and Glove Glue-On Shells from EasyCare Inc. have been my primary tools for hoof protection. There are many great boots and gluing options out there and I have tried a majority of them but these have remained my favorites.

Easyboot Gloves

These boots are light, compact and durable; but the reason I am so fond of them is that I can modify them in so many ways to suit individual hooves. This is particularly important with flared or rotated hoof capsules or hooves with low heel/long toe syndrome. The toe of the boot can be heat-fitted to expand, allowing the breakover to be placed correctly – critical to correct movement and thus rehabilitation of these hooves.


Glove shell heat-fitted to a rotated hoof capsule. The breakover will also be modified in the sole as shown below. Note the “shiny” areas of the boot – a key part of judging the heating process.

Heat-fitting is useful for more routine fitting on “normal” hooves, as well. The Glove is so light, durable and compact partially because it does not rely on buckles, straps and overlapping layers of materials to keep it on. Instead, it relies on perfect fit. If the boot is touching the foot everywhere, with no excessively tight areas and no areas with air space between the foot and the boot, it will perform like no other. But – and this is a big but – if the boot is tight in some areas and has air space in others, it may be one of the least reliable boots on the market. Fit is everything with this model, and if the foot is changing, the boot will have to change along the way as well. 

That means that this boot is not for everyone and not for every hoof; however a well-fit Glove is the highest-performance option, so each owner must decide whether to go this route. I suppose this is similar to a racing engine that must be pulled apart and rebuilt after every race. Is this a good engine? It depends on your perspective.

This is an easy choice for horse owners who are lucky enough to have a hoof professional who does all this modification for them. But for horse owners “on their own,” the Easyboot Glove may not be the best boot choice.

Heat-Fitting

I use the Digital Heat Gun from Ace Hardware that reaches 1100° (Fahrenheit) although any other brand will work, as long as it reaches this temp. Place the boot (or shell) on the foot and then palpate the boot walls. You will usually find that some areas of the boot are tight against the foot, and some are loose – you can press inward to close the air space inside. Mark any areas that are tight with a Sharpie. When heat fitting, you will generally be moving the foot forward into tight areas until the loose areas become tight. 

As you close these loose areas, you will simultaneously be optimizing breakover and placing the heels in the perfect spot to be snug (but not overly tight) and sitting all the way down on the boot floor (not standing on the heel portion of the shell or the gaiter).
Remove the boot from the horse for the heating process, and be careful to direct the heat away from the gaiters (and your hands). Only the lower shell is heated. You need to heat the boot gradually, so it heats all the way through. The timing varies daily with the power source, heat gun, ambient temperature, and the temperature the boots endured in the back of your truck the previous night. So each time I heat boots, I must determine a new timing. I do this by seeing how long it takes the area I’m heating to develop a sheen.

On the outside of the boot, hold the heat gun parallel to, and ¾” away from the surface, moving the heat gun small in rapid circles to distribute heat. As soon as you see a slight sheen appear on the surface, move the heat quickly to another area. Keep the heat focused only on the tight areas you previously marked, trying to avoid heating areas that were already loose on the hoof wall. Once you have brought a slight sheen to the desired areas on the outside walls of the boot, switch to the inside of the boot. You will not be able to focus heat as accurately or see the sheen on the inside, but instead, apply heat for the same amount of time as you did on the outside. Repeat one more time inside and out for the same amount of time as it took to develop the sheen in the first lap.

Caution: In used boots, you will not see the sheen develop – the ground-in dirt hides the sheen until the boot is over-heated. Learn today’s timing on a new boot before trying to heat up a used one.

If, at any point in the heating process, you see tiny bubbles emerge on the surface, move on from that spot and don’t return – that area is slightly over-heated (but may still need more heat from the inside of the boot).

After this process is complete, move quickly to the horse and put the boot on. You may need a rubber mallet to drive the boot back far enough. When the heels are in the perfect spot in the boot, put the foot down, let the boot cool for two minutes, and evaluate your fit.

Evaluating Boot Fit

The key to Easyboot Glove success is at the heels. If the heels are too tight, the boot will be constantly trying to “squirt off” the foot (plus heel rubbing is likely, as is gaiter failure). If a mallet is required to put the boot on, the heels are probably too tight. The boot should slide on readily in hand. 

If the heels are too loose, the foot can twist in the boot. If it can twist with hand pressure, it will twist when you ride. So to combine these two extremes, the perfectly fitted Glove will slide right into place with firm hand pressure (no percussion), but then “suck” into place with no turning of the boot on the foot.

Secondary to heel fit is the percentage of boot wall touching the foot. Ideally, the boot will be touching the hoof wall everywhere with no air spaces. But this perfection is sometimes impossible to achieve – particularly with wide feet or feet with large quarter flares. The boot can perform well with about 30% airspace, but always strive for “the best you can get.” At this point, I often reheat small, tight areas to close more air spaces, particularly at quarter flares.

Hind Feet

I fit hind feet the same way, but it usually looks very different. Hind feet tend to be more pointed than the rounder front feet. The Gloves (and all other hoof boots) were designed to fit the front feet. This is why hind boot fit issues are so common, and this is where the Gloves can really shine. I generally pick a hind boot size by its width.

This usually means the foot is way too long for the selected size. I then heat the center of the boot toe, allowing the horse’s more pointed hind toe to hang over the front of the boot, much like a laminitis case. This, of course, locks the foot in place within the boot, preventing the twisting so common with hind boots.

Boot Sizing

Sometimes, by the time you get the toe area fitted, the heels have become too loose. This boot will not function well because the heel fit is the most important aspect. You simply need to go down a size (or two) and start over. This is not a big deal for professionals, who can simply sell the other boot to someone else who needs that size, but can be really bad news to a horse owner who has one horse and one set of Gloves. With experience, you can learn to prevent this (usually) by simply thinking things through before you heat. If, during the initial assessment, I see that I have significant changes that need to occur at the toe, but my heels already fit nicely, I automatically know I need to start with a smaller size. 

It usually works well to size the boot for the width the foot would be if there were no quarter flares, and then heat-fit to accommodate toe length and any wall flares. At best, with distorted feet, this will take some experimentation, so it is always best to have several different sizes around to simply try on.


One Foot, One Boot 

Like your own shoes, horse boots adapt to the foot with use. For best results and performance, designate one boot to one foot (I “earmark” them with nippers and/or a hole punch, as writing on them doesn’t last). While this will help with the performance of any boot model, it is particularly critical with the Gloves. If you need to share boots between horses, I recommend you choose a different model – one with buckles, straps and overlapping layers of materials. 

 

Other Glove Modifications

Insoles

The most common modification I make is the addition of padded insoles to the boots. This puts the sole, bars and frog to work, thus relieving strain on the laminae and provides a cushier ride to the solar corium. A weakness of the Gloves (vs. some other models) is that they generally won’t accommodate pads thicker than 3/8-inch. When I need thicker padding for extreme rehab cases, I use a different model.

But for most horses, 1/4”-3/8-inch pads are all we need, and these work well in the Gloves. A wide array of pad choices are available – your imagination is the limit – but the best pad is the one that makes the horse feel the best. Particularly with lameness cases of any kind, it is wise to experiment with multiple pad choices and pick the one that yields the best movement of the horse.

I am a big fan of the EasyCare Comfort Pads (as I should be, since I originally picked out the materials). They come in two thicknesses and three densities that cover most needs. It can be a big money-saver, though, to find large quantities of raw foam/rubber from other sources. Horses with thin or otherwise painful soles tend to choose this type of padding over other options.

Another favorite of mine is synthetic felt in 1/4" or 3/8” thickness (thanks Sossity and Mario of Wild Hearts Hoof Care). Horses with caudal foot pain tend to prefer these. They are also better for moisture management, so I really like them for boot turnout and in glue-on shells. Sourcing the material has been a bit of a problem. It is readily available online but seems extraordinarily expensive. So far, I have continually found new saddle pads and liners at clearance sales for my own use, and I am always sticking my nose into clients’ tack rooms looking for a deal on an unwanted felt saddle pad. I have also found the thick (1”-1 ½”) felt pads can be easily cut/torn into thinner pads, as the material is put together in layers.

Some horses show no preference between the foam/rubber pads and synthetic wool felt. For these, I tend to use the felt, as it is cheaper and more durable (always a good combination).

Thick leather is another durable pad choice. Go to a leather shop and buy tanned, full thickness cowhide. These pads offer less shock absorption so may not be the best choice for most thin-soled horses. But for sound horses that you simply want to provide more load distribution, leather is a great choice. I also prefer leather when I need to unload an area of the sole by cutting a relief hole in the insole. This comes up with surgery sites on the bottom of the foot, and with “sole penetrations” or other exposure of the solar corium. 

Regardless of the material selected, you will need to cut it to shape. With Easyboot Gloves, I place the boot on the pad material with ½” of boot heel tread hanging off the edge of the pad. Then, using a Sharpie, I trace the boot outline onto the pad. I cut the pad with large shears or a razor knife, following the inside of my mark, leaving the mark and 1/8” of extra material on the unused portion of the pad. The desired end result is a pad that fits the inside of the boot well, with no wiggle room, and no lapping up onto the sides in any area.


Power Straps

These are stretchy rubber additions to the top of the Glove boot, available as add-ons from EasyCare. They are very handy for eliminating boot fit/performance issues, but they do make boot application more difficult for the average horse owner. When I first started using the Gloves, I knew nothing about heat fitting them and found I needed Power Straps on about 20% of front feet and 80% of hind feet. As I got better at heat-fitting, I use about two sets per year.

Their best use may be for economy. When you fit Gloves to a flared or rotated foot and then succeed in growing in better-connected walls, the foot size is generally smaller. This means the boot fit will have become loose and sloppy. The correct thing to do at this point is fit a new set in a smaller size but adding the Power Straps can be a cheap alternative that extends the life of the old boot.

Power Straps come with cut and punch marks labeled for each boot size. I have found that, rather than using these marks literally, I do better thinking my way through it and punching the holes where I think they need to be for the individual fitting needs.

Add-On Buckles

As an extension of the Power Strap idea, you can add buckles to the boots to gain even more adjustment. The buckles in the picture below are replacement buckles for O’Neal motorcycle boots I ordered from Amazon. Of course this eliminates some of the compact nature I love about the Gloves, but the result is still more compact than most types of boots.

 


Replacement buckles for O’Neal motorcycle boots I ordered from Amazon (part #0290-095 and #0290-091) added to the Power Strap attachment points. Apply buckles so that they are on the lateral sides of the boots to avoid interference.

Drainage Holes

In other models of boots, I usually drill drainage holes in the sole to quickly drain the boots after creek crossings. Due to the close fit of Gloves, particularly if insoles are being used, I find there is no need to do this – there is not really any room for sloshing water in the well-fitted Glove. But opinions (and fitting) vary, so if you feel the need to drill drain holes in your boots, there are certainly no problems with it. I generally like to use a ½” drill bit and place multiple holes in the tread over any open areas inside the boot. This hole size seems to be a good compromise – large enough to resist clogging and small enough to minimize the entry of pebbles.

Trim Cycle

By nature, Easyboot Gloves are probably more sensitive to a tight trim cycle than other models. This works to some horses’ advantage because boots have been used by many owners as a tool to allow neglect. 

The boots should be fitted to a freshly trimmed foot. There is generally enough stretch in the Glove shells to accommodate a six-week trim cycle if there is minimal wall flaring on the hoof. But for horses with significant wall flares, the foot gets much larger in circumference during the trim cycle. By six weeks, you usually will not be able to get the Glove on. These horses will need a shorter trim cycle until most of the flaring is successfully grown out – but again, this is a good idea, anyway. It is worth noting, though, that the bulkier types of boots with buckles and overlapping layers of materials will be more accommodating to long trim cycles on flared hooves. The Gloves aren’t for everyone.

Modifications to Tread

Breakover Adjustment

The stock bevel built into the toe of the Glove is generally just right for horses with perfect wall attachment at the toe except that since horses need to turn, I feel that same shape should continue from a 10:00 to 2:00 position around the toe. This modification, I do to almost every pair I fit. I use a brand new Heller Legend hoof rasp that has never trimmed a foot for this (and most other modifications to the boot soles). Many types of sanders and grinders work well, too – your choice.

In horses with separation of the toe wall from the coffin bone, I generally accommodate most of the needed breakover adjustment with heat-fitting of the boot’s toe, but an additional inch of breakover change can be trimmed into the boot sole as well. This is handy for joint, muscular and other problems with locomotion as well.


At 2:00, the typical rounding of the breakover I do to most Gloves and Glue-Ons. Additional breakover adjustment can be added – I often rasp it back to the second traction groove at the toe, taking care not to rasp up to the tiny seam between the boot tread and sidewall. 

At 7:00, I have added a typical heel rocker I like for chronic toe walkers, hoof capsule rotations, and some club feet. This shape and size can vary as needed. Center, is a common vent (discussed below) I do, only on Glue-Ons – not Gloves. This is a size #1.5, the hole was made with a 2 ¼” hole saw and drill.

Heel Rockering

There are countless reasons (I won’t go into here) that rockering of the heels can create an advantage for the horse – club feet, forging issues, chronic toe-walkers, joint problems, caudal foot pain, hoof capsule rotation to name a few. I often do this, both to bare feet and to any appliance I add to the foot, including hoof boots. The Gloves accommodate this very well.

Wedging

Occasionally, there is a therapeutic need for mediolateral or dorsopalmar wedging of the foot. If no more than 3/8” of deviation is needed, I prefer to simply remove the unwanted material from the boot tread. If more were needed (rare), farrier wedge pads (up to 3/8”-thick) can work in the Gloves. 


Traction modification for deep footing. Be sure to leave an adequate “shelf” for the toe to stand on. Because of the increased likelihood of gripping the ground too well or snagging on something, use this with Glue-On applications or with Mueller Tape added to a Glove as discussed below. Also, of course, consider the safety of the horse – this is suitable for loose arenas or tracks but not trail work.

Traction Modifications

Two types of add-on studs are available from EasyCare – a large nut/bolt type stud and smaller ice studs. I have also experimented with using a hole saw to drill out and open the bottom of the boot, leaving a narrow rim of shoe at ground level and an exposed sole. This gets great traction in muddy and most arena conditions but may have the same disadvantages of a thick metal shoe; clogging and carrying too much weight of dirt, which could limit performance and hasten fatigue.

A better modification for deep or muddy footing is to use an electric router and guide to thin the boot tread to ½” wide. Next, heat up the remaining boot sole and push it up into a dome shape (I press the boot sole onto one of my daughter’s softballs to achieve this shape. The prototype traction sole shown below was simply a computer duplication of a Glove shell I modified in this fashion.

The idea (much like a bare foot) is that the tread will clean out with every stride (spray with WD-40 or Pam for better results). I believe that these get better traction on mud, wet grass, arena surfaces, tracks, etc. than cleat-type treads or a metal perimeter shoe because of this resistance to clogging. An additional advantage from a performance standpoint is not carrying the added weight of the dirt/mud.

Prototype Glove traction sole. You can build one from a standard Glove (except that the outer rim of tread will be slightly more shallow) using a router with a guide and square bit, a heat gun, and a softball.

This boot will, of course, wear out faster on hard terrain but as with human athletic cleats vs. track shoes, I don’t think it will ever be possible to optimize turf traction with the same tread pattern that is perfect for road work. You’ll need to own both.

Boot Turnout Done Right

The Gloves are designed and intended for riding and other work, with the assumption that the boots will be removed when the horse is turned out. In spite of that fact, after trying countless options, I have found Gloves are my favorite turnout option for horses that are temporarily lame in their own turnout environment. Boot turnout is no picnic for the horse owner – there is work involved – but, in my experience, padded boots tend to provide more pain relief and quicker healing than any other shoeing option. If increased movement and a lack of compensative movement are achieved while simultaneously “doing no harm,” the result is healthier growth of every part of the foot. So boot turnout tends to be the quickest path to feet that are healthy enough to be comfortable barefoot in their own turnout environment.

This is most critical with laminitis cases. Only in a padded boot (or sometimes bare on the most perfect terrain) can you hope to get away with unloading the walls (and thus the laminae), carrying the load on the sole while healthy laminae are re-grown. This is beacause only boots offer a full release of pressure to the sole when the hoof is in flight.

The primary reason I like the Gloves best for turnout is that with heat-fitting, I can adjust breakover to the correct area on horses with flared or rotated walls – a key feature of most horses who are unsound at turnout. For caudal foot pain cases, assorted pads can be tried in the boots to achieve flat or heel-first impacts – the key secret to success with these cases. The Glove tread readily accepts modification, as discussed above, often critical to rehab cases. In my experience, a well-fitted Glove is less likely to cause rubbing of the bulbs or hide than any other boot I've used. All this and more can be done in a lightweight, very compact package, which also very important to me.

Turnout is hard on boots. Constant exposure to UV rays break down the nylon and plastics. Generally the same boot that might last an endurance rider 450 miles (or the average trail rider five years) will be destroyed by 2-3 months of turnout. The Gloves are no different except the only part that gets destroyed is the gaiter. Replacing the gaiter is much cheaper than buying a whole boot.

Note: Gaiter life is greatly extended by wrapping the gaiter with Vet Wrap (or other tape) when using the Gloves as turnout boots. It blocks UV rays, and helps prevent horses from nibbling on the Velcro closures.

The Gloves do also have weaknesses as turnout boots, compared to other models. Some cases will need thicker padding than the Glove can accommodate. I use ½”-thick pads in Gloves on lame (lower performance) horses, and it works well. But if you need thicker padding, you will need to select a different boot model. 

Another issue already discussed is that with the Gloves, you are more likely to need 2-3 boot sizes as you grow out a 20+ degree rotation than if you were using a boot with buckles and layers of overlapping material. But since you generally can’t get breakover right on a rotated foot with those other types of boots, I feel you are much more likely to grow out a rotation if you use heat-fitted Gloves. The extra money is well-spent.

Regardless of the boot you choose for turnout, the primary problem is the rotten “funk” that quickly builds up inside the boot. This can complicate infections in the white line and frog. It can also get in the way of growing a healthy sole, one of the key features of a horse that can be sound for barefoot turnout. To eliminate these problems, the boot must be removed and washed daily. During this time, clean the horse’s feet and place him in a dry area suitable for whatever problem he has (deep shavings, a deep bed of pea rock, etc.).

During this time, inspect the bulbs and legs for rubbing. If this occurs, it is probably because the boot is too tight at the heels (jamming), or too loose (twisting/movement is occurring). Re-fit your boots and/or bandage or use a man’s tube sock on the horse prior to booting.

After – ideally – two hours of drying time, powder the inside of the boot with Gold Bond Medicated Powder (available from most pharmacies) and replace the boots. Re-wrap the gaiters with Vet Wrap (or other tape).

Yep, this is a lot of work for the horse owner. But for many problems, particularly laminitis and caudal foot pain/navicular syndrome it works better and is way-cheaper than any shoeing option I know of. I expect/demand horse owners with a horse with the above problems to give me 2-3 months of good boot turnout. During this time, my goal is comfortable, non-compensative barefoot turnout. If I cannot achieve this, I let the horse owner off the hook and seek other options.

Some problems are permanent. Others may take years to fix. This is when I reach for glue-on shoes. The healing rate is slower, compared to booting, but the daily maintenance by the owner is more reasonable for the “long haul.”

Please stay tuned for EasyCare's July newsletter for Part II of Pete Ramey's "Modifications of Easyboot Gloves and Glue-On Shells". Don't miss out! Subscribe to EasyCare's newsletter today.

Rounding the Corner

Submitted by David Landreville of Landreville Hoof Care

There are a lot of trim methods out there teaching how to address heel height without mentioning heel shape. The shape of the heels are meant to change over a horse's lifetime of use. When used properly they change in a much different way than if they are used improperly. While it is true that all horses have a unique hoof shape, they all have more in common than not. To understand this on a personal level, consider the equine foot being similar to the last digit on a human's finger. Most human fingers are anatomically the same. They have the same function and similar nail growth rate, however, some humans have fat fingers with short nails and some have slender fingers with long nails. Some manicure their nails and keep them at optimum length with smooth edges so they don't crack or chip and some work in the dirt and wear them down to nubs. It doesn't matter whether you work with a shovel or a computer, how you repeatedly use your fingers will affect the way the nail is aligned with the finger and even the way the fingers are aligned on the hand, arm, and so on. I have wide hands with short fat fingers that work well for handling hooves and trimming tools. Personally, I'd rather have hands like Sting but we all have to make due with what we are given. This doesn't necessarily mean that I couldn't learn to play guitar or even be proficient at it, it just means I'm not naturally set up for it and may have to work harder to get there. The point is that all horses and humans have digits that produce a keratinized shell that provides strength and protection. They are recognizable by their shape and they have slight differences due to genetics, care, and use.

As far as horses are concerned, I don't believe in any one human method of hoof trimming due to the fact that all humans have a unique perception so the method will be reinterpreted by everyone anyway. We all have something to contribute; some more than others and some are good examples of what not to do. It's all valuable input.
It takes time to develop an eye for hoof distortion and even longer to develop an eye for hoof perfection.  You have to see a lot of perfect hooves to build a mental model. Perfect hooves are rare and it takes years to develop them. It's not very common for domestic horses to get the movement they need or have the kind of consistent hoof care that it takes to build these kinds of feet. What I'd like to share here is how I think heels should be shaped and how to assess whether the hoof shape is going in the right direction or not.

There is plenty of information out there on hoof anatomy so I won't get too detailed on that. I will say that if you don't put the time in on that you'll be like me trying to play guitar. Once you understand the relationship between the heel horn and the corresponding soft tissue that it grows from, you'll have to decide how much the heel supports the soft tissue or how much the soft tissue supports the heel. This perception may change as you develop your hoof care skills and start to see more and more bad feet turned into good feet. Hopefully, if you're learning curve is on the vertical, there will be no boundaries to your perception, and you will get to observe good feet continuing to develop under your care.

(Above) This hoof capsule is fully alive and perfectly aligned with with the internal structures.

The first thing to be aware of when assessing heels is how they transition from the soft tissue, that forms the heel bulbs, to the hard horn in the heel wall that wraps around the sole at each seat of corn. This return in the wall is known as the heel buttress and the part that makes contact with the ground is the heel purchase. As I said before, there are many online videos to watch and get a clearer picture of the inner structures. What's important to me is a smooth transition from soft tissue to hard tissue. Faint lines turn into wrinkles, wrinkles turn into cracks, and cracks separate the hoof capsule from the inner structures. These visible symptoms disappear when the correct length of horn is distal to its origin of growth. This is what makes a horse choose to weight their heels and consequently build their caudal structures. Due to the rapid growth rate of the hoof wall, the heels can quickly become too long and depending on the conformation of the horse, they will either collapse or prop the horse up on stilts. The heel horn is meant to be fully alive and kept at an efficient length for optimum functionality. The larger the error, the more the horse has to compensate for it and horses are masters of un-detected compensation. Horses can perform amazing athletic feats with or without good feet. This is why so many suffer in silence until the breakdown is obvious.

The bottom line is that the profile of the heel should not have a flat spot or worse, a recurve. This is a telltale sign that the heels are too long and the soft tissues are being pushed up by the heels (this can be misinterpreted as being supported by the heel buttress). The recurve causes a "muffin top" appearance and that is exactly what is happening. Another term for this recurve is "navicular waist." This is more commonly referred to on the hoof wall itself but it continues around the back of the foot through the transition between the heel bulbs and heel horn at the widest part of the frog. To make it more confusing, the widest part of the frog can become stretched, but this only makes the flat spot longer or the recurve more pronounced. This should make the problem more obvious. This condition indicates that the hoof capsule is not in alignment with its growth origins at P3 and the attached soft tissues. The hoof capsule is produced by the inner structures and in later stages of distortion, caused by the lack of growth/wear equilibrium, can actually mechanically separate from them causing a painful and difficult restoration process. A stretched heel is typically an indication of toe loading that causes stretching and/or tearing of the dorsal lamina as well as flattening of the sole that leads to P3 erosion (founder). This can be remedied, more easily in its earlier stages on most horses, by trimming in an anatomically meticulous way that allows the horse to fully use the entire solar surface of their feet in order to achieve and maintain optimum stride length. This will help them begin to correctly build their own true hoof shape through proper function.

Another way to view this distortion is to look for the appearance of one foot inside of the other. The new, supple, healthy growth being stuck inside of the old, hard, dead growth or simply put, "new foot versus old foot". The new foot is seeking support from the ground and the horse is fixed on its toes by the still attached old foot that has become too tall. Due to the forward and downward growth of the hoof wall, the heel contact points migrate forward toward the middle of the foot as well as forward of the vertical line of the boney column. The heel buttresses become too long and the heel purchases become a pivot point instead of a proper support base. This can be compared to a human standing on the rung of a ladder. Anyone who has ever painted a tall wall while standing on an old style ladder with dowel shaped rungs should be able to sympathize. Many horses get stuck in a kind of "zombie" foot that's half dead and half alive.

Above: Green outlining new hoof and red outlining old hoof.

There is a common plateau where I see most horses and trimmers get stuck. Diet, footing, movement, and trimming can and should all be used to remedy this situation and to continue making progress. Some trimming methods prescribe a pre-determined heel height and some prescribe flattening the heel through the quarters to the widest part of the frog. These approaches can be too much or too little. This is where understanding the proper shape is an advantage. When you become more familiar with the internal structures of the foot, you may realize that there is not a sharp corner at the back of the heel (from a lateral perspective). It's more of a rounded corner. In order for the back of the heels on the outer hoof capsule to remain in alignment with the growth origin at the adjacent spot on the internal structure where the origin of growth is, the corner must remain rounded. This would happen naturally with miles of wear from heel first landings, however, it is up to the trimmer to accurately simulate this wear pattern which is slightly different for every horse, every foot, and in every stage of development. This takes a lot of experience on the trimmer's part to know just when and where to remove hoof horn in order to build sole and soft tissue. The frog has to be factored in and properly shaped as well or the horse still won't commit their weight into the heels. The live frog should be full and supple and match the profile of the heels, never protruding past the heel purchase or have the appearance of buckling under or being stacked in layers. This is another sensitive area that relies on knowing exactly what to remove and what to leave. This can make the difference of a horse walking off better or worse. So many trimmers, understandably, play it safe and they tread lightly in an area that thrives on use and wear. Over time, this increases the heel length in the wrong area.

Heels should be assessed by dividing them into two parts: From the widest part of the frog (distally) to the ground and from the widest part of the frog (proximally) to the hairline or even above that to the top of the heel bulbs. The upper heel is regenerative soft tissue and the lower heel is degenerative horn. When the lower part is kept short, the upper part gets the stimulation that it needs to develop. Many trimmers theorize that this corner will wear on its own or that it needs to be there for a larger base of support. Rounding that corner allows the horse to rock back and get their weight over their heels. This can be one more step to improving the horse's stance, increasing the horse's stride length, and moving the foot out of limbo.

I follow three rules that have kept me, and the horses I trim, out of trouble and have increased my success rate:

  1. Never touch live sole. 
  2. Minimize the amount of wall that protrudes beyond the peripheral edge of the sole.
  3. Don't allow a sharp corner to develop between the widest part of the frog at the termination of the collateral grooves.

How you get to good feet will depend on many factors, but how can you fix or prevent what you don't see?

(Above) White arrow points to the apex of the recurve.

(Above) Top photos: before and after trim showing the recurves heels and how I addressed them. Bottom photos: taken several months later showing the changes made in the transition of soft tissue to hard horn. This is the tail end of some corrections made over a 2 year period at 4 week trim intervals. The bruising in the heel purchase in the bottom right photo is from past trauma caused by the deviated (recurred) heel buttress crushing its own growth corium.

(Above) This is an example of how faint lines and creases indicate separation in its infancy. (Image on the left is a different horse in the beginning stage)

To read more of David Landreville's educational writings, search his name on our blog or visit his Stuff That Works page. Be sure to subscribe to EasyCare's newsletter for more!

Learning, Adapting and Growing.

Submitted by Steve Foxworth, President of the E.L.P.O.

Equine hoof care: an industry with great tradition, experience, and information that has been passed down from generation to generation; from Father to Son, from Grandfather to Grandson, and, in some cases, Great Grandfather to Great Grandson with one important mission: the comfort of horses. 

It amazes me that, for centuries, horses have played such important roles in human lives. The role today that horses play is definitely different than the role they've played in the past. Horses used to be more of a tool for transportation or that of a tractor or truck and even used as weapons for war. Today, they are more often used for pleasure, sport, or companionship. Regardless whether a horse is used as a tool or as a companion or both, the importance of hoof care is more evident now than ever. A horse’s ability to learn, adapt, and change is truly incredible. Horses do so many different things with little to no objection i.e. racing, dressage, jumping, cross country, vaulting, roping, barrel racing, bulldogging, reining, cutting, endurance, competitive trail, mounted shooting, crowd control, driving etc. and on multiple different surfaces (dirt, clay, rock, gravel, sand, artificial surfaces, grass, asphalt, concrete) and in wet and dry environments. No matter what we come up with the horse is willing to TRY!

As hoof care providers, it is beneficial if we can be more like the horses in our ability to adapt and change. Our mindset as hoof care providers is key in achieving this. Without putting “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad” but instead using an observation of what the horse wants or responds favorably to can only help these amazing animals continue to TRY. It is not necessarily what we are using as a tool to care for them (metal, wood, or composite shoes that are nailed, screwed, strapped or glued) or leaving them barefoot, but the continued education of how all of these tools work, and then the practice in becoming proficient with them. Understanding it is a journey, not a destination, and allows us to learn, adapt and grow just like the horse.

The E.L.P.O. (Equine Lameness Prevention Organization) works toward such a journey. The organization’s goal is to question, monitor, and improve upon practices regarding hoof care. With great respect for tradition and the centuries of information that have been passed down, the members of the E.L.P.O. also strive to be like the horse with a willingness to learn, adapt and grow. With the help of Daisy Bicking and Garrett Ford over the last 3 to 4 years, the E.L.P.O. has seen the importance and the benefits of glue-on composite shoes. In 2016, the E.L.P.O. held the first CFGP (Certified Farrier Glue Practitioner) exams in Pennsylvania. With Daisy as a lead in designing, instructing, and assessing this exam, farriers have a strong base in which they can build from. The many different things that can be accomplished both with urethane and acrylic glues and the innovation of a multitude of shoe possibilities is proving to be very beneficial.

For the last 2 years, one of the Board of Directors of the E.L.P.O., Matt Staples, has been asking for this certification to be brought to the United Kingdom. In March of this year, Daisy and I led a glue course and CFGP exam in conjunction with a Level 5 Examiner/Instructor course in the U.K.. Instructors and examiners from the U.K., France, Holland and the U.S. came together to learn. Participants sat through 6 hours of lectures and discussion ranging from leadership and communication, to glue types, composite shoes and applications. Participants evaluated and graded several cadaver feet using the E.L.P.O. Hoof Evaluation Protocol. The frog, heels, bars, and toes all get assessed with a 0-5 scale (0 meaning non-distorted and 5 being the greatest distortion) while taking turns assessing each other as well. Cadaver feet were trimmed using hoof mapping as a guide along with what was assessed in the Hoof Evaluation Protocol. Daisy then did a demonstration on glue prep on the foot with explaining what we understand today as best practice including moisture control, dirt and debris, scuffing, feathering and common things that could cause glue failure. Participants were then able go through the process on multiple cadaver feet.  At the end of the second day, five instructors who had previous glue experience and were prepared to take the practical exam completed it and passed. Having these instructors pass this exam is paving the way to start having CFGP qualifications in the U.K. and Europe.

Seeing the willingness to learn and continue gathering information from these farriers where tradition runs as deep as any place in the world, was extremely rewarding. These farriers are adding to an already enormous amount of information of hoof care. This group of practitioners are not making things “right” or “wrong”, they are looking to learn and become proficient at hoof care so that they can service horses in a manner that horses have served humans for centuries with a want to learn, adapt and grow.

Many thanks to Garrett Ford and EasyCare as you continue to donate material so that many more horses and people can benefit from an education of the possibilities of glue-on composite shoes. Another thank you to Red Horse Products who also sponsored the course and provide a line of products to help maintain healthy hooves.

Thinking Glue - Outside the Box of Equine Podiatry

Submitted by Chris Niclas CJF, CLS and owner of Chris’ Farrier Service Inc.

There have been many changes in the hoof-care industry over the last 25 years. One of the changes I have come to appreciate is the use of adhesives and glue-on shoes. From being intimidated by the failures of using glue in the beginning, to becoming comfortable using it in my daily practice, it has been a journey. As a teenager I became interested in hoof-care out of necessity. Almost 25 years later, I still have a passion for the horse and am driven to continue learning new skills as a farrier. 

I met Mark Plumlee, owner and instructor of Mission Farrier School, at an International hoof-care clinic he hosted in the late 1990’s. Mark is a Certified Journeyman Farrier, a Registered Journeyman Farrier, and a Certified Lameness Specialist. Knowing that Mark has been on the leading edge of farrier science, when it comes to farrier education, I approached him last fall and asked if I could attend Mission Farrier School. After 20 years as a professional farrier, I was excited to learn how much information is available in both the art and science of hoof-care. 

During my time at MFS, Mark asked me if I would be willing to partner with his school to go deeper into the emerging market of gluing on shoes in a way that was meaningful for the horse. Since I am currently working on my own certifications for becoming an Instructor and Examiner for the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (ELPO), I realized this would be a good opportunity for me to thoroughly investigate the Glue-On protocol, as part of my “homework” for the ELPO certification. 

In teaching a glue clinic, I knew I needed to investigate and confirm what the general Glue-On protocol was currently. So last November, after attending a level 5 clinic with the ELPO in Loveland, CO, I drove down to Durango, CO and had the privilege of spending a day with Garrett Ford, CEO of EasyCare Inc. We spent most of the day gluing on shoes, as well as sharing our ideas, inventions, and prototypes. Becoming familiar with using glue and synthetic shoes has given me multiple options to protect and support the equine foot in both performance and therapeutic applications.

I knew I did not want to work with cadaver feet when teaching the glue clinic at Mission Farrier School. I also wanted an easy and simple way students could learn to work with the glue without the added stress of being under a horse. This led me to create a wooden foot that attached to a hoof stand and simulated the working positions needed to both glue on a shoe and remove it, since both are important when working with a glue-on equine clientele.

Garrett Ford and EasyCare Inc. were very generous in donating shoes and glue for the clinic. Additionally, Larkin Greene the Western Regional Sales Manager for Vettec, also donated glue and came up from California to attend the clinic. Larkin was instrumental in sharing his knowledge of chemistry and the structures of how the different adhesives work. His 35 years of experience gave us all many valuable tips in using glue successfully.

The Glue clinic was attended by farriers and students from across the United States. The state that were represented included Alaska, Washington, California, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Massachusetts and even the Netherlands. Everyone at the clinic had an opportunity to glue on 3 different shoes the EasyShoe Performance N/G, EasyBoot Glue-On and the EasyShoe Sport.

After each gluing exercise we would gather as a group and the class would share what they learned. This created a positive learning environment and allowed everyone to learn from others mistakes and successes. For most of the people attending the clinic, this was their first experience using glue. The learning curve often leaves a person discouraged or overwhelmed, which can lead to not using adhesives as a tool in their trade. My goal was to teach the steps of how to clean and dry the foot, so it is prepared for the process of gluing on a shoe and is the key to a successful gluing job. Providing a hands-on experience, students were able to learn firsthand what it looked like if they applied too much or too little glue. Being able to practice both gluing on a shoe and taking it off multiple times, created an environment where each participant could gain confidence in the process.

It is important to remember that each horse is an individual and each foot may have its own special needs. Throughout the two days there were brain puzzles on a dry erase board that challenged all attending to think outside the box. This became an exercise to stretch our minds in creativity and problem solving. For the third project everyone was able to create a problem and a solution for their wooden horse's foot. I really enjoyed watching how creative each team was at putting into practice “thinking outside the box”. Some teams made hoof wall extensions, others created a shoe with a hospital plate that could be glued on and others created ways of doing a hoof wall repair. At the end of the day I did a live demonstration putting all the pieces into practice on a special needs horse.

If you are curious and find yourself inspired to explore the world of adhesives and all the possibilities with gluing on a shoe, checkout the webinars that EasyCare has put together. They are well worth taking the time to watch and study.

Mission Farrier School has been teaching leading edge farrier science for 25 years, and offers a quality Farrier education. Most of their students come with little to no horseshoeing experience, but occasionally you’ll find a few seasoned professionals like myself learning the new science and advancing our own skills, right along-side the newbies.

The Equine Lameness Prevention Organization offers clinics and classes throughout the year teaching Hoof Mapping, proper Barefoot Trimming and advanced classes for becoming a Certified Lameness Specialist or Certified Farrier Glue Practitioner.

Vettec has countless clinics throughout the year and many helpful webinars and videos available on the internet. Take the time to check them out.

If anyone wants to practice on their own with a wooden horse hoof adapted to fit a hoof jack, mine will be available for sale by special order. I have found the horse is the best teacher of all. At the end of each day, it is the opinion of the horse that guides us to becoming the best hoof care providers we can be.

A big thank you to Mark & Karen Plumlee, Steve Foxworth, Garrett Ford, Larkin Greene, James Klund and my wife Kristi in helping and equipping me to help others.

 

Setting Your Therapy Boots Up for Extended Wear

Submitted by Jean Welch, Hoof Care Practitioner

As a Hoofcare Practitioner, I take great pride in knowing that I help provide comfort to horses on a daily basis. Most of us HCP's have horses of our own, and we have first- hand experience when it comes to successful booting techniques.
This has been a banner year for laminitic symptoms, and I’d like to share a few tips that will help extend the wear time for therapeutic boots such as the Easyboot Cloud and the Easyboot RX.

Maintaining comfortable booted hooves for extended wear (two to four days max. in dry conditions) is easier if you invest in a second set of boots so they can be rotated. They don’t have to be the same kind, as long as they fit well and offer comfort and support, and are appropriate for the task. This, along with diligent cleaning habits of both horse and equipment is a recipe for success. While one set of boots is being worn, the other set is cleaned and staged, ready for the next booting. To clean the boots simply drop them in a bucket of water with a few drops of mild detergent. Let them soak a while, then use a soft brush to scrub them out. Rinse and squeeze out as much water as possible, then hang to dry (not in direct sunlight).

Keeping the hooves dry and clean for extended boot wear is easier if you use liberal amounts of a medicated powder such as Gold Bond or a generic equivalent.  I also like to line the boot with an absorbent adult pad such as the Walgreens brand “Certainty”.

These pads are long, thick and absorbent. They are great for drawing out and locking away excess moisture from the frog area. I use them whole so that it cradles the pastern and heel bulbs.

Before.

After three days.

Depending on the boot style I’m using, sometimes I cut them into thirds, so I can get three hoof boot liners out of one pad.

The pad does not have to cover the entire sole to be effective. As long as it is centered under the frog,  it will work well. ‚Äč

The adhesive strip on the back secures the pad very nicely to the inside bottom of the boot. Remove only 1/3 of the adhesive backing so it only sticks to the comfort pad.

I stick the absorbent pad only to the comfort pad so that the rest of it cradle the heel bulbs, allowing it to move with the pastern, and provides extra cushioning and protection. Again here, I use powder to reduce friction and to keep things clean and dry. Be sure to clean the hoof,  hairline and pastern thoroughly with a soft brush before each booting.

No rubs aftwer 4 days.

No rubs even after 3 days.

There are lots different booting techniques out there. I hope this method offers some relief for your unique situation. 

Freedom Movement

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Someone recently asked me how to convince their clients to schedule their horse(s) on a shorter trim cycle. One of my clients had this horse's leg bone and I haven't been able to get the shape and function of the fetlock joint out of my head. Talk about no margin of error. There is no room for error. Trimming  is meant to be done daily in nature. Horse's feet grow 1/16th of an inch every four to five days (3/8" - 1/2" per month). If they are naturally a little crooked due to conformation flaws (which every horse has to some degree)  then the longer their walls get, and the more crooked the foot gets. Their feet are their foundation. If they are crooked the horse must compensate in their body. This is typically where leg, shoulder, neck, back, hip, hock, stifle, knee and jaw pain comes from. The horse is a living kinetic structure. Any imbalance in any joint affects every other joint. 
 
I think the biggest thing that is overlooked in horse's hooves is how much the horse is affected by minute imbalances in the hoof. Here is an example: take a four foot builders level. Fix it vertically to the jamb of a door. Check it for plumb. The bubble should be centered between the lines at the center of the level. Slide a penny between the bottom of the level and the floor, on the jamb side of the level. You should notice the top of the level come away from the jamb about an inch and half. 

A penny is about 1/16 of an inch thick. That's how much the hoof walls grow in about five days. If the leg of a horse isn't plumb then one side of the hoof gets longer than the other from lack of wear. The weight of the horse gets distributed more to the short side of the hoof. The longer this condition persists the more the short side of the hoof gets excessive wear and crushed, the more crushing, the less circulation, the less circulation the less growth, etc. Horses can compensate for years, silently, until their lameness becomes obvious. Most often this appears as a "mystery" lameness or gets diagnosed as a neurological issue, or even disease. The cure is the same as the prevention; keep the heels level, don't just eye ball it. Use a gauge. Remember that a 1/16 inch off at the ground equals an inch and a half at the shoulder. This is pretty significant to the horse when they are trying to keep 300 lbs (per leg) balanced four feet above a four inch diameter circle. Problems are compounded with the addition of a rider.

The cadaver leg in the photo below is crooked and shows uneven wear.  The live foot is properly balanced. 

Horses feet can't be left to go to hell for several weeks and then brought back for a few days. They're designed to be perfectly balanced, always.
People still don't want to admit that this is supposed to be done daily by nature. Domesticated horses rely on humans for this and the real problem is that too many people set trim schedules according to their pocket book instead of the rate of growth, or empathy for the horse. 

Positive Changes

Submitted by Sossity Gargiulo, Wild Hearts Hoof Care

I was recently asked by EasyCare to write up a few words about our trimming theory and approach. This always ends up being quite difficult to be succinct with, as there are so many ways depending on the horse. But, at our foundation we believe that the hoof is a highly adaptable “smart structure” as said by Dr. Taylor of Auburn University. The hoof is capable of positive change given the opportunity with supportive trims, diet and lifestyle. We have seen it over and over and over again in our hoof care practice.

This left front hoof made the visual changes above, as well as an internal coffin bone angle change from negative to positive angles (-2.45 degrees to positive 3.25 degrees) in 6 months

We have found that if you help the hoof a little bit with your trim, by setting it up to grow better between cycles, making sure the horse is comfortable to move properly with minimal or no compensative movement, and then get out of their way, they can develop a pretty awesome hoof. It may not be the picture in some people’s mind of The Perfect Hoof, but it can be a pretty awesome, functional, sound and improving hoof for that horse.

This right hind hoof made a positive change (literally) to the angle of his coffin bone, which we can see by observing the angle of the hoof wall and the hairline. In the October image, the hairline is much steeper, the heel is lower and forward and the dorsal wall is bulging in a bull nosed shape. By January, his hairline is more shallow and relaxed down, the heel is in a more supportive position under the bulbs and his dorsal wall is straight. (Please note that this was not straightened with the hoof buffer, which we used to only very lightly scuff the walls.) 

 The yellow and green line overlays were copied and pasted unchanged from each of the images to show the shape changes that took place over 11 weeks.

The owner may have to make some changes for the horse’s sake, and in fact, it is pretty much guaranteed.Often this involves things like changing the footing in the horse’s pen to be cleaner or more dry, perhaps treating for thrush, changing from sweet feeds to a lower carb vitamin/mineral supplement and almost always learning how and when to use hoof boots

It also often involves educating owners as to what a healthy hoof looks like. When an owner learns to recognize signs of hoof distortion they can, for the rest of their horse owning life, step in and know when to make necessary changes before things get too out of whack.    

You could say that the frog’s change in width, in this right hind hoof, over 11 weeks was simply due to a style change of trimming less from the sides, but how to explain the change in the heel bulb shape? This cannot be cut to shape, the horse makes this change.  

We tell our clients that it takes around eight months to one year to grow a whole new hoof. Some horses need to grow two or more hoof cycles to really develop into more like what we like to see, but I think it is important to be aware that the horse, and his feet, are always in motion. They are always growing, and they can be growing for the better every moment. Sometimes we are gifted with quick visual changes, the heels open up, or maybe the wall quality improves right away.  But even if we don’t see huge changes externally, we can know that the horse is moving better, perhaps a longer stride, more confident loading their heels. This tells us that internally, things are improving, realigning, developing and strengthening.

Finally, we feel strongly that you need to look holistically at the situation. The horse’s feet may be better aligned with some modifications to their trim, and that is wonderful, but that’s not all. That change then impacts the way he stands and moves, which impacts the angles of his joints and the way he uses his soft tissues.  It is a whole horse change.

Left front, 11 weeks between images.

What does your horse have going on that could be improved upon?  Could he benefit from a change?  How much more could you see from your beloved partner in terms of comfort and performance? 

Sossity and Mario of Wild Hearts Hoof Care.

 

Clouds in the Rain: The Water Wicking Properties of a Thick, Concave Sole

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

When I was a landscape designer/contractor I loved the rain. I prayed that it would come and water my newly created landscapes because the water from the hose never had the same effect as a good rain. The plants would grow a few more inches, foliage filled in and greened up, and the dust was washed off of the boulders and stones in a way that softened the look of the landscape and heightened the subtle colors of the desert. The rain would freshen everything it touched. My love for rain quickly went away when I started trying to rehab horses feet. 

In the beginning, just when I felt like I was making progress with a horse, the rains would come and I'd have horse owner's calling me worried about their horse being sore. I'd do my best to convince the owner that their horse was just temporarily rain sore and to help them keep their horses as comfortable as possible until it dried out, often driving out to see if there was something else I could do. Many times the drive wasn't wasted and all I needed to do was clean the hard packed mud clod off of their soles. This usually provided immediate relief, however mud would accumulate again and the owner would have to keep their feet clean. Over the years I tried everything to prevent rain soreness:

  • Leaving the walls a little longer
  • Boots and pads
  • Creating positive drainage
  • Adding pea gravel

I did everything I could think of, including warning the owner up front that they would likely experience soreness during the rains for the first year or two.

After about 10 years of dreading the rains, and just when I was starting to get used to warning the owners before we started the rehabilitation process, I started having much better results. At first I attributed that to being prepared with boots and managing the environment, but some horses were still having trouble even when their owners were being proactive. After a long time of trying to figure out how to predict and prevent this problem I realized that some of the horses were getting along fine with big old mud clods on their soles while others were lame and the horses that were getting along fine had better feet at the end of the rainy season while the lame horses feet looked worse. I really wanted to understand what the difference was.

Over time I became aware of a pattern. After things dried out, the improved feet had a tremendous amount of crumbly sole that easily exfoliated, revealing even more concavity than they went into the wet season with, while the the horses that went in with flatter feet had even flatter feet by the end of the season. This realization caused me to try to help horses build as much sole as possible during the dry seasons. Convincing the owners to do their part was a challenge but I had a much better success rate with the ones that cooperated. 

First I had to get the owners to see and understand when the feet were improving and when they were declining instead of just riding their horse until they broke down, and then freaking out. Next I had to get them involved in the process so they felt more like it was a collaboration. After they knew what progress looked like and they realized that the changes were happening after they improved the footing and/or started using boots and pads they began to take even more ownership of the rehab process. Once it started feeling like team work, their horse's feet started getting even better.

I know 2016 was a bad year for a lot of folks but I had some of the toughest founder cases with the quickest and best turnarounds that I've ever seen. One of the biggest reasons for this was the arrival of the EasyCare Cloud boot. I used this boot extensively to get foundered and rain sore horses through the wet weather. I went through more than one pair in a few months time with several horses. In many of the extreme cases the boots were left on until the sun was shining. Sometimes they only had them off for an hour or two for the feet and the boots to dry out. I was able to trim frequently enough to keep the dead tissue to a minimum. This kept the feet from getting infected and allowed extra comfort after a trim. I taught the owners to use the boots as much as needed, but as little as possible, and to gently graduate their horses out of them until their horses were moving around comfortably totally bare. 

Over the last few years I've learned to love the rain again. I've also learned some interesting things about horse's feet. In wet weather the mud that collects in a concave sole works somewhat like a sponge. When a healthy concave hoof with thick live sole gets packed with mud, the weight of the horse squeezes the moisture out of the mud and keeps the sole dry. An old fashioned orange juice squeezer might be a better analogy. The mud ball elevates the foot off of the  ground just enough to let the weight of the horse squeeze the water out. They can go for weeks and maybe months like this if they have adequate concavity in the beginning. Once a horse is acclimated to their weight bearing being distributed between their heels and the peripheral edge of their sole at the toe, the sole will thicken and form a bowl (concavity). Achieving this is possible for most horses if they have the right owner/trimmer team. These horses are the ones that benefit from the rain. For the horses that go into the wet season with thin, flat, or even prolapsed soles, Easyboot Clouds used responsibly in conjunction with well timed and properly balanced trimming, should at the very least get a horse comfortably through the wet weather.

 An added benefit is that the rocker effect of the mud clod on a properly balanced, thick, concave sole helps to develop the digital cushion and lateral cartilages because the weight bearing is over the back of the foot where it belongs. This puts the center of the mud ball directly under the soft regenerative tissue in the back half of the foot, and increases flexion in the hoof capsule, while the rocker effect on a thin flat sole caused by excessive weight bearing on the toe puts the center of the mud ball directly under the coffin bone in the front half of the foot. This causes excruciating pain and magnifies the strain on the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon along with the ligaments and joints in the leg. Flexion of the hoof capsule is increased this way too, but in a harmful way.

I believe some of the founder cases from this year (pictured above) may not have been as successful without the Easyboot Cloud

Indicted

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

I started studying the mustang model about 11 years ago after one of our young geldings was diagnosed with late stages of navicular disease. We got him when he was five from a guy who had bred him and was training him to rope off of. He'd been shod since he was two or three, had already sustained some leg injuries, and wasn't performing at the desired level. After we acquired him I continued shoeing him. By the time he was seven his pasterns and heels were collapsed, his toe angles were very low, his soles were thin, and there seemed to be no way to correct the angles with trimming alone because there was no wall growing beyond the peripheral edge of his soles. The vet blamed it on poor conformation and recommended EDSS shoes with medium rails and wedge pads. For those who aren't familiar with these terms it basically boils down to about as much artificial wedging as you can get away with. Typically, it doesn't get better from there. We gave it a try for three shoeing cycles but realized quickly that Santo was just a different kind of uncomfortable and artificial wedging was giving us the illusion of artificial soundness. After I asked the vet directly what we were to expect he finally admitted that our horse's future was grim and we would be lucky if we got two more years out of him. 

This is when I started asking more questions. We found an alternative vet that recommended taking him barefoot and following Jamie Jackson's and Pete Ramey's work. I bought their books and jumped into the void. I took Ramey's advice and burned Jackson's wild horse hoof model in my brain. It payed off more than I could have imagined. Santo immediately started growing healthier feet and his soundness was improving daily. By providing ample movement, managing his feet with physiologically correct trimming, and with the help of EasyCare products, Santo has been ridden comfortably to this day, over 10 years later.

I started applying my lessons to other horses and getting the same results. After I'd been rehabbing hundreds of horses for eight years, Pete Ramey came out with his second book, Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot. I'd already been to a Ramey/Bowker clinic and read as much material as I could get a hold of. I labored through Bowker's chapter, rereading sentences, paragraphs, and pages over and over until I felt like I was comprehending what I was reading. Being under horses full time for the past eight years really contributed to my understanding of the information I was reading and most of it was confirming many of my own realizations.  I was really excited to be able to trim during the day and be learning the science of it by night. 

I'd heard about Brian Hampson's work with the Australian Brumbies and couldn't wait to consume the next chapter but as I read his research I slowly started feeling uncomfortable and rereading it to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding it. The more I reread it, the sicker I got. "Everything I'd been doing for the last eight years was wrong!" This was the predominant voice in my head. He made such a strong case that "high mileage, hard substrate feet" better known as the "Mustang Model" wasn't the model we should be following because there was a high incidence of laminitis found in this type of hoof according to his research. He compared them to low mileage soft substrate feet and found more wall flare but less laminitis. "Laminitis!" was now the predominant voice in my head. I was silently living out the scene in Fun With Dick and Jane, where Jim Carey is running around his house yelling, "Indicted! Indicted! I'm going to be Indicted!"

 

After explaining my new findings and fears to my wife, she paused for a few seconds and very calmly said, "Ok, but you tell all your clients to board on sand, trim frequently, and to use hoof boots when they ride. You've been doing that with all of our horses for years and their feet are beautiful and they move beautifully." I thought about what she was saying for a few minutes until it sunk in. I realized in that moment that our horses and my clients horses had the best of both worlds. I was relieved and returned to my old mantra that I learned years ago from the same source, "Question Everything." I continue to have a lot of faith in the healing powers of the Mustang Model and continue to question it, simultaneously, every time I pick up a foot. I also continue to realize more and more, since I started teaching it, that different results come from different perceptions. I also know from experience, that perceptions can change when they merge with other perceptions and that is precisely what keeps us moving forward.

Bringing the Foot Back to Life

Submitted by David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Many horse owners find themselves in a situation where their horse isn't necessarily lame but they know that their horse's feet could be healthier. They find themselves in the uncomfortable state of not wanting to settle for "what is" and not knowing how to achieve "what can be". In my own opinion this is where change often starts and where I suggest:

  • A change of footing.
  • Then a change in trim protocol and diet.
  • And finally to give the horse room to move because that's where the real change occurs.

I recently had someone ask me what my take on frog contact with ground surface is. In my opinion, frog contact is the heart of hoof development and the key to bringing a foot back to life. One thing I will say to begin with is that it all depends on:

1. The stage of development of the foot

2. The type of footing that the horse lives on

Success will be limited unless you can control these two factors. The footing needs to be brought up to the frog or the frog needs to be lowered to the footing. One way or the other, or both.  Sand/chat/pea gravel and/or boots with appropriate pads can be used to accomplish this.

I consider this ( photo above ) to be a well developed foot (eight years in a small track system and micro managed on a 1-3 week trim cycle).  You can see that there is less heel height (ends of collateral grooves to ground contact points) and more heel depth (ends of collateral grooves to hairline).  The frog is fully alive and in the same plane as the heels (blue line). This relationship doesn't change much when the foot is weight bearing due to the strength of the back of this foot.  This frog and digital cushion are well developed and they can take a lot of weight bearing. This, in turn leads to further development.

I believe the frog needs to make contact with the ground but it's actually a very specific area of the frog and a very specific percentage of the horse's body weight that it is supposed to support. It's slightly different for every horse, in every environment, and for various stages of development. Proper frog contact provides proper stimulation to the digital cushion and lateral cartilages. These tissues are regenerative. In my experience this is true even in older horses, although this can be limited by the extent of the damage done over time. Once the proper frog/heel/back of sole relationship is achieved, development can begin and the frog can begin to gradually take a heavier load. When a foot gets to this point, development can be continual. The key to frog development is pressure. The frog thrives on pressure.  It is like a muscle in that way.  It can be developed at any age, just like an old man who decides to get fit in his 70's. It's not easy but it's possible.  Needless to say, starting younger is better, but better late than never. 

 The key to success here is in controlling the environment, movement, diet, hoof shape (trimming/wear) and especially movement.  The horse should always be kept as comfortable as possible because it's the proper weight bearing over the hoof structures while standing and during movement that build the foot.

Above is the progress on a hoof made over 5 months of trimming on a 2-3 week cycle. The heels have been properly lowered and shaped (for the stage of development) and brought closer to the level of live horn, following the contour of the growth corium. The goal here is to keep the horse comfortable while gradually getting the frog reactivated by making proper ground contact; bringing the living tissues that thrive on stimulation closer to the ground. This horse was living part time in a grass pasture and part time in a 12'X12' stall bedded with shavings. The black arrow shows an abscess eruption that I used as a land mark to track the progress.

Here's another photo showing the foot before, and directly after, a trim. Here, I set the heels according to the horse's poor stage of development and the terrain she lives on, which is a 10 acre natural desert, grass pasture (dry and hard footing). My decision to "set the heel height" comes from carefully listening to the horse. By that I mean that she is untied and not being held when I trim her so she is free to leave if she doesn't like what I'm doing. 

I almost always trim to just above the live sole in the seat of corn (back of sole forward of the heel purchase) and use this as a gauge for heel height. I've learned to respect the live sole plane and wait for change. This is the horse's response to readiness for change. The dead sole will exfoliate more easily when the horse is weighting the heels properly. Then I just remove the dead tissue and follow the same protocol for the frog. Removing the dead tissue on the frog exposes the live tissue that has feeling. When the toughened surface areas of the living heel walls, seat of corn, and frog are all in a proper tight relationship the back of the foot will become naturally more stabilized. This allows the horse to willingly set their weight into the back of their feet. When this is done correctly the horse will typically show signs of relaxation like licking, chewing, yawning, eye rolling, lowering their head, engaging with the trimmer, etc. 

I work over time to close the gap between the ground and the frog until the frog is taking its fair share of the weight bearing. This can take a few years. These same techniques can be applied to horses that are being transitioned out of steel shoes with distended frogs.


Left: just out of steel shoes. Right: two years later after making all the changes mentioned above.