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. 

Frog Talk - Part I

What do frogs and bars have in common?  Answer: they are both most controversial among hoof professionals.

Bars and frogs of the equine hoof are the most discussed tissues and there are about as many opinions out there as there are hoof care professionals. Bars and frogs are always a hot discussion topic. (I had written a blog about bar trimming a couple of years ago.)

Personally, when trimming the frogs, I am a minimalist. I remove as little as possible from any frog, unless special considerations require it. But more on that later.

The frogs of the equine hoof have many functions, one of them being shock absorption. Generally speaking, a large, wide and thick frog is better suited for that task. A frog that contacts the ground upon landing of the hoof is a healthier frog compared to a recessed frog or one that is not able to contact the ground because the hoof is shod with a horse shoe that loads the hoof wall only peripherally. 

Not sure what it is, but many hoof trimmers just have an urge to trim something of the frog. Even if it just a tiny little piece. I mean, what good is a hoof knife when one cannot use it. And frogs just cut so nicely and soft, quite contrary to most soles and bars. They just cannot help it, something has to be cut of the frog, even if it is not necessary.

During my recent hoof care clinics in Europe, one of my group of hoof care professionals discussed trimming and preparing hooves for gluing various hoof protections like the EasyCare Glue-Ons, Flip FlopsEasyShoes and Equiflex horse shoes. Every year for the last ten years I have been traveling to Europe to conduct these clinics and workshops. Most of the time by myself, but occasionally also with EasyCare Staff and Garrett Ford. 

A participant had asked me a question and just in that moment I had turned around to answer, one of the others who held up the hoof could not resist the urge to slice a little piece of a very healthy and nicely callused frog. Nothing needed to be taken off here, but it is just so typical of us trimmers. Something needs to be cut, even if only a tiny little bit.

Now, this will not do much harm, however, that little piece taken off robbed unnecessarily the sensitive frog tip from its callused skin.

The calluses are a front line shield and defense against fungi, bacteria and parasites. Remove it and the frog is weakened and harmed. Before cutting any tissue off a horses hoof, I always ask myself the two questions:

- Is the removal of that tissue helpful to the horse or will it be harmful? 

- Will the horse travel better or worse afterwards?

These are two quite different questions, the second question building upon the first.  What decision I ultimately make in terms of hoof trimming depends a lot on whether or not the horse is being ridden, over what terrain, for how long,  and is it bare footed or with hoof protection

For me, the ultimate test is riding a horse over varied terrain bare footed. Below I am sharing a few photos of different frogs and my trimming thoughts on them.

Let's start with an easy one: This Tinker frog is perfect for its job of landing and shock absorption. I think we can all agree that any trimming of this frog would harm the horse.

Another healthy frog that should not encounter a hoof knife at all.

A desert hoof: thick sole and thick frog. Hardened by the elements and terrain. The outer layers are showing signs of cracks and shedding. I won't help that process, but leave it alone and let nature do its job. There is no thrush anywhere, so I do not see any reason to start cutting anything off.

Thick callus with a deep central sulcus. Thrush? Unlikely, no smell, no sensitivity, just a deep sulcus because of summer dryness. I am leaving it as is.

Looks like the outer callused layer of the frog was just shed. Whether by terrain or with help of a trimmer, I do not know. Obviously the hoof trimmer followed the principle of trimming the heels to the widest part of the frog. That hoof now is compromised and probably not a good candidate to be ridden without hoof protection, frog and sole will be sensitive for a while now.

Good one above. Analysis: thick sole, probably a double sole. Frog tip connected to sole. Frog flaps with thick callus. Horse travels sound over rocks without any hoof protection for many many miles. Admittedly, that frog does not look "nice". But it certainly is functional, tough and thick. Cutting anything off that frog would compromise his bare footed travel. I leave it as it is, even that connection with the sole on the tip is not harming the hoof, but protecting it even further.

That hoof needs some trimming, some of the overgrown bars already were shortened. But let us just look at the frog now: cracked, thick callused frog with dry central sulcus. I do not trim anything off here. At red arrow tip: flap material is growing laterally to hold soil and to increase heel support area. These flaps are useful, I will leave them in place as they have been growing.

Frog tip is starting the renewal process and peeling. Do I help and cut it off or let nature do its job? Obviously it is not quite ready to peel itself, if I cut it, the frog tip will be sensitive and I will have potentially harmed the hoof. 

On the opposing hoof of the same horse, the tip has shed itself of already, next part is also trying to come off. I do nothing and leave it alone.

Now to an interesting question: 

What to do about flaps and fold overs that are often observable on the frog? Generally these flaps are there to hold dirt which in turn again stimulates the tissue. Often they grow there where the hoof considers them most useful. I am always amazed on how nature takes care of the areas in need. Building materials are expediently sent there.

 Lets have a look at these frog flaps:

Same hoof with slightly different photo angles for better understanding. That hoof shows very low heels, in fact the heel bulbs are so low that they are running the risk of getting bruised and injured when encountering rocks. These flaps grew at the right place to protect the bulbs. In the second frame the red arrow shows a slight abrasion from the movement of the flap against the heel bulb. Possibly also from soil or sand rubbing against the skin. Removal of these flaps would endanger the bulbs. These frog flap extensions also increase the load bearing surface area of the whole foot. 

But, these flaps also can harbor bacteria and fungi, one might object. True enough. How to safeguard against this and more about frog pathology, crooked frogs, recessed ones and how to deal with them and correct them all I will cover in next months blog, Frog Talk - Part II

 

From The Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

Global Endurance Training Center

 

 

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.

Battle River CTR and Easyshoe Success

Submitted by Stacey Maloney, Team Easyboot 2016 Member

I wrote in a previous blog about getting my unfit mare fit for a 25 mile Competitive Trail Ride Competition and some of the challenges we were overcoming in regards to being overfed. CTR's are not new to us, we've been competing successfully for a few years now, but we've been really slow getting going this year as we added new young family member early in 2016. 

Well we dieted, we conditioned, we trimmed, we booted, and finally the competition was near so we glued! I had been taught by a local barefoot trimmer how to apply EasyShoes last year and I gave it a shot on my own as well in 2015 but hadn't picked up my Adhesive applicator in about 12 months. I had ordered some Easyshoe Performance earlier in the year and re-watched the instructional video's on how to apply them to jog my memory. Away I went and I made a MESS!

But messes were meant to be made and are easily cleaned up. Here's another messy foot!

You can see I don't have the ideal gluing environment. Gluing in the grass is not recommended but I make it work for us. I had much more confidence in myself this year; I felt really good about my process and I trusted that they would stay on. I am certain my confidence came from my practice last year, but as an extra precaution this year I made sure to have extra everything on hand in case I really messed something up. One of those old wives tales, as long as you have it you won't need it but the minute you don't have it..... well I had more than I needed and still do because all went according to plan.

The EasyShoes got a week of turn out, one road ride and one foothills ride before we headed out to our competition. 

We arrived at the Battle River CTR in Ponoka, AB when it was already in full swing as we had planned to ride on Day 2 of the competition. We did a leg stretching warm up ride that evening to work out some silliness, had our initial vet check which went great and tucked ourselves in for a chilly night of coyote and elk song. 

With a 7:15 am start time, I was up by 5 am and started prepping my horse and myself for the day. Food in for both of us, jammies off, competition gear on, warm up and off to the start line. We were first out and off we went into the sleet. We got to ride with a few other riders who caught up and passed us momentarily but my riding buddy's mount as well as mine had other plans about being left behind. We all cantered the first 7-8 miles to the vet check over the wet grass, through the creek and over some slippery mud. The first vet check was hidden but we pulsed down no problem and were off again in the lead. 

It wasn't long before we were over taken again and spent the rest of the day leap frogging with the other front runners. The ride seemed to be just flying by and we had such a great time with great company. The horses had excellent momentum all day and the scenery was lovely. 

Both the second and final vet check came much too fast and my first and last competition of the year was already over with. The vet out was uneventful and I felt really good about how my horse did that day. We got lots of compliments and questions about our hoof protection as it is still an uncommon choice up here but I hope I am leading by example and we will soon see more and more riders choosing options that let the hoof function more naturally than traditional hoof wear. 

We started and ended our CTR season with a solid second place finish and I couldn't be happier with my mare and our choice of hoof protection. She truly felt great all day, confident and stable in her way of going. Our riding buddy commented that she looked like she was floating. I know I sure was as this mare is my wings and those Easyshoes are her little jet packs!

Sound or Insensitive?

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

When I first started trimming I thought the goal was to have horses that could travel barefoot all day over rocks.  Since then I've realized that this is where ego comes in, and compassion goes out.

Another problem is that horse's hooves are adaptable to their environment, however, this can get them into trouble if they don't get enough daily movement and the environment they are in is not conducive to good feet.

Something that should be constantly considered about horses is that their feet grow at a rapid rate (roughly 1/16 inch every 4-5 days).  This isn't just the walls. The sole, bars (which are just continuations of the wall), and frog try to keep up with the rate of the wall.  Just like human fingernails and toenails, hoof walls are only live tissue until they grow past the peripheral edge of the sole (the specialized equivalent of human skin) where they lose moisture and feeling.  Rock hard hooves aren't necessarily a good sign.  A healthy sole is at least a half inch thick and relies on constant movement or simulated natural wear (proper trimming) to keep the wall and frog very close to the live sole plane.  A thick, healthy, live sole  can be identified by it's quality and appearance.  There will be concavity that measures at least a half inch deep from the peripheral edge of the sole at the quarters to the bottom of the collateral groves at the tip of a well defined frog.  The surface of the sole will be smooth like leather but not necessarily shiny like stone.  It will be void of lumps and bumps.  There may be a crackly texture directly under the coffin bone forward of the bars and surrounding the frog.  This is retained sole and can be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.  This is a good thing that adds comfort when it's managed properly.  It should feather out to nothing about half way from the bottom of the collateral grooves to the peripheral edge of the sole.  This should be a result of high mileage, proper trimming, or a combination of the two.  

Because of the conical shape of the hoof capsule, when the walls are are allowed to grow past the peripheral edge of the sole for long periods of time, the sole tries to migrate with it.  The problem is that the sole has a border and the wall doesn't.  This causes the sole to stretch and flatten under the horses weight.  This would draw more attention if the horse would just go lame every time this happened so we could all recognize a pattern and agree on the cause.  Horses have adapted to this problem over millions of years of evolution by accumulating, retaining, and producing an excess of the retained insensitive sole that I mentioned earlier.   In nature this would happen during the wet season when grass is abundant and the ground is softer.  It quickly gets worn away as it dries out and horses have to move more miles over more abrasive terrain in search of grass and water as it become more scarce.  This accumulation of retained sole keeps them sound enough to survive until it's worn back down.  If over-growth persists and is not managed naturally through wear or mechanically through proper trimming then the retained sole gets thicker as the live sole gets thinner.  Eventually there will be nothing but thick retained sole that the horse becomes reliant upon for soundness.  At this point if an attempt is made to rectify the hooves, the retained sole can exfoliate all at once exposing the true, thin, live sole.  Exfoliation is a natural response to growth equilibrium of the hoof structures...out with the old, in with the new.  It's just not meant to happen all at once after an extended period of overgrowth. 

Miles of daily wear, frequent proper trimming, or a combination can develop any foot to its true potential.  I believe that the horse's true potential hasn't even been seen yet.  I do know that with the recent advancements in rubber boots and shoes the standard has been raised considerably.  Rubber hoof wear not only protects, but it helps build the horse (and saves the legs) and the highly regenerative structures of their hooves.

When people see photos of the feet that I've developed over years of simulated wear,  they often ask, "yeah, but is she sound all day on rocks?" My answer is, " I ride in boots so they are improving with every step."

The Easyboot Mini: Available Friday, April 1, 2016

You spoke, EasyCare listened. The miniature horse and small pony world will soon have dependable hoof protection that still delivers the benefits of being barefoot. Meet the Easyboot Mini. The smallest production hoof boots in the world go on sale on Friday, April 1, 2016.

The Easyboot Mini is the most durable tiny boot on the market today and utilizes EasyCare’s most successful tread pattern made famous by the best-selling Easyboot Glove. Its urethane sole provides excellent traction that has proven in testing to hold up on any terrain, from pavement to rocky trail to kitchen tile. The boot is simple in nature but secure to the hoof when fitted correctly. No strength or hand dexterity needed: the boot fastens using a robust, industrial-style hook and loop system at the front of the pastern.

Need another reason to own an Easyboot Mini? When you purchase them, you also get a jar to store you horse treats.

To determine the correct size for the Easyboot Mini, measure the width and length of your pony’s hoof following a fresh trim. The width is the widest point across; the length is the line from the toe to the buttress line. For more detailed information, visit out Measuring Instructions page. Next, compare the hoof dimensions to the size chart below. 

If you have questions about the Easyboot Mini or would like assistance with sizing, please contact us our customer service team at 800-447-8836. EasyCare is excited to provide the little-horse community with the most advanced natural hoof care protection available today. The boots will be available for purchase online and by telephone starting Friday, April 1, 2016.

For more photos information about the Easyboot Mini's evolution, see my last blog.

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.

Farriers Crowd The EasyCare Booth at the 13th Annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio

Submitted by Deanna Stoppler, Team Easyboot 2015 Member

This week I attended the 13th Annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio.  More than 1,100 farriers attended the four-day event with more than 130 vendor booths set up in the Duke Convention Center.

EasyCare, Inc. and Polyflex Horseshoes booths were crowded with farriers and offered a unique opportunity for farriers who signed up in advance to compete in one of two horseshoe glue-on competitions. EasyCare offered the Flip Easyboot Flop Flop Glue-On Division and Polyflex Horseshoes offered the Polyflex Horseshoe Glue-On Division.

Prizes in each division were $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. Competitors were scheduled by the hour and only had an hour to complete the application. All competitors finished in the allotted time.

Derick Vaughn, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Second Place Winner of the Flip Flop Glue-On Division.

Hoof preparation for both glue-on applications were very similar; in fact EasyCare’s Garrett Ford adopted many techniques developed by Curtis Burns, owner of Polyflex Horseshoes.

The Polyflex horseshoe was applied using the steps outlined below.

Hoof Preparation

  • Rasp solar surface of foot to clean any debris off foot after your trim.
  • Treat all bacterial areas with Thrush Off and seal with Polyflex Seal-It.
  • Use a drill and buffy attachment (60 grit buffy paper) to clean and rough up the outer hoof wall and heel area.
  • Use a wire brush to clean the outer wall.
  • Use a handheld torch to dry the hoof wall. Torch then brush. Repeat three times.
  • Use a wire wheel to remove dust and debris from the solar surface of the hoof.
  • Dremel the heels (removing all overgrown periople) and bar region.
  • Use a handheld torch to dry the sole then remove all dust with a wire brush.

Shoe Preparation

  • Shape your shoe using a stall jack or by hand. Do not use a hammer to shape the shoe.
  • Clean the sole side of the shoe with a Dremel (use 9931 bit), roughing up the glue surface of the shoe. Be sure to get the inside and outside of the heel area roughed as well.
  • Use Keratex putty mixed thoroughly with copper sulfate crystals to pack any bacterial areas in the hoof, preventing glue from entering the depressions.

Polyflex Horseshoe Application

  • Dispense 2 oz of Polyflex Bond in a plastic rimless cup and mix with a 1/4 tsp of copper sulfate crystals.
  • Mix glue and copper sulfate with a wooden tongue depressor (cut one end of the depressor at a 45’ angle to use later).
  • Once glue is completely mixed, apply evenly on the sole surface of the shoe.
  • Set the shoe on the foot and use the remaining glue from the cup to blend in the heels and quarters. 
  • Use the angled end of the depressor to remove glue from the sole surface of the foot.
  • Do not wrap the foot with plastic wrap.
  • Hold the foot until glue is completely cured.

Finish

  • Once the glue has completely cured, use the buffy to smooth the glue and create a nice transition from hoof wall, glue, to shoe.
  • Use the Dremel to clean up excess glue from around the heel and bar area of the shoe.

First Place Polyflex Division Pete Van Rossum prepping the sole side of the polyflex horseshoe

1st Place Polyflex Division Winner, Pete Van Rossum, prepping the Polyflex Horseshoe.

The Easyboot Flip Flop was applied using the following steps:

Hoof Preparation

  • Use a drill and buffy attachment to clean and rough up the outer hoof wall.
  • Use a wire brush to clean the outer wall.
  • Use a handheld torch to dry the outer hoof wall then brush with a wire brush.
  • Repeat three times.

Flip Flop Application

  • Load a cartridge of Vettec Adhere in the Vettec glue gun.
  • Make sure Flip Flop is clean and free of debris.
  • Cut the tip off the Vettec Adhere cartridge.
  • Purge a squirt of glue before attaching the Vettec tip and purging another squirt of glue.
  • Dispense glue on the cuff of the Flip Flop, filling only about 2/3 of the cuff from the top with glue so that glue does not get under the solar surface of the foot, creating sole pressure.
  • Apply the Flip Flop to the hoof making sure that the toe is completely set into the cuff.
  • Once the glue has set for about a minute, place the foot on the ground.
  • Use more glue to trace the outer cuff of the boot, creating a smooth seal between the hoof wall and boot cuff.

Finish

  • Once the glue has completely cured, use the buffy to smooth the glue and create a nice transition from hoof wall, glue, to cuff.
  • Be sure not to sand down the sides of the cuff where it ends and transitions to hoof wall.  Sanding this area too much could weaken the glue bond.

When the hoof preparation and shoe application methods are followed as listed above shoe failure will almost never occur.

Flip Flop Glue-On Division Completed Shoes

Curtis Burns and Garrett Ford judging all entries

The winners of this year’s glue competition are as follows:

Polyflex Horseshoe Glue-On Division

1st Place: $500 - Pete Van Rossum, Farrier and Owner of Pete Van Rossum Natural Hoofcare, Ramona, California.

2nd Place: $300 - Steve Norman, Farrier, Georgetown, Kentucky.

3rd Place: $200—Ashley Gasky, Farrier and Owner of Precision Hoof Care, Ballston Spa, New York.

Polyflex Horseshoe Owner, Curtis Burns, with Polyflex Horseshoe Division Winner, Pete Van Rossum

Flip Flop Glue On Division

1st Place: $500 - Jeremy Ortega, Farrier and Owner of From The Ground Up, Mokelumne Hill, California.

2nd Place: $300 - Deanna Stoppler, Farrier and Owner of Horse & Sole Hoof Care, Fairfax, Vermont; tied with Derick Vaughn, Farrier at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky.

3rd Place: $200 - Daisy Bicking, Farrier and Owner of Daisy Haven Farm: School of Integrative Hoof Care, Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.

4th Place—Shawn Skorstad, Farrier Apprentice for Kendra Skorstad, Owner of Connected Healing Hoof Care, Rochester, Wisconsin.

Jeremy Ortega, First Place Winner of the EasyShoe Glue-On Division, with the EasyCare crew, Kevin Myers, Garrett Ford, and Debbie Schwiebert

Ashley Gasky, Jeremy Ortega, Deanna Stoppler, and Pete Van Rossum

Along with the competition, EasyCare displayed the new EasyCare Therapy Click System. Choose from a five degree or ten degree wedge pad that clicks into place on the bottom of the Easyboot Flip Flop and uses screws to lock the wedge into place. The Therapy Click System can also be used in conjunction with the Easyboot Cloud and eight other hoof boot models.

The cutest displays in the booth were the new Easyboot Mini Horse Boots. The boots have a simple construction and are easy to adjust. They can even be used as a therapy boot if your mini suffers from a hoof abscess or has an injury that requires the hoof to be wrapped and kept in a clean environment while healing. I already have clients lining up to purchase these boots for their minis. 

The booth was fun, interactive, and exciting. I can’t wait to see what EasyCare has in store for us at the 13th Annual International Hoof-Care Summit.

There's Measuring Hooves and Then There's the Fifth Dimension of Boot Fitting

Shopping for boots is like shopping for pants. For most, it's easy enough. Most people's conformation lands somewhere within the bell curve. Those 32 x 32 Carhartt's folded neatly at the top of the stack on the eye level shelf are just right.

For those of us outside the bell curve, things get hairy. For example, I tower a solid seven inches over the average 5'5" height for an American female. A pair of 28 x 34's (bottom shelf hidden behind 20 pairs of back stock for the bell curve people) should be perfect, but when I try them on, they aren't quite right in the thigh, or the calf, or across the bum, or how high they come up (or don't) on my waist. Those two dimensions on the label just can't account for the three dimensional nature of people. Seriously you guys, it's like I have to enter into the fifth dimension of some parallel universe to find the perfect pants.

I know, I know, so how the heck is my pants dystopia supposed to relate to your hoof boots? Stay with me here.

You started with your horse's freshly trimmed length and width dimensions. You referenced the measuring guide and size charts. You measured the hoof (NOT a tracing) in metric instead of standard. You didn't round off dimensions because you know we are a bunch of squares. You are armed with facts.

You are in the majority of riders whose horse falls conveniently within the bell curve of hoof confirmation. A quick comparison to the two dimensional size chart produces an easy answer. Your favorite tack shop has your size in stock so after resisting an impulse buy (matching saddle pad-polo wrap-halter set) and catching up on the local gossip you buy them. You get them home, try them on, and they are a perfect fit. Right off the rack. Cue the golden sunbeams and choir of angels. Hurrah! High five! Go play outside!

What's that you say? Your experience went nothing like that? Perhaps your measurements weren't matching up with any of the size charts. Maybe the measurements looked perfect on paper but when you tried boots on the top was all wrong (it's that 2D vs. 3D thing). You're overwhelmed and can't figure out what is going to work for your special flower of a horse?

Not to worry. EasyCare customer service is here for you! Let us escort you beyond the boundaries of the space time continuum and into the fifth dimension: the realm of perfect fit. Chances are we have something to fit your horse, large or small. We even have minis coming soon!

Try our Fitting Assistant online. You can upload your hoof measurements and photos and we will contact you for a personal consult on your best options.

If you want EasyShoes, Flip Flops, Gloves, or Backcountry boots order a Fit Kit so you can try before you buy. Let us help you make your booting experience out of this world.

 

Rebecca Balboni

easycare-customer-service-representative-rebecca-balboni

Customer Service Representative

A lifetime of riding and showing sport horses has given me a deep appreciation for the importance of soundness and comfort on performance. Let me help elevate your equine experience by finding the right boot for your horse and unique situation.

Hoof Care Starts In The Gut

They can be seen everywhere, the most unbalanced hooves, long toes, underrun heels, high heels, flares, you name it. It is truly amazing that horses with neglected hooves can sometimes bring superior performances to the table, while I would not even have given them credit for being able in taking one sound step. While many farriers and trimmers are making it an art to trim and shoe horses correctly and with utmost care, horses can act amazingly tolerant towards hoof imbalances. Many just do not seem to care how well their hooves are being taken care of. Professor Bowker, most renowned for his scientific equine hoof and anatomy studies, has seen horses that can handle a ten degree hoof angle variation and considerable medial/lateral imbalances without missing a beat during long endurance races. Others are lame when there is just a small hoof angle variation. How can there be such discrepancies how horses deal with the status of their hooves? Could it be that a proper hoof trim for a lot of equines is nothing more but the last little detail in a series of events that start with their birth as a foal?

In my blog from February last year: High And Low From Above I discussed the importance of proper training and horse husbandry for proper hoof growth and health and how we can achieve healthy and balanced hooves through a holistic approach. If interested, one can read up on it again to learn how body massages and manipulations can help fix hoof problems. Let us expand a little more on this line of thought, but move a little deeper into the subject, literally and anatomically.

Let's have a good look at this horse. (GE Whispurr from GETC) What kind of information can we gather by just spending a few moments looking at him as a whole?

Without even looking at his hooves, we do get a first impression of this horse. What can be observed:

  • Shiny coat
  • Moving feely and naturally
  • Alert, happy and kind eye and facial expression.

From this first impression, we can draw conclusions in regards to the status of the hooves. I now expect his hooves to show me:

  • Large and healthy frog
  • Deep concavity
  • Thick hoof wall
  • Well developed digital cushion and lateral cartilage.

Maybe something like these two images of fairly strong and healthy hooves:

These are all signs of a healthy hoof, and in nine out of ten cases, the first impression a horse gives us reflects directly to the status of the hooves. How can everybody then contribute easily and without much training to achieving strong and healthy hooves?

Hippocrates, the great Greek physician (460 -370 BC) has an answer for us when he said this: "All diseases begin in the stomach".

And indeed, for humans and animals alike, a healthy gut is the prerequisite for a healthy body, mind and spirit and, of course, hooves. The healthier we can keep our gut and intestinal organs, the healthier our whole body and our DNA will be. While we could go on and on and look at the effects of modern nutrition and the exposure to toxins and how these poisons and toxins literally destroy human and horses bodies and health, I want to just give a short list of supplements that can make a difference in your horses hoof health.

Start with a well-balanced diet to stimulate hoof growth and maintain strength and flexibility of the hoof. Organically grown hay will be mostly toxin free and gives horses a head start. Same for grains and commercial feed. Nutrient deficient and toxin loaded hooves are weakest in the heels and quarters. Low levels of zinc and copper will make horses much more susceptible to hoof pathologies like white line disease, thrush and poor horn quality.

The nutritional hoof building blocks in order of importance are:

  • High quality proteins
  • Amino Acids
  • Minerals
  • Biotin (vitamins)

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein for keratin synthesis, important for strength and flexibility of hoof material. This synthesis is not really possible without the sulfur containing aminos, such as methionine and cysteine. Of all the minerals out there, zinc, copper and selenium are the most important trace minerals for hoof growth and health. Especially for the strength of the hoof wall. Zinc is probably THE most important one. While zinc is actually strengthening the cell, copper and sulfur are responsible for building the bridges between the proteins, thus giving the hooves their density and strength. Selenium, on the other hand, is not a building block, but a shield against oxidizing damage. It works best in conjunction with Vitamin E. However, too much selenium can be toxic (mane and tail hairs can fall out or break off, hoof walls can crack). Biotin will help foster hoof growth by assisting the cell cornification process. One might say, it is the cement for holding the cells together.

Important is the zinc to copper ratio when supplementing these minerals. This ratio should be 3:1. A horse needs 450 mg of zinc and 150 mg of copper daily. Iron, however, is competing with zinc and copper for absorption in the cells. Lots of horses in general are taking in way too much iron in their diet; should that be the case, then the zinc and copper administration needs to get increased. Natalie Herman wrote a very informative blog three years ago, Got Iron?,  where she described the poisonous effect of iron overload in the horses diet. While a horse needs only 40ppm of iron a day, most daily hay portions have almost twice to three times that much iron. When riders then supplement additionally with the popular Red Cell, a product high in iron, one can quickly poison a horse and the result could be hoof soles that look like this (Photo by Natalie Herman):

Irregular cracks inside the hoof wall (not within the actual white line) are a sure tell sign of iron overload.

Iron in excess is certainly toxic. But there are numerous other toxins which we, riders and equines alike, are burdened with everyday. While this topic in itself is well deserving of its own blog, I just want to briefly give a short list on how we can minimize their poisoning effects on the body:

  • Minimize or eliminate exposure to pesticides in grass and hay
  • Neutralize toxins by administering high doses of Vitamin C and E
  • Feed probiotics on a regular basis.

When it all comes down to it, nutrition trumps trimming. The most sophisticated and accurate hoof balance will not mean much if the horse is not properly fed, lacks aminos and minerals, has an unhealthy gut, is overburdened with toxins, carries a damaged DNA and looks unthrifty. Even the best EasyCare shoes and products cannot perform miracles if there is no solid foundation to build a performance horse upon. So, the bottom line could very well be: 

Making sure that our equine friends have a healthy gut is the very best hoof service we can provide.

 

Form the Bootmeister

Christoph Schork

Global Endurance Training Center

 

Transitioning to Barefoot- A Sappy Reflection on Change

For me and others, the New Year is a prime opportunity to reflect on the past and gain some insight on how to go forward. This year, much of the reflection has been centered around my horse's (and my own) move into the barefoot camp. While trimming my horse this week, a deep appreciation of how far she and I have come in the last two years came over me. As I picked up and looked at each foot, I saw a timeline of recent history, an organic written record, a tiny natural history, a crystal ball for seeing forgotten moments, and a road map. Whoa. Weird, right?

I chuckled to myself remembering my old (read: limiting, uninformed, and close minded) views on barefoot trimming and hoof boots. Never before forced to think outside the shoe, I was once overwhelmed by the myriad options available for booting. Little did I know EasyCare was to transform me into a wizardess of booting solutions for most any situation.

I relished the feelings of gratitude and satisfaction as I took my sweet time on those familiar feet, pausing every couple of rasp strokes to observe and assess. First observation is of a dexterity with the rasp that somehow snuck its way into my clumsy hands over the last year. Second observation is that these are completely different feet. Gone are the splatted out shelly walls, enormous flares, and flopped over bars. The hoof wall no longer swerves like a drunk on it's way to the ground from the coronet band. No more ragged chipped hoof wall, no stretched white line, and no bruises. No nail holes either. I admired my horse's "new" feet: tight white line, big beautiful frog, well developed digital cushion, straight hoof pastern axis, and toe:heel ratio balanced 50:50 around the center of rotation. Sure, there's plenty worse out there, but that was one ugly clodhopper!

My big mare stood quietly for me as I worked my way around all four legs, a far cry from the "wheelies" she did on Garrett's hoof jack the day of her first real barefoot trim. That was the day that I learned that the bars aren't just places to drink whiskey and tell lies. That same week I fumbled through measuring hooves for the first time and discovered that my horse would need four different sized boots. What?! But her feet are perfect!! Right?? They aren't?? Oh. What do we do?? We put her in the forgiving and secure Old Mac's to start, trimmed a little at a time, tweaked diet, and eventually got her fit perfectly into a set of off the rack Gloves.

I am far from an expert, but I have learned enough to have a few tricks up my sleeve. I've learned enough to see how much I don't know. I love the daily opportunity to pass my experience of transition along to our customers and being able to learn from each of their experiences.

So here I am, with open arms at an open door, inviting 2016 and all it's potential for growth and change to come right on in and stay a while. Of course I know that the more things change the more they stay the same. The horses still provide unlimited opportunity for learning and improvement as a rider and horsewoman. It's still those quiet moments spent with a good horse that keep me working through the frustrations and setbacks. The crunch of fresh snow under hooves, a sweet nicker "hello," the tickle of frosty whiskers on steaming nostrils, the sweet smell of good grass hay, a soft trusting eye, and the feeling of unbridled euphoria that accompanies that elusive yet occasional perfect ride.

Here's to embracing innovation, having (and recognizing) the knowledge, tools, and skills to keep our equine friends going strong in 2016 and for many years to come!

 

Rebecca Balboni

easycare-customer-service-representative-rebecca-balboni

Customer Service Representative

A lifetime of riding and showing sport horses has given me a deep appreciation for the importance of soundness and comfort on performance. Let me help elevate your equine experience by finding the right boot for your horse and unique situation.