Wednesday 27 April 2011

Shoes and scaffolding

I've been thinking a lot about shoes recently - nothing new in that of course :-)   The phrase "my horses' hooves need support" is one of the reasons which people most commonly give for not even considering an alternative.  Someone recently told me confidently that shoes "provide support" without even questioning whether that was a correct statement

I can see how appealing the idea of shoes as "support" can be.  Its something I've blogged about before because the word "support" is emotive - in the context of horses at least.  

Usually, shoes are supposed to be giving "support" because the horse's hoof is compromised and can't function as well as it should - because of caudal hoof pain, ligament or tendon strain, flat feet or thin soles, for instance - and the shoe is intended to enhance hoof function.
My suspicion, from the horses I see here, is that there is an issue with this approach.  If you simply attempt to prop up hooves with external support its a bit like putting scaffolding round a building.

This is how Wikipedia defines scaffolding:

"The key elements of a scaffold are standards, ledgers and transoms. The standards, also called uprights, are the vertical tubes that transfer the entire mass of the structure to the ground where they rest on a square base plate to spread the load. "

So, if shoes function like scaffolding, they've transferred the horse's weight so that its taken primarily by the shoe - round the rim of the hoof.   Its taken the function away from the weak parts of the hoof - it might externally "support" them, but so far its done nothing to improve or rebuild them.

The photo below is from a US site, and is billed as "a bar wedge pad for increased heel support."  Of course, this is an extreme example, but here the "support" has prevented any normal function.
Scaffolding is very useful, in the short term, if a structure would otherwise collapse, but the external support of scaffolding doesn't resolve a building problem or improve its construction.   Its a temporary fix and has limitations because  - while it may provide support - scaffolding restricts function.
I'm fairly sure that you can't construct or repair a building by using scaffolding.   To solve the underlying problem or construct the building you need to do some serious work on what lies behind the scaffolding.  You need to be working on the foundations, the internal frame and workings - the whole structure from the inside out.

If you do that successfully you might find that you have a building that doesn't need scaffolding any more - it might even function better without it.


Chris said...

You can temporarily support a building or a bridge using scaffolding - it is usually done following fire or stornm damage (e.g. under that M1 bridge that was closed revently due ot a fire).

But it is only ever a temporary repair until permanent repairs can be made.

jenj said...

There seems to be a common misconception that unless your horse is out in a pasture being a lawn ornament, he/she simply cannot function w/out shoes. And as far as I can tell, this is absolutely true when the person doing the trimming is trimming like they're going to put on shoes. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy too - once you up the work, feet start to crack and fail b/c they're not trimmed properly, and then OMG, your horse needs shoes for "support" because he "has bad feet" that "won't stand up to work".

Why, WHY are farriers so invested in this model? Is it the money, since they get paid more for shoeing a horse than for trimming a horse? Is it that they really think it's true? Did they drink the Kool-aid?

Ok, rant over. Apparently I need another cuppa and maybe a bit more sleep.

smazourek said...

Honestly I wouldn't even put them in the same category as scaffolding because scaffolding doesn't damage the structure it surrounds.

I've been doing a bit of thinking about hoof boots lately and I think I would put them in the same category as scaffolding. I don't know how it is in the UK but a lot of people here take their horses from shoes directly into boots and keep them there. It's better than shoes but it's still not really barefoot.

Andrea said...

Great post Nic. I'll pass this one around.

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Andrea :-) S - yes, the same here. I'm not a boot fan, for various reasons, but lots of people here love 'em(!)

Jen - I've had a week like that - trying to rant in a controlled manner but its hard...!

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