Tuesday 16 October 2012

Bizarre hooves, why they occur and what to do about them

I've posted before on the blog about strange looking hooves and the importance of judging hooves by performance, not appearance. Its something I am passionate about because - for many horses - it can mean the difference between soundness and lameness. 
Its all too easy for some well-intentioned trimmer, farrier or owner to insist on hooves conforming to the shape or model of a "normal" hoof but for some horses its downright damaging to interfere in the support they are trying to create for themselves. 

The purpose of this blog is to try and explain a bit more about bizarre-looking hooves in the hope that - if you encounter any - you might stop and consider the reasons for them rather than just wanting to make them look "normal" :-) 

Regular blog readers will know that this is Dexter, a thoroughbred ex-racehorse who has been barefoot since 2008. Since his shoes came off he has hunted, evented, competed in showjumping and dressage and covered thousands of miles over all sorts of terrain. 
His feet are very, very ugly BUT they function extremely well. The hoof above is the most extreme but it is perfectly self-trimming and always maintains this medial wall deviation.
If this were normal flare it would chip on the roads or when he crosses uneven, stony ground...but it doesn't. Its possible - even probable - that most farriers and trimmers would remove this wall deviation and make his feet look more acceptable. 
But imagine what would happen to his limb if the deviation were taken away. 

I hope you can see from this angle that the wall deviation is doing an effective job of providing extra support and that if it weren't there, he would have a tendency to collapse medially. With the wall deviation he is sound, happy and capable of high levels of performance barefoot.
As it happens, Dexter had an injury to his shoulder and pectorals a couple of years ago and that's when the deviation developed. Its likely that the deviation has to be so extreme because he is compensating at ground level for an instability much higher up the limb.
Dexter's hooves are an extreme example but they are also the tip of the iceberg. I could blog for months about the numerous other horses I have known who grow less than "textbook" hooves for a reason - and who are much, much sounder when allowed to keep them.

More on this theme over the next few days :-)


dreams579 said...

i feel i may have to print this out, laminate it, and pin it to his stable door!

Nic Barker said...

Sounds like a good idea ;-)

dreams579 said...

it would certainly save me having to explain it to everybody!

Amy Hughes said...

Do you have some news to share Emma? Or have I completely misinterpreted the above....?

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

I'm going to LOVE this series! I think for a lot of us that are trying to rehab lame horses into sound ones, until they get sound, we question a lot and want to help by trim/trim/trimming...but slowly I'm learning, the horse knows best and wait and see instead of lopping of material may work out better. It's tough, but it's slowly working for us....dare I say!

Nic Barker said...

LOL Amy - yes she has ;-)

Kristen - sounds fascinating - keep us informed!

cptrayes said...

Nic will you PLEASE stop telling people about this.

Or I will not be able to pick up another pink papered KWPN showjumper for £1 when I want one :-))))

My current rehab project, as Nic knows, is a horse whose history is that in shoes he goes lame in the front feet. Nothing on the xrays. Out of shoes, allowed to grow deviations, he is sound. When the farrier removes the deviations to make his feet look right. He goes unsound.

It's not rocket science with this horse, is it? Leave the flare alone!!!!!


Nic Barker said...

You don't like show-jumping anyway, C ;-)

Jassy Mackenzie said...

Soooo interesting! My younger TB has such oddly shaped front feet that my trimmer (who I haven't seen for about six months, lol), often says she'd love to see X-rays of his coffin bones.

He bashed his right hip quite badly a few months ago being stupid - luckily no harm done to the bone but his muscles were very sore for a while, and in the months after this, his left front developed a huge lateral flare, so much so that he almost looked as if he had half a frog, as it migrated sideways to keep up with the hoof.

The flare is now back to its normal shape and so is the frog.

dreams579 said...

lol, Amy, nope you haven't read my comments wrong. Mr Dexter has come for an extended holiday in a slightly (apparently) drier part of the country :)