Wednesday 13 July 2011

Why "barefoot" isn't always the whole story

George arrived on Monday and it was great to finally meet him.  He's a horse I've known about for a while but never seen in the flesh - in fact he is the cover-horse for "Feet First" - that's George jumping on the front although he is much more handsome in person!
He has been barefoot for some years - in fact I am not sure he has ever been shod, apart from a set of shoes after he went lame recently - and his feet have been described by a reputable remedial farrier as "excellent".
So what's the problem?  Well, George is lame and of course thats why he is here.  He has been diagnosed with various issues including collateral ligament damage, DDFT damage and bone damage on MRI.  Looking more closely at his feet (and especially his LF, which is his lamer foot), you can start to see why he has had problems.
Its not all bad, of course - there is lots to like about his feet, which have healthy frogs, decent digital cushions and good quality hoof wall, bars and sole.  However, the red dots below show the height of his heels above his frogs and the red circles are areas of long hoof wall. 
Why are these interesting? Because how this hoof loads is critical. Because George has healthy hoof wall, thanks to his good nutrition, he is able to load his weight directly onto it without it chipping or cracking.
The problem is that loading the periphery of the hoof in this way weakens the frog and caudal hoof and also makes correct medio-lateral balance more problematic.   I've only seen George over the last couple of days of course but it seems likely that the way his hoof is loading has caused or contributed to his lameness.
Roughly, the areas he loads are shown in red - does that look familiar at all?  This isn't anyone's fault, of course, but it just goes to show that caudal hoof problems can occur in barefoot just as in shod horses.  Its less common, but caudal hoof pain is not simply the preserve of a shod hoof.  

George from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

Its not surprising therefore that George is landing toe first on his LF and flat/toe first on his RF.  George has been barefoot and on a good diet for a long time and so he is fairly comfortable on hard, uneven surfaces but of course those sorts of surfaces are precisely what he doesn't need at the moment because that would further stress his DDFT and collateral ligaments.
What I am hoping though is that if we can help him start landing and loading more correctly, he will have a head start when it comes to going back into "proper" work.  He certainly has the right attitude and will no doubt continue to consult with Pocholo about the best way to improve toe first landings!

But the next time that someone tells you "I tried barefoot but it didn't help my navicular horse", tell them about how George's hooves were loading and landing.


Lucie said...

This reminds me of the previous problem with Soli, it looks very similar. Will be interested to see how he gets along :)

Val said...

That does look like a great deal of extra hoof wall squashed out to the sides. I eagerly await the follow up.

jenj said...

Soooo... for those of us forced to trim with a rasp, hoof knife, and nippers instead of using a stick of celery, what would you recommend?

cptrayes said...

jenj that is the 64,000 $ question with George. I used to own him, and it's me on him on the book cover. When I sold him he had stonking cob type feet, solid, with big fat meaty frogs, half as wide again but only 2/3 the length of what they are now.

The girl he went to had to keep him in a livery stables, and because of school commitments and winter George got hardly any work on surfaces which wore his feet naturally.

This problem will still be there when he goes home, the livery he is at when he returns has no more than 500 yards of safe road hacking and no tracks or bridleways at all.

I'm waiting on tenterhooks to see if George will come sound (my bet having seen him a week or so ago is that Nic has a very good chance of getting him right in her environment.)

Then I'm at a loss to know what the family can be told to do to keep him sound, other than replicate wear with some very frequent trimming.

I'm glad it's Nic's problem, not mine!


cptrayes said...

Nic I hate to point it out but Barney seems to me to be toe first landing as well as George :-(

George's vid is quite improved from the one I took, I think. He had an HLA injection into his coffin joint, and tildren, and maybe they have reduced the inflammation in his foot enough to change his footfall. If so, it bodes well for how quickly he will get a proper landing :-)

ps the coffin joint is NOT implicated, but George would not tolerate an injection into the naviculare bursa so they put it as close as they could.


Nic Barker said...

Don't worry about Barney - on a turn even Felix and Charlie will land toe first, especially when looking at something as Barney is doing :-) I must do some video on turns one day - its fascinating - plus video on slopes...One for another day.

C, you are quite right of course - as is Jen - and having seen George in person he does need a trim. He'd started to chip the long quarters on the track, even though he can load them on softer ground, so its a case of speeding things up for him as the sooner that landing changes the better.

So he is a horse where something a little sharper than celery can usefully be employed - but the other thing he needs (as C pointed out) is to beef up his caudal hoof again, and for that the tracks are important.

Lucie is right - George has a a very similar problem to the one Soli had when he returned. Actually for Sol trimming wasn't necessary, but the only rule with hooves is that there are no rules (or maybe only one!) so its only fair for George to be the exception!

Lots more to follow of course :-)

jenj said...

C, I love the pic of you and George on the cover! He is such a handsome boy and he has such a kind face.

I see a bit of a catch-22 for those of us who don't have a track like Nic's. You need to improve the landing to be heel-first, which will increase the stimulation to the caudal hoof, which further improves the landing, etc. The best way to do this, as Nic has proven time and again, is to have the horse move naturally over comfortable surfaces, self-trimming as he goes. The more comfortable he gets, the more he moves, the better his feet get. But most horse owners don't have access to the space and/or surfaces required for this to happen naturally. So I guess the $64,000 question is, how do you achieve the same end results if you have a good nutritional program, a variety of surfaces to ride on (say, paved roads, trails, and an arena), and a hoof rasp? You have to start SOMEWHERE, but where? More work, but with the risk that the landing won't change because the horse isn't comfortable, and of course the horse is lame to start with...? Very minor trims every few days, focusing on bringing the heels down so the caudal hoof is more engaged and shortening the hoof walls so the laminae aren't pulled? Waving a stick of celery at the foot? (Sorry, couldn't resist the last one!!! :)

Eeep, sorry for the wall of text, it's just that I'm struggling with this very thing myself!