Thursday, 11 August 2011

The hoof is a mirror of whole horse health

I had a lovely email last week from a lady who had contacted me a while ago.  It got me thinking about what I write on the blog, and the fact that sometimes I maybe don't explain things as clearly as I should, for which I apologise and which I will try to correct in future blog posts(!)
"I contacted you earlier this year to ask your advice about my much loved but very laminitic/I.R. section D mare.  You very kindly helped me and pointed me in the direction of other useful websites & blogs.

As usual we had tried the conventional treatments (bute, heart bar shoes with gel pads, box rest, starvation diet, etc,) all of which helped temporarily but we were back to square one once we tried to go back to her normal routine. My vet was suggesting months of box rest, which I was against on welfare grounds. By this time the veterinary & remedial farriery bills were into the thousands and no longer covered by insurance, I was at loss as what to try next. 

A friend suggested I look on the Horse & Hound website where there seemed to be an argument raging about barefoot vs shod horses and Rockley Farm was mentioned. After reading your past blog posts and buying ‘Feet First’ I thought” what have I got to lose?”, and contacted a local trimmer. This was against the advice of both my vet and farrier, so I remember feeling very apprehensive.

However, after a lot of research and creating a mini track at the top of our field, I bought some padded old mac boots and turned her out for the first time in weeks. This was at the end of December last year and despite some minor setbacks (due to my lack of willpower regarding treats!) she has gone from strength to strength. She only wears her boots in front now and only on long hacks, the mini track has now expanded into a track and paddock which she shares with my daughters horse (now also without shoes!) I know you don’t really approve of hoof boots [I don't use hoof boots and they do have drawbacks but boots can be a boon when used correctly, as they clearly are here -  thats a blog post for another day!], but they have been invaluable for her.
Sorry this is turning out to be so long, but to cut it a little shorter we are now back in full work and she is sounder than she has been for years, which makes me wonder how long the laminitis had been rumbling, masked by her shoes? I still watch her, very basic, diet like a hawk and have made hay from the unused part of the field, which I will have tested by Forage Plus so I know exactly what she needs. I am finding that the more work I give her the happier she is, which considering how very lame she was, is nothing short of amazing! My trimmer has been a wonderful support as well, as going against the vet and farrier was very difficult for me.

You never seem to write much about laminitis on your blog, so I thought I would let you know how your book and blog has helped my wonderful horse."

Its an absolute joy to know that the blog has been useful - I never realised when I first started it (purely so I didn't need to share quite so many of my thoughts with the dogs and horses) that it would grow to be something which other people might find a help, so thats an amazing bonus.
The comment about laminitis got me thinking though - because its true, I don't write about laminitis on the blog.  So why not?  There have been several rehab horses here who were previously laminitic, but honestly, laminitis is not something I focus on specifically.  And the reason is that what we do here to ensure that our own horses are capable of high mileage barefoot, or that rehab horses can grow healthier hooves, is as applicable to laminitics as to any other horse here - because realistically, ALL horses in domestication are prone to laminitis.

It became clear to me very early on that if you have a hard-working barefoot horse, hoof health has to be optimal.  If hoof health is to be optimal then nutrition, biomechanics and exercise have to be optimal.
Put simply, if you are aiming for a very healthy hoof, you have to pay such close attention to your horse's diet, hoof loading and work levels that - just by doing that - you will also be dealing with the most common hoof problems (ie: laminitis, navicular and white line disease).

Horses and their hooves need the same things for health - to cover many miles per day on varied terrain and to eat a high fibre, low sugar diet with a good mineral balance.  This is safe for laminitics because its safe for all horses - its what they have evolved to require.
If you can provide this for your horse you will also be providing it for his or her hooves and you WILL have not just healthy hooves but a healthy horse.
Hooves are a mirror of overall health - a horse with dire hooves is just telling you that there are other underlying problems.   The lady who emailed me was spot on - her horse probably HAD had sub-clinical laminitis for a while but at a low level, so she did not display lameness till it had become a much more serious problem than footiness or sole sensitivity.

Sort the diet and the biomechanics, add in lots of good quality exercise and her horse can be a horse again - and both hooves and horse benefit :-)


cptrayes said...

Your blog is a fantastic resource of huge value to the horse owning community. I for one am very grateful to be able to freely access such a wealth of information.


georginacwells said...

I agree with C.

It has been such a valuble resource in our transition to barefoot. There is so much information that I am comforted that we are going in the right direction.

Don't stop whatever you do, as I don't know what I would do without my daily dose of Rockley farm antics

Daffodil said...

I am another who loves reading your blog. I also have a laminitic prone horse. He is kept on slashed pasture with imported plain grass hay for bulk fibre intake. He is not hard fed and is worked in hoof boots and pads. I am hoping to eventually ditch those one day, but right now he works more comfortably in them.

Nic Barker said...

Bless you and thank you :-) Daffodil, its great to hear stories like yours!

C - you may be cross with me about this Friday's blog ;-)

Val said...

I, too, am one who considers your blog a resource. As I have mentioned before, I am also enjoying your book. :)