Friday 7 October 2011

Difficult questions

Here's a post that has been in my "draft" pile since I put up my most recent "celery" post last month, because it was just too difficult to finish(!)...I had lots of great comments in response to the original post as well as some fair challenges about the whole concept of "celery".

Generally, people liked the idea of horses being able to self-trim but weren't confident it was necessarily practical in their own situations (BTW, the photo was one I found on Google but I thought it could be perfectly captioned: "Celery scepticism!").
A comment from C voiced a general concern:

"I can't help worrying, though, about those owners who just can't do the work and how they get it right, particularly with rehabs. 
The barefoot horses with caudal hoof lameness that you've had seem to suggest that peripheral loading is to blame. If you can't get the work into the horse because of dark nights and work or school, then there's no option but to trim to stop the peripheral loading ..... or am I missing something?"

This is a tricky situation, for sure, because work on hard surfaces can be contra-indicated if horses are landing incorrectly.  In a healthy landing, you would expect to see a hoofprint like this, with plenty of weight taken by the heels and frogs and some by the sole and hoof wall. 
Peripheral loading (where the weight of the horse is mostly taken around the edge of the hoof, as if in a shoe, below) is not ideal but that in itself doesn't seem to be the biggest problem (at least with the horses I see).  
Far more problematic are horses who are landing toe first (whether shod or barefoot) because that tends to mean the whole shock-absorbing mechanism of the back of the foot is compromised.  

Once a horse is landing toe first there is extra strain on the DDFT; therefore increasing work is likely to be counter-productive as it also increases strain and the risk of injury and lameness - and the harder the surface and the faster the work, the greater the risk.
So the solution for these horses has to involve more than simply doing more roadwork - but we are back to the catch-22.

Most horses with caudal heel pain have that pain because some structure at the back of the foot (whether its internal soft tissue, frog, heels, fibrocartilage or a combination of these) is compromised, weak or inadequate.

In response to this pain, heels can become high as the horse shifts weight from a painful area but trimming heels lower isn't an analgesic and can only remove hoof wall; with many horses, lameness will become worse if the painful area is overloaded so trimming should be undertaken only with caution as backing up a toe or lowering an apparently high heel may put too much weight on an already compromised frog or digital cushion.
I really wish I could give a "magic wand" answer  - I wish it was simple and that I could just say "Yes, trim x then y and the biomechanics will be sorted and all will be well", but as you already know, that's not always possible.

There may well be a place for trimming sometimes, but it will only be a minor place because, as we are increasingly aware, the reality is more complicated.  Fitness, whether for muscles or for hooves is a product of correct work, correct nutrition, correct biomechanics, blood, sweat and tears...and there aren't always quick fixes available.  


amandap said...

This is where boots and pads can come in I think. I'm using pads much more than I used to and the difference in gait and landing in two of my horses has been marked. One has seemingly good strong, reasonably developed hooves but has always had a tendency towards a shorter stride and choppy gait and toe first/flat landing. This is a Shetland and I thought it was just her.

I'm really trying to learn about gait now as I have come to believe this is another big indicator of comfort along with toe first landing.

Hope I'm not wandering too far off the point here. This is just very fresh in my mind at the moment.

jenj said...

Amandap, I have to agree with you based on my own experience. Boots and pads made the difference between a confident heel-first stride and a tentative toe-first step. Now that the caudal hoof is beefier, I can get a heel-first landing (on some surfaces) without the boots. We're still working our way up to stomping on all surfaces, but progress is good!

If only we could all have tracks like Nic's, imagine what wonderful feet our horses would have!

cptrayes said...

I see the point with a horse which is lame Nic, but what do you do with a sound one to stop it going lame? For example, George went home sound, but if he is not trimmed to stop his foot developing a peripheral loading again, then surely he will go lame again?


Nic Barker said...

Boots have a place I am sure, although I don't use them for a variety of reasons. I am not sure that they solve the "trim or not to trim" question though because they reduce wear levels as well as stimulus levels, surely?

C - I've really not found that its trimming which keeps these horses sound and a hoof which is peripherally loading isn't normally enough to cause lameness - its usually the toe first landing which is the culprit.

jenj said...

Nic, yes, boots definitely prevent wear. I'm not as sure about preventing stimulus levels since I use pads with mine, so there is definite sole contact.

As you have found with your conformable surfaces at Rockley, horses will stick to the surfaces they are most comfortable with. In addition, you work them on the surfaces they are most comfortable with. As their landing and hoof structure improves, they are more comfortable with more surfaces.

Most folks don't have the varied surface you have in your turnout, so they have to find a way that's comfortable to the horse that encourages proper landing (I am working on the premise that the proper landing is key). For me, this was boots with pads, although as you have pointed out, it didn't let my horse self trim. HOWEVER, we now have a solid heel-first landing on pavement, which means I can do several miles weekly on pavement, and we're one step closer to self-trimming. Someday, if I can consistently put in enough miles in the saddle (or if I can fix my track up to be more varied and longer), maybe we'll be self-trimming and stomping on all surfaces. I can hope!

So, are boots with regular, thoughtful trims ideal? Probably not, but I think it's a huge improvement over metal shoes!

amandap said...

Yes, Nic, I'm sure boots and or pads don't answer the trim or not question. I was thinking of enabling heel first landing to encourage stronger structures.
Will a horse always go to a better landing in time? Assuming diet, surfaces etc. are right.

Anonymous said...

I have found my way to your blog and wish I had come here sooner. You have answered my "sore after trim" question. Many thanks for that, your book is great as well.


cptrayes said...

"C - I've really not found that its trimming which keeps these horses sound and a hoof which is peripherally loading isn't normally enough to cause lameness - its usually the toe first landing which is the culprit."

But why did George, a horse kept like a million other liveries (but barefoot) start toe first landing if it was not caudal weakness caused by a peripheral loading? If we can't work the answer to that question out, then we all live in fear of the same thing happening to any horse that does not have access to a track like yours or do the amount of work of your and my hunters. :-(


Nic Barker said...

I think we are rarely able to identify precisely why a horse stops landing correctly. Certainly it's got to be mee than just peripheral loading otherwise every shod horse would land toe first.

In fact it's perfectly possible for a well shod horse to land heel first - and most do unless they have a caudal hoof problem - and equally a barefoot horse can land toe first.

More questions and answers, as always :-)