Tuesday 25 October 2011

Hooves changing quickly - for good or bad

We had a "rehab return" last week - Paul, who was here in November 2009, has come back to Rockley for a short winter break ;-)  When I first met him he had been lame for a long time, with persistent problems in his LF .  He went home in Feb 2010 back in full work (he had  a day's hunting as his last day!) and has had a busy time since then.

As with every horse, there have been ups and downs but Paul's life has been active and he and his owner Clare have achieved a lot.
Paul came back this September, for the RRR, and at that stage he was landing and moving well (despite a nutritional blip over the summer) but for some reason (and we may never know exactly what the trigger was) he became lame in October.

Paul's hooves changed radically over the time he was here in 2009 and Clare is now extremely well versed in what makes a hoof healthy - or unhealthy. She had already spotted a few weeks ago that his caudal hoof had weakened and that he had lost his good heel first landing.  Its probably worth adding that he has been trimmed regularly all the way through, so its not a lack of trimming that has caused the change(!).
Here is his LF when he arrived a week ago and sure enough, as Clare suspected, his frog has become weaker and is no longer playing a primary function, particularly on a hard surface.  His overall hoof balance is still good though, and importantly his digital cushion is extremely robust - 2 years of hard work barefoot are still paying off!
Look how much stronger his foot is when he returned last week (above) and at the hoof pastern axis, which is radically better today than when he arrived in wedged shoes in 2009 (below)!  The sort of strong base he has now makes it so much quicker to improve hooves.
Both Clare and I were sure it wouldn't take long to get Paul back on track, especially as he has such a fantastic attitude and is such a determined little horse. 

We don't know exactly what Paul has done but its possible he has re-injured the same area that was originally a problem.  We know that most horses with his original problem in fact have soft tissue damage within the hoof and its true that horses who have previously suffered a tendon or ligament injury are prone to the same area being re-injured.  

This is because once an area has been damaged, scar tissue forms which is less elastic.  Clearly, if a hoof like this starts to land incorrectly again, damage will happen more quickly as scar tissue is less able to sustain incorrect stresses (such as a toe first landing) than undamaged tendons or ligaments.   
However, if we look at Paul's changes over just the last week its clear that - with a healthy hoof structure already in place - he is already starting to bounce back, and much more quickly than he did straight from shoes. 


Clare said...

My, what a difference a week makes in the right environment! :-) Good job, I didn't expect him to improve that quickly, it's quite significant.

amandap said...

Fingers crossed for Paul.

May I mention something, prompted by the photos of Paul immediately post de shoeing and now. I've noticed in many shod horses and those just out of shoes. that the coronary band area looks so different not the angle but the plumpness of it. Barefoot horses seem to have a much plumper coronary band area and it looks flat, small and weak in many shod horses until their hooves develop and improve when shoes are removed.

Just an observation and wonder if this is one of the signs of a more healthy hoof?

cptrayes said...

"Its probably worth adding that he has been trimmed regularly all the way through, so its not a lack of trimming that has caused the change(!)."

But maybe it's a lack of correct trimming???

I am convinced that the reason that the barefoot horse I know well who got ligament/tendon strain in the foot was because his farrier trimmer allowed his frog to lose contact with the floor. He was trimmed, but not enough for a horse who was doing little work on rough surfaces. The frog left the floor and failed to get the stimulus it needed, and the whole back half of the foot started to atrophy. One day he wwent for a hooley in the field and came in lame and the rest is history.

Perhaps you should send your rehabs home with a steel rule with an instruction to contact you as soon as they are able to slide it under the frog when the horse is stood on concrete?


Dom said...

Talk about quick turn around! Wow.

Also- love the matching strides in the first photo.

Nic Barker said...

Amanda - yes its something which I see on the horses here too and I think you are spot on. Whether its due to better circulation, faster growth or something else, its certainly there!

C - thats a fair comment, but in Paul's case this is something which has happened fairly suddenly. In September he had a good landing and a reasonable caudal hoof - certainly better than he has today - so personally I don't think a trim a month ago would have made much difference.

cptrayes said...

George's lameness onset was just as sudden.

My theory is that the frog loses contact with the floor and the back half of the foot starts to weaken. Then one day they do something (usually unseen but in George's case witnessed) which they would normally get away with, but which tweaks a tendon and/or ligament because the foot is no longer strong enough to cope. From then on, the horse is toe first landing due to pain in the back half of the foot from the tweak, and everything goes downhill from there.

The horse is suddenly lame, but I believe that it is gradual weakening over the previous months that actually caused the lameness.

That's my theory, and I trim to keep my own boys frog in contact with the floor standing on concrete because of it.

Each of the 3 barefooters who have come to you for rehab has had heels which are preventing the frog from being in contact with the floor (as well as an underdeveloped frog). Paul's photo above is a good example. Irrespective of the quality of the frog, the heels are too high. It really does look to me like a pattern beginning to build ........