Monday, 27 February 2012

Cracks, shoes and barefoot

This is a post which Caroline asked about last week, following on from my short post on feeding.   These feet belong to Andy's mare, Bailey.  We bought her in 2003 as a 4 year old, in shoes, and she had cracks which got rapidly worse on 3 out of 4 feet.  
I'm afraid that in those days I wasn't quite as obsessive about taking photos as I am today, so these are not only culled from the depths of the Rockley archive but also not terribly good quality.  The top photo is her LF, the lower her RF, shortly after her shoes came off in 2004.  
The cracks look bad, and they were even worse in real life as they were full depth and had de-stabilised her hooves so badly that each side flexed independently, more like a cloven hoof than an equine hoof.
This is a slightly better photo, taken about 3 months after she came out of shoes.  The interesting thing is that the cracks - instead of getting worse out of shoes - are actually improving. Most farriers and vets at the time believed that shoes held cracks together and prevented them getting worse.

In fact, in a shoe the whole bodyweight of the horse loads onto the hoof wall - and therefore onto the cracks.  Once out of shoes, the horse can load the back of the hoof, frog and sole more effectively and this actually takes pressure off the cracks.  As you can see from the later photo, the hoof wall above the medial crack has knitted together with the change of load and is much better quality than the old, shod hoof wall.
The same foot, a few months further on.  As you can see, the original cracks have healed up but the hoof is still far from crack-free.  At this stage, back in 2005, I was only just beginning to get to grips with the idea that nutrition and biomechanics were the most important components of a healthy hoof.
This photo was taken in 2008, when I had got better at getting the essentials right.  So at this point she is getting a good level of minerals and the levels of sugar and starch in her diet are kept low. With this horse, its critical to restrict her grazing during times of high sugar levels, so she is off grass during the day during spring and summer.  On this regime, she is rock-crunching, and although she still has cracks visible nowadays, they go no further than the first fraction of a mm of her outer hoof wall.

She also gets Cortaflex, which is nothing to do with her hooves, but which helps the cracks.  Bonus points for anyone who can guess why - you are disqualified if you've seen her ;-)


Deered said...

Cortaflex makes me think of cortisol - which makes me think of cushings... Does it show that I've been talking to people looking at stress hormones today???

Nic Barker said...

LOL Deered :-) Its the trade name of a joint supplement - nothing to do with hormones ;-)

amandap said...

Ah, cracks! lol
My Tb with a history of pancake hooves, poor horn quality and extremely severe cracks had a hoof collapse early last year following an enforced (due to me being incapacitated) period of 24/7 turn out. Six months of yarding (no grass) and soaked hay, hey presto, cracks grown out even with very minimal (twice) trimming.
I'm now on the mineral journey to try and improve her hooves even more.

Tbh, it's been a bit of a wake up call in that her hooves previously went as good as I thought. Especially when the cracks developed in exactly the same places as they were years ago.

amandap said...

That's weren't not went!

jenj said...

Hm, if Cortaflex keeps her moving more comfortably (due to arthritic changes or something else), then of course she'd move more, which will help her feet load properly and thereby help the cracks.


It's Monday morning here and I've only had one cuppa. Time for another, clearly, as I'm grasping at straws on this one. ;)

Nic Barker said...

I'd say you're fairly wideawake Jen :-)

Nic Barker said...

Amanda - I'm with you - what you've seen with your horse is exactly what we'd get with Bailey in the same circs(!) - been there, done that, had the lame horse...!

cptrayes said...

Aw, that's me out, I've seen her :-)