Monday, 13 August 2012

The 2 biggest dangers for barefoot horses...

The first one I am sure you already know about - our lovely, lush, lethal green grass: beautiful, tempting and the sort of high sugar junk food that most horses just can't get enough of.

I've posted about grazing risk factors before but our summer has been so warm and wet that many people are still struggling with spring-type grass conditions despite the fact that its now August.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do - limit grazing during high risk periods, use a muzzle, treat any metabolic issues and if all else fails use hoof boots for work on tougher terrain.
The second biggest danger for barefoot horses is - believe it or not - trimming.
Again, I've posted about this before on many occasions but its a problem that is just not going away. There are still trimmers and farriers who are making the mistake of over-trimming horses and all too often they repeat the mistake, leaving horses sore time after time.

Here are some facts for you:

  • A trim does not have to be aggressive to cause lameness. If a horse has a compromised foot then simply backing up the toe or removing a small amount of apparent "flare" can damage the horse's foot balance and leave it lame or less capable on uneven ground for weeks.
  • No horse should be sore after a trim. Some horse's feet are hard to read but if a farrier or trimmer makes a mistake they at least shouldn't repeat it - so let them know if your horse is sore. If they insist on doing the same again, its time to change to someone who will listen to you and the horse. 
  • It isn't safer to use a farrier; it isn't safer to use a trimmer. All you can do is be guided by your horse and his soundness but I can guarantee you that there are few, if any, horses made sounder by trimming - there are still many who are less capable after being trimmed, so be careful!
  • Appearance isn't everything. How the hoof is loading and how it is landing IS everything. A trim which compromises the latter to achieve the former will cause the horse problems. 
PS: Someone said to me the other day "I know you are anti-trimming..." - no, I'm not anti-trimming. I'm just anti lame horses...


Sarah said...

Interesting article Nic! I can definitely agree with the over trimming remark, even just a little bit can make a lot of difference, Zan needs those odd shaped feet or he really struggles!

cptrayes said...

Ace grows one front foot windswept, something which most reputable farriers and quite a few trimmers would be desperate to "correct".

But if you watch him from behind, he places that front foot to the ground central to his chest. It lands heel first, level from side to side and his entire leg is canted at a noticeable angle above it.

His "wonky, windswept" foot is a perfect adaptation to a leg that is less than perfectly set into his shoulder, and results in totally even forces through all his joints right up his leg.

I don't know how long it would take for shoeing/trimming to "correct" his action to damage his foot, fetlock or knee joints, or all of them, but it's perfectly obvious to me that it would.

I listen to the horse. He's stonking sound.


Nic Barker said...

Nicely said, Sarah and C :-)

jenj said...

Trimming is definitely a tough call, especially when they are trying to self-trim but there are environmental factors out of your control. When it's dry for months, and then you get several inches of rain, hooves change quickly and infection can set in seemingly overnight. If that coincides with a trim, the more sensitive horses can easily be compromised. But is it better to let them grow lots of toe (putting pressure on the laminae), chip out hunks of hoof and compromise the overall structure, or do a conservative trim, watch carefully, and boot if necessary? I tend to err on the side of the conservative trim and watch carefully, but that's just me. There's no magic bullet, that's for sure.

ellajarvis said...

Fantastic article - this has made me want to grab hold of my farrier tightly and never let him go!! My pony had gone 10 weeks without a trim, I thought the flare on her front feet were really bad and was worried as she was footy (this was during all the rain). Farrier came out, had a good look and told me to turn her out again. I was very puzzled and confused as I thought they needed tidying if not trimming underneath, farrier assured me she needed nothing doing. I trust him completely so did as he said and we are now 14 weeks and they look the same but she is sound as a pound. Reading this has explained it to me and shown me he was absolutely right. Definetely one to keep!!