Friday, 7 September 2012

Fast changes - dynamic hooves over a month

There are always discussions going on over the internet about trimming, hooves and how to improve soundness, performance and hoof quality. That's great - only a few years ago barefoot horses were a rarity and working horses barefoot was viewed as bizarre but now they are everywhere. 

Although more people now "get" that horses can work effectively and perform in all sorts of disciplines without shoes its still commonplace for owners and professionals to think that improving hooves is all about trimming. 
As you regular readers know, I've found that trimming is one of the least important aspects of hoofcare and the rehab horses here confirm that all the time. Here is the latest example - Eliza, who has been here just over a month.  She is 17 years old and has been shod for all her working life, as far as we know, but boy is she keen to grow better feet!
She had her shoes taken off a few days before she arrived (you can see the nail-holes and long chipped hoof wall in the top photo) but she hasn't been trimmed. 
As you can see, her hooves were quite weak. Contracted, under-run heels, weak frog (and of course a toe first landing), stretched white line and a big ridge of sole which extended from her bars and was trying to compensate for her medio-lateral imbalance.

One option would have been to trim all the long wall, whack off the bars and sole ridge and immediately "tidy" the hoof up. 
Guess what? That would have removed what little structure she still had and would have made a drastic, shocking change to her hoof balance before her soft tissue  was able to cope. The back of her foot would have been overloaded while still weak and she would most likely have been a lot lamer.

By giving her time, correct work and better surfaces - lo and behold everything starts to strengthen and come back into better balance. Now the foot is strong enough to start to load heel first and she can start to repair the damage.
Caudal shots confirm that the frog is beginning to improve though it has a long way to go. As is often the case, its not the heels which are too high and need trimming but the frog which is weedy and needs to beef up. Another reason not to trim.
From this angle you can also see that the foot is starting to be less pinched and to have a broader base of support. If you look at the angle of the hoof wall its beginning to straighten rather than contract.
Same story on her worse (RF) foot. From this angle its clear how her foot was losing its base of support and not only under-running but also narrowing.
Feet are desperate to support the limb - we just need to give them the chance. 

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