Friday 26 June 2015

The shoeing irony

Its the time of year when, all over social media, you hear a familiar refrain:

"My horse needs shoes, he can't cope barefoot."

"I'm shoeing him - he's footy because of the hard ground - he needs extra protection."
There are lots of reasons why horses can become footy but there is really only one reason why, at this time of year, a horse which has been "coping" out of shoes suddenly "needs" shoes. That reason is plain, simple and all around us - yep, its grass.
We in the UK grow grass amazingly well - lots of sunshine (I'm generalising...), lots of rain and nice mild temperatures - perfect! Not only is grass at its richest in summer - with high levels of sugar and starch - but many horses are turned out for much longer than at other times of the year. 

This combination of factors puts a huge number of horses at risk and a horse becoming footy should act as an early warning system.

In a barefoot horse you have a huge advantage - a horse who is footy out of shoes is letting you know that the grass is too sugary and starchy for his system to cope with - and you can do something about it while its still a minor, reversible problem.
You don't normally need to take a horse off grass completely (provided you haven't let it get to the stage of full blown laminitis!). 
Steps for getting the horse back to soundness can be as simple as bringing a horse off grass during the day (while the flies are worst and when he may be very happy to be inside with a haynet) or using a grazing muzzle for part of the time. 

Adding additional magnesium (which is often in short supply in sweet grass) can also be a very effective remedy as low magnesium levels contribute to sole sensitivity. 

Or, if thats too difficult or doesn't fit with how you want to keep your horse you can of course stick a set  of shoes on him. 
The problem is that the grass is still sweet, still starchy and still too much for your horse's system. Its just that the effects aren't so obvious. When your horse loses a shoe he will still be footy, and as his foot gets used to being in shoes his feet are likely to become weaker - particularly the palmar foot - the frog, heels and digital cushion - which work hard barefoot but have a lot less to do in a shoe.

But that's ok, isn't it? Well, maybe. The real issue is that now you have a foot which is unhealthy because the horse is getting too much sugar and starch and weak because its in a shoe...So now you really have a horse which "needs" a shoe because his feet are so compromised he is crippled out of them.
If we are logical we can see that horses cope well with hard surfaces out of shoes - they don't "need" shoes - its the opposite - in fact their feet need, and thrive on, work on tough surfaces; that is what makes the healthiest feet. Its a nonsense to say that horses "can't cope" with tough surfaces barefoot. The truth is that they can't cope with tough surfaces when their feet are weak and unhealthy.

A good diet is the essential foundation for healthy hooves, as you've heard me say many times before, and the horse has evolved to eat much less rich grass, on the whole, than the stuff we grow in our fields today. So we are back to the grass again. 

To me its a basic truth - feed a horse an appropriate diet and work his feet correctly out of shoes and he will have healthy feet. Feed him a high sugar, high starch diet and watch his soundness reduce. At that stage you can shoe him but you will be on a downward spiral and the longer you shoe the longer you will "need" them- and that's the shoeing irony. 

Wednesday 24 June 2015

4 week Teak

Teak has been here 4 weeks and is also due an update. She is TB who arrived out of shoes but with very flat feet. She had been kept barefoot in the past but her feet had really collapsed in shoes. 
Today she is showing some encouraging signs - more structure in the back of the foot, a less distorted hairline and an angle of new growth which will bring in a much stronger, shorter hoof capsule. 
Her flat feet of course meant that she was uncomfortable on hard, uneven ground but she is also becoming steadily more capable on that sort of terrain as her feet develop better soles and more concavity. 

Teak's lameness originated in the palmar hoof and its not hard to see why, with a weak digital cushion and frog. 
This has also started to improve over the last 4 weeks and is really starting to make a difference to her. 
Her LF wasn't quite as collapsed as her RF but there is a better angle of growth now at the toe on this foot as well. 

This is still an unbalanced foot of course and has a long way to go - her heels and bars are non-existent at the moment but should develop over the next few weeks. 

On the whole some good changes and an improvement in her movement as well, which is always the most important thing!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Mordor's 3 week update

Mordor has been here just over 3 weeks and its time for an update. He arrived in shoes, as you can see, but he had fairly strong feet which gave him a head-start. 
Today, out of shoes, his feet look quite good. The nail-holes have almost gone and his feet have no less support than they did in shoes - in fact if anything its the opposite and they are slightly less under-run.
Mordor's main problem was collateral ligament damage and this is usually linked to medio-lateral balance. On arrival he was landing on the lateral side of his feet and tipping medially. That has improved steadily over the last 3 weeks (as you can see in the footage below) and a more symmetrical foot is another good sign.

Although Mordor had a much better palmar hoof than many rehab horses when he arrived (and was landing heel first) his foot has become even stronger now that his frog is receiving good stimulus.

As with his RF, a nice hoof profile with a shorter toe and the nail-holes nearly gone. 

Mordor's frog is developing fast and even looks a little wild and woolly in today's photo but he is developing a more balanced and symmetrical foot and is still only at a relatively early stage. So far, so good and there are plenty more changes to come. 

Hard to see because of the light (sorry!) but a bulkier digital cushion and more balanced hoof walls in this foot too. 
Most importantly, his landings are better now and should improve still further over the next few weeks. 

Thursday 18 June 2015

New girl Willow

We had another new horse this week, this time a part-bred Arab called Willow who is, as you can see, a very pretty colour but has some issues with her feet.
She is already out of shoes but has had a recurrent lameness in the RF and MRI showed damage to the medial collateral ligaments and its clear from her stance that she is lacking medial support.
This is her better foot although she has a crack at the toe. I don't think this is a particular problem; it certainly isn't bothering her and it should clear up fairly quickly.
The sole shot shows that the crack only goes through hoof wall so its likely to be simply a pocket of mild infection which has led to the crack. 
Not a bad palmar hoof but its interesting to compare the balance on this foot with the RF, which is much more asymmetric when you look at the equivalent shot.
Lots to like about these feet overall, and I would hope that improving her balance and landing should be a relatively quick process.
The asymmetry in this foot is clear from the sole shot - the medial side is significantly less developed than the lateral so thats an area where we will be wanting to see change.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

New girl Dakota

With apologies for the delay here are photos of new girl Dakota who arrived at the weekend. Unfortunately the blog website has been playing up but it seems to be behaving again now so here goes. 
 She is a Trakehner who arrived in shoes with a predominantly LF lameness and on MRI was diagnosed with navicular bone changes, a navicular bursa adhesion and related ligament damage.
She has the weak palmar hoof you would expect in a horse with this diagnosis and this is an area we will wish to see improve fairly quickly. 
As you can see, she was reluctant to weight the LF fully and it will clearly be some time before she is more comfortable on this leg.
I will of course be posting new photos on her over the next few weeks, and I hope the blog site will also now allow me to catch up on all the other overdue photos and videos I need to get through!

Thursday 11 June 2015

Max's first 3 weeks

Max has been here just over 3 weeks and its time for an update. I have video footage to upload as well but that will have to wait till later - I will add it here once its available. 
Max arrived in remedial shoes but the overall impression he gave was of not being very balanced.  He is still at a relatively early stage of rehab and is definitely still finding his feet, quite literally, but there are some signs that we are heading in the right direction - for instance, the fact that he can now stand more squarely is encouraging. 
There are also some good changes in his palmar hoof - an improving digital cushion as the hairline is no longer collapsing towards his heels and a frog which is receiving stimulus. 

You can also spot the bulkier digital cushion from lateral shots. At the moment his heel is still under-run but that should change as his new hoof capsule grows down. 

 Sole shots from his arrival (above) and next day (below) show a reasonable frog on this foot.
His heels are still weak today (below) but he is able to land heel first which is essential at this stage and will allow him to develop a stronger hoof. 

The RF is his weaker foot and as you can see its at least partly because of the central sulcus split which was evident in shoes as well. You can still clearly see it today and its something which will prove stubborn to get rid of. There is some improvement in the digital cushion but the split has meant slower progress than on the LF.

Nevertheless, as with the LF, a better profile to the palmar hoof. 

The frog on this foot is also likely to shed the top layer fairly soon. A better landing is the best way to encourage healthier growth and so continued work on surfaces which he is comfortable on will be Max's to-do list for the next few weeks. 
For completeness here is his footage comparing landings on day one and after 3 weeks.
Max from Nic Barker on Vimeo.