Monday, 2 October 2017

Ask "How" and "Why" and don't be afraid to ask "How" and "Why" again

Last week I re-posted an old blog article about flare and hoof wall deviations in response to a query from an owner as, although I originally wrote it in 2013, its a post I still stand by (the post is here for info).

For regular blog readers its probably old news but of course every time a new owner starts to question whether they want to shoe their horse (or continue to shoe their horse) a new dialogue begins. Its true though that many of the discussions still sound the same as they did when I first heard them.

When we are discussing flare on hooves there are still frequently comments that the flare is causing a problem - most commonly either distorting the hoof capsule or interfering with the movement of the horse.

An owner who is interested in trying to go barefoot and who canvasses opinion online will (still!) often be told that a barefoot horse cannot work extensively on the roads because roads wear the foot away or that a barefoot horse cannot jump on grass because studs provide essential grip.

Similarly, several times a week I receive emails from owners whose horses have been diagnosed with palmar hoof problems - most frequently long term lameness which is cause by tendon, ligament or bone damage within the hoof.  Very often the owners will have been advised to use remedial shoes to provide "support" for the palmar hoof.

There is nothing wrong  - in fact there is a lot right - with asking for advice both from professionals and from friends with experience. There is nothing wrong with getting advice online, for that matter. But in every case I would suggest it pays to test the quality of that advice before you act on it.

For me its as simple as asking "How?" (or sometimes "Why?) and listening carefully to the answer. If it doesn't make sense I would not be afraid to ask again, and again, until the answer really stacks up.

So if you ask someone HOW flare damages feet you will usually be told that the hoof wall will distort or that the foot will unbalance. I think people tend to talk like this because a foot with flare looks unattactive and is not symmetrical but in reality flared hoof wall is weak; its just not strong enough to compromise an otherwise healthy foot. If in doubt, leave it alone and you'll see it either break off or grow out (if it does neither its not really flare and is most likely there for support, for the reasons I have described in the article at the top).

If you ask HOW roads wear hooves away then people generally look confused because they have never thought that far themselves (the answer is that they don't, handily contained in this post

If you ask WHY studs are essential you will be told they enhance grip but very few people can explain exactly HOW. Yet if you talk to an engineer or many farriers they will tell you that studs cannot be big enough to affect the hoof, especially at speed, and that on soft ground they have even less effect. On very hard ground, when they can affect balance, most farriers agree they are damaging in any case.

If you are feeling provocative you can ask HOW remedial shoes provide palmar support. However it may be safer just to quote Steve Leigh who pointed out some years ago that the horse, when barefoot, stands on this thing called "ground" which supports him all round, for miles, and that using a shoe actually reduces the ground-bearing surface of the hoof.

I am sure there are many more interesting discussions to be had when we start to ask HOW and WHY a bit more frequently, particularly when we are asked to do something which makes no sense at all to our horses.

Go on, channel your inner toddler - you know it makes sense!


Looks Like Heaven said...

Nic, can you do a short blog post on autumn grazing safety? I know that once it starts frosting at night, sugar levels go up...does this mean no grazing till snow? Or is there a safe time to graze in autumn? How do you handle this?

Karen B in so california said...


Your last line made me laugh.

Nic Barker said...

Thanks Karen :-)
LLH - its not an easy subject to post on because the safety levels vary from field to field and horse to horse, so what works for me may not work for you. If you have a sensitive horse its always worth testing for PPID as that can really make life difficult especially at this time of year. I am still turning out overnight as we have mild weather and lots of grass growth right now and I usually continue to do that till the end of October but the honest answer is its a case of suck it and see...