Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is This Hoof A Good Hoof?

With this horse we're trying to improve on what at one time would have appeared to us a 'good hoof'. We have here a horse that is currently moving sound and could even be put to work with hoof protection, (boots and pads). But we're going to try to apply the knowledge we have gained to better that status for the long run of this horses life. We often use boots (and pads if needed) when warranted but our goal is that a horse could be comfortably barefoot at home and at work. We would like our horses hooves to be strong enough to not need additional protection; shoes, boots, pads, etc.  We're hoping we can help nature out and let this horse develop a more mechanically sound, stronger hoof capable of protecting the internal structures of the foot even in working conditions and for years to come.

The first thing we saw looking at this horse is that she appears to be well cared for and in good health. However we also saw that there is separation in all four hooves, not uncommon in domestic horses although in this case the separation extends all the way around each hoof which is less common and indicative of improper trimming. The hooves appear at first glance to be well maintained but a closer look shows an angle change about 3/4 of an inch below the hairline indicating the separation that is happening. (For extensive information about separation look for work by Dr. Pollit, Dr. Bowker and Dr. Taylor among others.......!)

 This horse has not been neglected by any means but in spite of regular trimming has several commonly misaddressed problems going on in the feet. Due to our ongoing studies we have learned to understand problems we are seeing and also, (hopefully!), know what we can try to do to help the horse correct it. This horse was trimmed by the previous regular farrier one week before the setup trim was put on here. The hooves had been trimmed to be completely flat, such as to take a shoe, or to be level with a hard flat surface (the classic stand the horse on concrete view). Unfortunately I failed to get any pictures before the set up trim was done but I did take these two days after the set up and I have tried to show what the hoof looked like before the initial trim via our notated photos. The first change implemented was the bringing back of the breakover as shown below. The first trim is the beginning of a balancing act as we try to achieve progress without causing soreness or sensitivity. We are working on beginning to bring her breakover back to a correct position which will help her stride out more naturally. By implementing the "mustang roll" we are also trying to begin removing the separation causing forces on the walls without putting undue pressure on the thin soles. Ted tries to be very careful to err on the side of caution; so the beginning of this balancing act is quite conservative.   

Here Terrence is showing the amount that was removed at the set up trim.

This photo shows the angle change from the outside of the hoof wall.

This is a front hoof. See the shallow apex of the collateral grooves. Note
the lamellar wedge, particularly easy to see on the right side of the photo.

When we look at the bottom of the hooves we can see the separation indicated by the angle change - all the way around on each hoof. Illustrated by photo above and below.

This is a hind hoof. Note there is really no depth at all at the apex of the collateral grooves.
Here we see the evidence of rasping on the sole as well. The lamellar wedge is also very easy to see in this photo. 
We also see a very thin sole, see the apex of the collateral grooves. This was consistent on all four hooves as well. There is less than 3/16" between the bottom of the apex of collateral grooves and the ground. Note the photo showing evidence of rasping of the sole. As horse owners we need to understand the seriousness of this issue of inadequate sole. Under no circumstances should a rasp have ever touched an already dangerously thin sole. This was the case on both hind feet. This sole is a prime example of a hoof extraordinarily susceptible to injury, particularly bruising of the corium and subsequent subsolar abscesses. In our current weather conditions, i.e. rock hard ground, I am somewhat concerned that she could bruise herself at play in the pasture it is so thin. We are restricting her to areas where hopefully the current snow cover will keep her cushioned for now.

Front hoof, note the trimmed frog. See the shallow collateral groove depth
and the lamellar wedge all the way around, it is particularly easy to discern
on the right side of the photo.

Another issue is the frog, it has been routinely trimmed completely out of function.  It is common to trim the frog for aesthetics. Again, this is common practice but prevents the frog, an organ with a purpose, from doing it's job. Dr. Bowker's research on the frog is very extensive and enlightening. I will be continuing to post the progress of this case. Keep an eye on the frog in the upcoming weeks. Due to our current snow cover part of the frog is actually in function now so we hope for rapid development. Again, even with all the issues that we see in this horses hooves, she is moving correctly (heel first landing) which hopefully will mean that we can achieve rapid progress.  

The entire topic of hoof care is so complex and so involved that it seems that any case study or example is an example of oversimplification. There is so much involved in the development of the horses hoof that every aspect can't possibly be thoroughly addressed yet I can't figure out how to avoid that so I am asking for the readers forgiveness in advance! I am aware that every bit of this article seems like oversimplification of complex factors.

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