one side of the horse - Ronald Searle

Further Hoof Care

Following up on last week’s post about Simple Hoof Care, this week a short film on further hoof care. The method shown here is still relatively simple but this time we look at the use of conventional trimming tools and techniques.

The video lasts just over six minutes. 

bottom of hoof

Simple Hoof Care

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which is causing COVID-19 casualties around the world, is disrupting all walks of life and many activities we took for granted have ground to a halt. Not least of these is the horse world and all associated with it. Some countries have put severe restrictions upon leaving the house/property. Other countries have banned horse-riding altogether –even in private– since an accident would add yet another problem to the already overburdened medical services.

Clearly, whatever the local situation, horses are getting less exercise but their hoofs are still growing. And the farriers and hoof care specialists are hanging up their tools for the duration with many equestrian centres closing, or being obliged to close, their doors and ‘unnecessary’ work being suspended.
For many owners, this is a hand in hair situation – what to do now.

For this reason, we have compiled a short video showing how you can maintain your horses hoofs in an acceptable condition until your hoof care specialist is back out and about…

Lucky Luke

Prior knowledge of hoof care is not a pre-requisite and you will not damage your horse’s feet nor cripple him. You will need access to some basic equipment but it is advisable to obtain a proper farriers’ hoof rasp. These cost between €30 and €60 (£25 & £50) and can be bought at any online farriers suppliers (check Google for your nearest stockist). When buying a rasp, make sure it is a 14 inch double-edged rasp (one side will be rough, the other fine). Smaller models and multi-faced models are not easy to use because they do not allow a flowing motion; larger models are unwieldy. Do not buy a Riders Rasp™; this is of little use other than to cosmetically pretty-up the edge of the hoof and certainly has no place is proper hoof care.

4-edge hoof rasp

The multi-faced rasp, far left, and the Raid Riders Rasp, left.
Two tools of very limited used and best avoided.

So, here is the video. It is only five minutes long (±675mb). We hope it will be informative and help you out in these trying times. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to mail us at info@sabots-libres.eu

Stay safe.

When are “Good Feet” really “Bad Feet”?

In my line of work, it is nigh on impossible to avoid visiting a stable or livery yard every now and again. And although I am almost always visiting to tend my unshod horse-clients, I cannot help but notice just one or two of the stablemates; in particular, their feet!

Unfortunately, it is tactically unethical to take photos of these hoofs, therefore I have restricted the images to one basic photo with annotation – hopefully just this one hoof will be clear enough!

Shod hoof

Fig. 1 The hoof without annotation

 

In this first photograph fig. 1, try to discern the actual outline of this hoof – the photograph is has been taken almost at right angles to the hoof.  Don’t cheat by scrolling down to look at the next image 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shod hoof - perceived heel height

Fig. 2 This is the perceived heel height – compare it with the next photo

 

So, here in fig. 2 we see the same hoof but now I have added a little annotation to help you. We can now clearly see an outline around the visible hoof and, as the orange lines show, this looks like a hoof with the oft prescribed low heels.

At a recent conformation clinic, this type of hoof was described to me as being one with low heels since you can see the distance between the coronary band at the back and the ground is quite small.

 

 

 

 

 

Shod hoof - actual heel height

Fig. 3 Here the actual height of the heels is demonstrated

 

OK. Same hoof, but here in fig. 3 a different annotation; this is the actual outline of the hoof. Compare it with the perceived outline in fig. 2 above and have another look at fig. 1 the original photo to see just what we have annotated here.

In this annotation it is very clear that the actual contact point of the heel is much further forward than the perceived point shown above. The apparent height of the heel seems little changed but if we look at the actual height indicated by the orange lines, then we see that the heels are in fact high.

 

 

 

 

 

Shod hoof - desired form

Fig. 4 The form the hoof should have

 

In fig. 4 we see the low heels again – but no longer on a perceived level but rather on the more ideal line of the hoof; the toe is now much shorter and although it may not become quite as flat as it appears here, the coronet should also flatten out a little if the shoes are removed.

So, just what is wrong with the heels in these photos? After all, a farrier has shod them and has obviously felt they were good enough.

 

Essentially, the whole weight-bearing structure of the foot has been moved forwards by – in this case – roughly 15 millimetres. If we consider the point at which the hoof is hinged with the rest of the leg, we see firstly that the weight is being carried further back than is intended and, secondly, that the length of the hoof at the toe creates a longer roll moment increasing effort – and stress – with every step.

 

 

Hoof - weight-bearing and rollover points

Fig. 5 The weight-bearing line and the rollover moments of the unshod (green) and shod (red) hoof

 

Here in fig. 5, the blue line () shows the centre of the weight-bearing axis and we can clearly see the extra length in the moment of the shod hoof (x) compared with that of the unshod hoof (). This extra moment costs energy and effort; although not exactly the same, you can experience the difference by lifting the end of a pole one metre long and lifting the end of one 1½ metres long. The lengths used in the analogy are not synonymous with that of the hoof but remember, the horse is rolling ±150kg over its front hoofs – with every step!

If you are wondering why the green line does not reach front of the hoof wall, the answer is simple – when the hoof is correctly trimmed (or even allowed to wear naturally), the edge of the hoof is rounded bringing the rollover point back from edge of the front wall.

If we look further at the hoof, we see yet more evidence of farrier-damage. There are holes all around the outside wall from previous shoeing and these are allied to a crumbling lower edge. It is often – quite incorrectly – said that a horse needs shoeing because it has brittle hoofs. The real case is that a horse has brittle hoofs because it is shod. No amount of care, attention and biotin is going to protect a hoof from degrading if someone has hammered nails into it. This fact is frequently overlooked or even blatantly denied by proponents of shoeing; but how is it possible that when a hoof has been given a chance to develop in a nature conscious way, that this sort of damage is never evident, compared with presence in the majority of shod horses.

Very frequently a clear bulbous coronet is visible – this is often masked in two-dimensional photographs by the hair around the coronet, as is the case here. This bulbous form is caused essentially by the incorrect distribution of weight in the periphery of the hoof. By overloading the hoof wall, the coronet is pushed upwards and distorted – sometimes very severely.

V behind hoof

Fig. 6 A V-shape below the heel bulbs caused by forces from the horse shoes.

Flatter form of unshod hoof

Fig. 7 Much flatter form of the unshod hoof (this horse has never been shod)

 

We can also see a V shape under the heel bulbs caused by this same abnormal pressure. Compare the photographs left and right: the horse in fig. 6 has a clear V shape whereas the horse in fig. 7 the V is much flatter – almost to the point of being non-existent. The horse in fig. 7 is 8 years old and has never been shod; the horse in the other photographs is 10 years old and has been shod since before he was bought by his present owners when he was just 3 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is very important to note here that “bad feet” are NOT a result of breed, lineage or other genetic factors – although this can very occasionally play some role – but rather the effects of shoeing allied to being kept in a box or stable and in almost all cases exacerbated by bad feeding practices. Stabling a horse restricts its movement – a horse should be able to cover 12 – 18km per day – and forces it to stand for hours on end in its own excreta which seeps between the shoe and the hoof creating an ideal, airless environment for destructive bacteria to survive. Most (stabled) horses are fed two or three times a day, a mixture of grains and cereals – products ideal for mice and birds but certainly not for the digestive system of the horse – and only have limited access to raw hay/grass and other herbs which form 100% of the dietary requirement. This access to raw foodstuffs should be unrestricted since a horse grazes for a major part of the day – taking between 12 and 16 “meals” in every 24 hours. The horse moves to eat and eats to move – remove this elementary factor and the horse is put straight into an unhealthy situation.

What does the vet know?

It’s worrying, but how often do vets actually know what they are talking about when it comes to hoofs and feed?
Most veterinary colleges are geared up to small animal and/or livestock work these days and the specific equine knowledge is still rooted firmly in the late 19th / early 20th century. True, we have a vast range of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain killers these days but even those are often applied in a surprisingly unscientific way.
Only this week, I came across a horse which, according to the vet, had been trimmed (by a regular farrier) too short… There rests the first question, what is too short? If you mean the sole has been cut away, yes, but trimming back to sole level is not “short”. Prescribing Phenylbutazone (bute), he showed even less knowledge – you cannot relieve contact discomfort with an anti-inflammatory.
Furthermore he prescribed avoidance of hard ground for at least 4 weeks and soaking in soda at least twice a day. What a horse needs in these circumstances is quite the opposite – movement will stimulate the regrowth of the hoof and also harden off the soft sole tissue that is so sensitive. Soda will only keep this tissue soft and sensitive.
In this case, the owner believes implicitly in the vet (and the farrier is no longer welcome!) who has now changed his advice… Because the horse was refusing to leave his stall yesterday (banged up for 14 hours) the vet came and looked him over again and decided it was equine exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), also known as azoturia or Monday Morning Disease. The treatment for this is vitamin E and plenty of movement.
I don’t blame the vet for changing his advice but it does rather make a mockery of his first diagnosis and treatment…
What this all boils down to is don’t just believe every word your vet says. He is not an expert in every field of veterinary medicine and furthermore, his horse-related education is very restricted. If your horse has problems after trimming, call the trimmer first. He probably knows as much about horses feet as all the local vets put together. If you use a traditional farrier, at least give him a chance to come and see for himself what has happened (the training for farriers, not dissimilar from that of vets, also sadly remains stuck in the early 20th century).