Friday, December 21, 2007

Classy & Cricket Update

One week ago, I began a new treatment for both mares, soaking their front hooves in a combination of ingredients I've concocted. In this video, the clips of the mares struggling to walk were taken a few days before I started soaking their hooves, an improved over when the arrived here 2 months ago. But in the last clips you'll can see something different. True, the ground they are moving on is soft, but there certainly seems to be a difference in how they are weighting their front feet. See what you think.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Q & A Abscesses

The following is a question sent to me by a student practitioner, regarding abscesses. Before getting to her question, it’s important to understand that there are 2 types of hoof abscesses.

The most common is the “hoofwall abscess.” It’s been my experience that these happen when there is an opening between the hoof wall and the white line. (Flare is usually the culprit.) If the opening becomes deep enough, debris and bacteria will start making its way up the hoof, under the wall, leaving a trail of dead laminae in its wake. Eventually the abscess will erupt when it gets to the soft tissue of the coronet brand. It leaves a horizontal split, usually about an inch long. Which grows down to the ground as the hoofwall grows. This type of abscess may or may not be painful, but it will almost always become painful just before or as it is erupting, and may cause swelling up the leg.

Below is a hoofwall abscess about 3 months after erupting at coronet band. This apparently didn't cause any sign of lameness. No one had noticed it before I did.

The other type is subsolar. As that name implies, the area between the coffin bone and the sole will become inflamed and filled with blood. This type of abscess can be incredibly painful and can reside beneath the surface of the sole for a very long time. They can be small, or they can be very large taking up residence under the entire sole. I believe these types of abscesses can have a variety of causes, which all lead to flat soles: shoes, or too much time between shoeing and trimming, neglect, or flare, etc. (Note: Shod hooves are typically flared to some degree.)

Subsolar abscesses are often misdiagnosed as founder because the symptoms appear to be the same. The abscess may not be discovered until we trim to it and it erupts and drains. When that happens, depending on the size of the abscess the horse may feel instant relief.

Below is a subsolar abscess after it had revealed itself. This took a few trims to get to. Notice new sole tissue developing. This horse had been diagnosed as founder case and was lame for many years while in shoes. (So she was used for a brood mare.)

While transitioning out of shoes, she remained lame and was in boots. Once the abscess opened and drained, the hoof could finally begin to heal itself. She was well on her way to a new life of soundness, until a vet was called in who advised the owner that natural trimming causes abscessing. The horse was put back into shoes.

Sometimes all we can do is walk away scratching our heads in wonder.

The question:

Just this week, a horse I trimmed about 4-5 weeks ago seems to have gotten an abscess in the pasture. A vet will look at it tomorrow, then I will be there Friday to try to trim. This horse has only had two barefoot trims since having shoes removed. His soles were thin, so I didn't touch the soles so they could get stronger but apparently they still have a ways to go. Any
thoughts on this? I'm pretty bummed about this abscess-- my first to deal with!

My response:

Don't worry about the abscess. Just check back with the owner and ask her to please make sure the vet doesn't dig a big hole into the hoof. They often do that and all it does is set your work back.

Abscessing is part of healing the hoof. They can be harbored up in the shod or neglected hoof for months, sometimes years. We start trimming and suddenly the hoof wakes up! The stimulation caused by the correcting trim, the hoof feeling the ground again, as well as the improved blood circulation and finally it can get rid of those abscesses. I often look at abscessing as a sign of improved hoof health.

But a vet will sometimes come in and dig into a subsolar abscess (S.A.) Most will just explore a little bit, which is okay, but other's think they should dig a hole to the horses elbow. All that does is create a crater in the sole that you have to work toward trimming past. It’s good to explore the S.A., and try to help it drain, but the hoof should determine how much sole material it can exfoliate over time to reveal the area of the abscess. That we shouldn’t rush too much with digging.

Think of a S.A. as a blister. Once the healing can begin new sole material begins to develop under the layer that is shed. It sheds because it’s former attachment to the bone has died. The new sole tissue is quite thin and tender, but as it becomes acquainted with the outside world it will thicken and toughen, just like human skin does as we age.

If you are dealing with this type of abscess, I would just explore it a little and spray with mild iodine. Let it run its course. If the owner is worried about pain, have them ask the vet for something for the temporary pain.

I’ve even heard veterinarians say natural trims cause abscesses. That’s because when you start transitioning, you will often see them. Yes, you do also find them in horses with healthy hooves, that's not unusual - it happens, but there is typically a reason and you will find it if you look for it. Primarily though, a transitioning hoof is where you see them most often.

Sometimes you DO have to touch the soles especially on the first trim. Clean them up at least with a wire brush and see what's there. When we do that we often get to an area that could potentially abscess, open it and keep it from becoming a problem. Always explore every hoof sole and frog, with every trim - to help avoid situations that can develop if you don't.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And another thing...

This is Jake. He's a Quarab. He was a yearling in this photo, but he was club footed when I got him as a weanling. Although I can't prove it with this photo, with corrective trims, he is no longer clubbed.
After thinking about my response to Bill, I have to add a few notes about typical events that we see take place with horses dealing with lameness issues.

When a vet or farrier is called in to evaluate a lame horse that is barefoot. Whether that horse has recently come out of shoes or has been bare for a awhile, the remedial measures taken are typically to put shoes on the horse.

That seems to be the answer to all hoof issues. In fact, I've heard top docs say that if a farrier cannot get shoes to stay on a horse's hoof, and that horse has the unfortunate luck to be a gelding, it may as well be put down. At least a mare with poor hooves can be used for breeding.

The problem with shoeing a horse with lameness issues is that we take a sick hoof, that is trying like hell to heal itself, and put a shoe on it, taking important elements of the hoof even farther out of function.

The argument for doing this is that the horse walks off sound in many cases. Well, of course it does, you've provided a type of support for the hoof that inhibits that laminae and inner structures from feeling pain (that same thing can also be done with a snug pair of Marguis Hoof Boots, btw).

But just because the pain has been masked doesn't mean we've cured the hoof. And normally, the pain eventually returns and then we are told that if the horse cannot be "cured" with shoes, we might as well put him down. He will never be sound.

"And surely, if we can't add the weight of a baby to those already aching feet, what the hell good is he anyways!"

(Sorry, I let my inner voice escape there for a moment, but people actually think like that.)

Natural hoof care is tried typically as a last ditch effort to save a horse when everything else has failed. That is if the owner is willing to try one more thing. The very sad part of the usual scenerio is that if we were the first one owners would come to, we could work to return that horse's hooves back to their natural state and with some time, proper trimming and improved diet, and turn out. He (or she) could be sound again one day without anything being nailed, glued, screwed, blued or tattood to that poor horses hoof.

Now here's a novel idea! How about seeing just how healthy our horses' hooves can be if they all were started into natural hoofcare, rather than farrier trims or no hoofcare at all, as babies! Issues like clubbed hooves fixed before becoming permanent comformational faults! It's simply mind-blowing, isn't it!:0)

Q & A Transitioning to Barefeet

Here is an email question from Bill Petry. Eighty-Three years young, retired farrier.


In 1970 I went to Oregon State Shoeing School for 16 weeks - the longest at the time. We were taught that the hoof wall was the box. We thought the box was to carry the weight of the horse and no weight was supported by the sole. We used the Army instruction book. The box [hoof capsule] was meant to hold all the internal parts together, like the skin is over the knee, no weight on the wall. See how long you can hold pressure on your finger nail. Then on the end of the finger, pressure can be held there forever. Explain your practice from shoes to barefoot. I'm 83 wont be doing any. How much do you charge for a trim? Bill Petry

Hello Bill,

Thank you for emailing me. I love hearing from very experienced farriers. In my area, I charge $50 per trim for at least 2 horses. That's more than the cost of a farrier trim, but we trim to replace the horseshoes, not the farrier’s trims. It takes longer and involves a bit more skill. As you know things have changed so much in many fields, not just the care of the horse's hoof. But they are still teaching the methods you're referring to in your email, and many veterinarians still believe that line of thinking. But it's wrong. The study of horses in the wild has proven that horses use all the elements of their hoof to function properly. Shoes or extremely long hoof walls take the frog and sole out of function causing the horse to become tender-footed without shoes, or with a proper trim. That's why we hear a common comment that only some horses can go barefoot. What they mean is “only horses who have never worn shoes and have always been trimmed correctly can manage going barefoot. Once we’ve damaged the hoof with shoes, or with poor trimming methods, some horses find the transition phase of returning to barefoot, very uncomfortable. So I have to ask then, why do we shoe horses in the first place? When a horse comes out of shoes, after some transitioning time to get used to feeling the ground again, they toughen up. What we humans need to learn to recognize when we see horses flinching over rocks is that we aren’t always seeing extreme pain, but what we are seeing is a discomfort. The same discomfort I would feel if I kicked off my boots and took off running over rocks. Well, it would not look like “running” that’s for sure. If we lost our shoes suddenly when we were out hiking in the deep woods and say we were only out there for a day, our feet would surely hurt like hell after a few hours. But if we were lost in the woods for a few weeks, we’d be doing pretty good with our unprotected feet by the time we found our way out of the woods, or until were eaten by another predator!:0) Your finger nail analogy is a good one that I use a lot. If I were to stand on my fingernails, the reason it hurts is because I'm really suspending my weight on the tissue that connects the nail to the interior of the finger. It doesn't hurt our nails, it hurts our nail beds. On a horse, that would be the dermal and epidermal laminae - the tissue that connects the hoofwall to the coffin bone. When we put all the horse's weight on its walls, it would be like us doing push ups on our finger nails. Ouch! But when we use our whole finger tip, well, that's how we usually do it, if we were to do push ups, which I don't! One experiment I have students try is using the finger the is most similar to the anatomy of the horse’s foreleg, their middle finger, and move your remaining fingers back, like you’re giving someone…..well, the finger. Now pointing toward a table top, but both fingertips on the table and put as much pressure as you can stand on just the finger NAIL. Hold that for a few seconds or as long as you can. Now roll the finger forward toward the nail, like a horse would breakover their toe to take a step. THAT HURTS! Now if you do that same thing using your entire finger tip, it’s not so painful. Can you imagine that kind of pain, times 1,000 pounds or better? I can’t. But that’s the kind of pain, I imagine foundered horses live with daily. Can you imagine in the days of the Cavalry, how long horses lasted back then in their horseshoes going for miles every day. Not very long. That's why they needed so many horses. Mostly to replace the ones they lamed up. Yet, wild horses, if left alone have been known to live much longer than domestic horses and hoof issues are the last thing they die of. For domestic horses, hoof issues are the second leading cause of death. Colic is first, but hoof problems are gaining on colic to become the first. For some horses, you can pull their shoes and they are off and running barefoot right after you trim them. In fact, that's usually the case. Because the trim isn't a farrier pasture trim, it's a trim that emulates the wild horse hoof and how it functions, not the domestic horse's typical foot. But if a horse has been getting trimmed incorrectly, has been neglected or has been in shoes for a long time, it may take some time to bring that horse back to sound hooves again. Often there will be abscesses harbored up inside the hoof that will expose themselves and cause pain when the hoof begins to function normally again. Abscess are often misdiagnosed as founder. So I've heard vets say natural trims cause founder, or cause abscesses. Still All those issues pass and the horse heals and is once again sound in barefeet, just like it was as a youngster, before we started putting shoes on it. When I get the opportunity, which is rare these days, I ride my horses barefoot and they walk as if they have shoes on. So it can be done. It's good for them. It's the healthiest way they can live. But for those horses who just can't quite become riding horses barefoot, there are many types of boots on the market (none that are perfect - yet) that can help keep the horses out of shoes. I like using boots because with boots we can take them off at the end of the day, unlike shoes that the horse has to wear even during his time off, which realistically for most horses is most of the time. I sure wouldn't like sleeping in my boots. Well, this is sure a long answer to a short question, but if you have any other questions, feel free to email again or call. I'm happy to help.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Foundered Hooves in Boots

This is how Cricket moves over rocks in her boots. Without boots, she will tip her weight back onto her already tender hind hooves and walk as if she is walking over a bed of nails. The boots get horses moving and using their lateral cartiledges (navicular area) of the hoof. The boots incorporate frog pressue into the pads which is necessary to bring the frog back into function if it has atrophied. These are the Soft Ride Comfort boots. Measure carefully for the boots. The size 6 tends to run small while there is a big difference between the 5 and the 6. Five is larger than six, but quite a bit.

When I was trying to film her walking, Cricket was pretty sure I was hiding some treats some where on my body so she was sure she was going to have to flip me upside and shake them out of my pockets. She's had her teeth floated by Equine Performance Dentistry so her mouth is feeling better and she's not dropping as much grain. She's still getting used to chewing a new way. I'll try to get a better video to upload soon. Promises promises, I know.