Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question Regarding Hoofwall Flare

Hi Pat, I have a question for you. I have a post about my horse’s feet and I talked a little about how her foot is flared out a bit. Pony Girl wanted me to explain more what flare is. I am not a farrier so I thought I would ask you, a barefoot specialist about it. Can you help us out? I don’t feel qualified to give her an intelligent answer. LOL

Thank you. (Blushing) I'm not so sure about how intelligently I can respond, but here goes.

My personal short answer: Flare is when the healthy (well-connected) angle of the hoof wall diverges due to stress - on the laminae – which creates stretching and separation of wall from the interior part of the hoof capsule.

So now for my long answer!

First, let’s look a healthy hoof. We see an angle that is the same from the coronet band to the ground. What we can say about that hoof is it has healthy well-connected wall from top to bottom. In other words, healthy tight laminae from the coronet band to the ground.(Boy, I had a tough time finding a picture of a healthy hoof on my computer. I only take pictures before they're fixed! This is Khessie's (an Arab) hoof after her first natural trim. Not perfect, but not bad.)

Next, if we look at a hoof that isn’t as healthy, we may see that the angle diverges at some point between the coronet band and the ground. That point on the wall where the angles changes is commonly referred to as DTA, divergent toe angle.

On some hooves you may see several different DTA's. This hoof isn't a great example for defining DTA as it's got so many other things going on, but you can see a definite DTA just above where the splitting stops.

I like the way Pete Ramey explains flare. If you take your hand and wrap it around the hoof just below the DTA, what you’ll see above your hand is wall that is connected to the coffin bone by healthy, tight, laminae. Remove your hand and you see is flare. Make sense?

It doesn’t matter if the degree of the divergence, or flare, is extreme or slight either. It’s all wall flare.

What does it mean when we see flare? It means that the laminae below the DTA is stretched and in some cases, stretched to the point of separation. When the laminae separates, that’s when we start seeing abscesses and white line disease.

What causes flare?
Usually incorrect or overly cautious trimming, shoeing or neglect (not trimming often enough.)

Remember from the last post that the laminae is the connective tissue that is the attachment between the coffin bone and the hoofwall. There are two layers. Think of it as Velco. The sensitive (dermal) layer is the coffin bone side, and the insensitive (epidermal) is the hoofwall side. It’s referred to as sensitive and insensitive because the sensitive laminae is alive and has a complex vascular (veins with blood flowing through it) system. And the insensitive layer does not have blood flow. That’s easy to consider. Right?

Well, let’s take it a step farther. The coffin bone doesn’t go all the way to the ground, does it? No. But the connective tissue that attaches the bone to wall does.

Still with me?

So between the base of the coffin bone and the ground, what’s the laminae doing? It’s essentially connecting the sole to the wall. That area where the laminae is connecting sole material to the wall is called the white line.

The “white line” is the yelowish colored "line or ring" that you see on the bottom of the hoof between the wall and the sole. Right?

If a hoof is neglected for months, even years in some cases, the wall gets very long. The wall at the ground, supporting the horse’s weight starts to grow “out” away from the coffin bone, rather than continuing to grow “down.” That’s flare.

As time passes and the wall continues to grow, it will continue to grow out and as it does it stretches the white line, (it also stretches the sole which can become very thin causing the horse to be very tenderfooted.)

The connective tissue (laminae) between bone and wall, now begins to stretch as well. In some neglect cases, where that situation lasts for an extended time, it’s not uncommon to see hooves that are flared all the way up to the coronet band. So there is no DTA on that hoof because there is NO healthy connection to the bone. It's all flare. Crazy, huh?

In many cases if flare is severe, the wall circumference can no longer sustain the horses weight and it will begin to split - sometimes splitting all the way to the coronet band.

Can that situation be repaired with trims? Yes, in most cases, it can. The key is to start getting frequent and correct trims going on that horse.

The other important components of a healthy hoof must be considered as well, diet, movement and environment. But the trim schedule must become often and consistent.

When repairing a hoof in this condition, you can’t expect to see results by trimming every 5 or 6 weeks. I personally would recommend starting with a 2 week trim schedule and working out to 5 weeks as the hoof is being repaired. I try not to let my own horses' go out past 5 weeks between trims. That schedule, in itself, alleviates hoof issues such as abscesses, white line disease, thrush, and more.

From time to time, one of my customers will say to me, “My horses’ feet are doing great! So I’d like to start extending their trim schedule out a bit longer.

To that I say, “No problem, but after a while you won’t be telling me how great your horses feet are doing.”

If a customer really wants to stretch their trimming schedule out for 7 or 8 weeks, or more, (and granted sometimes that just happens and it can’t be helped) but if that should become the norm, I will eventually refer that owner to someone else. I, personally, don’t want my name on the hooves of those horses.

Also, in that situation, I’m not performing maintenance trims. Every trim is a corrective trim, and corrective trims are more difficult and take longer to accomplish. Not only is my job continually more difficult, but the horses will never be able to prove how well their hooves could perform because their transition to healthy feet never actually occurs.

Every hoof I maintain is a reflection on my work as a natural hoofcare practitioner. I don’t want my name attached flared, split, hooves of tender-footed horses when it’s the length of time between trims that is likely causing those issues.

How’d I do with that answer?

This hoof looks pretty nice don't you think? It was just trimmed by a farrier. Pasture trim. But the hoofwall doesn't have a healthy connection from the coronet. It's all flare. The tri m isn't bad at all, but I would have gotten much more assertive with the trim so as to begin correcting the problem rather than allowing the hoof to maintain the disconnected growth.


Reddunappy said...

Thanks Pat!! Great answers, I will make sure Pony Girl sees this : )

Pat said...

Thank you for asking. These great questions give me something to post about. But I was up until the wee hours working on it, so please excuse the typos.


megan colleen said...

That was actually really great to read, Pat. Thanks. I'm trying to remember what the hooves of my horses growing up looked like. Unfortunately i cannot remember for sure, but i do remember our horses had cracked hooves...

I don't know that I will ever own horses again.. but learning the issues that affect them is still not wasted knowledge in my opinion. Take care and have a good weekend! - Meg

Pony Girl said...

I see it, I see it! ;)
Great, thanks for the very informative post about the hoofwall flare. I do think my horse has a slight flare on one of his hind hooves, which are not shod year-round (usually just in the summer months.) Now I want to take a closer look at his hoof, and I will ask my farrier about it at our next appointment!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Interesting stuff here. Came over from Reddunappy on seeing this subject over at her blog.

My farrier recommends trims every 6-8 weeks, though I tend to do them right around 6 weeks. If I go longer than that, my mare's feet look too long to me.

She is barefoot and has strong, tough hooves, but she does get 'sand cracks' due to our very dry, sandy climate. I try to keep the area near her water bucket damp as often as possible, so she does have a little moisture. And I also paint on hoof moisturizer every 2-3 days, too.

What do you know about 'sand cracks'? Are they different then the cracks caused by flare? And are they preventable?

Thanks for a helpful and interesting blog,

Mikey said...

Good post, very true. You make a good point, that it's usually lack of trimming in a timely manner. I have several horses disposed to flares, and when they're trimmed they look great, when I let them go, they can look like some of your pictures.

That one with the toe crack all the way up made me gasp. That's got to hurt! I have an old mare out here who would do that if I let them go that long, she always starts the toe cracks. There's just no excuse for a horse to ever look like that.

Great post, excellent pics. Really excellent pics.

One Red Horse said...

I love these question & answer posts that you have done. Very well written - great information. Thank you!


Pat said...

Thank you Cherie,

I'll try to post more of those as they come in!


Reddunappy said...

OK he he he I have another question. What about crumbly rear quarters, the old mare never seems to grow quarters, and if she does they flare bad, is not enough heel coming off?? to get it down to sole level?

Pat said...

Red, yes, it could be that not enough heel is coming down. Take the wall down to the live sole plane when you're trying to correct quarter flare.

However it's addressed, if the flare isn't being taken care of correctly, she can't grow well attached wall in the quarters. The quarter's are the most common place we see flare especially on the hinds.

Check out her diet also. Maybe a good hoof supplement would help.

If you can send me a few pictures of the hoof in question, I can make a better judgement of what causing the problem:0)


Reddunappy said...

Hmm some things to think about and I need to get Pete out again LOL, it is the red sorrel in my last post, I didnt get a pic of her sole but I will, coming from old school it is hard to take the heels down that far! I will get a pic for you.

Reddunappy said...

OH and right now she is on Trifecta,a horsegaurd product.

Reddunappy said...

geez I am a pain LOL she has only been on Trifecta for a month, I know it will take awhile to see the good affects on her feet, I started it for all the joint supplements. She is 24 years old.

Pat said...

I responded to Red's questions over on her blog.