Friday, 13 October 2017

Freddie's 8 week update

Freddie has been here for 8 weeks so its time for an update.

The biggest changes visible from this angle are in the hairline, which is more balanced now (below) than it was when he arrived (above). His toe is also considerably shorter and his foot is therefore more supportive. 

If you compare the back of his frog and digital cushion its stronger now (below) although I must apologise for the lack of focus - Freddie can be a fidget. 

Its difficult to see from this angle but one of Freddie's issues is poor medio-lateral balance on both feet, but worse on this one, which leads him to land on the outside edge of the foot. It will take a while for this to improve but its likely that he will develop a medial deviation on this foot for support. 

Again, the main improvement is a hairline which is no longer nose-diving at the back and a more supportive palmar hoof. 

His frog is more robust now (below) and his foot is becoming more concave, though this will also take several more months to fully develop.
Not the clearest of shots unfortunately but as with the right foot it is on the way to having improved media-lateral balance. 

 His footage shows a clear improvement in landing, which is great to see as it took a while to change:

Monday, 9 October 2017

Jet's 12 week update

Jet went home yesterday and so its time for an update on his feet. He arrived back in July (above) with a diagnosis of navicular bone damage on MRI and was landing flat on his left foot and fractionally heel first on his right. 
Twelve weeks on and in the most recent photo, above. his feet are much less under-run with a shorter toe and he has a correspondingly  stronger palmar hoof, which has led to a better landing (footage is below). 
Comparing his frog and digital cushion between July (above) and October (below) its clear that there is still work to do but it is less contracted and he has the beginning of better concavity in his feet. 

Like many ex-racehorses Jet's palmar hoof has been compromised by early shoeing and may never be as robust as it would be if he had remained unshod but he has made progress and his feet should continue to grow stronger over the next few months. 

From this angle the new growth (below) is clearly visible about halfway down his foot. It will take at least another 3-4 months before he has grown in a full new hoof capsule. 

Jet has stronger heels and a better frog today (below) than he had when he arrived (above) but there is still lots of work to do. 

A stronger and more robust digital cushion is now visible (below) but again Jet needs to continue in regular work for a good while yet before his feet will be as good as they can be. 

 His footage is here:

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!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Not-so-fed-up Fred

Fred arrived just over 5 weeks ago and had a rather up and down start to his rehab, with one foot improving and the other, his "problem" foot, lagging behind.

As he also had a number of additional musculo-skeletal issues in his back and neck his owner and I were concerned about whether he would make enough progress but finally this week he seems to have decided to concentrate all his efforts on growing better feet.
Above is a still shot from his footage when he arrived, with the lower photo the still from earlier today. 
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, he has also become much more relaxed over the last few days. Lets hope his progress continues more smoothly now, not least for the sake of his owner's and my blood pressure!

Full clip is here for those who are interested:

Friday, 22 September 2017


Nothing particularly about hooves today, just a short clip showing September sunshine at its best on Exmoor - although it now appears to have started raining again...

You can see the full clip here:

Thursday, 14 September 2017

12 weeks at 22 years

Shannon will be going home at the weekend. She is one of the oldest horses to come here for rehab but although she is 22 years old she has not allowed this to interfere in any way with her determination to grow new and better hooves. 
If you look at the upper photo, from her arrival, the under-run heel and long toe are clear. What is most obvious now in the lower photo, I think, is the new hoof growth visible in the top third of her hoof; this is bringing her toe and heel back and allowing the hoof to be stronger and more supportive.  
Her frogs were quite severely contracted and it will be some months yet before they finish strengthening, I suspect, but she has already done a good job of building a much healthier palmar hoof. 

As ever the caudal shots tell the most interesting story. Shannon, like most horses, was landing intermittently toe first/flat when she arrived; her weak frog and digital cushion were signs of long term problems with the palmar hoof and she had been diagnosed with navicular bone damage as well. 
Twelve weeks later she has a clear heel first landing and although by no means out of the woods has made good progress, particularly in view of her age.  

As with the other front foot you can clearly see the new hoof growth about a third of the way down her hoof. Once its fully grown in she should have better sole depth as well as a more supportive foot. 
Although the left front was her lamer foot, Shannon had a nasty central sulcus infection in this right front which you can see on the caudal shots below as well. 
I've found that Veterinus derma-gel is the best off-the-shelf topical gel for dealing with these sorts of splits and Shannon's frog has certainly improved and is no longer painful. Its the sort of niggling problem which is worth keeping on top of until it has completely healed up. 
This is a much better frog and digital cushion now but as you can see the split is stubborn and it will take a while yet before it has grown out. However now that she has a solid heel first landing the foot is getting the stimulus it needs to develop and maintain itself.
I've seen a lot of older horses do well through rehab over the years but Shannon, I must admit, has really surprised me. Of course not every horse is going to be able to reform their feet as rapidly and effectively as she has done but she is a credit to her owner's dedication and a reminder that, no matter what the age, healing and recovery are possible.

Shannon's comparison footage is here for those who are interested:

Friday, 1 September 2017

Freddie's first fortnight

Freddie will have been here 2 weeks this weekend so after all the excitement of getting the haylage done earlier in the week I thought it was time for a nice ordinary hoof update. As usual, the upper photo shows his foot on arrival and the lower, comparison photo is the most recent.
Of course its very early days for Freddie and he is not yet landing heel first but there are signs that he is beginning to improve the back of his foot. 
His frogs are a little more robust and to my eye his heels look a little less under-run. 

The back of his foot seems less contracted at this angle which is encouraging. 

Freddie's feet are growing at a reasonably good rate, as you can see from this angle, so there should be more dramatic changes to report on over the next few weeks. 

The balance of his feet is also changing and again this should be clearer when we compare his 4 week photos.