How to deal with a problem:
If you are experiencing a problem with your farrier, vet, or even a client, and you have not been able to resolve the problem, the following series of steps may assist you in conflict resolution. It is not the goal of farriervet.com to persecute anyone. The goal is to assist you to resolve a problem with everyone’s best interest in mind.
For example, I hear many complaints about other farriers because I have been approached to assess the horse for lameness or give a second opinion. I am only hearing one side of the story. I try to keep an open mind. What has been concerning me is the number of complaining clients who describe their horse being severely lame following farriery, aggressive or abusive behavior directed at either the client or the horse, and that they have tried to resolve the problem following the steps outlined below and have not had a satisfactory resolution to their problem.
Advice for women. Be direct, say what the problem is, offer a solution, state what you need the other person to do for you. Leave out the indirect expressions such as I think, I feel, maybe, possibly, could you, what every you think etc. If you want the farrier to return your phone call in less than 2 days, say so!
Advice for men. It is more than fixing the problem, women appreciate you listening to what they have to say about how the problem has affected them. Women love their horses and will feel great empathy for them.
- Have you told the person who has provided the farriery or other service to you that there is a problem? You should do this before you tell anyone else. You may be damaging someone’s reputation.
- After outlining the problem to the person concerned, have you offered a suggestion for how to resolve the problem? For example ‘my horse was shod 3 days ago and now it is lame, would you please come and check the shoeing to make sure that is not the problem?’
- Often the communication between client and farrier is poor. Not returning phone calls is the most common complaint. Lack of action once a problem has been identified is another.
- If you have outlined the problem and suggested how to resolve the issue, or offered a compromise, and you have not received a satisfactory response, then you should if possible try again to resolve the problem through clear communication, and only then should you resort to making a formal complaint.
- SEND YOUR COMPLAINT IN WRITING. In an unemotional style, (leave out I feel and I think), briefly list your details, the date, the date of any particular incident or event, location, and all relevant details of horse or farrier, witnesses etc. relevant to the issue. Then offer your suggestions for resolution of the problem. Emotional input to this will decrease the validity of your arguments and will cause many people to dismiss the complaint out of hand. You must include in this a date by which you would reasonably expect to receive a reply e.g., 14 days, and send this to the person with whom you are lodging a formal complaint. Make sure that you can be contacted during this time, offer address, phone, mobile and email so that no one can say they could not contact you. Retain at least one copy for your own records. If your complaint is ignored your should make an attempt to confirm that the complaint has been received. If you still receive no reply or resolution and you have exhausted all reasonable methods of conflict resolution you can make a complaint to a governing body such as a farriers association, etc. Refer to the list below for more information on farriery associations and addresses.
- Remember that you employed this person to perform farriery procedures on your horse.
Did you check whether or not they were qualified?
Did you assess the work yourself?
Were you present? For example I am very reluctant to work on any horse without the owner or their representative present.
If you have employed an unqualified trimmer and not a professional farrier there may be no organisation that you can go to with your complaint. However, it may be to the benefit of other horse owners and farriers if you at least give a copy of your complaint to the farrier’s association in your state or country so that they can make a record of it, and should they cross paths with the person who has performed poor work they may be able to offer advice or guidance.
FARRIER BACK PAIN AND THERAPY
What can stretching, Velcresion Therapy ®, Postural Re-Alignment Programme, Osteopathy, Massage, Acupuncture and Yoga do for you? Extend your working life and increase your comfort while you are shoeing horses! How is this achieved? By taking responsibility for your own mobility and being proactive about maintaining normality. Begin looking after yourself. Listen and apply the advice you receive about how to maintain your mobility and flexibility when that advice is given by professionals who treat farriers, people with sports injuries and others with chronic back pain. This advice may come from a masseuse, osteopath, sports injury specialist or yoga instructor, physiotherapist etc. If you begin to hear the same thing again and again about your back “LISTEN” the universe is trying to send you a message. A proactive approach is essential if you intend to have a long career in farriery. The same theme of stretch and strengthen has been told to me again and again and I am guilty of ignoring the advice thinking that helping myself could wait until later. Now it is later and I am paying the price. It is never too late to start and I have begun to take better care of myself, but, I wish I had started sooner.
I have always used a hoof-stand and would not have lasted as a farrier this long without it.
My story: During my late teens and 20’s I suffered from numerous injuries to my back and neck. I dived into shallow water and hurt my head and neck, I was lucky I didn’t break it. I fell off horses in most directions until I eventually realised it is safer not to ride uneducated horses for other people. These injuries included landing on the base of my neck, concussion (several times), a broken pelvis, broken ankle and a probable fractured skull. I also had the usual young horse injuries of kicks to the knees and some serious bumps and bruises. During this time I was lifting heavy feed and water buckets and this injured my shoulder joints and resulted in chronic pain and weakness in my arms. Then in my late 20’s I took up farriery as a trade qualification. The 4 year commitment was daunting. I truly suffered through some of this with chronic fatigue and muscle pain due to a virus and other health issues. With help from Pat Coleby an organic farming consultant and author of Natural Horse Care (publisher Grass Roots Pty Ltd) my health and physical strength improved and work became easier. It is ironic that despite knowing Pat well and listening to many of her lectures and applying the principles to my horses and other pets it took a serious crisis for me to ask her for help. I have been taking supplements and avoiding my known food allergies ever since and I have steadily improved. For those who have had chronic fatigue you will understand what I mean when I say that you never feel cured but you do feel better as long as you work at it. At the end of my apprenticeship I decided to become a vet as well and that involved 6 years of school and university in my late 30’s while shoeing for a living to pay my way. After years of farriery the back pain was thoroughly established but I was in such a tight financial bind that I sacrificed my back to maintain a flexible income while working around my university commitments, until I could earn a living as a vet. I still shoe whenever I am able and the case is deserving. Ideally a little farriery every day is the best way for me to keep fit and maintain the necessary level of skill.
The stand makes the horse feel secure. When placed correctly for the horse’s comfort, the foot will sit securely on the stand with no effort from me.
During the last 20 years only 2 or 3 people have manipulated my neck or back with any success and it is these people who have kept me functioning. I am extremely grateful to Stephen Hope Assoc. Dip. Nat., Dip. Nat. Ther. MCMA, FANTA an osteopath and one of the few who can “fix my neck” when it has gone into spasm so severe I cannot lift or turn my head, or use my arms effectively. The muscle spasm and pain takes weeks to resolve even with regular therapy and manipulation. This problem usually begins with a simple movement such as brushing my hair, putting on a seat belt or turning my head and always happens in the morning. I am aware prior to these events that my neck is bad and I have either avoided getting treatment thinking it can wait, or been unable to get treatment and I have then paid the price. Between these episodes sometimes years apart I have relied on other massage and sports therapists to keep me going as I have moved around the country. The best massage therapist I have met is Amanda Squires D.R.M., A.T.M.S. Amanda is based on the central coast of NSW. I was introduced through other horse people who had experienced benefits from her therapy. Amanda uses massage and Velcresion TherapyÓ which is her own unique therapy to break up adhesions of the muscle and fascia to enable stretches and pulpations to manoevre and mobilize joints, hinges and vertebrae into their correct functioning positions. To put it in her own words “Velcresion TherapyÓ is confronting” at times. I have had several treatments with Amanda and feel great benefit from it. I now do her series of stretches developed for people with chronic problems of the neck, shoulders and back on a daily basis and particularly when I have been bending or shoeing. For me a combination of therapies and therapists is essential as I cannot always see Stephen or Amanda and I need to maintain the flexibility and fitness required for shoeing which I love with minimal pain wherever I am at the time.
Click on links for contact details.
Please note I receive no financial or other gratuity for recommending the above mentioned persons and services.
THE EVOLUTION OF FARRIERY
“If he has not good feet, there is no profit in him as a war horse” (Xenophon 430-354 BC).
|A neglected pony foot. The wall has become long and flared due to a damp environment. The wall is cracked and breaking off in large pieces. This can result in abscesses and lameness.||After trimming, the concave sole is restored. The flared and broken wall have been removed. Regular trimming is required to prevent this from recurring.|
The outer, dense layer of wall and sole is called the hoof. In its normal environment, it is sufficient to protect the sensitive inner foot from injury. Under totally natural conditions, the wear rate and growth rate would be equal. When man domesticated the horse, he expected it to carry or pull heavy loads over long distances, which caused the wear rate to exceed the growth rate of the wall and sole. Horses became foot sore, then lame. Man then began to develop the method of shoeing horses that we still use today. Prior to the Iron Age, the main traffic in horses was from Turkistan over the Caucasian Mountains to Asia. By 2000 BC horses were established in the Middle East. The Assyrians are credited with the first blacksmithing skills. By 1400 BC, iron was used by the Hittites, who, through war and trade with neighbors, spread this knowledge to Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean and along Bronze Age trade routes to Italy. It reached Europe only about 700 BC and Britain no earlier than 400 BC. In 500 BC forging any hard metal into a malleable material and then into a horseshoe, spear, or horse’s bit was considered an almost magical procedure, more related to religion or sorcery than blacksmithing. Shod horses made warfare on a large scale possible. A shod horse would have been like an all terrain vehicle. It was ready to go anywhere, over any surface, at any time. The army of Alexander the Great, (356-323 BC) during its march through Asia was impeded when the horses wore down their hooves and became lame and were often abandoned. Many ancient Roman authors made mention of hoof conformation and methods to preserve it. They did not speak of shoeing as such, only ways of protecting the hoof, if necessary. Hipposandals have been found wherever the ancient Romans settled; they were strapped onto the horse’s hoof. While not very practical they are regarded as the forerunner of steel shoes. Farriery is an art, science and a profession, first written of as far back as 400 BC, when the ancient Gauls and Celts nailed a rim of iron to their horse’s hooves. In Japan until the 19th century, horseshoes were made from plaited rice straw, supplies of which were carried or purchased en route. These examples of shoeing horses or protecting the foot from wear can be compared to the use of modern horse boots e.g., “Old Mac’s â”, Easy Boots, glue on shoes and other nail-less ways of shoeing and protecting the foot and preventing the wear rate from exceeding the growth rate. The reasons why we shoe horses using any of these methods are exactly the same now as they were 2000 years ago. The first and most important reason is to protect the foot and minimise wear of the wall when a horse is moving over a variety of surfaces that may otherwise cause the horse pain and discomfort due to wearing the feet too short and sole pressure. Stones and rocks can cause significant injury and bruising. Shoeing lifts the foot above the ground and increases the concave space under the sole which minimises injuries and sole pressure. Steel shoes and nails are still the most economical, practical and effective way to protect the foot in most cases as all nail-on or nail-less methods have some complications and no one method suits all horses for all purposes. Shoeing is also used as therapy for a lame horse or as part of treatment of a foot condition.
|Bruising and abscesses in a flat soled foot of a mare in Thailand where wet conditions and humidity result in many hoof problems. This foot needs a shoe and a dry stable as part of treatment.|
Why do we shoe horses?
- When the wear rate exceeds the growth rate of the hoof, resulting in short feet and lameness. In a natural environment, the wear rate of the hoof is equal to the growth rate.
- To protect the sole from injury when moving over rough surfaces.
- To maximise soundness in younger and older horses – to reduce the risks of poor conformation leading to early breakdown.
- As an aid to treatment of injury and disease.
Wild horses travel over large areas, up to 20 miles per day in search of food and water. The hoof chips off in small pieces, or wears away, encouraging hoof function and normal shape. Horses with poor hoof or limb conformation are predisposed to foot problems and lamenesses as a secondary effect of the conformation fault. Trimming and shoeing can minimise conformation faults in younger horses and maximise the potential for soundness in older horses while improving hoof shape and function. When humans over-confine horses, supplying all their food and water requirements, the growth rate of the hoof exceeds the wear rate. Normal hoof function and shape may be compromised and the hoof must be trimmed or shod. Trimming and maintenance of horse’s hooves at regular intervals is absolutely essential if horses are to live in the human environment.
The four point trim, the wild horse trim and the natural horse trim are names given to trimming methods developed from research studies and theories about what is the best way to trim a horse based on feral horses hooves. From this farriery practices have been developed which are often controversial and in some cases poorly applied. In the main the feet of American feral horses, these are domesticated horses that are allowed to live free for many generations were studied. It has been shown that some are genetically related to the original American mustang. This is fitting as this is the continent on which the horse evolved. It has long been known that in natural conditions; which I would describe as unlimited space, some hills, some rough ground, seasonal climate with a dry summer and moderate feed for grazing; horses develop feet that are worn at the toe, with wall that is shorter at the quarters, the feet have minimal flare and the hooves are usually in a state of balance neither too long or too short. This is consistent with horses which cover a large area in dry conditions to obtain feed and water in summer. In the most severe cases the toe becomes so worn that the theory of the four point trim was born. In this case only the heels and the wall either side of the toe is fully weight bearing. A comment by a leading researcher at a farriery seminar summed up the facts. These are horses which are under conditions of natural selection and pushed to the limit of their survival because their feet are almost worn to the point of being too short to be comfortable. A lame horse is the wild is a dead horse soon after!! When a horses feet are so short and sore that it cannot forage for food and walk back to water it is doomed if there is a predator big enough to attack and kill it.
|Rescued from a paddock in Perth W.A. this pony was subjected to very wet winters followed by 10 months of dry weather in a sandy paddock. These feet cannot break off now because they are so hard I could not trim this hind foot with conventional tools.||Showing the long toe formed of the laminitic wedge running parallel with the ground.|
|I needed to borrow a wood saw to trim the toe. Because of the dry summers in W.A. the weather can be used to the farrier’s benefit, this foot was trimmed every 5 – 6 weeks and the pony was sound throughout. Wet weather would have made this job much more complicated.||After sawing the toe off the normal hoof-pastern angle can be seen.|
|After 12 months of regular trimming the toe has completely regrown. I have just trimmed the wall.||The sole view shows concavity and a normal hoof wall and a much improved white line.|
A point that is rarely mentioned about these theories is that each horse’s genetic potential is a large part of why that particular horse develops a foot problem. If a horse has the genes for good conformation and for good functional feet it has a much better chance of survival under wild conditions as well as domesticated conditions. The horses studied were not randomly selected from the domestic pool of horses which are currently shod in Australia, England, Europe or even America and then put into these conditions. The horses studied are under true conditions of genetic selection for survival over many generations. Therefore, how do these horses feet compare to the pool of horses which we are faced with as farriers, vets and horse owners in any particular country or breed of horses? For those horses with flat feet, low hoof pastern angles, club feet and toe-in or toe-out conformation, nothing done to the external hoof capsule including wearing it all away and making the horse sore will ever change its genetic potential to pass on bad feet to its offspring. Contrary to what some people think, feet don’t toughen up, they are affected by the forces of nature in the environment in which they are kept, a good environment e.g., large area, dry with some gravel and plenty of feed and water can help to improve feet and a bad environment e.g., small, wet in winter, wetter in summer, muddy paddock with no feed or shade will make them worse. When the severely flat footed horses “go naked” in a bad environment all that happens is that they hobble about in misery developing flared feet, hoof wall cracks, abscesses, sole pressure and bruising. Incorrect over trimming adds to the problems and no matter how long you keep the foot naked it will never develop a deep concave sole, or change the angle of the distal phalanx within it. The naked and natural theories have also been partially developed in relation to horses which are over confined, have a tendency to contracted hoof shapes and upright pasterns e.g., feet such as occur on Warmbloods kept in Europe. This is a combination of genetic potential and environment. In a harsh winter climate it is necessary to have horses stabled. This a far cry from many Australian horses which are Thoroughbred, Standardbred or Thoroughbreds crossed with an Arab, Warmblood, Stock horse or Quarter horse. Some crosses improve the feet, but a few horses inherit the worst features of both the dam and the sire. The majority of these horses would get some free exercise every day.
Mustad Glue-on shoes are one way of protecting the horse’s feet without nails.
What am I using to base my statements upon? Seeing horses which have never been shod which have inherited such poor hoof conformation from their dam and sire that by the time they are 12 months old they require front shoes just to be paddock sound. These horses were well bred, well fed, on good surfaces and received professional farriery care so that neglect was never a factor. Viewing up to 4 generations of the same sire line has convinced me that the feet were true to their genetic potential. Kept shod they would race or perform to their best, left unshod they would be footsore and lame. What is the answer? Don’t breed from them! This is why it is more important to buy good conformation below the shoulder than above. Farriery was developed over 2000 years ago because the Greek Army horses wore out their horse’s feet and they became lame. The wear rate exceeded the growth rate. This is still the main reason that we shoe horses today, to protect their feet from becoming too short and then the horse becoming lame. The researchers of these theories have concluded that we should try and return horse’s feet to this natural form under natural conditions in a bid to cure horses of many forms of unsoundness which are due to the unnatural conditions in which we force horses to live. Their recommendations include, unlimited exercise, removing the flare from the feet, creating a bevelled edge on the wall, removing weak, folded and excess heels or bars and creating a bevelled toe that allows ease of break over and trimming the horse every 3 – 4 weeks at the maximum. This is exactly what most farriers would have you do with an unshod horse under perfect conditions. This is not new information, but it is more expensive and that is where most of the resistance from clients comes from. It is often very difficult to convince people (even when they ask for your recommendations) that more frequent shoeing or trimming are the answer to their horse’s problem (little and often) because everything comes back to what people can afford. However, when a regular routine is established and the horse is well fed and able to exercise freely it will have feet which are never out of balance and always look and feel great! One problem facing professional farriers and the horse-owning public is a wide base of unqualified and unprofessional people who charge money for trimming and shoeing but do not deliver a good standard of service. This low standard of work at lower prices is what many people compare to as normal when discussing the benefits of the barefoot and natural over conventional farriery. My feeling is that many people in Australia have not yet had the benefit of a high level of professional service and that the bad experiences they have had have steered them towards the naked hoof message. A good farrier produces a trim which fulfills all the requirements of natural and balanced and would never suggest shoeing a horse that will be able to do whatever the rider requires and remain sound and happy unshod. Shoes are for those horses that need them. My message is, there is nothing new in farriery. When you apply a fancy name to something and promise to change a horse’s feet over 12 months with this new method people are impressed, it is often the first time the principles have been discussed by the horse-owner in this way. There is no harm in marketing your product. I only become concerned when the principles which are all part of normal good farriery practice are abused. Horses have had their feet so severely trimmed in the name of naked, barefoot and natural that the horse becomes very sore and the client is told that this is all part of the process and the horse needs to go through this phase to bet better in the longer term. This pain represents previous damage to the foot. What this pain really represents is what is happening right now!! No one has the right to trim a horse’s feet so short that it is sore. This is injuring the horse, it is cruel and will not speed the process. The golden rule of veterinary medicine, farriery and trimming your own horse’s feet is “first do no harm”, if your horse has bad feet, trim it “little and often”. I am confident that poor hooves can be dramatically improved by one years worth of good, regular farriery care; but, if that good farriery stops the hooves will revert to what ever problems they had previously if the hoof is predisposed to it by poor limb and foot conformation or environmental factors such as wet ground and poor diet. Naked and natural work best when a hoof is normal conformation or is slightly contracted. When a hoof is abnormal e.g., flat soled that must be dealt with first. A horse limping around with thin, prolapsed soles due to poor conformation, flat feet or neglected chronic laminitis and sole pressure is miserable and requires “professional” quality farriery to relieve the discomfort. In the short term shoes e.g., glue-on, nail-on, slip-on etc., or reconstruction techniques may be essential to give that animal comfort. Providing non painful answers to our farriery problems is our obligation as horse-owners, farriers and veterinarians. So the answer to this issue is yes, there is a lot of good in the core of trimming theories and natural horse ideals. But, beware of those who have got hold of some of the information and some of the principles and then try to baffle you with “bull-dust” and leave you with a horse that has been over-trimmed and is foot sore. Farriery is all about leaving the horse sounder than you found it.
If common sense was common, it would not be a highly prized commodity.
Lame looks normal if you see it often enough. Lame is not normal.
Confusion exists over when a horse is lame. For example, horses are described as sore, uneven, better in one direction than the other, lugging, pulling, running off, or having other behaviours associated with pain that are confused with education and training. Do not confuse the issue by using other words to describe the problem. If you are sore, what you are feeling is pain. When you are stiff you have restricted motion due to pain. Lame = pain and pain = lame, sore, stiff, uncomfortable etc. The only exceptions to this rule are functional lamenesses which are not caused by pain, but do result in an abnormal gait.
The single most effective way to stop a horse from “wanting to try” is pain. A horse won’t do something when it hurts, and cannot try harder or do something new or more difficult if it hurts. It is not mind over matter, you know yourself that it is physically impossible, because pain is there to prevent us from doing even more damage to ourselves. Pain is a protective response, and it prevents us from using that part of the body normally. When you push a horse that has pain you are effectively teaching the horse not to do the thing you want it to. “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult”, not the other way around. Any degree of pain that results in a visible lameness or a lameness that is felt when the horse is ridden is of concern, and should be investigated, treated and if the lameness is of a chronic nature e.g., osteoarthritis, it must be treated and managed for the long-term welfare of the horse.
We often forget that it only matters to us if we don’t go to a show, event, rodeo, pony club rally, endurance ride etc. It does not matter to your horse. Your horse does not share your goals and expectations. It enjoys many activities with you including competition, but it has no plan for the future, your horse lives only for today. Your horse also has no concept of its own life expectancy; which will be dramatically shorter if it is chronically lame. Your horse does have needs and these include food, water, shelter, equine companionship and freedom from cruelty.
Failure to recognise and treat lameness is common. Most people, once a problem is pointed out, will take steps to treat the problem. Pushing a horse into further work which makes the lameness worse is unkind. For example, the race horse that is raced beyond it’s best and is retired chronically unsound. If it is lucky it may be a loved paddock pet. If it is unlucky it will wind up neglected or as pet food because it cannot be rehomed. I regularly meet people with the best of intentions who have built up a wall of defences regarding the lame horse that they own. I recognise this because I have done it myself, (refer to story below). We become used to the lameness, hardly see it as a problem in its own right anymore, and accept all sorts of abnormalities. When questioned, there is often a long history and some form of a diagnosis has been reached. The problem is often only being discussed because of another secondary problem the horse has developed, such as back pain, behavioural problems, other forms of ill health e.g., ulcers, or problems associated with poor performance. Common sense would make us realise that by treating the primary lameness problem we will be effecting all of the secondary problems as well. However, common sense has often been dulled by daily exposure, a long history and the drawn out process which led to the current situation.
A significant impediment to improvement is that owners often believe they have already tried everything including farriery, medication and alternative therapies. They will say “we have a great farrier” and he/she does a good job. This may be true, but you cannot be sure unless you know what good farriery should look like and you have checked the work. There is a big difference between good farriery and better farriery! Sadly, few horse owners can recognise good farriery at the current time, and if they don’t know what can be acheived with better farriery, they don’t realise how much more may still be achieved for their horse. Farriery, nutrition and management achieve better results together than any one factor alone.
My main aim for the information presented at the farriervet web site is to change this lack of knowledge and to empower owners to take control of the standard of farriery their horse receives. This information will initially be available as a DVD, and later as a book. My motto is “good farriery is good, better farriery is better“. A better standard of farriery makes a most significant difference in the long-term management of horses. An improvement in your horse’s quality of life will also impact in a positive way for the owner’s quality of life. Therefore, before reading further and putting up defenses and thinking this does not apply to you, please, clear the slate and read and research with an open mind. This is an opportunity to seek out long-term answers to your horse’s problems. Remembering that one of your horses biggest problems is you, your beliefs, your attitudes, your goals, your standards, your finances and your expectations.
All the very best, Judith.
I have a lovely, big, brave Thoroughbred gelding who came to me many years ago in a special way. I walked into the paddock to look at a racehorse to train, and this enormous horse “with a very good eye and tough head” came over, put his face into my chest, and said into my mind “take me home”. We have been together ever since, and I have promised to feed and care for him for life. I cannot explain the connection. This horse has taught me many things, and we shared a few special achievements.
Initially Bob had many foot problems, and was one of the first horses in Australia to trial the Mustad glue-on shoes. When we could shoe him normally we still had problems with hoof-wall quality, as he was in poor condition when we got him. There was always a subtle something nagging at me. I would notice he was lame, give him time off, and when he improved, put him back into training. His fastest gallop was slow, but he could go a long way at that speed. I rode and worked him very hard as he needed to be fitter than the competition. I can honestly say that despite the theory that they all slow down when they are tired, I could never ride this horse long enough or hard enough to get him to give up. He had enormous stamina, and the fitter he got, the further he went before he was even remotely tired. I always ran out of energy first.
I would often “ride one lead one”, and one day I clearly noticed a few head bobs as I was leading him off another horse. I had often thought I sensed a slight hesitancy when I first warmed him up, but this day it was clear. It was only for a few strides, but it was there. I kept working and racing him beyond this time, and he eventually bowed a tendon for the second time and was retired. He gave other clues to his underlying problem. When he was shod he was always a bit difficult on the off-fore (right front), and did not like it being flexed. I put this down to a behaviour problem. One day when I walked up to him and picked up that leg first he pulled back and flipped straight over. My horse was on the ground. I was shocked, but I still didn’t see the problem.
After Bob was retired from racing I wanted to do other things with him and I made every excuse for his slight lameness. He isn’t shod, he has arthritis in the near-fore (left front), or so I thought, his tendon is still healing, it is temporary, he will get better. He didn’t get better. I wanted to get back in the saddle, Bob Horse was dynamite to ride and I missed him. As a young horse, I saw and felt his lameness but I was missing the subtle clues he was giving me. I was looking at the wrong leg in the wrong place for over 4 years while he was in work, and even years later it took a long time without seeing him daily for my eyes and mind to recognise the reality. I had made up my mind years ago what and where the problem was, and now I know that I was wrong.
Bob is now nearly 20 years old and I can see the big, arthritic right knee which was smouldering away when he was a young race horse. He is chronically lame in that leg. He can walk, trot and canter about, and it is not severe enough to warrant euthanasia; he lives a very good life, but, the other day when I trimmed his feet I flexed that knee a few inches too high and he gave a grunt and began to pull it away. I then lowered the leg immediately, he relaxed and we finished the trim without any problem. He is very forgiving of my mistake as a farrier. I should remember his physical limits.
Bob Horse lives in a big paddock near to home and gets a special diet to help his arthritis. He lives with his little mate Howard Pony who was rescued by my Mum, but that’s another story!!
DO THE COMPARISON TEST
A RACEHORSE BEFORE & AFTER
- Breakdown caused by bad shoeing is the single most easily preventable cause of failure to race or achieve maximum potential. There is a correct shoe for each phase of training. Steel shoes are used in pre-training following the theory of the lighter the shoe the better. Light steel plates and training plates are used when fast work begins and do not add much length to the hoof wall and therefore make it easier for the toe to break over during each stride. Correct length of toe is important as it relates to the amount of work required by muscles and the tension of tendons to get the toe off the ground. Therefore, imbalanced or overlong feet contribute to fatigue and breakdown.
- Race horses should be frequently shod (3 – 5 weekly). A longer interval than this before reshoeing will lead to imbalance of the feet and contributes to long toe – low heels and racing injuries such as bowed tendons and joint problems.
- However, clips and nail holes damage the hoof wall with insufficient wall growth before reshoeing if care is not taken to minimise damage to the hoof wall. Pitching nails too high or behind the widest part of the foot restricts hoof function (expansion), but nails need to be driven high enough to be reused if possible. If a shoe is lost out of a strong area of hoof, the nail is pulled cleanly through.
- Clips can be set onto either side of the toe as paired side clips or singly, in rotation, to help prevent seedy toe. Tapping the clip back onto the wall should be avoided as this crushes the cells which produce the white line which grows off the end of the distal laminae (the distal edge of P3) and results in bruising tissue death, bone resorption, pedal osteitis and eventually seedy toe and hoof cracks.
- Racehorses often suffer post race soreness/trauma to the feet. A combination of lactic acid build up from exercise, inflammatory response and digestive disturbance from a high grain diet and over confinement places many horses on the verge of laminitis. A symptom is bruising of the white line which is very common. Farriery error such as cutting feet too short and sole pressure contribute to this syndrome which results in chronic low grade soreness often not noticed as lameness because it is occurring in all four feet.
- Spelling is supposed to give the horse a holiday but often the feet are worse when the horse returns than when it left. This is due to a rapid change in diet, exercise and environment. Horses should be let down before going to the paddock. Considering the care they receive, and money spent on them, many racehorses have very bad feet – underrun heels or contracted heels, flat feet, corns and lack of strong healthy hoof growth are common problems.
HORSES BREAK DOWN FROM THE GROUND UP!
The muscles of the leg have no control over the landing phase of the galloping stride; the hoof is like a pendulum on the end of a piece of string – it is thrown out and falls to the ground. Correct, balanced shoeing maximises stride potential; it does not lengthen it. Bad shoeing can shorten the stride, waste energy and cause breakdown. Galloping horses carry the whole body weight on the leading front leg. As the body is propelled forward from behind, the carpus, suspensory system and flexor tendons are under enormous strain and the front legs are most likely to break down at the weakest point or site of previous injury. Horses cannot run fast with sore feet, but I have seen many that try, failing to run on at the end of a race, lifting their heads instead of accelerating, running off at the bend, climbing or running slower than expected and pulling up distressed. This conforms with the concept of V Heart rate Max (VHM) this means that maximum velocity (speed), maximum heart rate, maximum oxygen transport and uptake are all reached at the same time and the horse then cannot go faster and is about to begin burning energy in the cells anaerobicly (without oxygen) this process then accelerates the production of lactic acid which rapidly brings on fatigue and the horse’s athletic potential has been reached. Training can increase a horse’s VHM but many factors such as maximum heart rate are genetically determined traits. It is now known that lameness will lower performance by causing a horse to reach it maximum speed, heart rate and oxygen transport to the cells (VHM) earlier.
Therefore, the horse will not be able to go as fast for as far despite having the same degree of fitness that it had when it was not carrying an injury or unsoundness.
Never underestimate the effect of even a mildly sore foot on a horse’s performance.
PRINCE FLUFFY KAREEM – EGYPT
March 2012, Judith travelled to Egypt for the fluffy feet farrier project, and by doing what she does best she changed the lives of “Prince Fluffy Kareem” rescue horses.
Dr. Jude returned to Egypt March 4th – 16th 2013.
Dr Jude spent time treating more horses as well as run daily clinics for the local working horses and owners, where they will benefit from her knowledge and advice on how to improve the treatments they have currently.
Dr Jude is also conducted a spay/neuter program for the area’s many stable cats and dog’s as part of the program.
Check out Dr Jude’s report, including many surgery pics here: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/media/set/?set=a.509146195797861.1073741829.198177013561449&type=1
To find out more about “Prince Fluffy Kareem” or how you can help many rescue animals, please click here:http://www.princefluffykareem.com
The injury to this Arab endurance horse resulted in a large flap which was removed because it could not be sutured in place and the lateral digital vein was re-sutured with very fine suture as it was only partly severed. The circulation was enough to maintain the foot and healing commenced. Both the lateral extensor and straight digital extensor were severed, and a large section of each was lost, therefore healing would result in only granulation tissue filling the defect.
PVC water pipe was heated at the edge of my gas forge so that it would fit under the toe and sole, and then be bandaged without creating pressure on the front of the fetlock joint. This prevents the leg from knuckling forward.
Fitted to the lower leg, it is bandaged from hock to foot. This allows the uppper limb to help to lift the lower limb ,and the horse then slides the foot forward. Note the splint is well away from the front of the leg at the top to stop it digging in as the horse moved.
Healing to this stage was an ugly process at times, with dead bone needing to slough out of the wound and the granulation tissue being trimmed back, but at the time this photo was taken, granulation tissue has filled the defect after several months, and now the wound is failing to shrink or epithelialise further. This horse belongs to a Vet, and this made the whole process of saving the horse much cheaper. A lot of hard work and effort went into such a well healed wound.
The first attempt at skin grafting with tunnel grafts failed, therefore, a series of punch grafts were used. The grafts all took, and the limb is now healed. Skin grafts must be placed into very healthy clean granulation tissue if they are to take. This leg was prepared thoroughly for the process.
The grafts were covered in silverzene, and bandgaged in place. After 3 days this was removed, and they had all survived. Further bandaging was performed until the wound was healed.
This horse will never be able to be ridden as before but he has a long and happy life in front of him as a paddock pet.
Born with severe angular limb deformities, “Little John” was small and suffering from “windswept conformation” due to his position in the uterus and other congenital factors. Most severe was the toe-out conformation of the right foreleg (the off-fore). This case is an example of how good management combined with attention to farriery detail can be used to maximise the growth potential of a young horse in a successful attempt to normalise conformation.
At 2 weeks of age, surgery was performed to elevate the growth plates just above the fetlock and carpal joints. At this time Little John was trimmed for the first time, and fitted with glue-on front shoes with medial extensions to increase the surface area to the inside of the leg. A severe deviation in the hock was also noted and trimming commenced on all 4 feet to minimise the conformation faults over time.
John went home from hospital to a stable from which he did not leave, other than to go to a very small yard with his mother when the stable was cleaned. He was placed on a low energy, low protein, mineral balanced diet, and mares milk of course. The mare retained good body condition but did not gain weight throughout this time, as it is important not to push the growth rates of a foal with this problem. A rapid growth rate will exacerbate the conformation problems in foals.
John was trimmed every 2 weeks until 3 months of age, with a slow but steady rate of improvement. Further surgery or shoeing were beyond the owner’s budget.
At 3 months John was moved, with his mother, into a larger yard, (just big enough to move about), with grass and the trimming program was extended to every 3 weeks.
Improvement in conformation was very slow from 1 – 2 months. Between trims the right fore foot became noticeably longer to the outside (laterally) and the inside heel was shorter and folding under.
Conformation began to improve noticeable between each visit from 2 – 4 months, and at 4 – 5 months the foot no longer distorted between trims and the conformation had significantly normalised.
John was weaned between 5 and 6 months, and shares a paddock with other weanlings. At his last trim his foot had not distorted since the previous trim and his conformation is continuing to improve. He will require monthly trimming by the farrier to minimise his conformation faults, up to and after 12 months of age. The hock and hind limb conformation problems have also improved over 90% and the prognosis for a normal athletic career and future soundness is good.
Small surface cracks are usually seen in the first 1 – 2 mm of hoof wall, running from coronary band to ground surface. They may begin at the top or the ground surface, but often begin just below the coronary band and grow downward with the wall. These cracks don’t do any serious harm; they are caused by a combination of genetic, dietary and environmental factors. When diet and environment are improved they usually grow out, but some horses have genetically poor quality hooves in both conformation and structure, requiring a high quality diet and regular farriery care to prevent them developing weak, flaking or cracked hooves.
A BALANCED DIET INCLUDES THE NECESSARY VITAMINS, MINERALS, AMINOACIDS, FATTY ACIDS AND ELEMENTS WHICH COMBINE TO PRODUCE STRONG, HEALTHY KERATIN (A PROTEIN) OF WHICH THE HOOF WALL AND SOLE ARE FORMED. FEEDING A TOTALLY BALANCED DIET IS BETTER THAN SUPPLEMENTING ONE MINERAL OR AMINO-ACID. OVER FEEDING SUPPLEMENTS DOES NOT INCREASE RESULTS AS THEY ARE ONLY OF BENEFIT IF THERE IS A DIETARY DEFICIENCY.
Deep cracks and flares:
A most important concept of the horse’s foot and farriery is that the hoof wall grows as a cone. The cone is smallest at the coronary band and larger at the ground surface. Therefore, the foot has a larger radius the further it is from the coronary band. This is why hooves grow over the shoes, despite the fact that they fitted when they were put on. Six weeks later, the hoof surface area at the ground is larger than it was when the shoes were fitted.
The tiny tubules that make up the hoof wall are the same size at the top as they are at the ground surface. Therefore, as they are basically lifeless tissue, they are unable to heal and are most easily pulled apart sideways close to the ground surface. The longer the foot is beyond its maximum length for soundness and hoof balance, the more force is tearing the horn tubules apart. To demonstrate this concept take a handful of straws and keep them in your fist all lined up closely and with no spaces between them. Now stand them on a flat surface still bunched closely together and you will notice while holding them that you can place weight on them with your free hand and they will maintain their direction and strength as long as they are bound closely together in alignment. Now let them flare at the base so that they are a ‘teepee’ shape. As you place weight upon them, they will flare outward and easily collapse downward as the straws become further and further apart, and the area on the table top they cover becomes bigger and bigger. This is the concept of a flared hoof with hoof cracks ascending from the ground surface towards the coronary band.
Flares are the main cause of hoof cracks, and are usually due to lack of regular farriery care. Most horses have some conformation faults, and it is the conformation of the distal limb and foot that determines where the flare will be. Flares usually form on the inside toe for toe-in, and the outside toe for toe-out. Flares lead to imbalanced weight-bearing of the wall that exaggerates the flare and leads to hoof cracks. As the wall becomes warped, the horn tubules separate at the weakest point (ground surface). As the wall has no ability to repair itself, the crack is forced apart with each step, traveling upward towards the coronary band. Mud, packed into the crack, is forced upward with each stride. This can result in pressure, infection and seedy toe.
Over time, a flare usually develops an inward dish in the wall above it. Dishes and flares are usually seen on the same foot. The inward pressure is a result of the outward flare at the base and can result in permanent changes to the shape of the pedal bone. This makes it difficult – if not impossible to regain a normal pattern of hoof growth without flares if the feet are allowed to get too long or are neglected. After all, it was conformation of the foot that predisposed it to developing the flare in the first place. Flares occur on foal feet, so start your hoof maintenance early.
The best way to manage dishes and flares is to remove the flare from the outside of the hoof with a rasp and then dress the ground surface. This should be done at regular intervals, 2 – 4 weekly for foals, and 4 – 6 weekly for most adults. Some farriers advise unloading the flared wall and making the area non weight-bearing. I have found this is not always possible or practical even for shod feet.
You may find that after you have removed the flared wall from a foot there is only a little heel left to remove, and a bevelled edge will finish the trim.
Do not shorten the foot from underneath until after the flares have been removed from the front, otherwise you risk over-shortening the hoof and making the horse uncomfortable.