How long do you spend riding your horse each day? How much time does he spend turned out in a pasture? How many hours is he kept in a stall each day? The answer to these questions play a definite role in your horse’s hoof health. The correct footing is uber-important in any performance arena, of course. But what about the rest of the horse’s day? It’s important to consider foot function while the horse isn’t being ridden. Like anything, there are always a lot of variables to consider. Standing on stall mats, big shavings, hard ground, etc. for too long can all be detrimental to hoof health and function. Why? Without good footing even while a horse is resting, problems will develop in the hoof capsule over time. Frog pressure is so very important that some may say that it pumps the hoof. While the hoof capsule is very complex, for simplicity’s sake we will let the frog take the credit. The frog needs to be in action most of the day; whenever it’s not hitting the ground, it’s not working. Anytime your shod horse is on hard ground, the frog isn’t doing anything unless the hoof is packed with some sort of soil. When a horse is in nice arena footing, the frog is being loaded and unloaded a lot like a barefoot horse. If the frog isn’t being used, bad things can happen to the hoof. Heels crush/contract/run forward, toe starts to run forward, flares start appearing, etc. That’s why I teach trimming heels down to the widest/highest point of the frog. It makes the heels and frog the same height and allows the horse to use the entire back half of its hoof for support. Shoeing a horse can be very important, as it allows us to provide a hoof with protection, traction, and/or specific therapeutic enhancements. With that said, I believe shoeing isn’t always the best option. I recommend going barefoot often, and it’s because it has lot of natural advantages. If your horse can go barefoot, it is the most affordable way to return the frog back to full function, assuming the correct barefoot trimming is being done. In some instances, you could call it hitting the reset button. What can be done if a horse can’t go barefoot? Even while I’m working at a vet clinic to correct a horse’s crazy lameness or therapeutic issue, my goal is to get the hoof back to basic functions. That typically requires some sort of frog support pad or heart bar shoe. Regardless of a hoof care treatment plan, it’s vital to keep evaluating your shoeing. [...]
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Have you ever considered getting x-rays taken of a sound horse’s feet? Crazy thought, isn’t it? Why would anyone want to waste money when there isn’t anything wrong? A lot of farriers have a good eye and can keep a horse on the right track. However, getting annual x-rays will make their job a lot easier and eliminate any guess work. Most injuries seem to be repetitive strain injuries, just like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So if a horse is developing an issue, it will usually stay sound for quite a while before a lameness happens. But when it does, you will have a serious issue and it will usually require therapeutic work from both your vet and farrier. Preventive measures are cheap insurance for anything you do. If you can notice on the x-rays that something isn’t right, such as a long toe, thin soles, negative palmer angle, navicular syndrome, cyst, bone spur, etc., you can correct it immediately before it becomes an issue. If you have ever had a horse that had a serious hoof problem, the ability to go back in time to catch it early would be priceless. One of my favorite things about working at a vet clinic is getting to see before and after x-rays on horses that I’m shoeing. If a horse needs therapeutic shoeing, we need to know what’s going on so we can help immediately. By looking at an x-ray, a clear plan can be made and greatly helps our chances of success. In these situations, it can be cheaper to get x-rays the first time instead of guessing what the horse needs, possibly guessing wrong, wasting the price of a shoeing, and letting the horse suffer for five weeks. Another thing I have found can get you into trouble is that assuming that the problem was completely fixed after the first treatment. Most of the time, yes, we get really close. But an x-ray taken after shoeing will confirm exactly how we did. Recently a really nice four-year-old barrel horse was under-performing and I recommended getting radiographs taken of the hind feet. She was sore on a hind leg, “AKA the forgotten limb,” and it wasn’t the hocks or stifles; the outside of the hoof looked to be in relatively good shape, too. What we found was a negative palmar angle, meaning the coffin bone was flat or pointed up instead of slightly pointing down. That can throw off the entire limb, putting excessive strain on everything, including tendons, ligaments and the bony column. We fixed the negative palmar angle and she felt immediately better, and won [...]
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