The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hoof Notes

My first navicular (confirmed by x-rays) horse - when the owner called, I said I'd come look, and if the hoof was already pretty well balanced, there was probably not much more I could offer. The hoofs turned out to be NOT well balanced. The ratio of the back of the hoof (from the widest part of the hoof to the heel landing) to the front of the hoof (widest part to breakover) ideally should be 60/40. In this horse it was probably 20/80, or worse. So I said if we keep the hoofs balanced for a few months, there may well be some improvement. The RF (the worst foot) also noticeably landed toe-first, with a weird flick in the fetlock joint as the weight transferred backwards, which - I believe - is associated with the cause of navicular - namely friction of the DDFT over the navicular bone.

After trimming, I got the ratios to almost 50/50. The horse appeared to be standing better, with his forelegs more directly underneath him instead of parked out in front.  The owner walked him around the yard. On soft ground he walked fine, but on harder ground he noticeably put his RF toe down first. We decided (hoped!) this was due to his frog not being used to contacting the ground, and hopefully it'll callous up and get stronger.

My first club foot - a textbook club foot! Narrow LF heel with straight bars, smaller and more upright hoof than the opposite foot. The horse goes sound. I trimmed according to the sole landmarks, and although both left and right heels were trimmed down to the frog buttress, the left heel still looked taller when both feet were on the ground. First rule of club foot trimming: Don't Try to Make the Club Foot Match the Other Foot. The club foot heel had grown higher than the opposite foot - it'll be interesting to see if this happens again. It may be that this happened just because of the more upright habit of the club foot, while in the normal foot the new growth pressures the growing heel into under-running more.

A "splat" foot - this horse had straight growth of a couple of inches from the hairline, and then - splat. I didn't dare take the toe back to where breakover ideally should be, as the foot was so shallow and I was afraid to compromise the coffin bone. However, the horse had a prominent sole callous growing all the way up each side of the frog and in an arch around the frog apex. Presumably this callous has grown up to protect the coffin bone - marvellous how the foot responds to challenges. This callous was hard, live sole - definitely leave it in place, as it is much needed at the moment. I think this horse may have gotten in a pickle, as I think it's one of those horses whose feet are just naturally really small, and perhaps no one ever dared shorten his toes enough. In the three years since his current owner has had him, he has always had a problem with going splat in the feet. The owner couldn't remember, however, whether his feet were always flat underneath. I asked her to never clean the mud out of his feet, as it will provide extra cushioning and protection. It will be interesting to see how his feet progress.

Another flat foot, although not quite reaching the splat designation. This one had what at first I thought was a lot of false sole - but which turned out to be rock-hard, live sole - surrounding the frog, completely filling in the bottom of the hoof. Again, in such a flat foot, this sole was probably serving the very important function of protecting the inner structures of the hoof. The horse had a prominent toe callous, which I left completely alone, even though this meant leaving breakover forward of where it might ideally be.

And speaking of toe callouses - this horse was one of three whose owner feeds them a biotin supplement - Biotime - and they had the most impressive toe callouses I've ever seen. I mean, Ovnicek's always talking about toe callouses, but his horses are all running around on dry, hard Colorado ground, whereas around here, it's much softer and wetter, and frankly you're hard pressed to find any toe callous at all on the feet in this neighbourhood. These horses' feet were also all in really good shape considering that they hadn't been trimmed since at at least January.

I recently watched a video from the Mission Farrier School about trimming soft-ground hoofs. He advocates leaving a little heel in these conditions, and the mud will pack in and allow the frog to remain in ground contact. Another horse I trimmed this week was a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police horse, now owned by a sweet little girl and her grandfather. This horse again had not had her feet trimmed for a while. But her heels were not terribly overgrown - sure enough her feet were packed with dirt, and the frog, which on dry ground would have been out of ground contact by about maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch, was healthy and well developed.

Here's what I need to buy - a short-handled rasp which is easy to use with one hand. And a mini horse Hoofjack.


  1. My gelding's left fore is clubbed. I tried to trim the clubbed heels so they were the same height as the right fore and that was a big mistake. He was quite sore and when I looked at his knees I saw that the left knee was about a quarter inch lower than the right one. I guess I'll be leaving the heels on that club foot a little higher from now on.

  2. That's a good point - I'll look at the knees next time.

    With this mare, after trimming, the club foot heel still looked higher than the other, even when trimmed the same from the underneath. And prior to trimming, it was also higher from the sole too. Not sure if this was a compensatory growth, as it would be if the leg were a different length, or if it was because the habit of the foot was causing it to wear differently. The appearance of a higher heel after trimming is part of the clubbiness I guess. Do you have any photos of your gelding's foot on your blog?