Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pedicure Day!

My trimmer was out this morning to give Lilly her second trim since going barefoot. It has been roughly ten weeks since the shoes came off and things are going better than I expected. Lilly's soles are still quite thin (5-6mm) but the soreness on her right front is less noticeable than it was only a few weeks ago. I don't have radiographs from when the shoes first came off, so it's possible that her soles were even more thin then and they actually are growing... I won't know for sure unless I periodically have the radiographs done but I've been so happy lately that I'm going to think positive for once and tell myself they're thicker now than they were before.

Having the radiographs this time around was quite helpful. My trimmer, Rebecca, is fantastic and I always learn so much from her when she comes to the barn... and even when she doesn't come to the barn because I harass her via email quite frequently. We discussed what she saw on the radiographs and how she was going to correct the rotation on Lilly's right front. She actually doesn't like to use the word rotation because it's such a negative term. As horse owners, when we hear the word rotation, it brings images of doom to our minds... So she thinks it's more correct, at least in Lilly's case, to think of it in terms of weakened lamina. This all happened in Lilly's hoof because her toes are way too long. As the hoof grows and grows, and the toe is never taken back (because it seems most people are afraid to bring back the toe or even rasp the hoof wall), the entire hoof structure is pulled forward (hello underrun heels...). In that situation, the coffin bone has no choice but to "rotate", as it can't possibly remain connected properly.

Also, if we look back at the radiographs of her RF, sure the coffin bone looks rotated, but if we remove the excess toe, magically the angle of the coffin bone and the hoof wall match:

Chop, chop...
Your opinion of the many different barefoot methods and lines of thinking might differ from mine, but I think the coffin bone should not be parallel to the ground, but rather have a palmar angle of 3-8 degrees. When these radiographs were taken, her palmar angle was 6 degrees. Her hoof wall had an angle of 48 and a coffin bone angle of 52. To compare, in her LF the palmar angle is only 2, her hoof wall angle was 47 degrees and her coffin bone angle was 48 degrees.

Ok, I feel I'm rambling a bit, but this is as much for my benefit as it is for someone reading who might actually be interested in what I'm babbling about. It all makes sense in my head, I just hope I was able to put it into words that are actually correct and make sense to someone other than me.

So, here we go with our before and after pictures!

Left Hoof

Left lateral - before
Left lateral - after
No major changes in these lateral photos. Some toe was removed, the toe was rolled, and the hoof was was rasped. We're trying to get rid of the old growth rings because they can be painful, and we want to "train" the new growth to grow properly. If we leave the hoof shape as is, which isn't a healthy shape, the new growth will begin to grow in the old growth patterns.

Left heel - before
Left heel - after
An example of why this trim method is called "Proper Balance Horse Trim". The goal is to balance the horse’s feet and body as best as possible, and I can see a difference already in the medial loading issue that she has on this left leg. She still leans a bit to the medial side, but the shape of the hoof is much more balanced.

Left sole - before
Left sole - after
I love sole pictures. The bars were trimmed along with any high spots on her sole that could cause pressure points. The heels were also trimmed and cleaned up, along with parts of the frog to encourage more stimulation to the back part of her hoof. I watched very closely when she was trimming these front feet so I could do a bit of this in between visits. I rasped a little bit a week or so ago, but just barely.

Right Hoof

Right lateral - before
Right lateral - after
Quite a bit of toe removed on this one and I think it looks fabulous! Same thing on this one too in regards to the toe rolling and hoof wall rasping. Lilly was pretty good about all the trimming, although she can't (or won't) hold her hooves up very long, so we used the boots a lot during the trim and she was much happier. I wish the wash stall had a rubber mat on the floor...

Right heel - before
Right heel - after
A much more balanced heel, although the right leg is much less crooked looking than her left one. Her heels are still pretty contracted, but the central sulcus is much less deep than it was and I can easily keep it treated for thrush. Her hairline is looking a lot less wonky too.

Right sole - before
Right sole - after
More sole pictures! Pretty, pretty... and just to compare, this is a picture of her right sole right after the shoes came off back in August:

Squished heels!
Not the best great picture, but WOW... the shape is completely different! And those heels!

Rebecca and I had discussed hoof casts and their possible benefits for Lilly. We thought she looked pretty good when we walked her up and down the barn aisle, but Rebecca decided we should go ahead and cast. Hopefully they'll help her grow stronger, healthier hoof walls and soles. There's an excellent article written by Pete Ramey for anyone interested in reading about the possible benefits. The article states the following:

I believe that the most important reducer of hoof flexion and circulation is lameness; a lack of movement or worse: Compensative movement. No doubt the presence of the cast robs some of the flexion of the hoof capsule, but the casts tend to make compromised horses so comfortable, the increase in correct movement seems to create an excellent “circulatory trade-off”. In the real world the foot is healthier overall when you remove a cast. Well connected wall growth and healthy laminae will have been produced and the sole will be thicker (from what I’ve seen, every time).
I'm looking forward to seeing how they work for her in the pasture and if we notice a difference in her after the casts come off. Lilly did trot to me in the pasture today, which is a first for her in quite a while, but she is still ginger in certain areas of the field.

Here are her hooves with the casting material on them:

Too bad we couldn't have green ones...
Protection for tender tootsies!
Our next trim will be in 5-6 weeks, depending on what happens with Rebecca's schedule. I wonder if the casts will last that long?


  1. Wow! Thank you so much for the information and pictures. I feel like I need to be addressing some of the same issues Lilly has with my boy. I'm definitely writing all of this down to talk with my farrier. Thank you! I love seeing the radiographs and the respective explanations from your vet, your farrier and you! Thanks so much!!

  2. (claps wildly)...WOW!!! What a difference.

    I am so glad to see you address the rasping the hoof wall issue. I know there are people who just don't want that done, but when you have old growth issues, you HAVE to take that off as much as you can to prevent the new growth from taking the same path.

    Rebecca is awesome! I would let her trim my horses' feet any day.

  3. Her hooves just look better and better!

    i2p and BEC - what's the rationale for rasping up the walls? What on earth do you mean the rings hurt as they grow out? I've never heard that before and I'm interested.

    Casting is so cool. I've read about it but never seen it from the owner's perspective. Can't wait to see how it wears down and what kind of benefits Lilly gets!

  4. Lilly's feet just look better and better, and Rebecca seems like such a gem!

    I'm with Funder, what's the rationale for rasping up the wall, and taking off the event lines? Those lines will still be part of the structure of the hoof, you're just filing off the outside, visible evidence. Please explain, I want to understand!

  5. And a journey that's just beginning, Terry... I hope the best years are yet to come! :)

    Amy, I'm so thankful that you read thisi post and it has inspired you to talk to your farrier. If I could go back in time (I'd change a lot), but one of my biggest regrets is not asking more questions of my farrier. I felt I was out of line because he was the professional, but maybe I could have helped Lilly before now if I had.

    Cowgirl, YAY, right??! I'm so excited by this whole process and I've become obsessed with hooves!

    Okay, regarding the event/stress lines... this is so much fun! I love that we've got some dialog going here. :) I contacted my trimmer to have her verify that what I was remembering was actually correct. She said the new hoof growth will follow the path of the old growth, and Lilly has a lot of old, icky paths. She said the growth lines aren't necessarily painful unless they're large and thick, but they can cause issues where the new hoof growth is concerned. She said smoothing them out is beneficial for blood flow to the laminae.

  6. RE new hoof growth following the old, there are LOTS of pictures on the Rockley Farm blog that show otherwise. You can clearly see the line where the shoes come off and the growth angle changes drastically, but does NOT follow the old growth. Also, Nic's horses self-trim and they manage to grow out the new angle, so that also seems to indicate that rasping off the old growth isn't necessary. Plus, it just thins the hoof wall and takes off the protective outer layer that helps keep bacteria from penetrating the foot... so, still confused. Please let us know what your trimmer has to say!

  7. So I have to ask...And I'm not trying to be a smart-ass...How many people have ever seen a horse that gets an infection from bacteria penetrating the rasped outside of the hoof wall?

    Unless a horse has an exceptionally crumbly, porous hoof wall, that most likely would not support him/her anyway, the hoof wall is mostly non-porous all the way through to the point of attachment to the lamina.

    Where you will see bacterial problems that can affect the exterior hoof wall is on horses that have stretched lamina in the toe (seedy toe) and that is what allows bacteria to enter the foot and damage the exterior wall. But still, the bacteria/infection is actually damaging/killing the lamina which holds the hoof wall to the foot and not actually damaging the hoof wall.

    I have had to deal with some extreme cases in my life. One in particular was a gelding I picked up who ended up having the entire exterior wall of his toe removed due to an infection/abscess in the lamina. The removal was from about 1/2 way down and all the way around his toe to the front of his quarters. Wished I had pictures of that. People told me that horse would never be sound. Dumbest thing I ever heard in my life because all that needed to happen was for the healthy foot to grow out.

    Another was a severely foundered pony, who had skis for feet. I personally took a hacksaw to his toes and wacked off 6 INCHES of toe. I then rasped off the heaved up hoof wall, all the way down to the extra-ordinarily stretched lamina and even some of that got removed. The only hoof wall left was the top 1/3rd of his hoof and the rear quarters and the heel. I took over 3 inches of heel off of the bottom. It was so long and mashed forward that the tip of his heel was longer than the point of his frog. You never seen such relief on an animal.

    Extreme cases, Yes, they were. But if you can remove that much bad hoof wall, how on earth is removing just a bit a problem?

    Which begs the question, why do some horses need rasping and some do not?

  8. My knee-jerk reaction is to not rasp the hoof wall, but upon further reflection I have to agree with BEC.

    I have never heard of rings *causing* discomfort (just indicating prior/current discomfort). The received wisdom in the barefoot community is to never rasp the walls because you will weaken them, but I have not heard of any formal or informal studies backing that assertion up.

    I think it would be really easy to smooth out the walls every time you trim and end up taking off too much and weakening them. That does make sense to me.

    I dunno, I wouldn't do it based on what I know now, but I honestly cannot caution you against it. If she starts flaring more, maybe discuss not smoothing the walls. But Lilly's doing extremely well, you're happy, and the trimmer has her own experiences to back her up - carry on!

  9. Just like with everything else in the horse world, I think it "depends". I can tell you that I've seen the new growth following the pattern of the old growth first hand on Lilly's hooves... especially in the area of her quarters where her hooves are bulging from the contraction she has in her heels. So maybe for the average horse it isn't necessary, but for Lilly it definitely is. Don't most trimmers/farriers rasp flares?

    And that's an interesting point about the bactera, Cowgirl, and crazy stories! I don't know any horses personally who have had hoof wall removed, but Jen, didn't your farrier drill away Saga's hoof wall when he put on those new shoes?

    I guess I don't see a reason to rasp away the wall if it doesn't neet it. But in a rehab type situation, it might become necessary. I think you also have to take into account the thickness of the hoof wall to start with.

    I don't know... I'm still trying to learn! :) But I appreciate everyone posting their views and ideas!

  10. Out of curiosity, I looked up the blog that jenj referenced and found it to be fascinating. (Thank you jenj-I'll be putting that blog on my reading list.)

    I read far enough back to find a horse that came in with the same issues you have been dealing with on Lilly-underslung heels and long-toe.

    It's true that farrier does not rasp the exterior wall. On that particular horse though, he does rocker the toe. Rockering the toe does relieve pressure and without pressure, the toe will continue to grow out on it's new path.

    Relieving pressure is the key. The hoof doesn't automatically 'grow' in the old path, if the old path is not natural, but if the pressure that caused it to distort in the first place is not relieved, it will simply continue to distort at the same point it did before.

    (Flares on the quarter do seem to prefer to follow the old growth path though and I have always found it better to just get rid of the distortion-either by cutting it off or rasping it off.)

    Rockering the toe vs. rasping off the thickened exterior wall of the toe basically does the same thing...eases/quickens the break-over. Horses that have a long-toe have too slow of a break-over and the pressure exerted due to that nano-second of hang-time is what continues to force the distortion.

    Rockering is a finer art than rasping for sure. To properly rocker a toe, you need to understand exactly where the point of break-over needs to be on the underside of the hoof. Whereas when you rasp the topside, you have the new, correct growth angle to guide you.

    Rasping can be done correctly or incorrectly. In my humble opinion, this is a good rasp job. The farrier created a nice straight line down the hoof, removing the bulging toe (quickening the break-over) and there is now an equal thickness of wall all the way around the hoof (when you look at the sole picture).

    One thing for sure, it's really been interesting following this journey and reading the comments. There is always something to be learned from varying opinions. I'm certainly not a professional farrier. Just lucky enough to have one in the family and a large number of horses to work on.

  11. Fascinating! I have SO much to learn about horse feet. About EVERYTHING horse, actually. Thanks for going in to so much detail.

  12. I agree with you, I don't think the coffin bone should be ground parallel either. I think there needs to be a little height at the heel too. That way if the horse weights the hoof at speed the coffin bone has a little room to drop.

    Let me tell you what Cheryl says about rasping the outer hoof wall: What you're trying to do is encourage the tubules to grow straight down towards the ground. If you get all the ridges out then the hoof is not encouraged to deviate from that straight path.

    I did a lot of outer wall rasping at school, so I know how to do it. I just don't have a hoof rasp so I can't do that with my own yet (though Gwen needs it).

    I hope the casts help.

  13. Argh, that's what I get for typing comments first thing in the morning- I don't have a hoof JACK, I have tons of rasps. Yeesh.