| Your One-Stop Farrier and Hoofcare Portal - Essays for Horse Owners Fri, 24 Nov 2017 05:18:30 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Living With Lameness

When a healthy horse comes up lame, it is disturbing for everyone -- the owner, veterinarian, farrier and trainers, instructors and other riders. Whether it is a top-level show horse, local competitor or weekend trail companion a sore horse is heartbreaking, especially since many animals will continue with the same high effort, even though they are in pain. Lameness may mean an end to a career, and extended lay-up or time-consuming health care from the owner; all are situations every horse owner wants to avoid. A savvy owner, though, knows the facts of her horse's case, and armed with that knowledge, can make caring and smart choices about the future.

The first step when lameness appears is to get a complete medical work-up, regardless if it was a slow-developing problem or an acute onset of pain. A veterinarian can give a much more intensive examination, and will have the equipment necessary for diagnostic procedures. It is very important that the owner is prepared to give information regarding the animal's circumstance. How long has the lameness existed? What leg or legs are affected, and can it be narrowed down to a rough location? What are the symptoms -- an "off" feeling while under the rider; head-bobbing at the walk, trot or canter? Or an unusual stance? Having this information will often help the veterinarian pinpoint the area to observe and test, although some vets may prefer to go into the examination blind, leaving them with an open mind. Sometimes the source of the pain may be very different from where the lameness indicates.

Diagnostic procedures may vary some from one veterinarian to another, but will follow a general pattern. First is observation of the animal at rest and in movement. The horse's attitude when standing unbothered is very telling, as is his way of going when trotted on straight lines and circles. While the horse is standing his conformation can be assessed, and any correlations made between faults and potential problems. Certain conformational abnormalities may predispose an individual horse to lameness. A history can also be taken at this time, with the owner describing the horse's training program, competition schedule and any training or behavioral problems while under saddle (pain is often the reason for these problems). This time can also be used to evaluate the horse's symmetry and temperament. While the horse is standing firmly square, observe the balance of bones and muscles, and any appearance of atrophy or disuse. The horse's temperament has a very important influence on pain indication; a highly-strung individual will usually show stronger reactions to pain than a more stoic horse.

The horse's movement is watched while he is trotted on a hard, level surface. On hard ground the footfalls can be both heard and seen. With the horse's head unrestricted, the handler moves him off at a trot. The vet will observe his movement from straight on and the side as the horse moves toward and away from him. The foot of each limb should land squarely and with equal intensity. Each stride should be balanced, rhythmic and even. A short stride may indicate a problem with that diagonal. Circles are also a useful tool for evaluating a lameness. This will show the horse's flexibility and his ability to move each leg away from the body or toward the opposite leg.

Next the veterinarian will perform a flexion test. A joint is held partly flexed for about one minute and then the horse is immediately trotted off. This process will usually accentuate any existing lameness in the stressed joint. It is difficult to be specific about the sore joint since it is impossible to flex only one joint at a time, but it can still be very helpful.

At this stage, the lame leg should have been identified. To help pinpoint the exact trouble, spot nerve blocks are used. Local anesthesia is injected over a nerve, starting at the lowest point of the affected leg. The nerve impulses are temporarily stopped, allowing the horse to move pain free. If the pain persists, then further blocks need to be performed farther up the leg. In the circumstance where the lameness is only eased, not eliminated, then the problem most likely is not limited to only one location. In order for this process to succeed, there must be significant lameness to start with so that improvement can be evaluated.

Radiographs are used once the source of pain has been identified. This provides a two-dimensional view of the bony structures of the leg. Many views must be taken to get a complete picture. The radiographs do not provide much information about soft-tissue injuries or problems within a joint. Bony changes can be identified, though. Interpretation is a large part of making a diagnosis with radiographs, and they are most useful when considered with the other test results. Some very slight lamenesses may show up as insignificant alterations in the bone -- enough, though, to cause discomfort to the horse.

All these tests can be performed by a veterinarian in private practice, either at the barn or at the clinic. If at this point results are still inconclusive, it may be necessary to haul the horse to a teaching hospital where more in-depth testing is available. One of the more advanced methods of diagnosis is nuclear scintigraphy or bone scanning. A radioactively labeled bone-seeking substance is injected into the jugular vein and is distributed to the bones after several hours. The radioactive substance accumulates in areas of increased bone activity or blood flow to the bone, which is then detected by a gamma camera. This test is more accurate for acute injuries than chronic problems. Nuclear scintigraphy is potentially more descriptive than radiography, but cannot be used as a replacement. The two techniques should be considered complimentary.

Soft-tissue damage can be evaluated using diagnostic ultrasound. The ultrasound waves are reflected from the tissue and played back on a monitor. The images must be of high quality to accurately assess the damage. Enlargement of a tendon or poor definition of the structures can be determined with this as well. Progress is also monitored with ultrasound during periodic evaluations.

Once the veterinarian makes a diagnosis, the farrier can be a horse's best friend. With his expertise, many options may be open to the horse and owner. Therapeutic trimming and shoeing may make the horse more comfortable, usable once again, or even return him to his former level of activity. Many types of shoes exist that will relieve pain and allow the horse to move more naturally. However, it requires a very knowledgeable professional to perform this work, as well as one who can discuss the case with the attending veterinarian. The vet may write a specific prescription for the farrier or leave him to make the shoeing decisions. Either way, it is essential that the veterinarian and farrier maintain a good working relationship. The owner's patience is also an essential requirement for the farrier's success. Often there is more than one way to address a lameness; the farrier will usually choose the simplest and least expensive method first. If that does not work, he will move up the scale to more intensive methods. However, it will probably require several months to find the best therapy, and the owner must show patience through this process.

When a horse is diagnosed with a chronic lameness, the owner needs to take serious stock of his/her horse's life. It may be possible for the animal to remain at the same activity level with veterinary and farrier assistance, but usually some adjustments will need to be made. If the horse competes, it may be necessary to drop to a lower level or even leave the show ring entirely. In this case is the owner willing to scale back his/her own goals to fit with the horse's altered abilities? At this point, selling the horse is often considered. It is unfair to expect the horse to perform when burdened by lameness, and a more suitable home should be found.

Many times a horse that has a manageable lameness problem but is well trained with a kind disposition will make a good mount for someone learning the ropes of a sport, looking for a school horse. However, be certain to inform a prospective buyer of the problem and be sure that he or she is prepared to provide the care necessary, Sometimes a change in discipline is sufficient to keep a horse in work and useful. A show jumper with a forelimb lameness may perform in the lower levels of dressage. Or a performance competitor may find a niche as an equitation mount. And, using care and caution, most horses can be suitable trail mounts. Retirement is sometimes the only option for extreme cases, or with degenerative conditions.

Living with lameness is possible when the owner knows the facts. That is why a veterinary diagnosis is so crucial to the horse's well-being. Neither the owner nor the farrier can make sound decisions without that baseline. It is also essential that all three can work together in the horse's therapy and maintenance. But it is ultimately the owner's responsibility to keep the animal's best interests in the forefront and make the choices that will benefit the horse.

The most promising means of achieving a degree of soundness and usability is therapeutic shoeing. Therapeutic shoeing can be defined as a procedure undertaken to assist and protect a damaged hoof or limb to achieve more normal movement. This may be for a short-term healing period, or it may be necessary to continue the speciality work indefinitely or for the remainder of the horse's life. Therapeutic should not be confused with corrective. Corrective shoeing usually implies "fixing" a problem that may often stem from an inherent defect in the horse. In this case, the correction may not be in the horse's best interests, as incorrect corrective trimming and shoeing seeks to make a visual aesthetic improvement, rather than a functional one.

The major requirement when beginning a course of therapeutic shoeing is using a qualified farrier. First, he must be well versed in the anatomy and kinesiology of the horse's body. Every swipe of the rasp and pound of the hammer will change the individual's way of going, and he needs to associate those actions to the result.

The farrier also needs to be able to converse with the attending veterinarian. It is essential that all those involved in the horse's care can discuss options, potential problems, and prognoses. Some veterinarians will make a diagnosis and then write a shoeing prescription for the farrier to follow. Most farriers will proceed as directed and add their own comments and suggestions as time passes. Other vets will leave it up to the farrier to determine appropriate therapy once a diagnosis is made.

The farrier must also be available to provide long-term hoof care for the horse. This will usually mean additional cost to the owners since the farrier's time and knowledge are very valuable. But if the owner is willing to undertake the cost and responsibility, most farriers are willing to make a therapeutic horse a priority in their practice. If a special farrier is brought on the case to consult, it is vital that he confer with the regular farrier about proper procedures and be available for follow-up questions.

Most farriers today use keg (factory made) shoes for therapeutic horses, since the manufacturers have advanced to produce shoes that are well-designed and well-researched. A qualified, professional farrier will carry a large selection of therapeutic shoes. At other times it may be necessary to forge a set of specialty shoes; again, this will require additional time and knowledge, and the farrier's rates will increase accordingly. Hot-fitting may be necessary to get an exact fit for an individual horse or if special modifications need to be done. In many situations, though, cold shaping a keg shoe is sufficient.

Bar shoes are regularly used for many lameness conditions. A straight bar is connected at the heels. It has a larger surface area for bearing weight and thus relieves mild cases of lameness, such as ringbone, sidebone, laminitis, sheared and crushed heels, and tendon injuries. The bar aids in relieving tendon pressure, adding heel support and moving pressure off the toe and coffin bone.

An egg bar is similar to a straight, but the bar connecting the heels is curved, forming a continuous oval; it extends farther back behind the foot than the straight bar. This shoe is used for the same conditions as a straight bar, but is effective in more serious cases.

The heart bar shoe has a straight bar or egg bar connecting the heels, along with a solid plate that completely covers the frog. For cases of laminitis, this is the most effective shoeing therapy. It provides support at the heels, allowing a release of pressure at the damaged, painful toe. The frog plate also serves to support the coffin bone within the hoof capsule.

One other specialized bar shoe is the GE-N. With a rolled toe and tapered egg-shaped wedge heels, this shoe seems very effective for horses suffering from navicular syndrome. The design allows the horse to shift the balance and position of the foot to a stance that is most comfortable for him. The GE-N shoe may also be used for cases of laminitis, ringbone and other arthritic conditions.

Many other therapeutic shoes are variations of the basic keg shoe but with modifications that make it useful for specific conditions. Some of these shoes are manufacturer designed, but some farriers prefer to build these less-often-used shoes on order.

The rocker toe and rolled toe shoes are built on the same principle, but the rocker toe is more severe. These shoes have a curved piece that sits at the toe of the shoe on the ground surface. Because of this rolled piece, the foot's breakover speed and position are changed. Horses that suffer from laminitis and arthritis are often helped by this shoe, since the way the foot takes off and lands is altered. Gait abnormalities are also aided, especially forging and overreaching, where the hind legs reach forward and clip the forefeet.

A slippered heel shoe is one in which the heel is beveled, or slanted, to the outside. This configuration makes the heels of the foot expand. Contracted heels, a condition in which the heels fold inward, are set with this shoe. A farrier shoeing a wry hoof, where the entire hoof wall sweeps off to one side, may choose to use a slippered heel shoe.

Several lameness conditions are handled with a wedge shoe. The heels are built up and tapered from the heel forward. The degree of wedge varies, depending on the severity of the condition. A wedge shoe can be either an egg bar or straight bar. Long-toe, low-heel syndrome, ringbone and navicular syndrome may all be relieved by using some type of wedge shoe.

Pads may also be useful for the treatment of a lame horse. A specialty pad is usually paired with a basic shoe, but the farrier may use some creative license when shoeing a particularly difficult case, or one in which many problems need to be addressed. Pads provide protection for the sole and hoof wall and may be used for white line disease. Regardless of the condition, all full-coverage pads contribute to the growth of fungus in the frog, since it is impossible to clean the area regularly.

A wedge pad serves the same function as a wedge shoe. The elevated heels ease the strain of navicular syndrome, ringbone and some tendon stresses. This pad may be used with a regular shoe or a bar shoe.

Rim pads are cut to follow the shape of the shoe along the hoof wall, leaving the sole open. It elevates the foot even farther off the ground and may be used alone or together with a full pad. A rim pad is commonly used for sole abscesses, pedal osteitis and frog injuries. This pad may also be used with a hospital shoe. A removable plate is screwed to the bottom of the shoe that allows the sole to be doctored.

The lily pad is a plastic pad with an extension that covers the frog like a heart bar shoe. The extension adds frog support to the horse suffering from navicular syndrome and laminitis. It is used with a regular shoe or with an egg or straight bar.

Any time a lameness develops that demands therapeutic treatment, many different methods may be employed. A specific problem may have many solutions; when more than one problem is present, the choices of treatment multiply. It will usually take a period of trial and error on both the farrier's and veterinarian's part to find the method of treatment that will be most effective for each individual. The owner must be willing to allow the time necessary to devise the therapy that will help the horse most. Without that cooperation, the horse's chances of recovering to even partial usability are jeopardized.

]]> (Ray Miller) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 07:01:45 +0000
The Early, Mid and/or Late Stages of Laminitis, and the Signs Associated With This Disease

Based on clinical signs, horses suffering from laminitis can progress through four phases: developmental, acute, subacute and chronic. However, not every horse will progress through each phase.

Developmental phase. This is the time between the cause of the laminitis (for example, colic, retained placenta, etc.) and the first appearance of a lameness. The time frame is about 20-72 hours and is associated with very few clinical signs.

Acute phase. This begins with the onset of lameness which can be quite variable in severity. It can affect one, two, or even all four feet, but is most commonly seen in the forefeet only. In its mildest form, the horse may only appear to have a stilted gait or seem to be "walking on eggshells". A more severely affected horse may assume the classic laminitis stance, placing his hind feet underneath his body, while trying to keep the fore limbs extended out in front of him. It will appear as though the horse is trying to shift his weight from the front to the rear feet; however, we now believe that the horse is trying to place more weight onto the heels of the front feet and less on the toes. This may be less evident in horses suffering from laminitis in all four feet. When asked to move, the horse leans backwards and then slowly shifts his weight forwards as he moves his front legs. During the early acute phase, the hoof appears normal, but because inflammation is occurring within the foot (see question defining founder), another symptom that may occur is the presence of heat in the foot. This phase can last anywhere from 34-72 hours, depending on how quickly the disease progresses.

Subacute phase. Once through the acute phase, the disease can progress one of two ways. First, if the horse's foot does not show any signs of internal damage on an x-ray, the horse is considered to be in the subacute phase. A "fever ring" on the hoof wall may become apparent as the wall grows down, but otherwise the wall should appear normal. This condition would begin approximately 72 hours from the initial onset of lameness; full recovery may require twelve months, assuming that the disease does not enter the chronic phase, the second possibility.

Chronic phase. If the horse's foot fails mechanically, the disease has progressed into the chronic phase. This can last anywhere from the nine months it takes to replace the hoof wall to the lifetime of the horse. Several symptoms are associated with the chronic phase of laminitis, including pain, wall deformities, and draining tracts. As with the acute phase, there can be varying degrees of lameness. In addition, it may become evident over time that the hoof is becoming deformed. Examples of such deformities include a dished-out appearance to the wall, multiple rings on the outer wall and a flat sole instead of the normal concave shape. There may also be evidence of drainage from areas around the coronet or through the sole. This could result from an infective process or tearing of the damaged laminar tissues.

What to do for your horse. It is important that your veterinarian be consulted as early as possible during the acute phase so that proper and timely treatment can be initiated. Likewise, the diagnosis of chronic laminitis or founder usually requires x-rays made by your veterinarian. For further information on laminitis or founder simply e-mail the Hoof project with your questions or concerns. In addition to this, your veterinarian may be able to supply you with an informational pamphlet entitled Laminitis: prevention and treatment published by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

First posted on the Internet in The Hoof Project Web Site.

This article has been reprinted with the permission of  The Hoof Project.

]]> (Ilka Robertson, DVM and David Hood, DVM, PhD) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 06:24:44 +0000
Laminitis Simplified

Laminitis has the reputation of being a devastating, diagnosis complicated disease. Over the years, drugs many people have dedicated immense time and effort studying laminitis, striving to find a cure. We are all aware of the symptoms of laminitis; the pain, the typical laminitis stance, sunken hairline, wavy growth rings, increased pulse, rotated coffin bone, dropped sole and extended white line. The cause of laminitis has been a mystery for some time. There seems to be several conditions laminitis is associated with: toxins, stress, flu, carbohydrate overload, fresh green grass, obesity and infections. There have been many treatments tried. Until now, an effective and dependable treatment method has not been found.

I have been managing founder cases by controlling the load share between the hoof wall and the sole since 1994. I am excited that the results of doing so have been excellent, consistent, repeatable, and dependable. By unloading the wall and laminae, the hoof is prevented from foundering and a foundered hoof can be repaired. Virtually every case experienced a high degree of improvement, with the end result of most cases approaching 75% to 100% of normal condition. The only limiting factors to the end result is the original genetic makeup of the hoof and permanent tissue damage as a result of the foundering process.

Controlling the load share between the wall and the sole, has given me a different view of this laminitis problem. To me, the problem is not as big nor as complicated as its reputation.

For the reader to appreciate my interpretation of laminitis and founder, more information is needed about the weight bearing systems within the hoof, about the principal of load share between the hoof wall and the sole, about the principle of tissue overload, and about how to unload the hoof wall.


The weight bearing framework of the leg is the skeletal bones. They are aligned end to end down the leg and pastern. Position of the bones, locomotion and suspension are dictated and controlled by the ligaments and tendons. The weight bearing load is transferred down the leg from one bone to another through the articulating joints. The surfaces of those joints are in compression when bearing a load. The coffin bone is the end of the line. P3 is charged with the function of dissipating the load to the ground. Most of the load from the leg passes through P3.

The coffin bone has a unique design in that virtually all of its surfaces are involved with load transfer. The load enters P3 through the articulating joint surface from P2. The other surfaces are covered by tough horny tissue. The volar surface is protected by the sole callous while the dorsal surface is protected by the hoof wall. When the sole comes in contact with the ground, load is transferred directly from P3 to the ground. The sole and its corium are in compression. When the rim of the hoof wall contacts the ground, load is transferred from P3 via the laminae to the hoof wall and to the ground. The laminae is in tension.

So in fact, there are two weight bearing systems within the hoof. The principle of controlling the load share between the hoof wall and the sole refers to controlling the load share between these two weight bearing systems.

Trimming and shoeing techniques practiced today tend to minimize the load on the sole. I was taught at farrier school to minimize sole pressure. From my experiences as a farrier and horseman, I have learned that the sole of the hoof can be tender and easily bruised. There is a prevailing misconception that the sole cannot bear much load.

I believe, however, the sole is meant to carry a load or it would not be located on the bottom of the hoof. Based on over sixty cases I have applied sole support it has been proven to me that the sole is capable of carrying most or all the load from a given foot for an extended period of time. When put to use, the sole is stimulated to thicken and toughen and its load carrying capacity increases.


When any given body tissue is asked or forced to endure a functional load greater than it is capable of supporting, that tissue will fail in the form of an injury.

There could be several scenarios contributing to this situation. First, the load could be simply larger and/or for a longer period of time than what that tissue is genetically designed to support. Second, the animal itself could be suffering a systemic condition that causes the various body tissues to be temporarily “sick”. An individual tissue thus may be too weak to carry a normal load. Third, the tissue may slowly deteriorate over time. When a horse is traveling, the tissues of the hoof are subjected to cycles of load on and load off with each stride. Under normal conditions, a certain number of tissue cells will be damaged and lost when the tissue is loaded or stressed. Cell loss is replaced through cell rejuvenation when the tissue is in a period of rest. There can be situations where the tissue’s ability to rejuvenate itself is slower than the rate of tissue damage. Factors that contribute to this scenario are: improper hoof care management, inadequate nutrition, extreme environmental conditions, lack of exercise to stimulate circulation, or an inferior circulatory system due to genetics or previous injury.

Regardless of the combination of scenarios for any given case, it can be said that the tissue is in an overload situation. If that overload situation continues, the tissue will fail. The body cannot heal an injured tissue if the injury process continues. If a tissue is being injured by an overload situation, the load must be removed to initiate the healing process. Once degeneration of a tissue is stopped, the body’s natural healing process can work its magic.


Whenever I see “ITIS” behind the name of a tissue, I take it to mean something is wrong with that tissue. It is “sick”, weak or unhealthy. The term “Laminitis”, to me, means the laminae is sick, inflamed or injured. Historically, laminitis occurs when the horse experiences a rather large, serious systemic stress. This stress can be initiated by a number of situations such as: nutritional overdose, toxins, infections, flu, heat stress, etc. and the body chemistry is altered.

The question that occurs to me is: Why is the laminae targeted in these situations?

My theory is that no one tissue is singled out. The entire body is affected. The chemistry of all soft, sensitive tissues of the body is upset. Knowing how I feel when I have the “flu”, it is a safe bet that during these situations the horse aches all over. He hurts whether he moves or stands still.

So I ask again, why is the laminae affected the way it is, seemingly more so than other tissues?

The main reason is unique to the laminae. The laminae is in tension when it is bearing weight. The sick laminae is stretched and torn with no physical limitation to how far the hoof wall can be separated from P3. The other weight bearing tissues of the leg and hoof bear their load in compression and thus damage is minor. Another reason is because the laminae happens to be located at the end of the leg. Circulation to the extremities of the limbs is a challenge at the best of times, and that problem is magnified when the body’s chemistry is out of balance. Also, when the horse is generally feeling poorly, it will tend to stand in one place thus the circulation to the lower leg is further reduced due to the lack of stimulation from movement. A third reason is that the hoof wall and laminae are difficult to unload. The hoof is structured so the wall contacts the ground first thus the wall and laminae are loaded with each stride. Standard trimming and shoeing practices also tend to maximize the load on the wall. Pain is natures way to encourage an animal to unload and rest a certain tissue thus giving it a chance to heal. By its own nature, the horse avoids laying down when suffering pain or stress.

These cumulative reasons cause the laminae to be quickly placed in a severe overload situation with no natural way to be unloaded. Laminitis is not a complicated disease. It is merely a condition of tissue overload.


“Founder” is what happens to the hoof if the laminae overload is not reversed quickly. The hoof wall becomes displaced from the coffin bone. This hoof wall displacement is caused entirely by the weight bearing forces as the hoof wall contacts the ground. The laminae is traumatically injured and torn in the process. All other laminitis symptoms are subsequent to this mechanical injury.

The horse experiences severe pain that can last for weeks or months. A sunken depression along the coronary band is relative to the hoof wall displacement. The displaced hoof wall gives the impression that the sole has dropped. Radiographs give the impression that P3 has rotated. Often the sole becomes bruised and inflamed around the outline of P3. This damaged sole can slough away, exposing the sensitive sole corium and the tip of P3. The unnatural displacement of the hoof wall, causes mechanical restriction of the blood circulation to key areas within the hoof. Serum fluids are released from the damaged laminae and sole cells. This serum usually cannot escape through the hoof wall or the sole callous, and thus collects in pockets under the wall or the sole. The pain level increases as the fluid pressure rises in these seroma pockets. These seroma pockets can abscess and fester for several weeks before breaking out somewhere, usually at the coronary band. The characteristic “buzzing” pulse may be present before hoof wall displacement or after, but it is associated with severe inflammation and trauma.

As these complications set in, the overload situation expands to include tissues other than the laminae. If the injury causing load is not removed, the laminae and various other tissues of the hoof continue to be injured. The situation is now worse than ever. The healing process is retarded or impossible. The situation appears hopeless.


  1. The horse gets sick.
  2. The body tissues become sick and weak.
  3. The laminae’s unique situation causes it to be overloaded with no relief.
  4. Within a few hours of onslaught of the systemic stress, the weight bearing load forces the wall from P3, tearing the laminae.
  5. Hoof wall displacement continues until the load is shared when the sole contacts the ground.
  6. Associated complications set in. Inflammation and seroma pockets are serious factors.
  7. With luck and time the situation stabilizes to a chronic condition.
  8. Without some form of reversal of the overload situation, the condition will remain chronic.


To prevent the hoof from foundering, remove the load from the hoof wall and the laminae when the horse is experiencing a systemic condition that historically leads to laminitis. Do this early before the hoof founders. Do not wait until tomorrow. An hour delay can be too late. Treat the horse to eliminate the systemic condition. Keep the wall unloaded (3 to 8 weeks) until the horse is nursed back to health.


To repair a foundered hoof the intent is to bring it back to its normal condition. Remove the load from the hoof wall and laminae as early as possible to minimize the damage that must be repaired. Again, a delay of an hour can make a huge difference. During the acute stages, treatments to control inflammation and techniques to remove serum fluids are necessary. The horse’s health and environment must be carefully managed to enhance the rejuvenation process. Keep the hoof wall unloaded until a new length of wall has grown from the hairline to the ground (8 to 12 months).


To unload the hoof wall, the load must be placed onto the sole of the hoof. This can be accomplished two different ways. The simplest method is to trim the hoof wall short so the sole callous, the bars and the frog contact the ground before the hoof wall. The horse must be turned out on soft forgiving dry ground conditions such as grass turf, sand, saw dust or snow. When favorable ground conditions are not available or when the sole callous is insufficient, the foot can be fitted with a commercial sole support system to cushion and artificially extend the sole to or beyond the rim of the hoof wall.

For those who are leery of using sole support, it should be noted here that when the hoof founders, with no intervention, the wall is displaced until the sole comes in sufficient contact with the ground to take a portion of the load from the wall. However, P3 is then caused to be tipped toward the ground during weight bearing. This results in bruises and holes in the sole, eventual deformities to the tip of P3, and possible damage to the circumflex artery. If the load ends up being born through the sole anyway, then it makes sense to manage the load on the sole to avoid these typical symptoms of sole overload. Care must be taken to distribute and cushion the load over the entire area of the sole cavity, taking advantage of as much surface area as possible and avoid pressure points.


Here is my recipe for treating laminitis. This recipe has not failed me yet. The key is to unload the laminae and then provide for fluid drainage from within the hoof capsule. When the horse is suffering a systemic condition that could lead to laminitis, or if the horse is exhibiting symptoms of laminitis, action must be taken immediately. Do not wait to see how bad it will get. The horse owner, the veterinarian and the farrier must work together as a team toward the common goal of returning the horse to normal soundness.

  • Initiate farrier care to unload the wall - NOW. This will minimize damage and suffering on acute cases. For chronic cases, the sooner you start, the sooner you get your horse back.
    • Remove the shoes.
    • Trim heels lower to position P3 level with ground.
    • Trim the walls level with or shorter than the sole - Do not remove sole callous, bars or frog.
    • Provide soft ground such as sand, saw dust, snow.
    • Or apply a good commercially available sole-support system.
  • Initiate veterinary care to treat the systemic problem that triggered the laminitis.
    • Expect and manage inflammation and build up of serum fluids under the hoof wall and sole callous. The pain level increases as the fluid pressure rises in these seroma pockets. Pro-active mechanical drainage via grooves cut through the hoof wall and poultice application are effective to minimize the pressure. Systemic anti-inflammatory therapy is also very beneficial. During these traumatic times, it is important to keep priorities in perspective. It was the weight bearing load on the wall which caused the initial injury to the laminae. That load must be minimized throughout the healing process or the laminae will continue to be injured and the situation cannot be resolved. When the horse is suffering periods of pain relative to inflammation and serum pockets, do not give in to the temptation to abort unloading of the wall in favor of treating the more immediate symptom. It may, however, become necessary to temporarily remove the sole support system to initiate drainage. Areas of extreme tenderness or exposed sole corium can develop anywhere but will usually be at the toe area or around the apex of the frog. The sole support system can be modified to avoid pressure in these areas. This will make the horse more comfortable and allow for application of medication.
    • Administer anti-inflammatory agents.
    • Rasp horizontal grooves in the hoof wall at the toe.
    • Apply a poultice over the grooves.
    • Monitor the situation closely.
    • Make adjustments as required.
  • Provide a healthy environment
    • Deep soft bedding such as sand or saw dust to encourage laying down.
    • Nutrition, shelter, social company.
    • Free roaming exercise is important but avoid overdoing it.
    • Lay the horse off work.
    • .
    • Use a moderate level of sole support when possible.
    • Use a quality support system to cushion and distribute the load.
    • Keep the horse’s body weight down.
    • Provide soft, dry ground conditions.
    • Monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Guard against sole overload
    • Use a moderate level of sole support when possible.
    • Use a quality support system to cushion and distribute the load.
    • Keep the horse’s body weight down.
    • Provide soft, dry ground conditions.
    • Monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Maintain a reduced load on the wall until the new wall and laminae are grown (8 to 12 months).
  • Reset the sole support system at 4 to 5 week interval.


For pre-founder cases, while the horse is suffering a systemic condition that is known to trigger laminitis, if the hoof walls are unloaded early, before the lameness symptoms appear, the feet will not founder and the horse will remain sound. The horse will still show signs of being sick relative to the systemic condition. It is advisable to keep the sole support system on the horse for three to eight weeks after the horse recovers to guarantee time for the laminae to return back to full health.

For chronic cases, the horse will usually experience an immediate improvement to its comfort level. The application of quality sole support to cushion and distribute the sole load provides pain relief from pressure points on the sole area. Unloading the wall relieves the strain on the injured laminae. These cases may occasionally experience some problems with sole inflammation but not to the same extent as acute cases. They will start off similar to the two to four month stage as described below.

For acute cases, with the horse displaying lameness symptoms and/or when the hoof wall has been displaced from the coffin bone, immediately upon unloading the wall, the horse will experience considerable relief of pain associated with the strained or traumatized laminae. The horse will now stand square on its feet rather than rocking back on its heels.

First Two To Ten Weeks Of Treatment:

The horse’s soundness will gradually improve as the injured laminae heals and the associated inflammation subsides. However, it is to be expected that the horse will experience periods of severe pain until the inflammation is in control. These sore periods may come and go and can last for a few days or two to three weeks. The horse may improve nicely for some time, traveling at a careful walk. Then it can become so sore that it is reluctant to stand and may spend much of its time lying down. The horse must be provided with deep, soft bedding to make it comfortable. With gentle encouragement, the horse probably will allow the feet to be handled while lying down. It is a stressful time for the horse but with good management, the condition will stabilize and the horse will be back on its feet.

Two To Four Months Of Treatment:

Inflammation is not an issue any more. The horse will be happy, bright and will spend much time on its feet and will travel at a careful walk. The growth ring indicating when treatment started will be about one inch down from the hair line. The new hoof wall profile above that ring will be parallel with the coffin bone. There is a risk during this period that the horse begins to feel so good it may over exercise causing injury to the newly rejuvenated laminae and inflammation of the sole. The horse must be allowed free roaming exercise but kept quiet and content.

Six Months Of Treatment:

The horse spends most of its time on its feet. It travels at a normal walk and will occasionally trot or lope. The reference growth ring is one and a half inches from the hairline. The new hoof wall is smooth without the typical wavy growth rings associated with laminitis.

Eight Months Of Treatment:

The reference growth ring is two to two and one half inches from the hairline. The new hoof wall profile is parallel with the coffin bone. The horse generally travels sound.

Ten To Fourteen Months:

The reference growth ring has reached the ground. The white line will be close to normal width. The horse should be sound with a normal looking foot.


Laminitis is simply a condition of tissue overload. The overload situation may be initiated by a number of causes, but it is the weight bearing forces, as the hoof wall contacts the ground, that do the damage. The laminae and other tissues are injured as the hoof wall is lifted away from the coffin bone. Laminitis is simple to manage if it is treated as an overload condition and the weight bearing load on the laminae is removed early. By unloading the wall and laminae, most complications associated with laminitis are minimized or non-existent. Inflammation and serum fluids within the hoof capsule are the biggest challenge but are now controllable. When we consider that this is similar to a human loosing a thumb nail, a displaced hoof wall should not be a permanent disability nor a death sentence. The hoof structure will rejuvenate. The horse can live and return to active performance.

It should be noted that the displaced hoof wall, as such, cannot be reattached. Repair can only occur through the process of normal hoof wall growth. Once the wall is unloaded, the new wall generating from the coronary band becomes attached with healthy laminae as the wall growth progresses toward the ground. The rejuvenation takes ten to fourteen months to complete.

The subject of this presentation is Laminitis, but it is important to note that other ailments involving the hoof wall or laminae can be effectively managed by unloading the hoof wall. Hoof wall cracks, flares, dished profile, extended white line, and crushed heels are all symptoms of tissue overload. These problems also go away with a lesser load on the hoof wall and laminae. A reduced load on the wall can enable horses with thin, weak hoof walls to enjoy a productive performance life. A sole support system can be effective to manage cases involving loss of hoof wall such as white line disease or injury. If you unload it, it will heal.

]]> (Sandy Loree) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 06:21:26 +0000
Laminitis and Founder: What They Are and What Can Be Done

Founder. The very word can send a cold shiver down the spine of many a horseman. This misleading and potentially devastating condition has meant the end of many horses' careers; and sometimes even their lives. But just how does a bellyache or other stress cause a horse to be crippled? And what can be done about it?

To understand the answers to those question, one must have some basic knowledge of the anatomy of the equine foot. The hoof wall is the primary weight bearing structure of the foot. Within it is the PIII (Third Phalanx or Coffin Bone). The PIII is attached to the hoof wall by laminae. The laminae are special tissues which provide awesome attachment strength, but also allow the wall to grow down in relation to the bone.

The laminae are nourished by tiny blood capillaries. These capillaries normally provide a steady flow of oxygen and nutrients to the vital laminitic tissues. As a precaution against frostbite, the circulatory system of the hoof has structures called AVAs (Arterio Venous Anastomoses) which can channel blood directly from the arteries into the veins, bypassing the fine capillaries. When the hoof becomes too cold, the AVAs open up and allow large amounts of hot blood to rush through the foot without being slowed by the high-resistance of the capillary network. This continues long enough to warm the foot up, but not so long as to starve the laminae.

Poisons ingested by the horse, toxins created within the horse after a feed binge, and a number of other systemic illnesses can create body chemistry imbalances that can cause the AVAs to malfunction. If the AVAs "lock" open for an extended period of time, the hoof will become hot from the rapid flow of blood within it, while the laminae will begin to die from the lack of blood actually reaching them. This is laminitis.

Recent studies have shown that the laminar tissues can survive ischemia (lack of blood flow) quite a long time. But this ischemia was triggered by exposing the hooves to cold, which caused the AAs to open. Cold tends to reduce cellular metabolism, and the need for blood in the tissues. Laminitis involves ischemia while the hooves are quite hot, and the tissues have an increased need for circulation.

Because of the heat and high blood flow through the foot, laminitis has often been misunderstood. Even the word laminitis, which basically means inflammation of the laminae, reflects this misunderstanding. The problem is not the "fever" in the feet, but ischemia of the laminae. Thus the long standing remedy of soaking laminitic feet in cold water is indicated only during the initial phase of laminitis, when cooling the laminar tissues might help them survive the ischemia caused by the locked-open AVAs. After the early phase of laminitis, cold water may numb the pain a bit, but it also retards blood circulation which could make things worse. If enough laminae are killed by laminitis to allow the PIII to loose its attachment to the hoof wall, and the bone begins to sink within the hoof, you have founder.

Because the laminae at the toes of the front feet are under the greatest mechanical stress and have comparatively precarious blood supply, most founder cases involve separation of the laminae in that area. In such cases the toe of the PIII sinks, causing that bone to rotate in relation to both the hoof wall and the pastern bones. The tip of the PIII moves down toward the sole of the foot, often causing bruising, hematoma, and the loss of the sole's concave shape. At the same time, the hoof wall at the toe is free from its moorings and begins to "peel" away from the PIII. The increasing gap between the wall and PIII is filled with scar horn material.

As if all this weren't bad enough, the separations in the foot's protective structure, bruising, loss of circulation, and necrosis all team up to make nasty abscesses in the hoof likely. The burden of early treatment of laminitis falls primarily on the veterinarian. This treatment often involves dealing with the cause of the toxic reaction that instigated the laminitis and trying to promote capillary circulation through drugs. The vet may also administer pain killers, but most agree that these should be used only in the short term and within limits. The pain of laminitis tends to make horses stay still and off of their feet, which is just what they need to do.

If the laminitis progresses into founder, the treatment burden shifts to the farrier. The traditional approach for farrier treatment of founder is to lower the heels until the frog bears weight, then dress back the toes back as far as reasonably possible. This practice helps to shift the weight bearing away from the damaged toe to the heels, which are usually in better shape. Dressing back the toe reduces breakover stress and helps prevent the hoof wall at the toe from being pulled further away from the PIII. Lowering the heels also brings the PIII closer to its normal position in relation to the ground and pastern bones. Although the frog need not bear weight in a normal hoof, in a foundered foot, the frog can provide valuable support. Some farriers also cut a horizontal groove across the front of the hoof about an inch below the coronary band. This provides a flex point to prevent stress from being transferred up the toe to peel back the laminae which are left intact in the upper part of the hoof, and helps prevent the blood flow from being pinched off between the extensor process of the PIII and the hoof wall.

A shoeing remedy for founder which no doubt owes part of its popularity to the fact that it requires minimal skills to fabricate is the backwards shoe. Mechanically, this shoe acts as a rockered-toe eggbar. As such it provides the horse with extra posterior support to compensate for the great lack of anterior support and reduces the stress on the Deep Digital Flexor tendon which pulls on the underside of the PIII and contributes to rotation. The rockered-toe effect reduces breakover stress which is also a benefit to foundered feet.

Because the sole is already compromised at the toe by the sinking tip of the PIII, pressure applied to the sole by the shoe can have ugly results. Since the backwards shoe places no metal on the toe of the hoof, it can create no harmful sole pressure there. Unfortunately, it also does nothing to protect the delicate anterior sole from pressure or injury from the ground. The backwards shoe also holds the frog up off the ground, depriving the PIII of the support in would have received from the ground through the frog. This makes the backwards shoe a less attractive approach when dealing with severe, active rotation founder cases.

Burney Chapman, veteran farrier, has expanded on the concept of supporting the PIII via frog pressure. Over the last decade and a half, he has popularized the use of the heart-bar shoe in treating founder. The heart-bar shoe is used to create carefully applied pressure on the frog. This supports the PIII and helps prevent further rotation. Supporting the bone helps restore the circulation that was compromised by its sinking. This improved blood flow is needed for the laminae to regenerate.

The main drawback to the heartbar is that it must be applied with precision. Pressure in the wrong places, or the wrong amount of pressure in the right places can do more harm than good. Mr. Chapman maintains that the reason many practitioners don't like the heartbar is that they do not know how to apply it correctly. While Mr. Chapman recommends the rigid heart-bar shoe, some farriers like to apply his basic approach using flexible frog insert pads.

Another method for treating founder has been popularized by veterinarian Ric Redden of the International Equine Podiatry Center. This method features dramatic raising of the heels using wedges and is based on the fact that the tension of the DDF tendon is an important contributing factor to the rotation of the PIII. The DDF runs down the back of the leg, passes under the navicular bone, and attaches to the underside of the PIII. Raising the heels reduces the pull of the DDF. As a salvage measure, Dr. Redden sometimes cuts the DDF altogether. The problem with heel elevation as a founder treatment is that, while it temporarily reduces one force responsible for PIII rotation, it also focuses mechanical loading where the hoof is least able to stand it; at the toe.

All of the shoeing treatments for founder outlined here have their own merits, and despite the fact that some of them seem diametrically opposed, they have each worked on given horses. It is up to the farrier to know which approach will work best based on his experience and the specifics of the case. In some cases, the farrier will combine aspects of each approach or change approaches as the progression of the founder dictates. This is why professional farriers are always continuing their education and trying to keep up with the latest techniques and research about this insidious condition. The more we know, the better the odds we can successfully diagnose and treat treat laminitis and founder.

]]> (DaveMillwater) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 05:34:55 +0000

The white line of the foot marks the division of the sensitive and insensitive laminae, and laminitis occurs when these laminae become inflamed. The normal blood flow to these tissues is disturbed, especially in the toe area; this causes an interruption in the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the laminae, without which the cells die. Inflammation results, along with pain and swelling. Once this has occurred, separation of the sensitive and insensitive laminae follows and is permanent. A veterinarian or farrier can identify this situation by paring the sole at the toe and seeing the telltale elongation of the white line.

This acute phase of laminitis is extremely painful for the horse and may be attributed to many sources. Carbohydrate overload, systemic infection, retained placenta and extreme weight bearing on one limb are just a few causes. In the Spring, excessive consumption of lush green grass is a leading instigator of laminitis. Horses that are overweight, especially those that have developed a crest in their neck (indicating an excessive amount of fatty tissue), are particularly prone to laminitis. Ponies, too, show a high incidence, perhaps because of their metabolism.

Signs of acute laminitis are profound and are mostly linked to the animal's response to the pain. Usually only the forefeet are affected, and the horse takes on a characteristic stance with the hind legs well under the body and the front extended forward. This position allows the animal to take pressure off the front feet. The horse is very reluctant to move, and when he does he has a stiff-legged gait, setting the heels down first. If all four feet are involved, the animal will spend a great deal of time lying down. Examination of the foot itself will reveal an elevated temperature in the hoof at the wall, sole and coronary band. A pounding pulse is present in the digital arteries, most readily felt at the fetlock joint.

Founder occurs after the horse has passed through acute laminitis; it may happen in the initial episode or during a later attack. The identifying factor of founder is rotation of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule. Often accompanying it is a dropped sole. Because the laminae are damaged, the internal structures lose their support, and the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon causes rotation. If the rotation becomes advanced, the coffin bone can eventually penetrate the sole of the foot. The degree of rotation can only be determined by radiographs. Hoof growth is altered also at this point. The development of new wall is impaired, especially in the toe region. Rings on the hoof wall illustrate the changed growth pattern and are very prominent in chronic founder, often diverging from toe to heel.

Treatment of acute laminitis consists mainly of eliminating the cause and alleviating the pain. In the case where overconsumption of grass is the culprit, the animal needs to be moved to a drylot and kept on a diet of hay and water. Historically, treatment included a regimen designed to decrease the temperature of the foot and diuretics to flush the horse's system of toxins; however, this is only successful when caught in the very early stages. Walking is important for blood flow within the foot, so the horse should not be confined to a stall. Too much exercise, though, is risky, as it may promote more rotation of the coffin bone. Keep the animal on soft footing to reduce concussion on the sole and provide sufficient bedding so that he can lie down with comfort. The veterinarian may prescribe drug therapy to alleviate the intense pain in the early stages.

The farrier plays a crucial role in maintaining the horse with laminitis and especially founder. Proper trimming and therapeutic will often restore all but the most severe cases to a higher comfort level, while milder ones may be able to work again. The most effective shoeing regimen involves a bar shoe, straight, egg or heart, that transfers pressure from the injured toe area to the heels. Many horses, after application of the appropriate shoe, will walk off displaying little discomfort. These shoes require careful maintenance, though; they must be cleaned daily and checked for tightness against the foot, and the horse cannot be turned into muddy paddocks. The farrier should visit the horse every four to eight weeks to trim the hoof or reset the shoe, since it is essential that the heels and toes of the affected feet be kept balanced and in the proper proportions. For the owner, management consists mainly of carefully monitoring the animal's diet and work load. It is also the owner's responsibility to involve both the veterinarian and farrier in the horse's rehabilitation schedule. These professionals are necessary for recovery. Applying and resetting shoes may require the veterinarian's presence and the use of a tranquilizer, as the pounding of nails in the feet may prove painful. Periodic radiographs of the coffin bone are also helpful in tracking the progression of the condition and making shoeing decisions.

With the help of a professional farrier and veterinarian, and conscientious care from the owner, the horse with laminitis or founder has a promising future. He may not return to the previous level of work, but will certainly have a more comfortable life. Quick identification of laminitis and immediate treatment will help limit the effects. Proper management will slow or prevent its progression. But the best bet is to take all steps possible to diminish the chance of laminitis occurring.

]]> (Ray Miller) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 03:49:56 +0000

breningstall_anvil"What can I do about a mule that kicks?" asks Dan Lawson of Port Angeles, Washington. Dan's farrier recently came out to shoe Dan's horses and his mule. When the farrier lifted the mule's front foot, the mule kicked with the back foot on the same side, barely missing the farrier's head. "That kick was meant to kill," says Dan. Intelligently, the farrier passed on the mule. "Not a whole lot of folks up this way know much about mules, so I'm hoping you can offer some help."

Dan's farrier showed good sense in not working on an animal that kicks. The farrier is not responsible for training or breaking, which are up to the owner and should be done as soon as possible after the foal is born (see "Foal Feet Care," Rural Heritage, Spring 1996). If owners would imprint in their foals' minds that people are part of everyday life, then breaking and training grown horses and mules wouldn't be so dangerous. Always work carefully around an animal that tends to kick. Unless you know the animal's history, trying to figure out why it kicks is at best a guess. Horses and mules kick as a means of defense (to fend off) or as a means of offense (to attack). Either way, it's part of their inherited fight-or-flight instinct. When they kick they are:

  1. afraid,
  2. trying to defend themselves,
  3. just plain malicious,
  4. hurt and fighting the pain, or the possibility of pain,
  5. remembering a time when pain was inflicted (such as getting quicked by a nail, nippers, or knife.)

The following suggestions on restraints and training aids are offered as information only. Please do not try any of these without the assistance of a professional horse trainer or handler. You may ask your farrier to help, but only if he is fully informed, is capable, and is paid for his time.

When a horse or mule is afraid, the use of restraints may make it more afraid. If it is mean or angry, the use of restraints may make it more irate. And if it hurts, restraints may make it afraid and angry. If you have tried restraints and still can't trim or shoe the animal, ask your veterinarian for a pharmacological aid.

Drugs. The safest way to trim or shoe a kicker is to have your veterinarian in attendance to administer medication to help the animal overcome its phobia. The type of drug used is between you and the veterinarian. But remember, drugs are not training aids. The horse or mule you drug will not learn well under the influence.

Twitch. A twitch is a loop of rope or chain on the end of a long handle. The loop is placed over the mule's upper lip or nose and then twisted to create pressure on the nose. The twitch can also be put on the base of an ear. Either way, its effect is to calm the animal while the twitch is in place.

Stud Chain. A stud chain or lead chain is a chain with a clasp on one end and rope on the other. Cotton rope is best, as it will not burn your hands as nylon rope will. Put the chain through the left lower ring on the halter, then bring it over the bridge of the nose, and attach the clasp to the lower ring on the right side of the halter. If the animal acts up, a quick jerk on the lead rope will sometimes change its ill ways. This chain can also be placed under the upper lip, over the gums. Give a quick snap only when he acts up.

Hobbles. Scotch hobbles and side lines can be used to tie up legs or to hobble the legs together, but should be employed only by people with the skills to use them. We don't want to injure the animal, just trim his feet.

Stocks. Some farriers use stocks to restrain the animal for trimming and shoeing. [You'll find more on stocks in the Rural Heritage Spring 1997 issue.]

Desensitizing. The best way to train a mule or horse not to kick is desensitizing the animal to the fear stimulus by getting him so used to it that he no longer takes notice. Desensitizing takes time, skill, and sometimes (at least initially) drugs.

In the long run, the skills of a good trainer can be of great help. I can't stress strongly enough the idea that someone not versed in Training should not try to break a kicker.

Not to disappoint you, but some horses and mules are just plain nuts. They have a total inability to control their rational processes. In such a case, euthanasia is the only safe way to stop a kicker from hurting or killing someone. I have been kicked, and kicked at, by normally calm horses that had been startled by me or by audio, visual or physical stimuli over which I had no control--everything from thunder and lightning, gunfire, wind, rain, snow, kids playing, dogs barking, car horns, trucks rattling, horses running, and cats jumping.

Treat horses and mules as you would treat a bundle of dynamite with a short fuse that at any moment could blow up without warning. Always think "safe" and work safely around horses and mules.

F. Thomas Breningstall is an AFA and MHA certified full-time farrier living in Fowlerville, Michigan. His column "Hoof & Hammer" appears regularly in RURAL HERITAGE draft-animal magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

]]> (F. Thomas Breningstall) Essays For Horse Owners Mon, 13 Jul 2009 03:38:23 +0000
Keep the Fires Burning

The patient's chart was swinging from a hook outside the hospital stall. His name is Fox.


Inside, veterinarian Alan Ruggles and farrier Bob Grover, pictured at left, removed bandages from the 10-year-old gelding's front foot. Ruggles outlined the patient's problem: A chronic infection plagues a three-month-old puncture wound deep in the left foot; the location of an abscess points to possible navicular syndrome or bursitis.

Fox's owner sought professional help at the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital in Columbus. Ruggles, an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, had cleaned and treated the wound, but the patient now needs a tailor-made bar shoe and plate to protect the wound and support the foot.

That brought OSU consulting farrier Bob Grover to the stall. Within minutes, the veterinarian and farrier agreed on Fox's front shoe needs. Two hours later, Fox's injured foot sported a leather pad and a creased bar shoe, all covered by an aluminum treatment plate. For balance, Grover made a regular plate shoe for Fox's uninjured front foot.

"Horses with really sore feet need a creased or fullered shoe," Grover said. "Normally, you pry against the foot to remove a shoe. That hurts a sore foot. With a creased shoe, you can pull each nail out individually with a crease nail puller; it doesn't hurt the horse as much."

The farrier's fee: $150 for the special shoe, plus $25 for the regular shoe. Grover said that after "at least" six weeks of stall rest, Fox's hometown farrier can replace Grover's handiwork with a full pad and a regular plate shoe.

"I get them started, and then their regular farrier can take it from there," said the veteran horseshoer, who entertains clients with his wit while he helps patients with his skill.

As OSU's consulting farrier - a common addition to many top veterinary hospitals - Grover commutes once a week from his Medina County home to the Columbus campus, about a two-hour jaunt each way. Sometimes there's just one lame patient, but often there's a lineup, all waiting for Grover's experienced eye and therapeutic shoeing.

Some horses wait an extra day or two for Grover's visit; some travel 200 miles to the hospital for his forged creations. Sometimes, it's simply their last chance.

"I enjoy my work here because I can help horses--even some that might have to be put down otherwise," Grover said of his six-year stint at the large animal hospital.

Patting his patients on the shoulder and talking to them while he works, Grover treats each one like an old friend, including the 14-year-old Arabian gelding Isla Warlock and the Thoroughbred gelding Brio.

"Warlock" had been visiting OSU for more than eight months after a brain tumor caused him to founder. Owner Sherry Hull said the founder required that Grover fit him with special shoes to enable him to walk until his front feet could grow stronger.

Brio, on the other hand, came in to the hospital after suffering chronic lameness and was diagnosed with navicular. While he measured his feet, Grover spoke to the animal in reassuring tones, patting him and stroking him on the nose, the caring as clear as the farrier's talent.

As consulting farrier, Grover works on all equine breeds at the veterinary hospital. "I like the challenge of the different horses to work on," he said. "But I prefer gaited horses because they're longer footed, and I can do more for them.

"Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses have such a short foot that I'm limited in the amount of help I can give them. It's easier to enhance leverage, traction and momentum on a horse with a four-and-a-half to six-inch foot."

Although he focuses on lameness referrals and American Saddlebreds in his northern Ohio practice, Grover worked exclusively with Standardbreds during the early 1980s in Ohio - at Northfield Park, the Canton Fairgrounds, and Soehnlen Stables.

"The racetrack business is good, year-round work for farriers," Grover said. "If they're not racing, then they're training young horses."

During his early years in the business, Grover had the opportunity to put racing shoes on the late, great Rambling Willie, twice. "I was so excited, I didn't even charge," the farrier laughed. He did receive two autographed copies of the book, "Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved," for his effort.

Another Standardbred, though less famous, gave Grover a broken nose, one of two fractures the farrier has experienced during his 19-year practice.

"There's no trainer or textbook prescription for the correct way to shoe a horse," he emphasized. "Farriers need to look at each horse individually."

But at times his efforts are in vain: By the time some horses arrive, their foot problems - laminitis, navicular syndrome and flexural deformities are the most common - are too severe, too crippling. He has spent hours making special shoes for patients, only to see them euthanized later. "Correct shoeing and early treatment would prevent many needless deaths."

Whether at the veterinary hospital or on the road for his own full-time practice, Grover teaches owners and trainers proper equine foot care. He said it works best when veterinarians and farriers work together.

Veterinarians can recommend good farriers, and other horse owners can, too. Not all farriers make special shoes, Grover noted. But if they trim and shoe correctly, so the horse is balanced and moves easily and naturally, therapeutic shoeing often isn't needed.

At OSU's veterinary hospital, the staff depends on Grover's expertise when it comes to special shoeing needs. Experience - as well as a good work ethic, savvy business skills and a genial personality - earned Grover this respect.

A native of upstate New York, Grover befriended farrier Steve Parker during his senior year at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. "I hung out with him and went along while he worked. As a result, I got the 'horse bug,'" Grover said, smiling.

After completing his bachelor's degree in economics, Grover spent eighteen months grooming standardbreds. In the fall of 1977 he then went to the Michigan School of Horseshoeing. Upon completion of his studies there, he was then broken into the standardbred shoeing business by Medina, Ohio farrier Dan Perry. Two years later he met Mansfield, Ohio farrier Randy Luikart, who Grover says has mentored him to the success he enjoys today.

In 1982, Grover became an American Farriers Association certified journeyman farrier. Currently, he's an AFA certification examiner and treasurer of the national association. He lectures on horse shoeing at numerous colleges and seminars and is an instructor at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio.

"It's important to keep active and up to date," Grover said. "Farriery is more than slapping a piece of steel on a foot. It's a very technical science."

In all breeds, Grover sees common shoeing problems: shoes that are too short or too small; hooves angled too high.

"Some owners, trainers and farriers think an undershod horse - one with shoes too small or too short - won't pull shoes," Grover said. "They're simply setting the stage for navicular syndrome or other hoof problems."

And shoes angled too high - similar to women's high heels - can cause permanent ligament damage, the farrier noted.

Incorrect shoeing practices like these often bring patients to a veterinary hospital. For example, navicular syndrome (Grover said "disease" is a misnomer) can be prevented by correct shoeing.

To relieve navicular's crippling effects, Grover makes regular bar shoes, egg bar shoes or longer shoes, sometimes adding a full pad or wedge pad. "What I use depends on each case," said the farrier.

Heart bar shoes are Grover's usual choice for horses with laminitis, another frequent diagnosis at the hospital. Usually horses wear Grover's special shoes for six weeks, although with laminitis, horses might wear heart bars for one year - or forever.

Flexural deformities in young horses are commonly treated at the clinic by veterinary surgeons. Grover then follows up with shoes that are extended anteriorly or posteriorly, depending on the situation. These deformities (often misnomered as 'contracted tendons') are often present at birth, or develop during the first few months of a foal's life. They can be nutritional, genetic, or injury related in origin. Grover admits that shoeing horses at this stage of their development does have its drawbacks. "The younger you shoe a horse, the more you impede foot growth," he explained. "I like to wait until late in their yearling year to shoe Standardbreds."

At the hospital, Grover frequently encounters racehorses with trauma injuries. He said horses with bowed tendons need rest and a supportive shoe. "I use a longer shoe and usually lower the angle, because often the superficial flexor is involved," the farrier said.

Grover treats coffin bone fractures with a special bar shoe with a raised rim.

The farrier's special shoes aren't the ultimate cure-all, however. "People put too much expectation on shoeing," Grover said. "Maybe what the horse needs most is rest."

For therapeutic purposes, most of Grover's shoeing is performed with regular bars, heart bars and egg bars. He keeps up with trends, however. "There are always new pads and hoof wall acrylics on the market. Plastic shoes are the newest innovation," Grover said. "I've seen them used for racehorses and therapeutic shoeing, but they won't ever replace steel - they're too flexible, they work loose and don't last as long."

Titanium shoes, which Grover said are as light as aluminum but last longer, are useful, too. "But farriers need to be careful when working titanium in the fire. Titanium is a combustible metal. It produces toxic fumes as it's heated, reaches an ignition point at much lower temperatures than steel shoes, and once ignited titanium is virtually impossible to extinguish unless you have a class D fire extinguisher handy!" Grover said he prefers a coal forge: "It's less expensive to fuel, and it gives me more versatile heat."

In addition, he stressed current trends can't replace good, old-fashioned foot care. Grover encourages owners to check horses' feet and legs between farrier visits. Things to look for include lameness, stumbling, bent or loose shoes or the foot spreading over the shoe. A quick call to a farrier could save money - and your horse.

This article first appeared in the July 1996 issue of Hoof Beats magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

]]> (Marilyn Burns Sumpter) Essays For Horse Owners Wed, 08 Jul 2009 06:23:06 +0000
If The Shoe Fits #12

Well now, let's impart some knowledge about horseshoeing. Does everybody know the correct terminology for gait faults? If you do not, please go back and read "If The Shoe Fits #11." It is important to know these terms if you are to be involved in the horse world.

Forging is the most common form of gait fault in the horse and happens to be the easiest to correct by a competent farrier. Remember that forging is the toe of the rear foot striking the BOTTOM of the front foot. This rarely occurs in barefoot horses because the barefoot horse keeps its hooves naturally trimmed. Forging is usually caused by excessive length in the hind foot, which means the front feet are also probably pretty long. Since there is not much clearance to begin with between the feet, striking often occurs. This is also a good time to begin speaking of gaits. Forging usually occurs at the trot. Why? Because the trot is what is called a diagonal two-beat gait. This means that the on-side hind foot is moving in synchronization with the off-side front foot and vice versa. Take some leg wraps or colored tape which will contrast with the color of your horse, (white usually works), and place them on the lower right front leg and the lower left rear leg. Now either longe line (that's right, it is not a lunge line), the horse or have someone ride it at a trot and you will see what I mean. At the trot, if the left hind leg is moving in the anterior phase of the stride, then the left front leg must be moving in the posterior phase of the stride. If this were not true, then the horse is not at a trot - or has only three legs.

Usually forging is corrected by a fresh shoeing. If it is not, then the farrier may place a square-toed shoe on the hind feet. A square-toed shoe is a shoe that has, obviously, a square toe, and is set back on the foot about 3/8" to 1/2" from the toe. I am a staunch believer that all hind feet should be shod with square-toed shoes. The shoe also aids in a straighter stride in the hind feet, as the place of breakover is encouraged to occur in the center of the toe. Notice I said "place" of breakover and not "point" of breakover.

Breakover is actually just what it sounds like. It is when the foot passes the point where the alignment of the bones of the lower leg change or "break" direction during the posterior phase of the stride. During the anterior or forward phase of the stride, the bones of the lower leg are oriented towards the front. After completion of the anterior phase (which ends when the foot contacts the ground), the horse begins the posterior phase of the stride: the leg begins moving rearward, thus propelling the animal forward. When the horse arrives at the end of its reach and the toe is just leaving the ground, the bones will change alignment to the rear. This is the POINT of BREAKOVER. When the leg has extended as far back as it is going to, the posterior phase of the stride is ended and the leg begins to move forward again, beginning the anterior phase. An easy way to illustrate breakover is for you to put on a pair of flip flop-type sandals. When the heel of the sandal snaps up and slaps your heel, breakover has just occurred. I had to put on a pair and walk around just to write this column. The PLACE of BREAKOVER should occur at the center of the toe and not to either side.

Now many horseshoers will claim that slowing down the breakover by applying heavy shoes on the rear feet will cure the forging problem. Wrong. Breakover cannot be slowed down or speeded up - it can only be made easier or more difficult. A rule of thumb is to always shoe as light as possible when trying to correct any gait fault. The reason many say to use a heavy shoe is because they do not know how to make or apply a square-toed shoe and, quite possibly, may not know how to do a balanced trimming.

Remember conformation? Horses with short backs and long legs will almost always have forging problems. Forging is not a serious problem unless you are in the show ring. "What was that?" the judge exclaimed. "Did I hear a clicking of the shoes? Points off for the horse!" he shouted. "Off with the farrier's head!" the crowd roars. That is when forging is serious.


(Randy, a practicing farrier, writes articles oriented to horse owners.)

]]> (Randy Sublett) Essays For Horse Owners Fri, 03 Jul 2009 04:06:13 +0000
If The Shoe Fits #11

Well, let's lighten up a bit here. Up to now, I have been discussing a lot of anatomy and some diseases or injuries of the lower leg. So let's get into some lighter material. The most common type of "corrective shoeing" that a farrier does is in the form of correcting gait faults. Gait faults are just that: a fault in the way the horse travels. However, the terminology for these faults varies widely in different areas of the country or even areas of states. So I am here to set the record straight and give you the definitions of the most commonly encountered gait faults. As I have stated in previous columns, correct terminology is important.

The most common gait fault is forging. Many call this hitting or clicking; however, the correct term is forging. Forging occurs when the toes of the hind feet strike the bottoms of the front feet in flight. Forging usually occurs laterally (on the same side), but can sometimes occur diagonally. Forging rarely happens in barefoot horses.

Over reaching. Over reaching occurs when the toes of the hind feet overtake and strike the rear of the front feet or legs in flight. This is different from forging because the hind toes are not hitting the bottom of the front feet.

Stumbling. Stumbling occurs when the horse fails to complete what is called the anterior phase of the stride. This is the portion of the stride in which the leg and foot is traveling forward. The toe of the foot strikes the ground when the knee is still bent and collapses as the weight of the animal passes over the supporting foot.

Brushing. Brushing is usually confined to the front limbs and is defined as when the hoof of one foot barely touches the inside of the opposite limb, usually around the pastern area.

Interfering. Interfering is a more serious form of brushing - the foot actually hits the opposite leg.

Scalping. Scalping is when the toe of the front foot hits the hind foot at or near the top of the hoof wall. Severe scalping is also called speedy cutting; however, the strike zone, so to speak, is higher up on the leg or on the inside of the hind hoof wall. Speedy cutting is also a term used for over reaching when the strike zone is up around the fetlock.

Cross firing. Cross firing is when the hind limb strikes the opposite fore limb, usually low on the hoof wall.

Knee hitting. This gait fault is usually limited to the fore limbs and occurs when one foot hits the opposite leg at the knee joint.

Last but not least is elbow hitting. This can only happen in the front limbs and occurs when the bottom of the foot strikes the elbow of the same leg. This one is difficult for the animal to do, but I've seen it done.

Gait faults are just a little hitch in your horse's "get along," and are, for the most part, not disastrous. They can usually be corrected by a competent farrier with relative ease; however, beware of the untrained "I'm an expert farrier." I have seen these people try to nail on everything, including the anvil, to a horse's foot, and still not correct the problem. In the next few articles, I will discuss each gait fault and how it can be corrected.


(Randy, a practicing farrier, writes articles oriented to horse owners.)

]]> (Randy Sublett) Essays For Horse Owners Fri, 03 Jul 2009 04:03:00 +0000
If The Shoe Fits #10

In my last article, I discussed conformation as it relates to the onset of navicular disease. Conformation is by no means the only cause of navicular disease. Sharp blows to the back of the hoof such as those caused by overreaching, is a common cause, as is any severe trauma to the area in which the navicular bone is located. The symptoms of navicular disease are lameness and pointing of the toe - many times the horse will stand with its heels elevated (remember the pencil, chair and rubber band? The horse is relieving tension on the deep flexor tendon by raising its heels). A short, choppy stride may also be present and often, especially in the early stages of the disease, a horse may show no signs of lameness after it is warmed up a bit.

So what is the cure? Zip, zilch, nada - not a thing. Sorry, but that is the fact. A farrier can apply a rocker-toed shoe with swelled heels. In some cases a bar or heart bar shoe can be used, both of which will be explained in one of my future columns.

Then there is nerving. In this procedure, the nerve that runs down the lateral or outside portion of the lower leg is cut. Simple as that. This is the nerve that transmits the pain from the navicular bone to the horse's brain. Without this nerve, the horse will not feel the pain associated with navicular disease. But the horse will not feel anything else down there either, so the animal will not know if it is standing on dirt, rock or broken glass. Chances are the animal will not even know its foot is down there. Thus, in my opinion nerving a horse is dangerous for the animal and riding a horse that has been nerved is suicide.

Shoeing for navicular disease is only a temporary measure. If any farrier tells you differently, please feel free to select your favorite method of throwing him or her off the property. Navicular disease is progressive and irreversible - period. However, you may still get a few years from your horse with a good shoeing program and when that no longer works you may still get a few more years of breeding from the animal after nerving him. But you have to ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" Yes the shoeing will cost money, the pain medication will cost money, and the vet bills will cost money. Honestly ask yourself (especially if you are doing all of the above for the sake of breeding the animal), is my horse really that good?

I can see treating a horse for navicular disease because it is the family pet and companion or because the treatment will allow the horse a few more years of service without pain. Remember - I said without pain. The minute pain begins to show, stop riding him immediately. But treating for navicular solely for the purpose of breeding? Don't kid yourself - this is a valid reason only once in a blue moon.

The bottom line about navicular disease is not treatment. It is about the horse owner's ego and having true compassion for a wonderful animal that is probably in a great deal of pain. And when the first is set aside and the second is truly realized, only then can treatment be objective until it is time to say goodbye.


(Randy, a practicing farrier, writes articles oriented to horse owners.)

]]> (Randy Sublett) Essays For Horse Owners Fri, 03 Jul 2009 03:58:49 +0000